Lists and Prospecting: Wanted–New B-to-B Prospects

A cataloger of art supplies, Seattle-based Daniel Smith no longer wants to limit its prospecting efforts to artists, art-supplies stores, and galleries. One of the company’s resolutions for 2004 is to take more of a horizontal market approach to finding new buyers. It plans to target architectural firms, which could use its products for building models, as well as state and local governments, which already turn to the cataloger for special frames for government awards certificates.

But the company isn’t sure of the best way to find prospective buyers in these markets. “We’re still trying to identify the potential people and ways to find them,” says information systems manager Tony Weist.

Indeed, many mailers that had put the brakes on prospecting during the recession are now looking to grow. Some business-to-business catalogers are opting to prospect horizontally, or seeking buyers from a wide assortment of businesses that nonetheless need the same types of products, as well as vertically — going after buyers that fall within a specific industry.

In Daniel Smith’s case, for instance, horizontal prospects might be art-supplies stores, toy stores, and day-care centers perhaps, while prospecting vertically would mean targeting artists, art educators, and art-supplies stores.

Other marketers are exploring application mapping, or reconsidering whether to target executives or end users. Here, we’ve highlighted the tactics of several b-to-b mailers.

Searching for new resellers

DBL Distributing, a $140 million-plus wholesaler of consumer electronics, has always targeted independent electronics stores, both single-store and small local chains. But a little more than a year ago, the Scottsdale, AZ-based company decided to market to independent hardware stores as well. These retailers would have little interest in the company’s line of televisions, cameras, and the like. But DBL reasoned that they would resell the cataloger’s batteries, security systems, and videotapes.

So DBL sifted through scores of standard industrial classification (SIC) codes to find small, independent, hardware stores as well as general stores that sell hardware in addition to other goods.

“If we just go to a list broker and request a list of mom-and-pop hardware stores,” says Bruce Kuperman, DBL’s vice president of sales marketing, “we’re getting the broker’s interpretation of what we want. This way, we find the stores we want.”

DBL mailed these stores its full-line catalog; the company’s 30 telesales reps then called each of the prospects to introduce DBL and point out items that would be of particular use to them.

Kuperman won’t cite specific sales results, but he says the expansion into hardware stores has been successful. As a result, DBL plans to continue expanding beyond its traditional market base. It plans to begin mailing to independent photographic-supplies dealers, satellite-dish dealers, and cell-phone retailers. DBL may also go after small pharmacies to offer low-end disposable cameras, film, and VCRs, Kuperman says.

In addition, the company is considering targeting small independent hotels and motels, which have need for DBL’s TV mounts and remotes. DBL already sells to some motel chains, such as Choice Hotels’ Econolodge chain.

Narrowing in

If DBL is broadening its field of prospects, Interline Brands may be narrowing its focus — or rather, adding an additional narrow market to the more generalized markets it targets.

The $635 million parent company of the Wilmar, Barnett, Sexauer, Maintenance USA, and Hardware Express catalogs, Interline sells plumbing and building maintenance products to contractors, electricians, and plumbers. But the Moorestown, NJ-based company recently analyzed the irrigation market, “because we sell those kinds of products,” says vice president of marketing Pam Maxwell.

Interline won’t decide until the end of the first quarter if it will mail a Barnett spin-off specializing in sprinkler systems, timers, and other irrigation equipment. But if it does, it will rent specialized lists of irrigation contractors.

“We currently mail our mainline Barnett catalog to irrigation contractor names from the compiled lists we get from Dun & Bradstreet and InfoUSA,” Maxwell says. “But I’m sure there are associations or other sources for irrigation lists, which would be more updated and go deeper into the market with greater refinement than the general lists we currently get.”

Going straight to the top

Lawrence, PA-based Black Box, which sells computer networking products and services, already mails to a broad range of customers — military installations, Fortune 1,000 companies, mom-and-pop shops. After mailing mostly to its house file for the past few years, it’s now dropping 50,000-100,000 catalogs at a time to prospects as “just a feeler to gauge what’s going on in the industry,” says marketing manager Jim Machak.

In the past, Black Box primarily targeted information technology department heads, encouraging them to “push” upper management for a sign-off on purchases. This year, marketer will also approach corporate executives directly, touting its technology solutions “that can save them time, money, etc., and get them to push it down to their end users,” Machak says.

The $260.5 million Black Box finds most prospects by renting the subscriber lists of electronics-industry trade magazines. But in addition to selecting IT managers from those lists, it will select upper-management titles as well.

In Brief: Application Mapping

For catalogers willing and able to segment their markets by business needs within a location, application mapping is an option.

Say a cataloger sells laptop computers. The cataloger might want to sell a particular line of rugged laptops, such as Panasonic Tough Books, to police officers for their squad cars, says Victor Hunter, president of Milwaukee-based b-to-b consulting firm Hunter Business Group. The catalog mailings are “far more powerful sent to police stations than mailing into state and local governments.”

The cataloger could also break out the job categories that fall under state and local government markets — police, fire, surveyer, maintenance — and determine which kinds of laptops each of these submarkets needs. The mailer could then send smaller, specialized catalogs to these prospects.

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