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Maximizing business lists: where to find 'em ... and how to clean, standardize and enhance 'em.

FEW DIRECT MARKETERS would dispute guru Dick Benson when he says, "Lists are the most important ingredient to the success of a promotional campaign."

In the business-to-business market, however, careful attention to list selection, cleaning and enhancement takes on added significance.

Why, you ask? "Business names on a mailing list or database atrophy faster than consumer names due to the fact that people in business quickly change titles, jobs and even careers," explains Paul Kolars, list manager at Lakewood Lists.

According to Charles Messina of the U.S. Postal Service, whereas consumer lists go out of date at the rate of 2 percent a month, the atrophy rate for business lists is 1 percent a week--or 50 percent a year!

See for yourself. Next time you are in a business meeting, ask for a show of hands of all those who have a different business card than they did one year ago. Half the hands in the room will go up.

Therefore, while all mailers should make sure they're spending enough time on lists, business lists require an extra dose of care. To get the most from the business-oriented mailings you send, heed these suggestions for selecting, cleaning, enhancing and using business lists.


The most useful way to find out about new lists is keeping your eyes and ears open, says Tracy Butzko, marketing manager of Dartnell, publishers of sales, marketing and motivation books and tapes.

Some places to look:

* Brokers;

* SRDS directories;

* Industry newsletters and magazines;

* MIN list database;

* List manager announcements/data cards;

* Associations.

Etta Davis, list manager at ARGUS, adds one more idea: "An excellent source of business lists is trade publications. They reach unique, targeted audiences."

Of the two main categories of lists--response and compiled--business response lists are generally a mailer's first choice, Butzko suggests. "Yon know that a real person existed at that address who purchased a product or responded to an offer."

Business compiled lists, on the other hand, "do not provide any indication of predisposed willingness to buy or respond by mail or phone," says Mike Faulkner, product manager/direct response, at Dun & Bradstreet. Compiled lists are lists of names that previously existed from a variety of sources: directories, membership lists, donor files, registrations, warranty card information, etc. Although the lists can be very large, they tend not to be very targeted, he explains.

When Dartnell does its own mailings to promote its business products, it first looks to b-to-b response lists and then to compiled lists such as Dun & Bradstreet's database. "We use selections such as SIC codes and the number of employees. It can be just as effective as a response list if you pick the right demographics," Butzko asserts.

"I can't stress enough that the intention or purpose of the mailing and the offer play a big part in the decision process of which type of list to use," she adds.


Once you've found several lists to test, the real work begins.

The next step: "Find out how often a list is updated and what the sources for collecting and updating data are," Kolars says. This will help you determine how much cleaning and updating you'll need to do.

Now it's time to make sure the address formats have been standardized.

This step is important because, as Kolars notes, "The postal service's machines can read your addresses more quickly and more accurately if you follow the standard USPS address format."

The best way to standardize a mailing list is to standardize the record entry, Butzko suggests.

Merge-purge is the logical next step. But use care. As Ed Burnett explains, "The merge-purge of business names and addresses (with four or more lines of information) is substantially more difficult to handle than identifying duplicates among three-line consumer records."

Of course, cleansing lists should be looked at as an on-going process and involves quality controls from initial data gathering to regular updates, Faulkner says.

Here are some additional ways to clean and standardize a business list, according to Butzko.

* Do an ACR mailing (address-correction requested).

* Mail the list first class to receive address changes.

* Send a postcard to every name on the list with a free offer or sweepstakes and requesting verification of their name and address.

* Pay an enhancement or look-up service to verify names and addresses.

* Some marketers have sent mailings including a free gift to companies' mailroom supervisors and asked for any changes in the personnel.

* Obtain address verification during a telemarketing call.


Enhancing lists makes the existing information more targeted and potentially more effective. Enhancements are data elements--facts about the prospect--that more clearly define their characteristics, Faulkner explains. Samples of business list enhancements include: 8-digit SIC codes, sales volume, number of employees, credit history, UCC filings, length of time in business, banking relationships, import/export indicators, locations status and corporate family relationship.

For a fee, several enhancement services will append this type of information to a record. Among the companies that provide these services are TRW, Dun & Bradstreet, American Business Inc., Business InfoBase and Acxiom, to name a few, Butzko says.


There's been much debate over whether mail going into the workplace needs an individual name--or if a title will do.

"Lists addressed to a name and title look more personal and targeted," Faulkner says. "These mailings have a greater chance of being delivered by the mailroom or 'gate keeper.'"

Burnett's logic goes like this:

* If you can mail to a name and it is the correct name, that is the way to go.

* If you also have the correct title, then the right answer is to mail to that name with that title.

* If you have a title that is doubtful but the name is correct, mail to the name.

* If the name is absent, it is far better to address by title rather than possibly pulling an incorrect name.

According to Burnett, the bottom line is: "When the supplier can provide only the name and address of the company, the cost to match against other files to pick up a specific name to attach to it may be too costly--so title addressing is often the best solution."
COPYRIGHT 1994 North American Publishing Company
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Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Orr, Alicia
Publication:Target Marketing
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Oct 1, 1994
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