Market Focus: Office Supplies Buyers
Ah, yes. We’ve all been there. That moment of waiting for something important to emerge from the printer, only to find a mottled mess of ink on the last piece of paper. Where do you head to replace your supplies? OK, maybe a supply room. But who stocks that supply room? Who orders the paper clips and sticky notes that make it possible to accomplish your everyday tasks? Office supplies buyers, of course!
Those in charge of business supplies purchase everything their companies need to continue running smoothly. According to Michele Volpe, vice president of sales and marketing at Media Source Solutions, which manages several office supplies buyer files, “Buyers of business supplies are buying everything from phone systems to White-Out.” Kristin Micalizio, vice president of direct sales at Office Depot, a multichannel marketer of office products, agrees, saying her business customers buy more than just the usual office fare of pens and bulk paper. They also dip into technology, furniture, storage as well as cleaning and breakroom supplies, to name a few.
Entry Level Graduates?
So, who are business supplies buyers? In truth, they could be anyone from a designated buyer to an administrative assistant for whom buying supplies is merely a function of the position. “From the list management perspective, the business-to-business files don’t capture as much demographic information as their consumer counterparts. It would be great to know that Manager A always buys business cards in September,” says Volpe. “[But] the fields in B-to-B files are not typically populated this way,” she continues, which can make it tough to pin them down.
And while Kim McNeill, list management assistant at Walter Karl, which manages Office Depot’s lists, says prospects may be selected by title on office supplies buyers files, Micalizio notes that Office Depot prefers to prospect using contact names at businesses that buy via direct mail. “We don’t make prospecting selections by job title,” she states.
Volpe advises that tracking down office supplies buyers is best done via known-buyer files. “If it’s a straight, compiled file, the buyer information is inferred rather than known,” and adds that “direct response/compiled masterfiles with a ‘buyers’ select should perform on a par with the known-buyers files.”
As an aside, her advice is to mail to only one or two contacts per site. Any more could have a negative effect, i.e., a busy mailroom might toss it.
Micalizio says Office Depot’s direct marketing strategy “consists of offline media such as catalogs and direct mail, telephone account managers, and online marketing.” B-to-B buyers often are buying in large quantities and want their selections delivered to their office, so many of Office Depot’s corporate buyers purchase via its Web site and call centers. However, the occasional office supply emergency is bound to come up. “Our retail channel caters to small customers all the way up to very large customers who have a same-day need,” she explains.
Volpe says, “Recency is one way to help target or predict when there will be a need for more product. Based on employee size and annual sales volume, mailers can make some learned guesses how paper products, service contracts for office equipment and other basic supply needs will be ordered and when the need for more will arise.” According to Volpe, most companies are looking to spend in October, when the fiscal year is up and a new budget is in place. She says marketing to them at this time, using a recency select, has a major effect on how well a campaign will perform.
Where’s the Motivation?
While office supplies buyers are, in fact, easily motivated to buy, they need added incentive to buy from you specifically. The best way to prompt them to purchase from you? Don’t assume that because they’re business buyers, they won’t respond to the same stimuli as consumers.
Office Depot’s “B-to-B audience is looking for something business oriented, but at the same time visually appealing,” says Micalizio. “They respond well to relevant messaging and personalization,” she adds, which involves simply drawing attention to product specifications and to highlighting special offers, such as free next-business-day delivery. “We frequently personalize customers’ business names on the front cover of a catalog and offer customized shopping lists.”
Jump to Conclusions
So, who are mailing these oft-purchasing B-to-B customers? Volpe has seen everything from premium incentive, imprinted pens and stationery mailers to postage meter companies, credit card and equipment mailers rent Media Source Solutions’ office supplies buyers files. And McNeill says Office Depot’s file gets mileage from the likes of insurance companies, publishers and even cell phone companies.
Lists to Test
The following is a sample of lists available to reach this market.
American Office Supplies: 107,905 executives who recommend, purchase and approve office supplies and equipment. Price: $120. Worldata, (561) 393-8200.
Business Supplies, Stationery & Office Equipment Buyers: More than 2 million buyers of business supplies, stationery and office equipment. Price: $95/M. Media Source Solutions, (866) 641-3003.
Office Depot Business Buyers: 1.1 million 24-month business buyers of supplies; furniture; computer hardware and software; and more from Office Depot. Price: $105/M. Walter Karl, (845) 620-0700.
Office Supplies Office Managers: 381,552 executives who’ve responded to a survey regarding office supplies purchases. Price: $100/M. Data Direct Solutions, (866) 573-1210.
Office Supply Buyers from NUOS: 51,930 office managers who purchase office supplies, stationery, back office and specialty supplies, and more. Price: $105/M. Direct Media, (203) 532-1000.
Reliable Office Supplies Masterfile: 731,668 buyers of desk accessories, calendars, computer peripherals and more. Price: $105/M. American List Counsel, (800) 252-5478.