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The Marcus Perspective

WHOM THE GODS WOULD DRIVE MAD

By Bruce W. Marcus

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They First Put In Charge Of Mailing Lists

If the computer hadnít been invented, professional services marketers would have had to invent it. We depend so much, after all, on knowledge and data, and manipulating it, and accessing it, that we couldnít get past 10 A.M. without the computer to help do it all for us.

We write, and manipulate numbers for budgets and markets and surveys, and we thrive on mailing lists. We do online marketing, desktop publishing, and proposals, and visual presentations. No one wants to remember how we did it before, back a decade or so ago in the age of the oxcart. And despite the increase in Internet marketing, the direct mail letter is still an integral part of target marketing.

In contemporary marketing, in which audience definition goes so many layers deeper than it ever has before, only the computer allows the sophisticated marketer to cope with the masses of data needed to compete successfully.

Then there are mailing lists ó for both hard copy and Internet marketing that can be troublesome and difficult to tame. For more than a decade after I left as editor of the old Stock Market Magazine, and the magazine was no longer published, I was still receiving press releases.

Whether for niche marketing or target marketing, itís crucial to understand who the client is. The more we know about each group of prospective buyers or clients, or each individual customer or client, the better we are able to shape a service or message to that customerís or clientís needs.

A mailing list is more than a compendium of names ó itís an active and constantly changing profile of a segment of your audience, with carefully defined and predetermined characteristics and needs that are specifically responsive to your skills and practice. And as active and dynamic profiles, theyíre constantly changing, and have different needs. A list of clients is different from a list of prospects. A list of potential clients for tax services is different from a list of prospects for corporate services. Yet, there may be common characteristics in many of the names on each of the two lists that could serve to provide a third list of prospects for wills, or personal financial planning.

List management, then, means more than keeping names and addresses current. It means grouping and regrouping names in ways that allow you to reach different groups with different messages. In the early days of computers, this kind of sophisticated list management was available only from outside sources that had large mainframe computers. Todayís PC, however, is so powerful and has such extensive capability, that itís possible for any competent marketer to manage a fairly complex list. And now thereís a lot of software available to help do it. Simply Google Mailing List Management for a wide variety of choices. These lists (of either hard copy or e-mail addresses) can be used for:

  • Direct marketing:
    • Targeting new customers;
    • Expanding into new geographic markets; and
    • Introducing new products (or services) or product lines.
  • Market research and analysis:
    • Defining the potential of a new market;
    • Test marketing;
    • Sampling a potential client base; and
    • Conducting a market study or survey.
  • Site planning or selection:
    • Assessing market potential, based on competition; and
    • Expanding geographic or demographic base.
  • Sales territory analysis:
    • Defining territories for sales representatives;
    • Determining sales quotas; and
    • Quantifying budgets and allocating resources.

All this must be accomplished in a context of rising labor and postage costs, increasing mobility in the target audiences, and the dynamically changing needs of the marketplace.

Because many of the names on any list may be obsolete or transient, itís important that any program you use is frequently screened, assessed and purged as needed, and is sorted by category, and refined to adjust for new information or needs. Capabilities of the lists should include:

  • List sorting;
  • List access by category;
  • List merging; and
  • List sampling.

List merging is a particularly interesting function, because without a computer, itís almost impossible. For example, you can:

  • Merge two lists, in which, for a particular mailing, you use both lists together as if they were one;
  • Intersect lists, in which you choose only names that match two list definitions. For example, one list may targets prospects with characteristics similar to those of your best clients, and another list may include the names of your hottest prospect. If the material you want to mail goes to a defined category found in both lists, the intersected list sorts and produces the new list;
  • Develop a combined list, minus those entries that are common to both lists; and
  • Merge two lists, eliminating duplication.

Many list suppliers also include maps in a broad section of configurations (nationwide, statewide, metro areas, counties, zip codes) used in market analysis. The computerized lists can print labels, and can print out reports of contents of the lists in any sort or configuration. The lists can be exported to other files, to be used or edited for other purposes.

Being able to maintain a list is extremely important, obviously, but it isnít the end of the marketing process ó itís simply the vehicle. It may be the medium, but itís not the message. And while a poor list will diminish the value of the message ó and the messageís sender (how seriously do you take letter that misspells your name?) ó nothing will destroy the value of even the best list more quickly than poor content. Pay attention to the message ó which is what the exercise is about anyway.

The computer is a wonderful device. It serves all of us in wondrous ways. But we get out of it only what we put into it.


Bruce W. Marcus is a Connecticut-based consultant in marketing and strategic planning for professional firms, the editor of THE MARCUS LETTER ON PROFESSIONAL SERVICES MARKETING, (www.marcusletter.com), the forthcoming PROFESSIONAL SERVICES MARKETING 3.0 (Spring, 2011) and the co-author of CLIENT AT THE CORE (John Wiley & Sons, 2004). His e-mail address is marcus@marcusletter.com. © 2011 Bruce W. Marcus. All rights reserved

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