Chris DeMartine

As database marketing shifts to alternate forms of list building using cooperative databases and crowd-sourced lists, the world of the list broker is also changing. List brokers are transitioning from purveyors of response databases, tailoring a handful of subscriber lists to marketers' broad needs and taking a 20 percent cut of proceeds, to more full-service marketing consultancies where list rentals are only part of their offerings.

Any list professional worth his or her salt knows that data cards are just a starting point in doing list research, but that doesn't mean their role is inconsequential to list managers and list owners. To maintain a high degree of quality list information for brokers and marketers, list marketing/research services provider NextMark, based in Hanover, N.H., has developed a ranking of list managers that use its data card publishing tool called the NextMark Top 50.

Would your list marketing be better with barter? Barter is the oldest form of exchange and it still exists today for many products, services, and data. While the concept of barter hasn't really changed, the facilitation of barter has evolved remarkably. In the early days, just a few thousand years ago, produce weights and livestock headcounts were tallied to calculate an exchange. For the past four decades, marketers have been applying the same principles to data. Today, technology makes it even easier to track the 'exchange balance of trade' and keep everyone accountable.

For decades, marketers have shaped their direct mail programs around the knowledge that the most recent customer or lead names to come onto a file, called a hotline, are the most responsive to be had in the marketplace. But now that we're marketing in the Internet age, with access to hotline segments on e-mail lists as well, has this select lost any of its luster?

"In America, you have the watches but no time. In Nairobi, we have the time but no watches." That's a familiar quote I heard recently from "Evans," an international student from Kenya who is currently enrolled at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University. He got me thinking about the economics of marketing in the U.S. and how the proliferation of social networks has influenced media consumption and business user engagement. Although it is rarely thought of in this context, the rise of social marketing is rooted in basic economic principles. When the price is "zero," the laws of supply and demand often are ignored, but they still are relevant.

Given the consideration that revenues from list rental may offset losses from other areas on a direct marketer’s income statement, would a slowed economy in 2009 bring more new lists to market? Many would like to think so, but the hypothesis needs to be tested and getting to the answer is not that simple.

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