List Research is Key to Finding New Prospects
When I started my career in direct marketing, this industry was very different than it is today, and I was working with package inserts instead of lists. The basic research techniques I learned then and have refined over time haven't changed in the intervening years, though almost everything else in the business has.
The first step in researching the list universe is to look again ... and AGAIN ... at the offer. This is probably the most important step, and one no broker or mailer can afford to overlook. The product or service and the way it is being offered is critical in determining which lists will work. If the offer is a "hard" one, the successful lists will be found in a very different group than those that work for a highly promotional, or "soft" offer.
More importantly, stay on top of the offer. Has the offer changed? Have the price points changed? Is it more or less promotional than in the past? Is there an incentive to respond that didn't exist in the past? All of these things will affect the mix of lists that will perform.
The next critical area to look at is the source of the names you are considering mailing. Generally, similar sources produce similar responses. That simply means that a catalog buyer is more apt to buy from another catalog than is a space advertising buyer. At this point, you need to look for help from the list owner. Has the media that the list owner is using changed? Is it using package inserts or space to generate a portion of its file now? If so, should you be looking at that source for new buyers? Is the owner promoting an interactive Web site? Will those Internet buyers work for your catalog offer?