Making B-to-B Lists Work
by Denny Hatch
Many will disagree with Lee Kroll's statement. But I, for one, think he's dead on. Read on, consider all of the challenges the b-to-b marketer faces when it comes to lists, and decide for yourself.
Consumer Direct Marketing
The universe has roughly 110 million households. Most receive mail in a box or through a slot in the front door. They answer their own telephones. True, in the words of Chicago freelancer Lea Pierce, "All mail is opened over the wastebasket." But, chances are pretty good that if you want to reach consumers, your messages will either get into their hands or their ears. All of these households need basic consumables: food, cleaning supplies, light bulbs, toilet paper—all of which are to be found in the local supermarket. Further, these households are made up of individual consumers, who are profiled in vast electronic dossiers that describe every facet of their lifestyles, affinities, ability to pay and their propensity for being manipulated from a distance (i.e., mail order buyers).
The late economist Herbert Stein (father of Ben Stein as in "Win Ben Stein's Money") wrote in The Wall Street Journal: "I forgot what my old professor Frank Knight said: 'People don't want their wants satisfied; they want better wants.'" For direct marketers, creating consumer wants is relatively straightforward.
Take golf. You can reach golf enthusiasts via an ad in a golf magazine, by renting the subscription list of that magazine as well as lists of golf catalogs and golf equipment buyers or by advertising your product on television during a PGA event. Since the universe of golfers is known and accessible, the real challenge for the marketer of golfing products and services is offer and presentation.
Although consumer lists change at the rate of about two percent a month as people move, die, get married or are born, these changes are duly noted by the Postal Service's National Change of Address (NCOA) system. So consumer lists are usually fairly up-to-date.