Netting New Names in Lean Times
Gathering new buyer names for your housefile presents a challenge in any economic climate. But consumers’ current spartan buying habits have some catalogers puzzling about how, or even how much, to prospect. Some are using new avenues, while others staunchly stick to the basics. Associate Editor Gabrielle Mosquera asked three catalogers to share their thoughts on prospecting in today’s challenging environment.
founder, Whatever Works catalog
Type of products: garden, home and pest-control items
Catalog Success: What do you think are the most popular prospecting media for catalogers today and why?
Brown: As always, it’s other catalogs and their databases and what works for you out of that. Generally speaking, an Internet buyer is not and never will be a catalog buyer, although getting a catalog order through the Internet is better for us as a business because it requires much less handling and [can generate] more profit.
CS: Have prospecting media changed for catalogers in recent years?
Brown: They’ve changed because a lot of catalogers thought they could get a huge database to mine from the Internet. And we’ve all found that it’s mutually exclusive. The best way is still the tried-and-true way: to get names from similar businesses. At least you’re getting people who have a predilection for buying that way.
CS: Do you think catalogers are prospecting less and mailing more to their customers at this point?
Brown: Unquestionably, yes. At the top of it, it’s economics. Here are people I own for nothing, so of course I’ll mail to them, and my cost will be lower. It works, but in essence it’s shortsighted. You’re going deeper, but you’re not going wider. It has to be a deal between the two.
CS: How would you recommend prospecting “wider,” as you say?
Brown: Run product ads in genre-specific publications to attract the exact customer for your catalog. Pick items that are unusual with a high perceived value, but a low retail one. Even though the CPM will be higher than in a general-interest publication, you’ll get a more qualified customer. Offer a free catalog with every order; it’s a good value-added conception.