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Fast way to the hard sell

Database marketing has been much touted recently as an effective technique for increasing sales. However, because of the costs and time required, it has been used mainly by the largest companies.

Now Experian, the United States-based information services company formed from last year's merger of Britain's CCN with TRW Information Systems & Services, reckons that could change with its latest product, to be launched this week.

Prospect Locator is claimed to be the first direct marketing product to provide the names and addresses of people at more than 20 million UK households in a format designed to meet the needs of small and medium- sized businesses.

The CD-Rom uses Experian's MOSAIC classification system to enable companies to target 52 different groups, including "clever capitalists", "chattering classes", "bohemian melting pots" and "gentrified villages". Users can also select individuals according to such characteristics as gender, marital status, age, length of time at an address and household income. And there is sophisticated mapping software that allows marketers to define a geographical area at the click of a mouse.

David Brosse, head of new media products at Experian, said he hoped Prospect Locator would attract businesses that had previously been put off by high charges. Even pounds 500 might be too much for those unfamiliar with the techniques. And that price only got clients a list of names, which might turn out not to be what they were looking for.

The new system starts at pounds 299 plus VAT and includes a guide to MOSAIC and to direct mail, and a book on marketing on a restricted budget. Users only have to pay for the selections that they transfer to their own databases. Information is updated every quarter.