Johnny is a bit of a legend in the Irish list broking business, having worked with business databases for over 25 years and his knowledge of the market is probably second-to-none (well maybe second only to Bill Moss himself!). In fact his career pretty much charts the recent history of list broking in Ireland.
We caught up with him recently – hot off his trusted bike – to find out how he got into the industry and what tips he has for customers looking to buy B2B lists.
So where did you start your career?
Years ago my folks set-up Kompass with Pat Cody and I was probably only about 16 when I started going into the business to help out. It was mainly to help fund my aspirations to be a musician; I was studying music in Ballyfermot at the time. So really I grew up with data, though in the early days I was focussed on the nuts and bolts of fulfilment – packing envelopes and organising mailshots. It didn’t take me long though to realise I wasn’t going to make a living out of the guitar and I enjoyed the office work so I naturally fell into working full-time in the business. Well when I say that; actually I remember now what a total nightmare WordPerfect was and how we used to have to print batches of 250 at a time to make sure the mailshots were properly personalised and printing out ok! Thankfully the technology has moved on considerably since then.
By the 90’s I was talking directly with customers, selling a business database of 15,000 companies that was profiled by employee number, sector, industrial estate and so on. It was at that stage that I got to know Bill well, as both companies were list broking and had access to different databases so we often swapped business. And of course Bill was a founding member of the IDMA back in 1988 and we networked there.
How did you come to work at Bill Moss?
In 2006 An Post was in acquisition mode and had already bought PMI, which was a consumer database so it made sense for them to invest in Kompass and acquire the business databases. So I found myself working in An Post for four years, before they made a decision to make the team redundant. It was a bit of a shock as I had spent 16 years list broking by then and there was really only one reputable broker left – that was Bill Moss. So I was delighted to get the call, meet Barbara and Bill and within a week of finishing at An Post, I was working for them – in hindsight I probably should have asked for some time off but I’ve been happily working here for 6 years now!
Mainly I help customers that are marketing on a B2B basis by specifying the lists that will work for them best and by supplying these as required. It’s a very consultative sales process and our clients include small and large businesses and Market Research Agencies. In terms of market research, agencies use us as independent suppliers of lists for sampling – often targeting 1000 businesses that might be profiled according to sector, city V regional location, size, employee numbers etc. Often the list will be used for telephone research and it’ll be necessary to 1,000 say to get maybe 100 responses. Because they are phoning around, the agencies know straight away that the quality of the lists we supply is strong; that’s why we have so many agencies on our books.
In terms of the bigger companies, they still do a lot of direct mail and that’s expensive so again it’s down to the importance of using a high quality, well targeted database.
Any tips for B2B List Buyers?
The first thing I would say straight up is
Test, Test, Test
You don’t have to buy a full list straight-up – if a customer is committed to buying lists from us, we can supply samples. And my own experience will help target the right list. If a business is selling drinking water machines into offices, for example, we might exclude government agencies if we know they are all under contract with certain suppliers already.
Then there’s the common mistake that clients make of trying to clean up an existing database. A better approach is probably to
Start Afresh with a New Business Database
The reason I say this is because it often costs the same or more money to tidy up an old database than to buy in a new clean one; clients should consider also the cost of working on the old databases and the wasted resource that goes into cleaning them. A new list will probably only cost about €300 per 1000 and that’s a significant amount of clean valuable data for a minimal spend.
Target the Right Person
Here’s a simple rule of thumb; if you’re selling into a company with 20 staff or less, you probably want to target the Managing Director or business owner. For larger organisations, it’ll depend on the product or service but reverting to the company selling water dispensers, for example, the Facilities Manager or HR Manager is likely to be the best bet.
Of course I should finish by saying the most important thing a list buyer should do is Contact Bill Moss!
Just as well I thought of that J.