List Buying Guide: The Finer Points of List Research
Know thy product. Know thy customer. These are the first steps any researcher worth his or her salt needs to take before sourcing lists for rental and exchange. Live the product, breathe the product and learn about the product is truly the only way to get the list research process started. Once you have become "one" with the product, you are ready to proceed to the next steps. Depending on how much time you have before your client wants to get into the mail, you have a few options available to offer to it: a complete universe analysis, a reverse usage report or a good old-fashioned list test recommendation based on your list research.
Complete Universe Analysis
A complete universe analysis involves researching every possible list on the market that might be remotely related to your client's offer. This includes both directly competitive offers in addition to compiled lists. Included in the universe analysis are the list name, the total universe, pricing, plus a full set of demographics-average age, average income, percent of male/female, average unit of sale, update schedule and a sample mail piece. A universe analysis is an excellent tool to have on hand. It's usually divided into tiers:
- tier one being the most directly related lists;
- tier two being closely related lists; and
- tiers three or four being somewhat related lists.
Having a sample mail piece on hand can be extremely helpful. Samples also show the product offerings. If possible, you may want to omit a product from your select when placing a list order. Without the benefit of this valuable list research tool, your client could have been mailing to the wrong audience.
Reverse Usage Report
Now, onto an overlooked but important research tool, the reverse usage report. This report shows the client who is using its competitors' lists. For example, if a pet mailer (I am going to stick with the pet theme throughout this article) wanted to know which firms are using its top five competitors' files, a reverse usage report would tell it. Unlike regular usage, this report shows cross usage between the files. I liken this report to a rousing game of gossip. Sort of like, "Did you hear that so and so is using such and such list?" However, having said that, more mailers have decided not to play this game, and it's becoming more difficult to prepare reverse usage reports. This is a challenge that brokers strive to overcome.