Pre-Screening Catalog Prospects
If you were to take a peek into the file of catalog lead generators we house in the Archive, you would notice that none of them exceed 6"x9" in size--except for a humongous mailing from Mason Direct. It's 10 1/2"x14", to be exact (353MASDIR0199).
Why such a large, expensive mailing to generate inquiries for the company's catalog? According to Herb Steinmetz, vice president of marketing at Mason Shoe Companies, this package is part of a two-step campaign that includes an offer of credit to qualified prospects.
In the company's experience, mailings based mainly on making an offer of credit tend to draw their fair share of bad debt, when there is no pre-screening. This mailing's goal is to explain the benefits of buying from Mason and ferret out those prospects that are more interested in buying shoes directly than in getting something on credit.
Interestingly enough, this package has evolved over time from a business-to-business mailing that convinced retail stores to carry Mason shoes to a direct-to-consumer mailing to generate new customers.
Five years ago, the company was mailing a smaller, 9"x12" version. In early 1998, the size of the package jumped to the jumbo effort currently used. Mason Direct was enjoying such a good response and pay-up from the mailing that it tested some different versions and was able to increase the size.
Steinmetz says the cost of a mailing definitely depends on the payback you can expect to generate. For example, reactivation efforts sent to prior customers generally don't result in the same level of return, so this group receives a more inexpensive mailing from Mason Direct.
The reason for such good return on each customer acquisition is directly linked to the nature of the offer. Mason Direct positions the opportunity to buy shoes as a "Private Insider Discount Privilege" complete with a membership. This privilege means that customers pay the same price as Mason's dealers. To further seal the deal, new customers can continue to enjoy these lower prices, if they make at least one shoe purchase during the first year of membership.
As for the mailing itself, the use of variable printing allows Mason Direct to change the copy in the letter's Johnson Box and the body of the letter contains a few messages tailored to the individual recipient. Steinmetz explains that the company presently uses seven different direct mail efforts and targets a few, carefully segmented markets.
Then, when Mason Direct fulfills catalog requests for this two-step campaign, the catalogs are mailed in envelopes. This enables Mason Direct to add inserts that are targeted to each audience that receives the campaign and to tailor the financial information on credit offers accordingly, without having to print special catalogs for each drop.