Are all data cards equal?

Are all data cards created equal?

Certainly not. Data cards are snapshots of a list's essential data (i.e. demographic and lifestyle profile, quantity of names available, and cost per thousand names) and tend to reflect the many disparities among lists themselves. The list rental business can seem like a modern day version of the Wild West where a wise renter (like you) knows to be skeptical when reading glowing reports of a list's potential performance.

This is no surprise, since there are thousands of lists available in today's market. Just glance through the massive Standard Rate and Data Service (SRDS) tome and you'll find a list category for almost every hobby, behavior, or niche. As in life, there are people you know you can trust and others you suspect are just out to make a sale. Moreover, some list owners and brokers are more diligent about updating data card information than others. In such a fiercely competitive market, it's caveat emptor if you want to maximize the success of your direct mail campaign.

Here are a few rules of thumb next time you're out renting list names:

  1. Instead of ordering a round number, select an odd size. For example, if you are just testing a list, select 5,500 names rather than 5,000. This will protect you from possibly receiving "canned names" from the few unscrupulous list owners out there - and alert them that you intend to be dealt with honestly. You want a representative cross-section of names on that list, not cream of the crop names that will perform well during testing and cause you to roll out to an inferior group of names.

  2. Regardless of what selects are shown on a data card, press your list broker as to whether other more profitable selects are available. You'll do well to select such unadvertised categories as multi-buyers (buyers who've made several purchases recently), last three-month buyers, and buyers who spent at least $20 during the past year.

  3. As hinted at earlier, don't assume that your test results will be indicative of rollout potential. Test results almost always exaggerate positive results, so always factor in a drop-in response (possibly 20% or so) when taking a continuation or all available names next time you rent that list. If that drop won't allow you to mail profitably, you may want to consider deleting that list from your mail plan.

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