Lists in the New World
TM: Why is it critical to track list history, especially after a major event like Sept. 11?
Kurtz: We have asterisks on mailings that were dropped around critical events, mailings that will forever be labeled problem mailings. In terms of test lists, you have to use your judgement. You don't want to repeat the whole mailing, and there are probably some things you still learn in a mailing that goes through the floor.
To take a weighted average of all response rates of a particular list is a starting point. But if you take an equal weighted average against all mailings, and one of the mailings you're weighing is a mailing that was down 30 percent across the board in a period of terrible response rates—even if it wasn't a disaster or something in the news that got the nation's attention—that has to be asterisked, too. And you just weigh it. That's what we do as marketers. You can't let the computer give you the response rate all the time.
I believe Dick Benson's quote was, "You've got to believe your numbers." Your numbers are all you've got. You're going to retest what was mailed [in turbulent times] and take what you can out of your results.