Welcome to Broker Roundtable, where each week we ask list brokers to give their opinions on issues that matter to the marketing community. This week’s question: How important is it to test lists outside your normal comfort zone?
Our panel includes Geoff Batrouney of Estee Marketing Services Inc., Don Eaker of Nexxa Group Inc., Jim Hall of All That Marketing, Michael Peterman of Veradata, Lisa Pollack of Adrea Rubin Marketing Inc. and Shawn R. Salta of Directmail.com. Would you like to be considered to be a member of our roundtable? Contact Larry Riggs (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Geoff Batrouney, executive vice president, Estee Marketing Services Inc.:
The question is a good one, but it presupposes that a mailer has exhausted every rental list, every database alliance segment and opportunity, every modeling opportunity. Without a doubt, after these many years, we have yet to work for a mailer who is in this position. There are always lists to mail that do not require a huge stretch, or leap of faith to test one’s comfort level. Having said that, once we have looked at a mailer’s results, and come back with dozens of list recommendations that make sense (most important!), there will always be room for a long-shot test. Perhaps just one, maybe two, but there should always be one test that is from “outside the box” thinking, a list that can be a game-changer. But first, exhaust all the possibilities—and if that means asking a new broker to look at the results with a fresh set of eyes, then do it.
Don Eaker, national director of sales, Nexxa Group Inc.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives or the most intelligent. It’s the one that is most adaptable to change. When you’re through changing, you’re through. To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. When you’re finished changing, you’re finished. In your personal life or your business career you must keep fresh eyes on the world. Predictable decisions bring predictable results, so exercise your creative side and look at new connections between what you’ve been using and what demographically or psychographically is similar but still different. Results could be worse than normal, better than usual, or you could hit a home run—that’s why they call it a test.
Jim Hall, vice president, All That Marketing:
You have to keep an open mind when looking at prospect lists. Many mailers will dismiss a file just because “they know it will not work” without reviewing any of the material available. Use all the information to make a good, concise decision. Review the data card, usage, catalog and web site. The ultimate goal of a mailer is to identify the largest profitable segment of names that can be mailed. We’ve all seen lists that performed much better than was originally anticipated. Staying in your comfort zone could limit your universe and ultimately, profits.
Michael Peterman, CEO, VeraData:
The short answer: It is critically important for multiple reasons. One is simply competitive advantage. If you only test lists which are clearly within your field of specialty, inevitably, you will encounter fatigue and saturation at some point. But that’s the less important reason. Opportunity for success is the most important reason to test outside your comfort zone. I can think of numerous experiences where very out-of-the-box test ideas turned into gold mines: a mortgage company testing American automobile owners for a refinance program, a Catholic charity testing a veterans file for donations, a luxury furniture chain testing a previously high net worth bankruptcy list—all things that are outside of a traditional comfort zone that turned into very successful targeting opportunities for the companies bold enough to test creative list ideas. Now, more than ever, modeling can very much help to direct some of these decisions/directions to move outside the tried and true.
Lisa Pollack, senior account executive,| Adrea Rubin Marketing, Inc.:
A campaign without tests outside of the core customer segmentation, channel or creative / message / offer is not worth measuring. Although this is an extreme opinion, marketers must always reserve a percentage of their campaign budget for unconventional tests. Without testing, marketers will not be able to expand their footprints, create new audiences or keep up with their competition. Targeting the same type of customers, in the same channel, with the same creative/message/offer can cause attrition in the overall customer file as well as decreased growth year after year. With the evolution of technology, changes in how we make purchases today, and how individuals relate to one another, the tried and true methods of marketing need to be supplemented with new innovations to be successful.
Shawn R. Salta, vice president, DirectMail.com:
Audience and offer account for 70% of the effectiveness of any direct marketing campaign. So list/audience selection is critical. Always be open to testing various lists, because your potential prospects will reside in many databases, not just a few. Also, take into account the possibility of list fatigue. The more you mail to a single list in a given year, the fewer responses you will receive.
Direct marketing’s greatest asset is its capacity to provide accurate measures of results—and your ability to tie those results back to a single element within a campaign. If, for example, you want to test a new list segment and keep all other things constant, you will know with a high degree of confidence whether or not the list affected results. Direct marketing is measurable, so we can and must test all elements within a campaign, even if it falls outside our normal comfort zone.