List Strategies in Competitive Times
By Hallie Mummert
Technology's impact on the direct marketing sector in the past decade is nearly immeasurable, but one thing is certain: Companies that offer a mass appeal product need to be competitive on many levels to succeed.
Target Marketing's Editor in Chief Hallie Mummert talked to Janet Wolf, senior vice president of marketing at Bookspan—a direct marketer of book clubs with more than 9 million members—about her company's list strategies to find new customers in a hyper-competitive market.
Target Marketing: How many book clubs are managed by Bookspan?
Janet Wolf: Bookspan owns approximately 40 clubs, ranging from very general in reading interest to very targeted. Examples: Book of the Month Club or The Literary Guild as general interest clubs, and The Science Fiction Book Club or Behavioral Science Book Club as targeted ones.
TM: What are the top challenges facing book clubs?
Wolf: Some of the biggest challenges for book clubs today are competitors—Internet book retailers; discount warehouses, such as price clubs; and book superstores—and the fragmentation of interests in the marketplace.
There has been an intensified pricing pressure on books, as they have become a commodity available more broadly and discounted more frequently than ever before.
Internet book retailers offer the same "shop at home convenience" as direct marketers.
We've also seen a fragmentation of the public's reading interests. A general interest club—with one particular book recommendation each month—no longer satisfies as large an audience as it once did. Therefore, a variety of more focused, different book clubs is needed, and segmentations of each of our clubs' offerings becomes necessary.
Our editorial pre-selection (recommendations versus offering every book published) remains a unique advantage of book clubs.
TM: Bookspan mails millions of direct mail efforts a year. How do you find new names, since you probably have a high duplication rate on your core lists?