Praise for ‘Roll Back’ Promo

Wal-Mart’s not the only company to “roll back” prices. Drew Trotman, president of the Praise Banners catalog, benefited by rolling back his company’s prices as well.

The Nashville, TN-based mailer of church banners and other merchandise for religious institutions traditionally mailed a new edition every three years, because its product line doesn’t change much from year to year. But in 2001, just two years after mailing its previous edition, Trotman decided to introduce products with a new edition a year early. As a result, Praise Banners was left with about 50,000 extra copies of the 1999 book.

Trotman was advised to shred the excess copies. Instead, he warehoused the books until September 2002, then mailed the 1999 edition to 40,000-plus customers in a special “roll back to 1999 prices” promotion.

“With a dot whack, everything is new again,” Trotman says, referring to the orange sticker he placed on the cover of the book showing that customers could order out of it for the original prices, albeit paying current shipping and handling rates. The dot whack also specified that certain products were no longer available; all told, about 20% of the 1999 book’s items couldn’t be ordered.

The mailing yielded a 5% response and $80,000 in sales over a three- to six-month period, Trotman says. Praise Banners had slightly less success with a January 2003 mailing of the remaining 10,000 leftover books, primarily because prospects were included in the mailing. Though the response rate to the second mailing was 5% among customers, among prospects the response rate was only 1%.

While Trotman would consider doing future roll-back mailings with old catalogs again, he’s more inclined to simply reprint an old catalog rather than deliberately overrun a mailing and warehouse the books.

And that’s what he did with an eight-page mailer last month, 4,000 copies of which he sent to a very targeted segment of customers. This time, Praise Banners reprinted portions of the 2001 edition. And although he’s yet to calculate response, Trotman says he’s pleased with the $6,000 in sales the book has yielded to date.

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