Institutions Are Businesses, Too
By Alicia Orr Suman
Think of a school and of how many products and services it is involved in providing for students on a daily basis.
Besides supplying classroom supplies and textbooks, schools need to feed the kids, administer basic health care, provide recreational activities and sometimes even clothe students (uniforms). A similar scenario applies to hospitals, day care centers, nursing homes, churches, police departments, libraries, museums and local government offices.
This is the institutional market, and it's an often-overlooked segment of the business-to-business market, says Peter Long, president and CEO, MCH, a list compiler focused on the institutional market.
In the current economy, Long suggests that b-to-b marketers and catalogers take a closer look at whether an opportunity exists to sell to this customer group. "This market is somewhat recession-resistant," says Long. "Schools and hospitals still have to buy their supplies regardless of what's happening in the economy."
The institutional market's diverse population helps to account for its size; MCH has up to a million and a half institutions on its file, including 5 million to 6 million individual people. Long explains that for the 7,000 hospitals on MCH's file, up to 65 names may be listed at each hospital because of different jobs and buying responsibilities. "Who heads the pediatric department?" he asks.
The catalog remains the best way to sell products to educators, law enforcement, nursing homes, etc. Long believes this because of the way things are ordered by institutions. "They like to have a catalog on their desks or in their files to pull out for when they need supplies."
There are some crossover opportunities in selling to institutions that b-to-b mailers may not realize. A b-to-b furniture catalog could do a school-themed cover to target that audience, says Long. "We worked with a catalog [of products] for disabled children, and we said its products might also be appropriate for retirement homes. So we had the catalog do a reshoot with some senior citizens in the photos."