the year 2001 closes out and we look ahead to the next marketing season,
it is both exciting and a bit sad that the hot direct marketing vehicle
will be email, and not postal direct marketing.
USPS facing billions of dollars in losses, anthrax scares and cannibalization
from email, 20th century direct marketing is taking a further back
seat to its newer relative email marketing.
Why is email
so appealing? It is cost effective, it is personal and it can be
There are certain
appealing aspects to traditional postal mailing lists that have
not developed as of yet in the email marketplace. I'm not even talking
about targetability or selectivity; I'm talking about the relatively
mundane subject of pricing.
Unlike its postal
cousin, the prices for email lists are truly all over the place,
and the buyer beware mentality has to exist in this new marketplace.
A marketers reputation is tied immediately to the list that is rented.
That's the key difference between the postal world and email. The
recipient of a direct mailing piece probably does not know the sources
of the list. With email, the source of the list is not only stated,
but by virtue of its use, creates a quasi endorsement/marketing
relationship with the mailer.
There are other
very organized parts of the list rental process from the brick and
mortar list rental days that have not translated over to the world
as I will refer to the postal names, have always been listed in
the SRDS Directory. This has always been a very organized, categorized
and up-to-date volume which allowed a whole generation of list professionals
and mailers a source from which they could derive creative information
(in fairness SRDS has evolved into a great electronic service as
there is nothing standard with email lists and their pricing, or
for that matter email lists and the data they are built from. Pricing
has become a fluctuating barometer of how the email list as a commodity
is doing. For many marketers, the cost of the email list may supercede
all of the other variables that normally go into the selection of
a mailing list. This is troubling because long-term failures of
email campaigns because of the wrong choice of a list may frustrate
and turn many marketers away from what should be the "Killer
App" for all direct marketers.
This is not
to say that there should not be negotiation between a list broker
and list manager for the best price possible. The price of an email
list is probably the key indicator to the marketplace on how the
names were actually developed.
It is a rather
lengthy and tedious task to build an opt-in or even negative option
list of any size that has buyers or subscribers willing to lend
their name for commercial efforts.
As many good
direct marketers know, the most responsive names come from the same
medium that you market in, therefore, the warranty card which is
sent in with an email address on it is not going to be as responsive
or useful as a paid subscriber to a magazine who is registered on
a website, and opted in to receive third party mailings. This is
plain common sense.
This is comparable
to the old compiled list versus response list. It is more costly
to gather the paid subscriber name or website buyer name, and therefore,
the list probably costs more.
Email marketing is in its infancy, and the marketplace is more
like a Middle Eastern bazaar than the organized trading and commerce
of the 20th century list business.
It must be frustrating
for major mailers who are used to receiving name arrangements, and
other price lowering incentives. The one "hold over" discount
from the postal days will probably be what my colleague/competitor
David Schwartz (CEO of 21st AZ) named the volume discount, because
the more you buy the less you'll pay.
As I look to
the new year I wish everyone in our industry and the country the
very best. As marketers, we should remember that price is only one
variable for a positive return on investment.
Happy New Year