Seven Ways to Combat List Fatigue
Attend any direct marketing conference or chat with your peers, and you’ll undoubtedly encounter the double whammy of shrinking universes and list fatigue as a topic of conversation and concern.
Logically, the decreasing responses that direct marketers are seeing across the board make sense. Combine less available universe, consumers who are more marketing-savvy, ever-widening options for purchase and the increasing cost of marketing; and the result is intense competition for the most likely consumer prospects. And those prospects are becoming more inured to the message every day.
As mailing becomes more expensive on all fronts, there often is a tendency to cut back and focus on the most responsive files. While this is an acceptable short-term solution, over the long term it greatly contributes to the decreasing response/purchase cycle.
An additional contributing factor is the spread of shared marketing databases. The structure of these bases is to group a variety of mailers and identify the most responsive names using RFM and other metrics. But what is most responsive for Mailer A also is likely most responsive for Mailers B, C and D—and they all are mailing into the same narrow prospect pool.
So what’s a marketer to do? Since it’s unlikely that 30 or 40 brand new lists will pop up in the next month or so, the next best option is to effectively manage the leads you have, and make the most of them.
Manage recency segmentation. This doesn’t mean focusing on hotlines alone. Test or retest older segments of files that have been successful. In many cases, a three-month hotline may have cooled slightly after six months, but still will deliver decent response and ROI.
Review duplication across lists by campaign. While your hits against the housefile may be acceptable, review lists that have high duplication against each other. Alternate them on campaigns to retain more of each.
Revisit marginal lists. Carefully mine those “less than stellar” list results for any pockets of possible retests. What was considered marginal a year ago may just make the plan today.
Re-examine your frequency. Like many of you, I’ve purchased from a catalog, only to receive weekly solicitations from that mailer. Needless to say, my fatigue level skyrocketed, and I won’t buy from the catalog again. It’s worth the time and expense to look at how often you’re hitting prospects, and determine the point of diminishing return. It’s actually possible to artificially fatigue a list right out of your mail plan, particularly when the list is small.
Explore different channels. If you’ve mailed every name on a file, consider talking to those prospects through another channel. If there are e-mail names available for a file, send an e-mail. Or, test an insert in the mailer’s package insert or statement stuffer program. It may be the same prospect, but you’re knocking on a different door.
Test, Test, Test. In addition to your other testing strategies, consider one “out-of-the-box” test for every mail plan. Aggressive testing will increase your available universe and give some relief to your core lists.
Explore new creative treatments. Testing a new package or alternating controls can substantially improve response rates on many continuation files.
Like postage, paper and shipping costs, list fatigue is endemic for all marketers. While there is no silver bullet, consideration of these strategies may help you give your best lists a rest, and extend their life in your mailings.
Stefanie Pont is managing partner of Pont Media Direct, a list brokerage and direct marketing consultancy based in Norwalk, Conn. She can be reached at (203) 354-8074, or by e-mail at email@example.com.