The Benefits of Multichannel Prospecting

Feb 24, 2009 12:11 AM  By

Cataloging by its very nature implies acquiring customers via renting lists. For some that’s the beginning and end of prospecting. But most catalogers eventually go beyond lists to grow the business, combat limited list universes, or as part of an overall expansion to multichannel marketing.

But how to determine which directions to go in? With so many choices — offline (inserts, space ads, solo mailing, DRTV, radio, etc.) and online (paid search, Amazon and eBay, affiliates, etc.) it’s easy to be overwhelmed. By focusing on goals before selecting media and tactics you will make better choices and avoid mismatches between your brand and specific options.

A key benefit of multichannel prospecting is reducing risk through diversification. Think about financial managers reducing investment risk by diversifying your portfolio with stocks in different sectors, international, bonds, etc. The same concept applies to customer acquisition – if you only rent lists you are highly vulnerable to postal increases, deterioration of list rental universes, etc. When using a variety of prospecting approaches these things impact you, but your business isn’t decimated.

Diversifying prospecting tactics also makes you less vulnerable to competitors because you have multiple acquisition “tools” in your arsenal. The more places your offer appears, the more likely you are there for potential customers when their need arises. You can capture prospects that are inefficient to reach via mail with mediums where prospects “raise their hands”.

Multichannel prospecting also allows you to test offers and copy with media that are better suited for that purpose. Consider the ease of testing with paid search or postcards versus your catalog.

When crafting your strategy, address unique characteristics of your brand and audience. Consider what magazines your audience is likely to read, radio shows they listen to or web sites they frequent.

Internal company factors are also a definite consideration. Some companies want to test quickly while others are willing to take 6 months planning a test. This impacts your media selection. And consider your resources — budget, staff, and systems to track everything. Remember to plan for both creative/fixed costs of new acquisition media and ongoing production/media expenses.

When beginning your foray into media selection, consider these questions to determine which specific media to evaluate and consider, and which you can pass by.

Do you have a “hero” product that can stand on its own, or are you going to focus on generating catalog requests? With a hero product you can consider options such as a 30-minute infomercial or magalog.

How much selling space/time you need – Is the offer you plan to make one that is free/lead generation or low-priced and impulsive, or is it a higher priced considered purchase? The answer will direct decisions like whether to use a postcard, envelope or magalog solo mailing.

Are your prospective customers active or passive responders? Are they sitting on the couch watching TV or actively searching on line? Every medium has different levels of involvement; tailor your selection appropriately.

Multichannel acquisition marketing delivers benefits but can be challenging to pull together because there are so many options. Start the process with a solid strategy and evaluation of your unique brand. That way you’ll make decisions that are likely to lead to success and avoid mismatching between specific mediums and your brand.

Shari Altman ( is president of Altman Dedicated Direct.