Traditional lists get e-mail overlay

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Owners of traditional b-to-b marketing lists, once considered victims of the Internet as marketing medium, are moving up the food chain. That's the message from VentureDirect Inc.'s disclosure this month that it has signed a lucrative deal with The McGraw-Hill Cos.' Professional Book Group to market, sell and manage its b-to-b customer list.

As part of the deal, McGraw-Hill plans to overlay opt-in e-mail addresses to the mailing list of more than 400,000 professionals in 15 distinct vertical industries. In so doing, McGraw-Hill chases the Holy Grail of direct marketing: contacts that cross real and virtual worlds.

McGraw-Hill is one of the first owners of a traditional marketing list to divulge plans to overlay e-mail addresses with postal addresses and telephone numbers.

Ziff Davis Media Inc. and a handful of other high-tech specialists are beginning to offer similar services for computer marketers. The difference is that McGraw-Hill covers such vertical industries as engineering, architecture and aviation.

"This strategic move, McGraw-Hill's push, is the way everything in this industry has to go,'' said Tracy Emerick, president of Taurus Direct Marketing. "We haven't broken the code of why people love the Web, but are resistant to reading long passages [effective in direct mail] online. Until we do that, it makes sense to straddle.''

Not too long ago, owners of traditional b-to-b marketing lists were considered an endangered species. The muscle of traditional b-to-b marketing list providers would soon be reduced by the brawn of start-ups, which could use the Internet to gather hybrid Internet and real-world contact databases in lightning speed, experts said. That simply has not happened, said Rich Baumer, president of VentureDirect.

"Wall Street used to argue that valuations of online direct marketing companies were completely different and justified,'' Baumer said. "Now, the value of traditional channels has come around and landed right in the lap of those who thought the Internet would be farther along by now.''

Billing plan

VentureDirect plans to charge between $105 and $120 per thousand names for marketers seeking access to McGraw-Hill's book buyers. It is also upping the commission for list brokers who use the McGraw-Hill list from 10% to the standard 20% level, Baumer said.

"The new terms will put McGraw-Hill in the mainstream,'' Emerick said.

An extensive print and e-mail marketing campaign, as well as the tub thumping of VentureDirect's 200-strong telesales team, will be used to market the McGraw-Hill lists, Baumer said.

The VentureDirect deal expands an existing relationship between the two companies. McGraw-Hill's Professional Book Group had been working with VentureDirect for the past five years in the marketing of names for use with card packs—the bulk mailers that include multiple direct mail offers. The new deal moves McGraw-Hill's mailing list business to VentureDirect from its previous representative, The Lark Group.

A big plus for VentureDirect was its Internet savvy, said Judith Lee, VP-direct marketing for McGraw-Hill's Professional Publishing Group. In what is believed to be an industry first, VentureDirect disclosed in June a plan to begin selling direct mail and Internet direct marketing packages as an integrated purchase.

"Direct marketing is evolving to an online component as much as it is an offline component,'' Lee said. "We're seeking to create a balance between the needs of marketers in traditional sources, and not lose track of all those who are trying to put it all together and make it work in an integrated effort.''

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