Whatever Works: Where Product is King
In terms of finding names, the launch of Whatever Works was far more difficult than Dr. Leonard’s. “Healthcare appeals to everybody across the board,” Brown says. “Whatever Works was designed to go to a slightly upscale homeowner or renter who would buy the product and then have to do something with it, for example, set a trap, spray bushes or put edging on the lawn.”
Although renting cold names is horrendously expensive for a catalog, Brown created space ads for specific products (e.g., Spider Fighter and Squirrel Pouches). He believes that anyone who ordered those products would be a candidate for his catalog.
It took a while for other catalogers to realize that Whatever Works was not a threat, and that it would be in their interest to agree to list rentals and exchanges. As a result, Brown now has exchange arrangements with many other catalogers in the same marketplace. If an item proves itself successful in Whatever Works, Brown wholesales it to other catalogers.
One unique aspect of the Whatever Works catalog is its seasonality. Since this is not a gift book, he doesn’t mail from October through early January. As a result, he wasn’t badly scarred by the Sept. 11 tragedy (which, by the way, he watched live from his vantage point on the Brooklyn waterfront). Although entirely aimed at the suburban and rural market, many of his catalogs go to addresses on Madison Avenue, North Michigan Avenue and Sunset Boulevard; a fair portion of his customers have second homes with yards.
In terms of response, Whatever Works gets half its orders by phone and another 10 percent via the Internet. The warehouse is remarkably small and efficient, with all orders printed in pick sequence, enabling the company to get 5,000 to 6,000 orders out in a day.