According to a 2007 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics, there were approximately 4.3 million births in the United States in 2006 (the latest year available for such data). This is the highest birthrate since 1961.
Demographics point to a young, female market in the early stage of its prime earning years. While many an expectant father basks in the glow of his partner's pregnancy, expectant mothers make the lion's share of purchasing decisions. Indeed, 85 percent of the subscribers to Fit Pregnancy magazine are females, and the median age is 28 with a median household income of $42,764. What's more, the CDC reports that single mothers account for 8 percent of births.
Although they may not have reached their full earning potential, expectant parents aren't reluctant to spend money on their babies. "The baby market tends to be more recession-proof than other markets," says Tina MacNicholl, president of The Catamount Group, a direct response media company.
A Craving for Information and Products
Expectant parents have many diverse needs, which makes it tough to get a handle on exactly how much they spend. Most direct marketers agree that spending is significant, begins in the second trimester of a pregnancy and extends 12 weeks into the postnatal period. To add some perspective, the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association reports that the U.S. market for juvenile products-everything for babies from prenatal to preschool excluding food and apparel-was approximately $8.9 billion in retail sales for 2006.
Because expectant parents are in the middle of a primary life change, their buying modes include more than the obvious baby products and services. Expectant parents "realize that how they spend their money on the most fundamental things-like where they live and what kind of home they live in, to what kind of car they drive-is influenced by the new child coming into their home," notes Chris Hulse, president of Madison Direct Marketing, an agency that specializes in life stage marketing. "In a broad sense, every dollar that comes into that household somehow now filters through a new needs analysis that they have."
Accordingly, expectant parents are a prime audience for offers of life insurance, financial services, real estate, home improvement, household cleaning products and automobiles. "It's a great time for life insurance because it's a life change where you stop thinking about just yourself," notes Lenore Cunningham, sales director at list management and brokerage firm Lake Group Media. For example, direct marketers such as Savings Bank Life Insurance, Mutual of Omaha and Gerber Life Insurance actively target expectant parents.
The Countdown to Baby
Timing is critical when marketing to the prenatal market. Pregnancies are not part of the public record, so the lists available for rent typically are response files sourced from magazine subscriptions; point of sale; insert programs; and Web sites that offer free samples, coupons and informational resources. Many expectant mothers do not publicly acknowledge their pregnancies until the end of their first trimesters, so marketers usually have a five- to six-month window of opportunity.
What's more, marketers may want to target these women in a certain trimester. This makes due date a key select. For example, Linda Lomax, director of marketing at One Step Ahead, a multichannel marketer of infant products, says she selects third trimester names for her prospecting efforts. "That's when baby showers typically are held and people narrow down their needs," she explains.
First-time mothers-to-be are another popular select because they generally have a greater need for furniture, toys and baby supplies. Early branding is particularly important with this group, because they are in information-gathering mode, notes Norma Blatto, vice president, publisher/executive director of American Baby Group, a division of Meredith Corp. "If you get in early with a strong message that shows them how it's going to make their lives easier and gives them a good sense of trust ... you will have a better shot at converting them," she says. This is why companies that sell consumables such as diapers, formula and baby food begin targeting expectant parents in the second trimester. MacNicholl agrees: "It's a first in, first win thing."
A Multichannel Delivery
Marketers are using a host of media that include direct mail, insert media, product sampling, space ads, e-mail marketing and Web sites to target expectant parents during their flurry of purchasing activity. Because much of the prenatal market belongs to Generation Y, these consumers tend to be tech-savvy and very comfortable using the Web, notes Nancy Spielmann, senior account executive at list brokerage and management firm Statlistics.
This has been the experience of One Step Ahead, which uses its print catalog as its primary prospecting vehicle. However, approximately 80 percent of its orders are placed online. "We know a very significant volume of those [orders are] driven by our print offers. We have a young customer who is very used to ordering online," Lomax confirms.
A multichannel marketing plan is best, advises Blatto, because it takes more than one impression to make a sale. "The most successful marketers have a print ad for branding, a sample to encourage trial and a Web-based solution."
Lisa Yorgey Lester is the former managing editor of Target Marketing magazine. Presently, she is a freelance writer based in Ambler, Pa. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.