Less than 10 years ago, most list clearances, samples, and orders were sent or received by fax. I remember spending hours typing in fax numbers and cursing the transmission error reports. Today, of course, almost everything is emailed, and companies like NextMark have blended the list-research and purchase-order functions into one smooth online process.

And yet one thing remains the same. As any experienced direct marketer will tell you, the most important factor in list success is the involvement of professional list brokers and list managers. As Rebecca Muscaro says, “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.” (Rebecca Muscaro, 5 Ways for a List Broker to Find Lists for a New Client)

But what do these folks really do?

A List Broker Can Smell Success

Give me a list broker who can sift through tens of thousands of available lists to find the handful that will work for that out-of-the-box client, and I’ll happily go back to faxing.

A list broker’s job might sound simple, but having a professional list broker makes all the difference. An experienced broker knows when to pick up the phone and ask the right question, how to decipher the sales language on a data card, and how to figure out if that list will actually work for the client. This kind of broker is the difference between success and failure.

And What About List Managers?

Again, a list manager’s job may sound simple — “sell the list” — but these sales professionals are experts at enhancing the value of your customer, donor, or subscriber database. For example, the best list managers boost value simply by knowing their property and understanding how to extract the right subset of data from the database to meet a broker’s needs. In short, these folks know their lists.

Brokers and Managers Are a Team

The pre-sale process that good brokers and managers have mastered is the key to the list business, and it’s not a one-time shot, either. Think about it: You can mail a good list four times a year. Once the list broker and manager do a good job, that first transaction can result in a dependable, repeatable revenue stream.

So yes, make sure you stay on top of the latest technologies. But equally important: Get to know a good list broker and manager.



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