List types - Buyer Beware or Be Aware

A standard list has one or more components that makes it marketable to businesses, consumers, nonprofits, or government. These components are what we call list selections, or selects. Data pricing varies by retail/wholesale vendor, by price per thousand (/M) or flat fee (/F), and by client need. On the wholesale side, pricing can vary from as little as $0.02/record to $0.15/record, depending on how selective (or targeted) the list is. On the retail side, pricing can go as high as $3/record (or higher, say $25/record for mortgage/real estate leads, or $45/record for custom lead generation. Pricing by need is based on whatever markup exists when buying through an agency like a marketing/advertising/or PR firm or directly through a list owner.

A list contains at least a respondent's name, job title, company, address, and phone number. Some direct mail lists lack selects like phone number. Some telemarketing lists lack job title, company, and address, giving a business only the person's name and a telephone number by which to reach them. As a general rule, if you're picking selects on a datasheet, you should require your list vendor to export those selects instead of furnishing you with the basic name/address/phone repertoire. This allows you to verify the integrity of the list. If you buy business list, you can segment them in your inhouse database by SIC code.

Selects can be by:

* demographic: race, religion, political position, gender, age, household income
* industry: automotive, banking, Internet, high tech, manufacturing, consumer products, etc.
* region: north, south, east, west, Americas, Europe, Asia, by state/province, etc
* other identifiers: number of employees, number of branch locations, subsidiary, HQ, public/private company

On the agency side of marketing, list brokers often give each other discounts if they are in the same business, providing services and list products to their customers. This discount can be up to 20% of the base price of a list. The markup can be as high as 30% on top of that, which is how agencies make the bulk of their money. Regardless of which side of marketing you work on, agency or client side, there's always an average, industry-acceptable price for something.

Biggest bang for the buck does not exist in marketing. It only exists as an unfounded, preconceived notion that such a thing is possible. What really ends up happening is what is conveyed during a sale between the customer and the agency. The client believes they are getting a good deal, the list is satisfying a need, a mailing goes out, and the client gains feedback or an increase in customer activity as a result of it. The agency believes the client is getting a good deal because research was done on a list to ensure that it met a client's specifications and fit within a stated budget. Biggest bang for the buck? Not likely.

Unless you own a list brokerage business, there's no trickle-down theory when it comes to wages in the industry. The bulk of one's income comes from that 5% to 20% commission that one typically gets when buying a list, plus whatever markup is passed to the customer. Many brokerage houses see a high turnover in list brokers because of the low salaries or when demand decreases for lists. You may end up with working with more than five reps in a single year from a large brokerage firm like Experian, InfoUSA, or D&B. Why be concerned as a list buyer? Because it is very likely that at some point, you will be sold a list that isn't up to par and fails to meet your specs; and you won't be able to get a refund.

Ain't nothing in the list industry that's free. Everything comes at a price.
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