Friday 20 July 2007

A possible list business?

My previous rant notwithstanding, the paucity of reliable lists is the biggest hurdle to sensible direct marketing here.

So where are the Decision Makers (B2B) and High Net-worth Individuals (B2C)? Besides credit card companies and loyalty programmes, ‘VPP’ (Very Probable Prospect) contacts should, logically, be available with:

  • Builders and housing societies
  • Business associations
  • DRTV companies (anyone who can buy a Rs 2,999 magic tummy-trimmer over the phone may not be in the Ambani and Big B league - in all probability he makes far less than the assistant brand manager does - nevertheless he is, sorry to say, somewhere near the top of our unfortunate country’s income pyramid)
  • Organisations and trusts (based on charitable cause, religion, and language-based)
  • Private colleges, MBA institutes and education companies (get the students’ parents)
  • Sports and fitness clubs
  • Trade magazine subscription departments (e.g., magazine’s for, say, the film trade, for CAs, for doctors and engineers) and
  • Tour operators.

While none of the lists would be very large, together they should be sizable. Besides, the list is far from exhaustive.

This much is obvious. Yet, we don’t know of list brokers who maintain and market these lists. Worse, the owners of these lists are not known to approach direct marketing agencies. (If they approached brands directly, the latter wouldn’t keep asking us for lists.)

Demand exists, but little supply.

Why? Perhaps because the demand isn’t big enough. Yet.

Perhaps the grey market forbids legitimate trade.

Perhaps because it’s the ‘Indians-cannot-read’ syndrome.

Perhaps it’s because of the cold calling disease that infects brand managers. Which club secretary would want to be responsible for members receiving bizarre sales calls in the middle of meetings?

But what if someone went to these list owners with this proposition: “I will update (“I am calling from the club. May I please confirm your address? Is it 123 ABC Street?” “Oh, no, my dear, that’s where great-grandfather lived during the Sepoy Mutiny.” and so on.), clean and standardise your lists; I’ll obtain consents from the people on the list (Give permission to mail for an x% reduction in membership/maintenance/subscription fee, which I will make up); and
I’ll market these lists. (Profiling may not be required. One doesn’t need to know the annual household income of a club member when the membership fee is a quarter of a lakh a year.)

My only conditions are that I will have the exclusive contract for marketing your lists; I will get a commission on every deal; and if I can prove that somebody other than me has traded the data, you will have to pay a fine.”

This will undoubtedly take a good deal of time and money. It’ll probably fail a few times before taking off.

On the other hand, investors are supposed to be waiting with money to throw on India’s emergent economy.

Why doesn’t someone import a list expert from the US and start this business here?

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