Rodale Press A Market-by-Market Approach Helped This Publisher
The pursuit of good health is as universal as the common cold. So when Rodale's book division identified the opportunity international markets held, it choose a product with widespread appeal—"The Doctors Book of Home Remedies." Its plan: to build off its U.S. success, market by market.
The rule of thumb in international direct marketing is if a product does well in the United States, it will likely do well overseas. This made "The Doctors Book of Home Remedies" an ideal product to launch into global markets because it had already sold more than 12 million copies in the United States. The challenge, according to Lynn Gavett, vice president, publisher, Rodale Books International, was "to see if our concept and creative would work outside the United States and Canada."
To find out, the book was tested in the United Kingdom and France in October 1993; a test in the German market followed soon after in 1994. Working with its U.S. control package, Rodale adapted the piece for each market. It then dropped 100,000 pieces each in the United Kingdom and Germany, and 50,000 in France. Both the French and German packages were translated into the local language. Even though the United Kingdom is an English-speaking market, the direct mail package for this market was anglicized and passed by the U.K.'s Advertising Standards Authority to make sure it complied with local legislation.
The tests proved successful and Rodale rolled out in all three markets. At present, Rodale is marketing "The Doctors Book of Home Remedies" in Belgium, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany and France, and recently tested Sweden this past February and Poland in March. International sales account for 13 percent of Rodale's book division.
Gavett firmly believes, "good creative travels." For this reason, Rodale has taken its best U.S. packages and adapted them for overseas markets. "It pays to stick close to U.S. winning creative," says Gavett, who notes it is easier to test away from a control than it is to start from scratch. All packages are written in the local language, but are not strict translations. Rather, Rodale renders the "spirit" of the package.
Although packages may be tweaked to accommodate foreign postal regulations or advertising standards, the publisher tries to keep the overseas adaptation as true to the U.S. control as possible. The lion's share of changes are within the pages of its product. "The Doctors Book of Home Remedies" is translated into the local language of each market with painstaking detail. This includes omitting colloquialisms and replacing references to U.S. health organizations with a country's equivalent association.
While Rodale's response rates are slightly higher internationally, so too are its marketing costs. One way to boost response and possibly offset additional operating costs is to offer payment in the local currency.
Rodale accepts payment in the local currency by check, credit card or bank/postal transfer, depending on the customer's preference. It uses a standard billed offer worldwide, but the number of installments and method of payment changes by country. For example, customers in the United Kingdom and France can pay in three installments by check. Germany is a different story. Here the population is accustomed to paying by bank or postal transfer (often called a giro). As this requires a trip to the bank or local postal office, payment is accepted in one installment only.
"Each market is distinctly different," says Gavett, referring to the difference in payment preference. "We are constantly testing price point and payment options, but to deter resistance based on the offer, we use the preferred method in each market for the test."
Go Global; Think Local
"If you are serious about a country, you need to be in it," says Gavett, explaining that each country operation is run locally. All international staff are located in Europe, with two staff members in Germany and one in France. It also houses a team in its London office.
While the publisher has found it relatively easy to move and adapt its packages overseas, the challenge has been the infrastructure—coordinating lettershop, lists, printing and mailing for each market in which it mails. Direct mail pieces are printed within Europe, either within the country of destination or as a gang to consolidate volume. Local lettershops laser-address information for each market, and merge/purge is done in local service bureaus. Gavett claims that at the present time it is hard to find someone outside a particular country to process country-specific names. However, she adds, this service is developing. The final step, mailing, is handled by the individual in-country lettershops in Europe.
On the back end, fulfillment is also handled in-country. Product is housed in local warehouses and customers respond by a BRC mailed to a third-party fulfillment service located in each market.
Building its House file
Rodale has found its international customer base for "The Doctors Book of Home Remedies" mirrors the demographics of its U.S. customers: females between the ages of 45 and 65 who are interested in their health.
Of the 20 million international names mailed by the book division each year, 40 percent are house-file names and 60 percent are from outside lists. Gavett says Rodale builds its international business by mailing outside lists and that it has been aggressive in doing so.
The publisher works with local list brokers in each overseas market to find local language lists. Most of the lists it rents are response; however, it has done some modeling and testing of compiled files. It also tests standard suppression files available in each country. Referring to the EU data protection directive, Gavett points out that Rodale has included an opt-out clause in each of its international direct mail packages dating back to the launch. As such, Gavett believes the publisher has been given permission to use and rent those names. If an individual opts out, the name is suppressed. The number of people who have opted-out from international campaigns, according to Gavett, "is surprisingly low." In addition to its in-house suppression file, Rodale passes all lists against the appropriate country's "do-not-mail" file.
While most of Rodale's worldwide prospecting efforts are done by solo direct mail, it incorporates other media into the mix. Free-standing inserts are placed in local periodicals in all markets, but are used quite heavily in the United Kingdom. It also uses DRTV in Germany and does some outbound telemarketing to existing French and U.K. customers.
Similar, Yet Different
Even with all the talk of unification, Gavett finds Europe still very much made up of vertical markets. Since launching "The Doctors Book of Home Remedies" internationally, Gavett says her biggest challenge has been, "understanding how each market differs from another and adapting a business model for the uniqueness of each market to be successful. It's an ongoing process."