Mine Gold Nuggets in Your Consumer File
Many consumer catalogers have unknown gold nuggets in their database. These nuggets are called businesses. If you treat these high-value customers as if they're retail customers, you're missing a big opportunity. If your product line has this cross-over appeal, you could potentially double your sales through expansion into the B-to-B universe.
Your business file generates significantly higher average order values (AOVs) than your consumer file. The B-to-B lift in AOV starts at 50 percent and extends to multiples of 100 percent. Your business customers often have more frequent repurchase rates, higher lifetime values and greater customer loyalty than retail customers.
Consumer catalogers are often surprised when they see their volume of B-to-B sales. One company president was shocked to find that businesses, all clustered in a handful of related SIC codes, represented a full 5 percent of his company's sales. Determining your company's B-to-B potential is an easy process. Follow these steps:
Step No. 1: Identify businesses in your database. Many consumer catalogers don't flag businesses, so they have to implement a simple work-around. You likely have a business name field or auxiliary field for business names. For database records that have business names, pull a file of customer names, addresses, order counts and sales. Note that you don't want to base this count on ship-to addresses with the business name filled. Consumers will sometimes have their packages shipped to their place of work if no one will be home to accept the delivery.
Step No. 2: Run a simple analysis on this file. Analyze the AOV and recency, frequency and monetary (RFM) segments for these customers. Determine the percentage of total sales that your B-to-B file represents and scan the business names for any common types of businesses. Remember that schools, churches and government agencies count as businesses, so be on the lookout for them. If you sense an opportunity with your business file, your next step is a more formal analysis.
Step No. 3: Contact your list broker for a firmographic append. Your broker or database co-op should be able to append such items as SIC code, estimated company sales, number of employees and other data to your business records. (If you're not sure how to proceed here, contact me for recommendations of reputable brokers that provide this service.) This firmographic information will identify targetable pockets of businesses by type. Based on this information, your broker can then make recommendations on lists to test to develop your B-to-B business.
Step No. 4: Test. Testing is the key to developing your B-to-B sales. In your analysis in step two, you may have noticed a seasonality of your B-to-B sales. If that's the case, test to capitalize on this most likely time of purchase.
Not all B-to-B lists are created equal. You'll want to test list types in this order of preference: if you can get good names from a B-to-B database co-op, start there. Next, look at direct response lists such as from other catalogs. After that, consider paid association files and paid niche magazines. Controlled circulation magazines are next. Files based strictly on SIC codes, compiled lists and lists of trade show attendees usually bring up the rear in terms of response, though there are exceptions.
While using the same internal catalog pages, you may also wish to test cover options that are more B-to-B focused. If your product line has this cross-over appeal, you'll be surprised at how lucrative B-to-B business can be.
A columnist for Retail Online Integration, George founded HAGUEdirect, a marketing agency. Previously he was a member of the Shawnee Mission, Kan.-based consulting and creative agency J. Schmid & Assoc. He has more than 10 years of experience in circulation, advertising, consulting and financial strategy in the catalog/retail industry. George's expertise includes circulation strategy, mailing execution, response analysis and financial planning. Before joining J. Schmid, George worked as catalog marketing director at Dynamic Resource Group, where he was responsible for marketing and merchandising for the Annie's Attic Needlecraft catalog, the Clotilde Sewing Notions catalog, the House of White Birches Quilter's catalog and three book clubs. George also worked on corporate acquisitions.