Direct Marketing

Zero in on the Right List

You can boost your chances of attracting subscribers to your new magazine by asking your list broker for specific information tools.

You can boost your chances of attracting subscribers to your new magazine by asking your list broker for specific information tools.

So you plan to produce a new, surefire magazine? Congratulations! But remember, to stay in business, you need to attract subscribers. This is where dry testing your direct mail can help. Dry testing–a smaller-scale direct-mail test of a market–is an adventure with any offer. But in a launch situation, everything’s an unknown: the creative, the offer, the product, the price point–and especially which lists to use. To help make that initial dry test a success, try winnowing your list by following these tips.

Because a launch mailing is almost guaranteed to under-perform, you should structure it so that you at least learn about your market in the process. The information you should be looking for can come from these questions: What is the size of my viable prospect universe? What interests are primary to my prospects, and which are secondary? What is my competition doing that I can learn from? What selection criteria are the most productive? What can I do to tailor my list markets by my package or offer?

Ask for the following tools
Once you have these answers, work with your list broker to decide what subscribers you are looking for. This will help you with the next step–picking what parts of which lists will be right for your magazine. To do this, you must ask your broker to give you the following tools.

A prospect universe analysis: When asking your broker for a list recommendation for your test mailing, make sure the broker also supplies a spreadsheet that recaps all lists. For each list, request a recommended test selection (the portion of each list that your broker thinks you should test) with a current count of how many names are available within those criteria. Make sure this spreadsheet is provided to you not only in print, but also on disk so that you can refine it as you trim the recommendation down to what you think makes the most sense for your offer. Then, keep tabs not only on what the lists total today, but what they total after the results are in and the poor performers are cut.

A categorical review
Ask the broker to allocate each list to a single interest category (e.g., crafts, sports). This way, you can evaluate your market by the importance of each category before you mail. Test a minimum of two or more lists within each category that is important to your market. By doing this, you’re really testing the category itself. If the category produces a prime prospect, it should be pursued avidly. If it doesn’t, you know that category is not as important as you thought.

A competitive review
Even if what you have is new, there’s probably a magazine already on the market today that you’re going to compete with. So what’s your competition doing that can help you to minimize your risk? Ask your broker for the sample mail pieces of those publications you feel come closest to your publication’s.

Are they all sweepstakes offers? Are they all monthlies? Are they all priced the same? This will help you set your own strategy. In terms of lists, ask your broker to find out who mails to your competitors’ names. Odds are that if your competitors’ names work for these other mailers, these other mailers have lists that will work for you.

Finally, give your broker the names of up to 10 mailers. Then have your broker give you a report showing the mailers across the top, the recommended lists down the side, and a “XXX” in the cells where one of your top 10 mailers shows up on the usage list. If the resulting spreadsheet shows that some lists are used by more than 60 percent of these mailers, odds are the list will work well for you.

Sample mail pieces
Once you’ve selected the lists you want to mail, you want to be sure you’re testing a productive selection. Ask your broker to give you as many sample mail pieces as possible for the lists being recommended. Sort them based on the look of the piece (e.g., 6″ x 9″ envelope with a brochure versus a double postcard) as well as by offer (e.g., sweepstakes versus premium on payment). Then concentrate on those lists generated from packages and offers similar to those you intend to test.

With large universes, increasingly powerful psycho-graphic selection criteria and much lower prices than most response lists, you may find some of these names so productive you will continue to use them well after your launch mailing.

Steven M. Smith, Owner, graduated The Art Institute of Vancouver for Web Design & Interactive Media, Graphic & Web Design and has been feature...