Lists and the Rest of the Story

Posted by Dan McDade

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on Oct 21, 2017 7:30:00 AM

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There is no such thing as a good list. I am sure that my opinion about lists makes purveyors of lists unhappy, but it is the truth. For the most part, lists suck. There are reasons:

  • Chief among the reasons is that lists are incredibly expensive to keep clean. People change jobs, big guys buy little guys. Big guys buy big guys. Big and little guys shut down. The speed of change accelerates every year. It is costly to keep up.
  • Another reason is that people have a perception as to how much lists should cost. They think they should cost a lot less than they do, they devalue them. As an example, I have seen senior executives authorize $10, $15 even $20 for a “lumpy” or “dimensional” mailer and then argue over $.25 per name on their selected list. Assisted awareness of having received even the most expensive packages is in the low teens. Most never get delivered. The cute mailer and/or premium goes home with the mailroom attendant – all because nobody was willing to pay to keep the list current. That certainly does not incent list owners to make investments in list cleansing.   
  • Finally, vendors simply get away with selling sub-optimal lists. They get away with it because in many cases the buyers of the list, which was used to send emails or direct mail, have no idea what percentage of the list got delivered. Not a clue! There was no list validation or testing … and that is, as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.” [One of my favorite Paul Harvey “Rest of the Story” broadcasts can be found here.]

List Testing

List testing is cheap and just makes sense. The easiest way to explain is with this story:

I was in the client’s office talking about program results and the client let me know that they were going to ask us to follow-up on a direct mail piece going to 685 senior executives in the New York City metropolitan area. It was an expensive mailer – about $12.35 each. The offer was an upscale dinner in NYC followed by an NBA game – it was a big game.

My first question was “have you tested the list?” The client said no. It was a relatively expensive list and the vendor guaranteed 100% deliverability. I suggested that they take a few extra days and call into 100 of the targets. I told them we would do it at no charge.

The results: half of the list was outside of the Northeast. Of the remaining half, 20% had no contact name associated with the record (the mail house would have mailed it anyway – and it would have gotten dumped). Over 10% of the remaining addresses were bad. Some companies had moved and some were just, well, bad. A number reported that the contact was no longer employed by the organization.

The bottom line is that we trashed the entire list, built them a new, accurate list (for a fee) and the campaign results were excellent.

Remember: Lists suck. List testing is cheap and a no brainer.

Testing is extremely important if you use marketing automation. Read this blog (published by CMO by Adobe) for more information about calibrating and validating marketing automation.

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Topics: Database Marketing, Account-Based Marketing

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