Four Secrets for Your Acquisition List testing Success

There’s a lot of talk about what makes a rented response list work. But few have written about the subject. So if you use lists or test them, perhaps you could add to some of the success steps I missed in this blog.

The list brokers I work will usually offer a logical explanation to why I should test a certain list. But when I probe, I often find that many of my questions go unanswered or I don’t believe what they tell me when they do answer.

That’s because compilation tactics and list sources remain secret with the list owner who wants to keep the competition at bay. Or worse, they think I wouldn’t like the truth if they told me.

So comments from list brokers like, “Try it, you won’t regret it” or “Take my word for it, test it” are the common retorts. These are code for “My client, who is in a similar business to yours, tried it, and it is now a control list.”

In spite of this lack of openness in the industry, there really is a rational process to the whole list selection strategy.

As the title states, this discussion centers on list testing for new customer acquisition. Inquiry, customer or compiled lists testing strategies require another discussion.

What are the primary things to look for when testing new lists? I believe the predictors for list success revolve around these four things.

1. Response medium

Did the people on the list purchase a product directly from the company using a direct medium? In other words, did they buy as a result of responding to a DRTV spot, an email, by telephone or a direct mail package? If the answer is yes, then did they buy through the medium through which you are promoting your product?

Even though people are influenced to purchase through many media, mail responders, for example, should help improve your direct mail response.

2. Affinity to your offerings

Once the list passes the litmus test as a direct response list, then you need to focus on the interest of the prospects on the list.

If you are selling outdoor excursions to remote parts of Canada, then you will want to look at direct and indirect interests. Consider travel lists that contain travelers who love the great outdoors. Look for response names that display an interest in hunting and fishing. What about backpacking, bicycling and motorcycle magazine subscribers?

I consider subscription files less effective than comparable response list. But they do demonstrate interests in areas that may correlate to your product offer.

A good broker knows how to think outside the box adding new categories of lists based on interest affinities.

3. RFM segmentation

As most direct marketers know, response lists are segmented by Recency, Frequency and purchase amount (Monetary). Some of these segments are more responsive to your offer than others. It is probable that a single selector or some segment combinations will get the response you need, while others are not worth mailing.

Customers on a rented list who have bought within the last 6-12 months are often not available for rental. The list owners reserve these most valuable names exclusively for their own promotions. So purchase recency counts for a lot when evaluating the quality of any given list segment.

If the rented file is large, then consider testing various segments on the list by RFM. For smaller lists, segmentation may not be worth it because of the small rollout potential.

4. Co-op or aggregated list availability

One of the pioneers of such lists is Lifestyle Selectors. They remain one of the best such list available on the market.

As the name implies, these response list compilers aggregate many hundreds of response databases from multiple companies merging the response data from all sources to create large files that contain a massive amount of information on each record for pinpoint selectability.

Another good example is Abacus that merges and dedups the databases of over 2,000 clients’ customer names. They profile your names by bouncing and matching them against their master file to determine how to select names for your list test. They then project response rates within each of 10 segments taken from their massive database.

Testing such files is essential to your acquisition strategy. Aside from compiled lists, no other database category possesses the huge rollout potential of co-op lists.

The final word

The list testing business requires special experience and great contacts with list managers and list owners. Instead of trying to select your lists using SRDS, the Internet or by approaching list owners directly, work with an independent, experienced list broker who represents all list sources.  

Pick someone who knows your industry and has exposure to what lists work for a large variety of products and offers. Such a broker should be able to expose you to new, winning lists based on their personal experience.

Posted on January 17, 2008 and filed under Direct Marketing Strategy, Mailing List.