MeritDirect looks to score with enhancements

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List company MeritDirect has added two database enhancement services to its MeritBase cooperative marketing database to provide scores to help clients determine which customers are most active and most profitable.

Database enhancement has become de rigueur for list marketers, but MeritDirect says these new services, Merit Response Segment and Merit Reactivation Segment, go well beyond "merge-purge." With basic merge-purge, multiple lists are merged, then duplications and inaccuracies are purged. With database enhancement, data from third-party sources, such as D&B, are added to the information contained in customer records.

MeritDirect’s new products also go further by accessing active buyer data in MeritBase, which comprises many lists from several owners.

The Response Segment analyzes a client’s data using a scoring system in order to identify the most responsive customer names.

The Reactivation Segment is a similar tool that is applied specifically to older names in a client’s file to identify the most valuable customer segments. The reactivation service’s scoring system includes the use of third-party data from companies such as D&B and infoUSA, as well as multi-buyer data from its MeritBase cooperative database.

"The idea of enhancing your customer file with external data is not new," said Blair Barondes, senior VP-database marketing at White Plains, N.Y.-based MeritDirect. "What’s new is the extent of coverage, meaning the depth and breadth of data and how large a percent of a customer file we can match."

Matching confirms accuracy

Matching is important because it provides mailers with more information about their customer names and confirms that information is accurate.

Competitors such as ParadyzMatera also handle database enhancement in-house using outside data but without the cooperative database universe to meld into their product offerings.

"I think Merit’s spin on that particular process is their MeritBase database, which gives them the ability to have a wide variety of names and a large universe to draw upon," said Chris Paradysz, president of ParadyszMatera.

Another executive agreed. "It’s a much bigger universe than I could ever put together myself," said Todd Dziedzic, director of customer value management strategies at InfoWorks, Chicago, a division of direct agency Rapp Collins Worldwide. Some of Dziedzic’s clients use MeritBase.

The new reactivation service has raised some questions within the list industry. At issue is whether owners of lists in the cooperative have agreed to allow MeritDirect to use their information in the scoring process.

"We had a request in April [from MeritDirect] for a list to be included in their co-operative. There’s nothing in [the agreement] about the use of these names for anything other than by companies to do their direct marketing," said Deb Goldstein, president of IDG List Services. Goldstein said she would like to see Merit disclose the fact that it allows users to submit house files for scoring and describe how the scoring works.

Barondes defended MeritDirect’s practices.

"The Reactivation Segment is only available to MeritBase mailers and has been approved by the list owners to participate," he said. "The Reactivation Segment does not use any specific information from any specific list owner, but it does reflect multi-buyer type information."

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