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Although instincts are involved, list brokerage is a largely scientific endeavor. When searching for potential lists, you must rely on research, experience, and hard work.

Lists are not static, they constantly change, and to find the most viable lists for your client the list broker must stay on top of changes of likely lists to know if they are growing or shrinking. This is especially important when you have a long history brokering for a particular client or within a particular vertical.

But where do you find acquisition lists for a new client? The first thing you should do is ask the existing or past broker for their list results. The list professionals I have worked with are always above board and ethical and know that their client’s results belong to them and not the broker. If they provide list results, your job as a broker is to look for winning past lists and start testing those. Past performance is the best indicator of future performance.

However, if past results do not exist, or are not available, here are five sure fire ways to find lists for a new client.

1. Past Experience:

Often a list broker knows a certain list vertical well. For example, international humanitarian or Catholic or health charities or animal welfare. When looking for lists for a new client, look at lists that have performed well for other clients in the same, or similar vertical. If you don’t have relevant experience in the exact same vertical look for similar verticals and test those to see which work best. For example, if you get a new Catholic charity raising money for international humanitarian projects, you may not have another client with list history that is Catholic and international and humanitarian so in that case test two similar verticals – International humanitarian and Catholic. Chances are you will find lists from both groups that perform.

2. Getting to Know the List Manager

If a mailer is using your list frequently, chances are that mailer’s lists will work well for your client’s acquisition packages. Getting to know your client’s list manager (if the list broker is not that person) can be extremely helpful when researching lists. Look at your client’s list mail calendar. Who is clearing, who is testing and most importantly which mailer is ordering continuations of your client’s list. The mailer continuing on your client’s list of donors should be among the first lists you test. But remember to test! Sometimes the lists only work one way, so you have to carefully mail at test quantities. And if it doesn’t work on the first package or packages, test it again with a different topic or offer because the subject or program may greatly influence which lists respond well. And don’t forget to look at prior year’s list calendars. A mailer may have stopped acquisition or stopped using your client’s lists but that list is still worth a test for your mailer.

3. Exchange History

Another reason to get to know the clients list manager is to find out about the exchange history. Is your client owed names? Do they owe names? Are there long running exchange histories that happen to be even? As every list broker knows exchanges are extremely beneficial to clients’ acquisition mail programs because they help keep acquisition costs down. And names owed to your mailer often indicate an exchange relationship that your client is primed to take advantage of. Maybe your client suspended acquisition for some time but the mailers they have exchanged with continue to use your client’s list for their own mailings. By the same token, if your client owes names to another mailer that may be an opportunity. If the balance is too high, that list manager may still rent to you, or, by reaching out to them, letting them know your client is resuming acquisition that may convince them to allow further exchanges. Also, don’t just run a report on names owed because the healthiest exchange relationships are often even because both sides use names at an even pace. Look beyond balances at the actual exchange usage history and you may find multi-year exchange histories that indicate those lists should be tested.

4. Review Performance in Similar Channels

Look for lists of people who have demonstrated the behavior you are seeking to achieve in the same channel. In other words, if you are looking for lists for your client who is seeking donations via direct mail, find a list of direct mail donors. If you are brokering for a client looking for online subscribers, look for lists of online subscribers. If you are having such success with lists that have the same behavior maybe you can test into lists with other behaviors or other channels but start with those that have the same demonstrated behavior you hope to achieve and in the same channel. For non-profit clients for whom I am brokering lists for a direct mail donor acquisition offer I always start with direct mail donor lists. If I can no longer find new lists to test of direct mail donors I might search for lists of direct mail subscribers or online donors but only after exhausting all viable direct mail donor lists.

5. Continuation Usage

Once you have put together a list of potential lists tests using these methods, ask for continuation usage on each of the list tests you have identified. Please note I wrote “continuation usage” which is much more valuable than just “usage”. Once you receive this continuation usage compare the results. Those lists which appear as continuations on more than one of your newly identified test lists should also be added to your test plan. I have found many perennial continuation lists for my clients this way.

Once you follow these five steps and test carefully you should be well on your way to developing a stable of strong performing lists for your new client.

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