How to Profitably Use Mini Catalogs, Solos and Flyers
What if you could achieve double the response rate you currently earn with your catalog mailing? What if you could mail for much less than the cost of the catalog? And what if you could do all this and make a profit? You can.
Highly targeted, lower-cost marketing communications vehicles such as mini catalogs, solo direct mail pieces and flyers complement your catalog mailings.
An advantage business-to-business (b-to-b) catalogers have over consumer catalogers is their knowledge of purchasing motivators, industry-wide purchasing patterns and product life cycles. Think about it: Customers in certain industries buy during specific times of the year, while others buy replacement products, product upgrades and product improvements all year long.
Other b-to-b cataloger advantages: You know your customers’ budgeting cycles, standard industrial codes and product-buying histories.
With all of this information, plus a customer database of transaction records, you can create a profitable direct mail piece. Here’s how to selectively target your customers with specific product offers.
In this case, “mini” doesn’t refer to dimension but to direction. The objective is to mail to a highly targeted group of customers a lower page count mail piece (generally eight, 12 or 16 pages) with a specific merchandise offering.
Using those parameters, this less-expensive mail piece is highly productive, because the targeted audience may yield a high response rate. For example, a spa-supply cataloger might try targeting spas and salons that made previous purchases of the merchant’s private-label products. The merchandise assortment in the mini catalog could, for example:
- feature only the private-label products;
- offer special bundles (e.g., entire assortments, two-for and three-for offers);
- introduce new merchandise and new packaging; and
- highlight new product formulas, upgrades and closeout specials.
Another advantage of a mini is the chance to use this format for clearance sales, close-out specials and merchandise liquidations. The format is economical, and clearances and close-outs inherently warrant a high-density merchandise assortment.
The mini often is used as the format for a bounce-back or a package-insert program. And because of the lower page count and the lighter overall weight of the piece, a mini’s format is ideal for introducing new products, cross-selling and advertising slow-moving inventory.
If your company’s order-entry system can identify specific elements of a customer’s order (e.g., brand, model number, manufacturer), then you can do some selective marketing using a specific version of the mini catalog inserted with the outbound package. Tip: Ask your manufacturing partners for funds to offset the mini’s cost of advertising their products.
The mini format also is practical supporting collateral at trade shows and industry events. Highlighting featured products or services with additional copy points, editorial content and detailed benefit descriptions may prove cost-efficient and functional.
While the format’s mailing opportunities are excellent complementary strategies to your current mailing sequence, also try binding the mini into your regular catalog edition. If you can segment your database to identify targeted customer groups, and your catalog printer can selectively bind in minis, you can customize the catalogs and potentially offset the expense with funding from manufacturers.
Generally, response rates from minis are two to three times the average of regular catalog mailings. Depending on the product and offer, response rates of 8 percent, 10 percent or 12 percent are not unusual.
Minis are conducive to a specifically identified customer group that’s demonstrated a preference for your merchandise. Simply stated, you’re giving customers more of what they’ve already told you they want to buy.
The definition of solos is derived from the practice of selling a single item. Ten years ago, solos usually were 11˝ x 17˝ pieces folded into four pages. Today, solo mailings are comprised of many self-mailing formats meant to promote and sell individual items, narrating extraordinary benefits of products usually of a higher price point. The information required to explain the features and demonstrate the benefits to persuade a prospect to buy warrants the dedicated real estate.
One successful strategy to use for solo mailings could be to identify an expensive item that:
- represents the top of the line in its class;
- potentially is a new product that enhances the assortment; and
- has a multitude of features that translate into unique benefits.
After you’ve identified the product to highlight, write new copy to support the design and layout of the solo mail piece. By emphasizing the product’s impressive features and benefits, you’ll reinforce the purchasing decision.
The target audience can be defined as narrowly or as broadly as your marketing dollars permit. Assuming the item’s price point is high and the cost of goods yields a strong margin, the response rate required to get a positive bottom line may be within reach.
For instance, say you have a price point of $900 and a cost of goods of 35 percent. If the mail pieces cost 50 cents each (quantity of 10,000), a quick break-even analysis indicates a 0.37 percent response rate. The chart “Example of a Break-even Calculation” uses inputs where you can enter the information and change the variables.
The inputs allow you to create “what-if” scenarios. The components noted as “calculates” are formula-driven and are determined from the inputs. Note: With most financial formulas, the calculations use the net sales number (i.e., gross demand, minus cancels, minus returns). For ease of explanation, this example assumes there are no cancels and no returns. Thus, the calculations use gross demand sales.
To get these financial percentages, ask your accounting department for the year-end profit-and-loss statement from which you should be able to quickly see the percentages for cost of goods, fulfillment, and general and administrative costs.
A flyer is similar to a solo mail piece, except it isn’t a self-mailer. A flyer either is inserted into an envelope or used as a sell sheet for an item or product line.
Flyers are exceptionally useful for your sales team because the data contained in them is more technical and informational in tone, rather than being used as a direct selling vehicle. Your salespeople can have the critical sales conversations with customers, as well as provide detailed specification sheets. This “leave-behind” flyer gives a customer a level of comfort reviewing the product features, manufacturer’s recommendations for use and product-performance guidelines. Manufacturers often provide flyers to their distributors’ sales teams to support new-product introductions or product upgrades. In negotiations, a supplier may want its logo, contact name, phone number and Web address printed on the flyers.
Flyers can be inserted into outbound packages. Generally, a 2-percent to 5-percent response rate is achieved with this type of insertion program.
With each supplemental contact — minis, solos and flyers — customers get additional marketing communication from you. Keeping your company name and products top of mind among your customers is a strong building block to brand loyalty.
Gina Valentino is vice president/general manager of J. Schmid & Assoc., a Shawnee Mission, KS-based catalog consulting firm. Contact her at (913) 236-8988 or e-mail: email@example.com