List marketers play the name game

Finding the right vertical lists can be tough, experts say. Pamela Oldham explores what one marketer is doing to find the best data.

I’d give my right arm for a 20% response rate,” laments Gloria Adams, SVP of audi­ence development and book publishing at PennWell Corporation, a b-to-b media company serving niche industries such as energy, engi­neering and computers. She says that one of the biggest impediments to achieving response rates once considered commonplace for b-to-b marketers is finding the right lists that can pro­vide the best results.

“It’s becoming more difficult to find good lists,” she explains. “Companies are becoming selective in who they’re renting to.” Moreover, she adds, getting enough “good” names on those lists is a challenge.

Changes made in campaign planning

Choosing the right vertical industry mailing lists can be tough in the b-to-b world, especially when current data is a constantly moving target. But Adams and other experts are overcoming these challenges by retooling the way they plan and deploy their marketing campaigns.

Headquartered in Tulsa, OK, and with offices around the globe, the privately held PennWell is a diversified provider of print and online publi­cations, conferences and exhibitions, research, databases, online exchanges, and information products to the global market. The company’s inaugural publication, Oil & Gas Journal, was the first to cover what was then an emerging oil industry.

Among other duties, Adams holds responsibil­ity for audience development — marketing the company’s magazine subscriptions and renewals. After nearly 30 years in marketing — 10 with PennWell — Adams has seen extensive changes in publishing as well as b-to-b marketing.

“Magazines are a tougher sell today,” she says. “But the need for information has never gone away — and it won’t. Now it’s [about finding out] how people want to get that information — whether through print, digital or the Web — and how often. Also, do they want the informa­tion pushed to them or do they want to get it themselves? We are information providers now, and we provide the information, however and whenever they want.”

To find the right lists, Adams goes to the sources she trusts: vertical industry publica­tions whose records are regularly verified by independent auditing agencies such as BPA. Together with PennWell’s list management and brokerage firm, Connecticut-based firm Statlistics, Adams’ circulation managers (now known in the business as “audience developers”) determine targets, titles, and industry require­ments and then choose publications that match Adams’ desired audience.

“I like publishing lists because the list owner has a relationship with the people on the list, and they’re in the business of delivering magazines to them so their records are current and clean,” says Susan Miles, VP of Statlistics. “Subscribers have usually responded previously to an offer from the original publisher, so they tend to be [more] responsive.”

Sourcing and usage are important elements

Even so, Miles cautions that diversification in the publishing industry means more questions need to be asked during the selection process.

“Publishers have more of a mixed business model to generate [their own] revenue,” she explains, pointing out that this can change the quality of the list. “If I’m ordering a list that was direct mail generated, but now is to be used for the Internet, it’s not going to be as responsive as it was for a direct mail offering.”

To avoid possible pitfalls, Miles advises mar­keters to ask in-depth questions about how the list was created and used.

Previously, marketers typically addressed list acquisition as the last task in campaign development, almost as an afterthought. Kevin Gales, director of relationship marketing at integrated marketing agency HSR Business-to-Business, says this is an old-fashioned and outmoded approach.

“We want to be 100% sure that we’ve got the right person and right contact information, Gales says. “We need to nail the target first, and find the sources that have the target we need to reach. We do a lot of work helping our clients find out who in the world they need to be talking to.”

According to Gales, 70% of all b-to-b contact data is obsolete within 12 months or so. That’s why he’s also a proponent of using lists that come from vertical publications.

“If I dial a number that came from a busi­ness card, I probably won’t get you,” he says. “Trade publications’ subscriptions help ensure that information is relatively fresh. A lot of those publications are updating more frequently now — it could be weekly, monthly, some are even daily. So you can be a little more confident that you have about as good a list as you can get.”

Today, PennWell’s Adams and her marketing team don’t rely on response rates as the ulti­mate measure of a list’s value. Instead, they’ve delivered strong bottom-line results and lower costs, saying that investing the time required to locate and properly select lists is crucial but isn’t always easy.

“Sometimes it just takes good detective work to find the right lists,” she concludes.

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