Hitting the Target

Article excerpt

Sophisticated techniques are allowing marketers to tighten up their mailing lists.

"Where there's a will there's a way," it is said. This is proving to be the case with targeting. It's long been possible for companies to enhance the targeting of their mail, media buying, creativity and message - it's just not been fashionable.

But it looks as though the customer-loyalty fad is succeeding in slowing the increase in junk mail.

Not that many marketers are prepared to admit that junk mail exists. Several cite the lack of complaints to the direct-mail preference scheme and DMA-sponsored research which shows that an increasing percentage of mail is opened and looked at as evidence that people like getting unsolicited mail.

While it's likely that only seasoned letter-writers are likely to bother complaining, that doesn't mean that others enjoy having their dwindling spare time wasted on junk mail, or think highly of the organisations which waste it. Also, most would not want to stop all mailings - only the irrelevant stuff.

Neil Shotton, at Milton Keynes-based direct-marketing services company Mailcom, which offers a market overview based on the thousands of mailings it handles each year for hundreds of companies, reports two clear targeting trends.

"Firstly, we're seeing extensive and complicated profiling being done by financial institutions which for years have stuck doggedly to huge mass mailings.

"Conversely, a couple of the charities which have been perfecting and testing tighter targeting methods for years, have sent out cold appeals to 1 million-plus potential donors. This change of direction has come about because several charities had so refined their targeting that they ended up with the same profile of the ideal donor - and inundated this cluster with appeals," says Mailcom's Shotton. Unfortunately, these were also the people most likely to be donors already and therefore the hardest to convert.

As well as the well-documented alliances between lifestyle and geodemographic database owners, there have been rumours of new entrants to the lifestyle database market, for example, Innovations, EMAP and Kleeneezee. All three categorically deny this.

Mail order catalogue specialist Innovations, which rents out its customer lists, insists the information from its questionnaires is for internal use: "We have no wish to give our competitors any clues about our commercial strategy," says marketing director Andrew Shapin.

Kleeneezee has been distributing customer attitudinal questionnaires: "We are bringing back the traditional 1920s Kleeneezee man who was always so popular with our customers," says Irene Daisley, marketing manager. "The questionnaires will not be held on a central database, they are being collected, held and used by our 1500 self-employed agents. It's part of a customer care and service initiative."

EMAP Direct's sales director Chris Jones, says its questionnaires are part of a similar internal fact-finding exercise. Although it will continue selling business-to-business magazine subscription lists, it has no intention to go into the lifestyle business.

Daily Telegraph lifestyle database guru Tony Coad, is equally tight-lipped about the company's plans, but he confirms there will be a launch later this year.

The lifestyle database being compiled by list broker Dudley Jenkins is more than a rumour: It started in October 1994. In June, it sent out 11 million questionnaires and managing director Bob Hayward says: "Of 1.2 million respondents, only 2000 were matched against the Mail Preference Service. The rest are available for rental."

The next 11-million strong mailing is due at the end of this year. Hayward says the companies which ran sponsored questions in the first survey are sponsoring the next. He hopes it will boost the database to 2.5 million names.

The longest established lifestyle company is ICD, which has a 5. …