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Go Low Tech With a Hi-Tech List

Vi Question: What's exceptionally direct mailer responsive, extraordinarily consumer friendly and able to reach buyers of everything from clothing, food and gifts to financial services, housewares and travel? Answer: A high quality, hi-tech mailing list.

Surprised? If you're like most, you may be under the misconception that hi-tech lists are just for reaching buyers of computer products, but that just ain't so! In fact, hi-tech lists perform quite formidably in as low a tech category as lingerie. And, the converse is true as well.

At-home addresses: True or false, hi-tech mailing lists are predominantly “at-business” address. If you answered true, don't feel too bad. It's just another common misconception. In fact, there are quite a few hi-tech lists that are entirely at home address, and many others feature home address selection. Many hi-tech mailing lists actually offer the names of consumers who have bought genuine consumer products via direct mail for their homes.

Let's take Becky, for example. She's neither a corporate purchasing agent nor an MIS manager. Her electronic competence rarely exceeds programming the VCR. She's a college-educated, young professional who has a computer in her home, which she just purchased from MEI/MicroCenter's catalog. She also has just returned from a cruise, loves great clothes, has just begun French cooking classes and still manages to make time every week for her niece. She has purchased cookware from Williams Sonoma, a swimsuit from J. Crew and art supplies from Flax for her niece. In other words, Becky is highly direct mail active and you'll find her name on a hi-tech mailing list. Today, hi-tech is high direct.

Huge universe of names: Quick, name the single-fastest growing consumer market segment over the last five years? If you said hi-tech, give yourself a pat on the back. Hi-tech lists can double your universe of potential prospects. Hi-tech mailing lists offer a huge supply of names that have been qualified in a range of categories.

For example, The Learning Company (TLC), a leading provider of children's educational software, features the names of buyers who, in addition to having computers, have children in their lives. TLC customers recognize the importance of learning, and have high discretionary incomes. And the TLC database offers more than 2 million names growing at a rate of 500,000 per quarter. It doesn't take a genius to recognize these same individuals are potential buyers for children's clothing, educational games and toys and the same holds true for other hi-tech lists and marketers in other categories. For instance:

* If you're targeting upscale males, consider buyers of electronic organizers.

* If you’re targeting American Doll subscribers, consider identifiable small office/home office selects.

* If you’re considering cost-conscious working women, consider MOBs from discount computer catalog.

* If you’re considering art enthusiasts, consider esktop publishing software buyers.

The secret of Victoria's list: Can consumer lists work for mailers of hi-tech products? Unequivocally yes, but I'm sure that comes as no surprise. While consumer marketers have just recently discovered the direct response potential of using hi-tech mailing lists, hi-tech marketers have begun seizing the opportunity to capitalize on high quality, mail responsive consumer lists.

One of the best examples is Victoria's Secret. No one would deny the direct mail success of the lingerie marketers, but it took some “out-of-the-box” thinking for a group of hi-tech marketers to recognize that buyers of sexy lingerie could easily be buyers of software, hardware and peripherals. The Victoria's Secret “Hi-Tech Marketplace” mailing list released last year already has gained solid rental activity from the techno-elite such as an online service, PC magazines and computer catalogers.

Tech lists are unique in character. They have a history of consistent performance. While they are affected by recency and other factors, they rarely demonstrate the major response swings shown by traditional consumer lists. They tend to age far more slowly than their counterparts. Savvy mailers know that they can go deep into the list, easily mailing 18- to 24-month-old names and still be profitable.

Testing the hi-tech mailing list: Even with all of this potential, general merchandisers have been slow to take advantage of hi-tech lists, which really creates the most compelling opportunity of all. Since these lists are not being bombarded by direct mail offers for consumer products/services they are not tired and overworked. Perhaps they are your untapped gold mine.

Caution: as with the selection of any mailing list, a little due diligence in the form of testing goes a long way. Consult with your list marketing professional and set up an intelligent test program. There are hundreds of tech lists and five times that amount of selections. To the uninitiated, these lists often appear to be the same. They're not.

Here are some quick test suggestions: Test families who are buying software, recency, subscribers vs. MOBs, identified SOHO segments and more. A qualified list broker understands the key testing principles. If you make the effort to test hi-tech lists intelligently, you'll find success on your desktop. When properly applied, this measure will help assure that consumer marketers derive the maximum benefit from their use of a hi-tech mailing list.

Janine Vosseler is executive vice president of 21st Century Marketing Inc., Farmingdale, NY.

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