What separates successful intelligence-building campaigns from ones that come back with little response is a strong list. But those lists are in constant flux, says Jon Macarthy consumer marketing director for Meredith Corporation, and it’s hard to keep up.
"The biggest challenge is that the promotional environment is changing so rapidly," says Macarthy. "In the past you were pretty sure if you had a list from source X from six months ago that the quality of the names and the way those people behaved would be relatively similar to today. But names on list X may change what they are doing so rapidly, as we all are, suddenly it becomes a little harder to predict what they are going to do in the future."
Problems like this have always existed in the list world, says Macarthy, but along with downward environmental pricing pressures, it’s a bit of scramble. As sources lower their prices, or do sweepstakes offers, you may not be getting the quality names you anticipated. "We’re always diligent to watch what’s going on with our sources so we can somewhat explain, and maybe anticipate, what might happen to someone based on what we’re seeing as far as promotional techniques from our list sources," says Macarthy.
It’s crucial that you have a strong relationship with your list broker, so that if a change does occur they find that information out as soon as possible. Be sure to pressure your broker to do this for you;they are the experts in their channels and chances are, they know their market better than you do.
To fill gaps in your data coverage you must prioritize your sources and determine which source had the most accurate data. Then, find another source to fill in the gaps. You will only have to pay your second source for hits not filled by your first source. The result is highest quality data for least cost, says Macarthy.
Also, be sure to talk to your broker to see if the list company can release information that may not be on the ratecard, but may be invaluable to your database.
"They don’t typically do that, but if the broker knows they actually have that data and they just aren’t telling us, they can kind of work those deals for us so that we can gain access to it," says Macarthy. "We’ve been working with our broker for years and they know the women’s market extremely well and we rely heavily on them for their expertise in that market."
Making the Transition
If your database is up to par, various modeling efforts will also be more effective, creating new lists of potential targets for various products. Finding a way for consumers to voluntarily provide their preferences is a difficult task, and inferring those preferences is not always accurate. Macarthy works with several retail partners to keep track of consumer buying trends.
"If they go buy gardening products with that retailer, and we know that they bought one of our gardening magazines, suddenly gardening spikes much higher in our knowledge of that consumer," he says. "Then our models will pull that in and anything we do in the gardening area will pull them up as potential target or customer for that product."
Beyond transaction data, surveys and Internet registrations, Meredith also creates promotions with advertising partners that may generate leads to build databases. Both the sponsor and the magazine provide the cash and the names for the effort and promotions usually occur in the form of a sweepstakes. The sponsor provides the prize for the contest, and the magazine provides brand affinity and operational expertise. Then, both parties share the data.
"Often there are areas where an outside client is trying to find the same information about their client-base at the same time we’re trying to find it," says Macarthy. "In so many instances people have a stronger relationship with the magazine that they read than they do with the product they may only purchase once or twice. With that dialogue we can leverage the relationship we have to get the information that we may need to service them, but also the information our partners need as well."
For Readymade, a relatively new publication, gathering information about the 20-plus demographic has posed a challenge for the company. The behavior of a consumer in her twenties is different from the behavior of the slightly older target demographic of Meredith’s other titles. In turn, Meredith launched a research initiative to better understand their media interaction. The database for the magazine is still in its infancy stage, but is growing rapidly.
"Their media uses are different, and they are not active in many of the areas we typically would go to get data," says Macarthy. "There aren’t purchase points that tend to indicate what they do, or they may be doing more on the Web, but with sites with which we don’t have relationships."