Making Space Ads Work
Over the years, catalogers have been dependent on rented lists to acquire new buyers and to grow their housefiles. The technique works, but its potential is limited to previous buyers from other catalogs.
There is another cost-effective customer acquisition method to consider: space advertising. With space ads, even fractional page ads, you can tap into new market segments. You’ll increase your prospecting universe by going beyond the typical rented lists of proven mail order buyers.
Making space advertising work is difficult. Ad space is expensive, “catalog corners” don’t always deliver, and black and white ads are often overlooked. While this method of prospecting has changed drastically over the past 10 years, there are still plenty of opportunities to make space advertising work for you.
Sell the Product or Sell the Catalog?
There are two types of space ads: “selling” ads and inquiry-generating ads. A selling ad features one or more items that can be ordered directly. An inquiry ad is designed to generate inquiries for your catalog—commonly called the “two step” approach to customer acquisition.
I believe selling ads have their downside if you have a full line of products to offer for sale. First of all, it’s impossible to select one or two items that are typical of your entire merchandise selection. What’s more, it’s dangerous to advertise only one product, especially where readers represent a wide variety of interests. From my experience, you are much better off using the two-step approach. Broaden the appeal by advertising your catalog in your ads and the inquiries will flow! Product ads are generally more expensive since they require more space than catalog-request ads, which typically can be just one-twelfth to one-sixth of a page in size to be effective.
While product ads can help qualify the leads, they may also reduce the number of inquiries you receive.
Steve Lett graduated from Indiana University in 1970 and immediately began his 50-year career in Direct Marketing; mainly catalogs.
Steve spent the first 25 years of his career in executive level positions at both consumer and business-to-business companies. The next 25 years have been with Lett Direct, Inc., the company Steve founded in early 1995. Lett Direct, Inc., is a catalog and internet consulting firm specializing in circulation planning, plan execution, analysis and digital marketing (Google Premier Partner).
Steve has served on the Ethics Committee of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and on a number of company boards, both public and private. He served on the Board of the ACMA. He has been the subject of two Harvard Business School case studies. He is the author of a book, Strategic Catalog Marketing. Steve is a past Chairman of both the Catalog Council and Business Mail Council of the DMA. He spent a few years teaching Direct Marketing at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.
You can contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.