If You Are Planning to Hire A List Manager, Think Before Signing On The Dotted Line

Published: October 31, 2009

If you are a list owner, it is conceivable that you may have invested thousands or perhaps even millions of dollars building a trusted brand. If you extend others the privilege to represent your list in the direct marketing industry, it makes sense to find out, in advance, if they are worthy of your trust.

Engagement with your brand can take many forms, and encompasses diverse marketing channels where others may either sell your products, or in the case of mailing lists, serve as approved sales agents for your intellectual property.

The traditional role of a list manager is to serve as an exclusive sales agent for one or more lists. Today they represent lists and other multi-channel media, so perhaps our industry should refer to “managers” as either media agents or representatives. Regardless of the nomenclature, they are responsible for promoting your list, and scrutinizing offers before your list is shared with approved third parties. A pro-consumer privacy policy is also a feather in your cap, as I have been advocating to our clients for over 15 years. Pending legislation in Congress would authorize the Federal Trade Commission to hold list owners and their agents liable for “aiding and abetting” bad actors, so it is very important to carefully screen all promotions before releasing names.

Effective list managers are friendly, curious, and detail oriented. They are attentive to their client’s needs. They should also be supremely knowledgeable about their managed properties. All customers should be treated with respect, particularly those who are your bread and butter such as list brokers and other resellers, who regard your data as valuable to their clients.

For those who are considering the possibility of renting their names, or have already done so, it is a good idea to periodically check to see how your list manager interacts with customers. If your list manager has “a reputation” for not being cooperative, you will lose sales. For example, how do they answer the phone? What if they have a cryptic voice mail system that is worse than the fabled bridge to no-where? Do they return phone calls? If you send e-mail, do they respond? If so, how long does it take for them to reply? How well do they follow instructions? If they run counts, do they confirm pricing as well? Do they make timely follow-up calls to make sure your customers have everything they need to rent a list? If a customer calls back a month later, do they keep a record of what they quoted? Remarkably, some managers have an uncanny ability to lose or misplace their e-mail.

Does your manager charge for counts? If so, you will upset customers, because brokers will not go out-of-pocket. They know computer houses offer FREE counts to resellers. In the old days, service bureaus charged for counts. These variables and others can materially influence list management sales, because experienced list brokers and mailers have long memories. If they can rent a comparable list elsewhere, and still have a smile, guess what they will do? They will play favorites.

In my conversations with various list search engine owners such as MIN, Nextmark and SRDS, it is apparent that some list managers are not proactive. Data cards should be current in all respects. Admittedly, some list managers point fingers back at the search engines for their lack of diligence. On another note, if a list is either off the market or has changed managers, why is it a struggle for the old list manager to refer their clients (mostly list brokers) to the next in line, as a matter of courtesy, instead of pretending they don’t know who is handling the list? They certainly know where to mail royalty checks.

Traditionally, list managers have relied upon brokers for most of their rental income. Every major list company has a brokerage and management division. At times, the lines blur, particularly when certain managers receive large orders from outside brokers. The temptation is to solicit the broker’s client. This untoward behavior is highly unethical. It could also be construed by regulators as a predatory or unfair business practice. Responsible managers support all of their marketing partners, and will go the extra mile to insure that everyone plays fair.

There are some list owners who encourage new mailers to work with them directly on various endeavors. If a list manager or list broker facilitates the introduction, they should receive some compensation for the matchmaking, particularly if lists are exchanged.

With regard to mailers, they have the ability today to shop till they drop online. In fact, a growing of mailers “go-direct” and negotiate their own deals. They place orders directly with list owners, who sometimes ignore their traditional marketing partners, even if they have signed exclusive management contracts.

In conclusion, regardless of who manages your list, make sure they are fit to represent your brand and provide exceptional customer service. They can open new doors for you. As multi-million dollar companies have learned over the years, it can be very costly to act as your own list manager, when others can do it better and for less green. If your list manager is professional, you will have more money in your pocket, and your brand reputation will be enhanced. There’s an old saying: if you sleep with dogs, you will get fleas.

About Acculist

AccuList USA® provides a broad spectrum of services to direct marketers and their agencies including consulting, list brokerage, list management, list enhancement, merge-purge, response analysis, campaign planning, graphic design, copywriting, printing, mailing, and predictive modeling services.

AccuList USA is headquartered in Ventura, California. It maintains a list and insert management office in Laguna Woods, California, along with affiliates in La Quinta, Oxnard, and Thousand Oaks, California.

AccuList USA is an active member of the following professional associations:

Advertising Federation of the Desert (Desert AdFed)
Association of Fundraising Professionals
Direct Marketing Association – (National – List Leaders)
Direct Marketing Association Southern California (Charter member)
International Association Of Exhibitions and Events


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