I recently had a discussion with a nursery cataloger who was trying to persuade his partner to rent their list. With privacy concerns running high these days, the partner had serious reservations.
I reacted on both a personal and professional level. Speaking personally, catalogs are my salvation. I simply hate shopping in stores. Everything from my clothing closet to my garden would look pretty shabby if it weren’t for catalogs. The more good ones I discover, the happier I am. Catalogers who don’t rent their list just make life harder for people like me.
On a professional level, the reasons to rent your house list generally outweigh those not to, perhaps with a few caveats. On the plus side:
Is it Really Proprietary? Many people are surprised to learn that more than 95% of all catalog shoppers are already in the catalog coop databases. If someone is buying from you, chances are overwhelming they’re buying from other catalogers, too. If people aren’t comfortable shopping by catalog, it’s unlikely that they’re buying from you and only you. So “your” name is likely on dozens of other lists.
You’re in the Driver’s Seat. You can approve every mailer and every catalog sent to your lists. You don’t have to rent to anyone you don’t want to, and you don’t have to give a reason. What’s more, you can hold back your most valuable names, such as your most recent buyers, and only rent them at a later date.
Your Customer is in the Driver’s Seat, Too. You can make it as easy as you like for customers and prospects to opt out of allowing you to rent their names. Start noticing how other catalogers handle their opt-out policy for snail mail, and you’ll see a wide variety of treatments.
A Few Caveats. My enthusiasm for renting house lists extends to snail mail lists only, not e-mail lists.
What’s more, you need to abide by your own privacy policies. If you’ve told people you will not rent their names, you may have boxed yourself into a corner on old names. You may, however, want to stop making that promise going forward.
Seed your list with a few fictitious names used only for that purpose. That way, you’ll immediately be able to spot and track down and misuse of your list.
Finally, always work with a good list manager. The marketing, collections and other details require too much time and specialized knowledge for you to try to do it yourself. A strong list manager will pay for themselves many times over. How well they do their job will have a significant impact on your income, so shop around and get referrals.
How Much Can You Make? The average list owner makes about 65% of the base price on list rentals. So if you have a list of 50,000 names that rents for $80 per thousand, you’d make 50 x $80 x .65 = $2,600 each time the whole list rented. Not bad, considering the cost to you is virtually nil. If your list isn’t currently on the market, perhaps it’s time you considered it.