Five Tips for Tackling the B-to-I Market

The business-to-institution (B-to-I) market makes up 23% of the U.S. economy, according to Sweet Springs, MO-based list compiler MCH. Little wonder, then, that numerous companies are find marketing to institutions well worth the effort. If you’d like to include your business among them but don’t know how to locate the best prospects, try these suggestions:

Tip #1: Don’t rely on traditional SIC codes.
Because the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes were established in the 1930s, it is difficult if not impossible to identify many of today’s b-to-i markets using them. For instance, there is no SIC code for assisted-living complexes for seniors. Fortunately, assisted-living centers are identifiable using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS; 6233 is the NAICS code for “community care facilities for the elderly). The U.S., Canadian, and Mexican governments jointly introduced NAICS in 1997 “to address the criticism of the SIC, specifically in regard to the emergence and growth of the service sector,” says MCH president John Hood.

Tip #2: Mail to multiple names per institution.
If you sell big-ticket products, don’t automatically choose the one-name-per-business/institution select. At many institutions, the decision to invest in major equipment is made by a committee rather than one person. So if you’re selling, say, radiology equipment to healthcare clinics, you may want to send your offer to purchasing managers, directors of radiology, and business or office managers — provided that you have their names, not just their titles. Which brings us to…

Tip #3: Don’t mail to a generic title.
If your catalog isn’t addressed to a name, chances are good that it won’t make it out of the mailroom. This is especially true when prospecting among large institutions. Hospitals, for instance, can have more than 200 departments, says Susan McNamara, vice president for Irvine, CA-based list compiler SK&A, and “each has a certain structure that comprises its own market.”

Tip #4: Beware of home addresses.
Keep in mind that 30%-40% of the names on association lists may be attached to home rather than business addresses, says Chris Lundgren, executive vice president of sales and marketing for SK&A. Mailing business offers to home addresses will likely curtail response.

To get around this, Phoenix-based religious-products marketer Autom, which mails the Autom Catholic, Autom Christian, Autom Trade, Autom Church Supplies, and Autom Consumer catalogs, makes sure it has a functional title for each prospect name it mails. The company merge/purges names from directory lists with those from a subscriber list, such as that of Catholic magazine.

Choosing the title select also helps Autom prevent overmailing to a particular church or organization. According to Bethany Beach, DE-based catalog consultant Steve Lett, Autom creates a report that tells it how many catalogs it mails into each institution. “That way, we can regulate how many copies we’re mailing and decrease the amount of catalogs when we see it’s appropriate,” Lett explains.

Tip #5: Make sure the list was updated recently.
Because turnover is rapid within institutions, be sure the lists you rent have been updated within the past quarter, says SK&A’s McNamara.

As with any other list, you should also find out how the names were gathered. Was the list compiled from public records and then corroborated/updated by phone? Or was it simply culled from a directory? If it’s the latter, you’re probably not working from the most current information.

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