Neil Parsonson of Windowbase says the odds are against you if you’re using dud prospect data
You may have had a card from your partner on Valentine’s Day. If you’re single, popular or lucky, you may have got more than one. But it’s unlikely you’ve were sent cards by people who had no interest in you. Why would anyone send a card to someone they have no desire in pursuing? You wouldn’t go out and spend time and money picking a card and posting it if you weren’t interested, would you? Sadly, that’s exactly what many in our industry do (or the commercial equivalent of it) – mail companies that aren’t remotely interested in what they’re offering. Or worse, contacting those which don’t exist anymore; don’t do what they used to do; have died or moved on, or whose details have changed in a significant way.
The odds are against you
When looking for business, most companies are prepared to take a gamble and do a bit of fishing, send a blanket mail shot to an old prospect list and see what comes back. Occasionally they might get one or two leads but there will be more returns than prospects as contacts have gone away or given up. The trouble is, the cost of those leads is way out of proportion to their value. It’s amazing how soon a database gets out of date, because the market is constantly changing.
Changing the goal posts
Because Windowbase has been continuously researching the glazing market for much longer than any other prospect data supplier, we can provide a unique view of industry churn. For example, of the 13,779 firms on Windowbase today, only 6,741 can be traced back to the database 10 years ago. However, many of these have phoenixed (in some cases more than once), hence only 3,710 have the same company name.
Despite fewer windows being installed since the peak in first-time replacements, the number of installers has increased by a net 22%. But with more companies vying for less business, the underlying rate of churn for installers is even more than the industry average.
Perhaps most poignant is the net decline in PVC fabricators, which have plunged 40% over the last 10 years. This reduction in buying points means competition for their business has become particularly intense.
During 2013, we took around a thousand firms off Windowbase and added nearly 1,100. In addition we made about 110,000 changes to the remaining records. On average that works out at four firms removed, four added and 440 other changes made every working day! This shows just how quickly data decays if not constantly updated.
The painful cost of a cheap prospect list
It’s tempting to try a cheap list from non-specialist sources such as Experian or Yell. And why not, you might think. Every little helps. If it doesn’t work you can always go and buy from someone else. But the greatest cost of direct marketing is in the mailing, not the database: the design, print, distribution, organising, postage and follow up. The cost of the database, good or bad, is a very small part of your campaign, yet the quality of the database has a huge effect on the result, the costs and returns. Like an iceberg, at least nine tenths of the cost is below water and out of sight. You may feel you’ve done a great deal and the data may be dirt cheap, but the money you spend on using it isn’t!
Most ‘cheap’ data sources also lack critical information, such as contact names, email addresses and detailed business activity information. Having this enables you to filter out the firms that should be buying your products from those not in your market, and then send them fully personalised letters or emails.
Poor quality costs the user. It’s the same with databases: garbage in, garbage out! If it’s cheaper, there is a reason. You always get what you pay for.
So what should you look for when sourcing a database? Pedigree is important. If a database company has been supplying leading firms in every sector for almost 25 years, and the direct marketing experts, those who have grown fast and profitably with regular monthly direct marketing, they must be doing something right. It’s not the company names that go into the database that matter, it’s the names that are researched and left out that save you money.
Industry knowledge is also important. Would you buy a car made by a firm of carpet cleaners? You go to a garage because they have the knowledge to help you get the right car, not just any car. Any one can sell you a prospect list but only those with specific industry knowledge can supply you with the right prospect list. And finally type of information is crucial. Targeting the right prospects means being able to target a company by name and address and decision maker. What else do you need? Telephone and email, size and type of firm, products and work they do, system they fabricate or install.
Improving your return on marketing investment
In direct marketing a lot of thought and expense goes into the message, and the means of getting that message to the target so what you say is clear and effective and your target audience gets to see it. The more thought that goes in to it, and the closer it gets to the target, the less waste there is. The better the ratio of hits to misses, the better the result in terms of leads and orders, and the better your return on investment.
But the biggest waste is wasted opportunity, and it is here that expert direct marketers score. Up to date, reliable, dedicated prospect databases have new businesses to target. When the market is tough, what value do you put on acquiring new customers? How often do new businesses say: we use them because they were the people who came to us when we started? If you want to get to them first, give us a call.
For prospect lists or help with direct marketing, contact Neil Parsonson 01453 845717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.