The Truth About Data Card Quality

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Last week, NextMark released its first data card quality report for the 2012 calendar year. This report continues to spark intense debate on the subject of data card quality, so let’s talk about it. Your comments would be much appreciated as we plan to refine the program for digital media publishers and planners.

Here’s how it all began…

When NextMark first launched its self-service data card publishing wizard at the turn of the new millennium, the new interface was met with mixed emotions. Some media managers and list owners were excited to finally have control over their promotional content, but others were not looking forward to the extra work. This created some gaps in regards to the attention that data cards received, subsequently creating issues for researchers who rely on data cards for purchase decisions and campaign planning.

To further encourage media managers to update their data cards and improve their content for researchers and campaign managers, NextMark introduced a new service on October 15, 2000 to integrate data cards on managers’ web sites. This created an even greater sense of ownership and brand awareness, but it was still not enough to address the issues of missing contact information, out-of-date counts, and other deficiencies.

On May 13, 2003, NextMark introduced its first data card quality report by electronically analyzing over 30,000 data cards (currently over 70,000). For each data card, a proprietary algorithm rates the quality of 13 key attributes. The primary objective of this initiative was to make sure that data cards were complete and accurate, and there was a little improvement.

On February 21, 2008, the data card quality report went public with a ranking of the top 50 managers. This resulted in a vanity check for companies that did not make the list, so a refined version was released on June 23, 2008 to categorize the top managers by number of data cards in their respective portfolios.

As word got out, some good things started to happen. Data card publishers began to pay close attention to the scores and the rankings, and many began to institute best practices for timely updates and list content management. Scores have been improving ever since, but something else also started to happen.

Data card quality rankings became a promotional opportunity for media managers and the scores were often taken out of context. The scoring algorithm, intended to measure completeness and update recency, grew in perception as a holistic measure for media management firms. Although unintended, this created some confusion.

To keep it simple, here’s the 3 point truth about data card quality.

Point 1:  data card quality is independent of list quality.

Point 2:  data card quality measures completeness and update recency.

Point 3:  data card quality does not measure content quality or accuracy.

You should not judge a media manager on data card quality alone, and there are more important factors to consider. For example, take a look at the following catalog list rate card and you will notice that it has a high ‘popularity index‘ in addition to a quality presentation of the media (postal list in this case) it represents. The counts are current through the end of the most recent month, the monthly and quarterly hotlines are provided, and the average age and income is provided for the audience. It is important to also be aware of the fact that some media managers may confirm an update without actually changing the counts. We are on to them and will flagging that accordingly to make sure our research users are aware of the difference.

Creating Media and List Recommendations

Friday, August 19th, 2011

When it comes to creating quality media and list recommendations, it helps to have some context for your proposal. Every good media and list recommendation includes the following attributes:  format, content, and insight.

It can be helpful to take a step back and think about how your campaign management tools can help you in the process. For example, the ‘Generate Proposal’ feature in NextMark’s media planning tool can be used as a guide in the preparation of client recommendations. Take a look at the snapshot below for an audience of prospective gardening enthusiasts:

List Recommedation

The format (Excel, PDF, or RTF) allows the creator of the recommendation to determine the level of interaction the end user may have. For example, while a PDF (Portable Document Format) may be appealing, it does not allow for easy editing and customization of the final output. However, a spreadsheet (Excel) workbook can be customized, edited, enhanced, and even integrated with other Microsoft Office programs like PowerPoint. It provides a lot of flexibility, not only for viewing but also for analysis.

And of course, there is also the RTF (Rich Text Format) which is easily read by Microsoft Word. While this may be a common format among traditional direct marketers, it provides fewer benefits due to the limitations of word processing applications. The content of data cards varies due to the depth and breadth of each media program or mailing list. This creates issues related to pagination and alignment that can be more easily resolved with alternative output formats.

The content options enable the creator to generate media and list recommendations that are relevant, while excluding information that may be considered proprietary from a media brokerage perspective. For example, a recommendation made by a list broker for a catalog marketing client may include additional segements, selects, and profile information for discussion purposes related to refinement and targeting. However, the manager information may be suppressed intentionally to keep focused on the value that the media broker brings to the campaign management process.

Additional insight may be applied as well. With access to the mailer usage database, media brokers can also leverage the experiences of others and help speed up the decision-making process. It’s a great way to uncover new media to test based on what has worked for others. It is often the not-so-obvious recommendations that outperform the market average for response and lifetime value (LTV).

Keep these three things in mind as a guide for media and list recommendations, but don’t feel like you need to change your personal style. What’s most important is what sets you apart as a trusted advisor for your clients.

Hope this was helpful…


NextMark v5.12 Streamlines Database Orders, Insert Orders, and Online Media Orders

Friday, August 11th, 2006

Hanover, NH – August 11, 2006 – NextMark, Inc., a leading provider of mailing list technology, today announced it has released version 5.12 of its mailing lists commerce system. This new version includes 44 enhancements, including the ability to efficiently process database orders, insert media orders, online orders, and other multi-use orders. (more…)