The Changing Dimensions of a List Manager
Many of us are aware of what list managers do for their list owners—advertising, publicizing, representing at tradeshows and conferences, executing Web and e-mail promotions, making in-person and telephone sales, keeping track of historical rental and exchange records of names, and issuing financial reports on list rental
revenue of their managed lists. But is that all there is to being a list manager today?
What is your definition of a list manager? Start with the word "list." It denotes a series of names and addresses (postal, e-mail, etc.), and a variety of selections—gender, geography, hotline. When you think of the word "manager," you may think of the classic definition—one who manages by conducting business affairs. That is, the act of operating and supervising a business; an answer to doing things more efficiently and effectively through planning, coordination and control. When the words "list" and "manager" are combined, we might say this describes the art of managing a grouping of names and addresses.
Can list management be so narrowly defined today? Does today's list manager only take care of advertising, promotions, accounting and sales efforts, or is the list manager's role now much broader? What should a list owner expect from its list manager now, whether the manager is an in-house employee or a professional management company paid a commission for its expertise? Should the definition of what a list manager is and does change?
Many challenges face the list community—users and manager alike—including mailers cutting back, list universes shrinking, models not working, fewer new lists/segments being introduced to the market and declining list management revenues. The solutions to these problems will spring from how list managers view their role as managers and what list owners come to expect from list managers.
List managers obviously should focus on the accounting, sales and marketing aspects of their business. To truly earn the title of "manager," they must have the goal of maximizing the value of their list owners' files. That goal means a decided change in the way "list manager" is defined.
Today's progressive list manager achieves the goal of maximizing profit for the list owner by adding value beyond the minimums. List management is, first of all, marketing and representing lists to the direct marketing industry. But it also must provide an integrated solution comprising many other services, including:
>housing list rental files;
>providing online desktop count and ordering tools for the mailer, list owner and list broker to easily access and analyze data;
>fast order fulfillment and the ability to receive selected lists via the Web;
>making list owners' data smarter and more desirable by continually enhancing their lists with hundreds of additional attributes such as age, income and psychographic information; and
>offering high quality, affordable custom modeling for list owners' files.
This far broader definition of list management means today's bona fide list manager now delivers a solid, data-based solution to stagnant list rental revenue, multiple vendors, inattention by the list owner, lack of data selects, inadequate marketing tools, and multiple cost points. For list owners, it offers a "one-stop shop" for genuine management of their files.
While some list managers define their scope of service in this broad context, all components typically are not offered directly from a list manager as a "menu" from which to choose. As a consequence of how list managers define their role, the definition of what they can do for the list owners they represent is correspondingly limited.
List management is therefore truly the science of coordinating, controlling and delivering a list, combined with the art of directing all aspects of its promotion to make it a better product for the mailer—thereby maximizing the revenue of the list owner.
List managers of tomorrow must be part list marketer, part accountant, part data expert (to deliver more vertical integration), as well as part visionary (what can the list become?). This will create results the list manager, owner and broker will all recognize.
With the complete definition, all can enjoy results that speak for themselves.
Pam Mulligan is vice president of list management for MarketTouch, a leading provider of direct marketing data and services. She can be reached at (609) 844-7591, or via e-mail at pam.mulligan@ markettouch.com.