The Changing Role of the Broker (545 words)
by Cheryl Bagdan
Not so long ago, many brokers simply sent out data cards scribbled with a few notes and called it a recommendation. As the 20th century draws to a close, the role of list brokers has evolved into one of a partnership with their mailers.
"The biggest change in the role of a successful broker is that they see beyond just [recommending] mailing lists and become a strategic marketing partner," says Prescott Bullard, director of list marketing at Phillips Publishing.
But what separated good brokers from the rest in the past still holds true today—some of it is measurable and some is intuitive.
"Simply selling names isn't enough," comments Cathy Gaba, director of marketing for PRIMUS Telecommunications, a long-distance provider. Gaba explains, "The role of the broker is more than a salesperson but rather more a trusted consultant or business partner. It is important they understand the nature of the business of the company they are working with and their needs in order to be successful with direct marketing."
Mailers have come to expect a greater return on investment (ROI) from their list broker relationships. Some require pre-negotiated rates even before considering implementing a new test.
While brokers acknowledge this movement toward providing an even greater level of service, the broker-mailer relationship has been made even more complex. Whereas previously mailers' marketing departments generally preferred to perform their own order entry and regression analysis, technological advances have made it possible for brokers to assume this high-level responsibility. Many brokerage houses even function as their mailers' service bureau liaisons.
Filling in Where Needed
With corporate downsizing occurring at a frightening pace, it is frequently the broker who fills the void left in the marketing department. Brokers now may perform a variety of functions previously held by full-time employees. Overwhelmingly, brokers echo the sentiment of Dick Calvin, senior vice president of the brokerage division at Walter Karl, who says, "We are continually being asked to provide more information, more services, more value and new markets. These four components are what is making our job evolve."
Clearly, brokers are their mailers' advocates who willingly put in longer hours, attend more conventions and make more on-site sales visits than in the past. If asked, there's very little most brokers won't do! With remunerations for these included in commissions, mailers reap this expertise at no additional cost to their bottom lines.
The brokerage role has changed, due in large part to improved technology coupled with budgetary restrictions. The mailers' prerequisite is a marketing partnership that can be mutually advantageous. As stated by Erin Fink, vice president of marketing at California Cosmetics, "My broker is an essential part of our marketing team. I've dealt with the same individual for over 12 years [who] knows what's good for my business, who my customers are and where to find more of them." Fink adds, "I rely on my broker to find new lists and negotiate the best deals. Direct mail is expensive, so it pays to find an expert who can navigate the [list] market for you."
CHERYL BAGDAN is director of brokerage services at Leon Henry Inc., a Scarsdale, NY, firm offering alternative print media and mailing list brokerage and management services. She can be reached at (914) 723-3176.