Boost Response From Insert Media
Rising postage costs and shrinking list universes haven’t made customer acquisition any easier in recent years. Faced with such obstacles, catalogers increasingly are turning to insert media programs as a means to grow their housefiles. But like any growing market, both solid strategies and pitfalls abound. How can you best prepare for a successful insert media campaign? Consider the following do’s and don’ts.
Do identify your target audience. “Insert media is not as easily targetable as list media, because in most cases you can’t select [recipient categories] within the program,” acknowledges Amy Benewicz, former vice president of The Catamount Group, a Bethel, Conn.-based direct marketing agency. Even still, Benewicz says, if more than 50 percent of a package insert or magazine ride-along program’s intended audience is in your target audience, that’s a good program to test.
Do reserve space way ahead of time. Judy Feyas, insert media director for Hackensack, N.J.-based direct marketing services firm Mokrynskidirect, recommends reserving space with insert programs at least two quarters ahead of time. Why? Often package insert programs and co-op mailings allow inclusion of only one merchant from a given product category.
Reserving space especially is important if your competitors are heavily involved in insert programs, says Feyas. “You want to capture as much space as you can before your competitors get to it,” she notes.
Don’t be tempted by a one-size-fits-all solution. When testing several insert programs at once, you’ll find that each allows a different size and weight for its inserts.
Linda Callahan, senior vice president at Hartsdale, N.Y.-based Leon Henry Inc., a direct marketing services firm specializing in insert media, notes that catalogers approaching insert media for the first time often will try to curb printing costs by using the same 3.5-by-5-inch card for multiple programs. She regards this as a mistake. “You should take advantage of putting in the biggest piece you can. It may mean you’re using a different piece for each program, but that’s how you’ll drive your best response,” says Callahan.
While it’s important to maximize the size of the insert, Feyas cautions catalogers not to exceed weight restrictions set by program owners. “Be really careful, or you’re going to pay more money for overweight inserts, or they might even reject yours because their packages are at the [weight] limit,” she warns.
Do use promotions and special offers. While most catalogers don’t initially think of using a promotion in an insert campaign, Feyas says such offers are critical to the success of such a campaign. So strong are her feelings, in fact, that she considers product announcements and simple catalog requests done as insert media as wastes of money.
Callahan notes that while free catalog inquiries once generated response, the market today is so full of offers that a promotion or premium is necessary to ensure a solid response for most catalogers. “You need to have a reason for prospects to respond to you — a premium, some bells and whistles. Give them dollars off on their first or second orders. Most of the customers acquired through insert media have pretty good lifetime values, so it’s OK to do that,” she says.
Don’t make it hard for prospects to respond. Benewicz notes the importance of providing an easy way for customers to mail, fax or phone in a response to the insert. Further, she recommends including a URL that leads to the specific offer mentioned on the insert.
Do include keycodes for easy tracking. Each method of communication should have its own keycode, says Benewicz. “Offer a premium or a free shipping discount, but only if they use the specific offer code or Web page,” she notes.
Don’t forget the extra costs. Although insert media programs are less expensive than mailing a catalog, there still are costs to consider.
Feyas relates the story of a catalog company executive who thought a high-volume insert program was producing great results, until the executive remembered to add the cost of shipping the inserts to the program owner. Several thousands of dollars in costs weren’t counted — a fact that drastically changed the program’s final analysis. While it sounds obvious, try to get the best printing and shipping costs possible for your inserts, says Feyas.
Don’t use too many words. Benewicz says brevity and branding often trump a lengthy product description on inserts. “If you use too many words, people aren’t going to read it,” she says.
Do request unlisted selects. Program owners sometimes offer targeting beyond what’s listed on their datacards, says Benewicz. When using a catalog blow-in program, ask if you can insert only into catalogs mailed to customers, rather than both customers and prospects. As known catalog buyers, these individuals should respond better to your offer, she notes.
For larger insert programs, it’s also possible to target geographically, says Benewicz. If your customers tend to be in a particular area of the country, check into possible regional selects that aren’t listed on the program’s datacard.
Don’t forget statistical significance. Feyas suggests a minimum test of 25,000 inserts, although she believes 50,000 actually is ideal. If considering a smaller program, test consecutive months if you can be assured of a non-duplicated audience, says Feyas.
Do patiently wait for results. While blow-in, bind-in and ride-along programs tend to stick to rigid schedules, package-insert programs sometimes take time to fully deploy. Callahan notes if a program owner mails only 10,000 pieces per month, but you ordered 25,000, it’s going to go out over two and a half months.
She adds,”Those who are new to insert programs often get a little anxious looking at order flow, because some things will start to come in and others won’t. Six months down the road, you’ll be happy, but if you’re watching it too closely at the beginning you could give yourself an ulcer.”