What Is Your Competitor Up To? Obvious and Little-known Research Techniques
If You Do Nothing Else, COLLECT DATACARDS!
List rental is a huge source of free money. It costs pennies per thousand to run a list get it into the hands of a lettershop. In return, the list owner can pocket $100/M or more (sometimes a lot more) in rental income.
A list of 100,000 names that rents for $100/M means $10,000 gross revenue every time the list is “turned” (rented). Turn it four times a month, and you get $40,000 a month or $480,000 a year (minus commissions to manager and broker)—a nice pinch of change for doing virtually nothing.
Ralph Ginzburg, a publisher who went to jail for the risqué mailings he sent out for Eros magazine in the 1960s, died last week. As I was reading his obituary, I remember that one of his business models was to create a screamer of an ad (“YOU’RE BEING ROBBED!”) for a dinky four-page magazine called Moneysworth, which brought in a ton of subscribers. Ginzburg made a fortune—not on subscription revenue, not on advertising, but on list rentals.
Brian Kurtz, the marketing wizard behind the great success of the Boardroom publishing company with its plethora of newsletters and books, once said, “All datacards are guilty until proven otherwise.” And someone else—I forget who—remarked that some of the greatest fiction in the world is created by datacard writers.
It’s true that many questionable promises can turn up on a datacard made by an eager list owner.
But if you want to find out how well or how badly a company is doing, get the datacards and do some arithmetic. You’ll find the total number of customers (or subscribers or donors). Here, too are the hotline names—those customers that came in during the last 30 days or three months. The datacard gives the average unit of sale, which means you can multiply out the numbers and get a ballpark sense of what’s happening.