Suppressed opportunities

By Colin Lloyd, chairman of the Suppression Providers Alliance, and former CEO, Direct Marketing Association

In these recessionary times, as Tesco claims, “every little helps” and direct marketing is no exception. To squeeze the most out of a DM campaign can often make the difference between successful ROI or abject failure.

The sermon from the mount of DM – “right person, right message, right time” – is as relevant today as it was at the birth of modern DM. Test and test again was also the fourth commandment, but this seems to be forgotten these days. So making sure that you have the right person and as many of them as you can is vital.

When you think of the effort and cost of running an effective campaign, satisfying stakeholders, procurement and compliance, it is a tragedy that opportunities are being squandered probably through bad practice. Perhaps also deliberately, dare I speculate.

The Suppression Providers Alliance (SPA), which I have been invited to Chair, brings together all the major data suppression providers. The main purpose of SPA is to improve practices and education in the use of suppression files. If we get it right, standards in DM will improve significantly meeting good practice, environmental and ROI criteria.

SPA is now in its second year and has achieved much and I am grateful for the support that I have had to date. However, having peeled off many of the layers of data management activity, through consultation and mystery shopping activity in the market, I am deeply concerned about what I am finding.

What I thought was going to be a straightforward role for me could mutate into a crusade. What I am finding in the intermediary marketplace is a great deal of misunderstanding, lack of the knowledge of the basics, inadequate internal processes and suppression practices that leave a lot to be desired.

To flag or to suppress is a choice that seems to confuse many. There seems to be no accepted standard of hierarchical suppression. So the same suppression files used on identical databases by different procedures can produce very different outcomes, which theoretically they should not.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of my findings to date is over – and indeed under – suppression. There have been a number of instances in our controlled testing where suppression can be as high as four times the median. The result is that valuable contact data is not available for a campaign and sales opportunities are lost.

This is unacceptable at any time, let alone now. I fear I have more work to do than I originally envisaged.

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