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List managers may have outgrown that moniker, as they have expanded their capabilities and range of services in recent years in response to the sluggish economy. Now, as business slowly rebounds, they're using their enhanced expertise to keep up with client demand and succeed in a fragmented media environment.

2005 LIST MANAGERS: chart (PDF)

"They have to be more than list managers," said Kristin Miller, e-business manager at Kimberly Clark Professional, the b-to-b arm of Kimberly Clark. Miller said list managers used to focus solely on brokering data, but now are offering suites of services."We're trying to find new ways to partner with our customers," said Ed Mallin, group president of the Walter Karl List Group, which includes Walter Karl, Edith Roman, Yesmail and @Once. "Beforehand, there was less creativity and [marketers] relied on more traditional means." Now, list managers are increasingly being asked to get involved on a strategic level, he said.There are numerous strategies coming to the fore. "If it's a publication, we're finding ways to work with their advertisers to market the data to them," in a more aggressive way than in the past, Mallin said.Another example, List Services Corp., is generating incremental revenue by overlaying small-business information on consumer lists and consumer information on b-to-b SOHO lists to create new opportunities.

"LSC has evolved, as have many traditional list services companies, into a multichannel service provider," said Ray Schneeberger, senior VP-business development at LSC. "We're finding that 8% to 12% of names on consumer lists are business addresses," and vice versa, he said. "We're trying to capitalize on that hybrid area."

List managers increasingly provide sophisticated analytical services to clients. "I've seen a whole burst of these companies where they take your sales and marketing information and merge it with [compiled data] like D&B and analyze potential areas of growth," Miller said. Many companies don't have the time or expertise to do that level of modeling and analysis, she said.

More analytics tools

"In the b-to-b category, you have more analytical tools than ever," said David Schwartz, CEO of 21st Century Marketing. "Clients continue to demand more; analytics is one of those things." Other list managers agreed. "List owners are asking for so much in terms of analytics," said Jay Schwedelson, VP, Worldata.

For example, list managers including American List Counsel, Experian, LSC and MKTG Services have partnered with Alterian, a marketing technology company whose database product List Manager provides analytics and behavioral insight. Acxiom is the latest major database company to implement Alterian's List Manager. Mallin said Walter Karl is coupling list owner data with its own data, "so that we can have a more robust offering."

InfoUSA bolstered its ability to offer its customers more detailed analysis by acquiring OneSource Information Services. OneSource provides list users access to company profiles, contact information and corporate "family trees," or relationship hierarchies.

Another issue feeding increased demand for analysis is so-called list fatigue. B-to-b list universes aren't growing. In the economic downturn, marketers slashed customer acquisition campaigns, negatively impacting list sizes through attrition. As a result, the list universe continues to be in danger of overuse. That's why finding the right targets to reach in a campaign is more important than ever. "There's not a lot of new data on the market," Mallin said. "We're being asked to work harder as brokers to find segments and selects that are going to give mailers a lift."

While the demand for analytics is growing, obtaining such services can be cost-prohibitive. Miller said she talked to a data analytics company recently that said it would take and append Kimberly Clark Professional's data with additional data, determine best customers and then apply that information to a broad prospect base to find companies with similar traits. She ultimately passed.

"It is very expensive," Miller said. "We have a much smaller budget than our consumer counterparts." Because of the expense of that level of analysis, "companies that need it the most might not have the budget to do it," she said.

New databases feed demand

Mailers are seeing new and revitalized compiled and cooperative databases continue to come on the market as a result of demand for larger list universes. These can include the use of private databases, which is especially important in the b-to-b space where names are not available through other means.

"Consumers go to public databases," Mallin said. "Private databases are more prevalent in the b-to-b space." These include DoubleClick's Abacus B-to-B Alliance and Experian's b2bBase.

MKTG Services, which has managed a cooperative database called Infobuyers, is making a concerted effort to add new companies and market it more aggressively. Lists recently added include the American Academy of Medical Management, Business Marketing Association, Council of Insurance Executives and Photo Electronic Imaging. "When you're in a niche, there's only so many names you can go to," said Fred Swain, senior account executive at MKTG.

The cooperative database advantage to customers is obviously its lack of duplication. Rather than go to three professional organizations to rent names and have a duplication rate of 30% to 40%, the cooperative database is already "de-duped." "You'll pay less for those names," Swain said.

One trend that will definitely continue is marketers putting pressure on list managers to help them spend their limited marketing dollars wisely. "Mailers are always looking to mail more effectively, to select the best lists, to target using overlays and modeling and all available tools to improve prospecting and make the best use of their limited resources," 21st Century Marketing's Schwartz said. 

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