List Watch: B-to-Bers Say, Let’s Talk About Sex

Some business-to-business catalogers have sex on their minds. No, not what you’re thinking — gender selects.

Because b-to-b mailers target corporations rather than individuals, they typically look for company type and size selects rather than gender. But recently some business catalogers have grown more interested in selecting prospects by gender.

During the past two years, gender select has become “a key consideration” for East Texas, PA-based Day-Timers, says vice president of direct marketing David Christensen. When prospecting, the cataloger of business diaries and accessories sees higher average orders from women, though Christensen would not reveal the exact amount.

Nashville, TN-based Idea Art, a cataloger of specialty papers, has rented selects of female business buyers for several years, says director of marketing Rebecca Pierce. Idea Art “always looks for lists that show the percentage of men to women, since 70% of our customer base is female,” Pierce says. “We don’t know whether that’s an administrative assistant or an office manager buying or purchasing, but we do know that more of them are women.”

Indeed, many office and personnel managers — typically the corporate buyers of such items as office supplies and stationery — are women, says Dave Florence, chairman of Greenwich, CT, list firm Direct Media. “And when testing a list, many b-to-b catalogers will test male vs. female, and some find one to do better than the other.”

In fact, Florence says he’d never rent a business list without testing it by gender. In some categories — Florence cites business furniture as an example — gender “may not make much of a difference,” he says. “But you can’t say that with 100% certainty, because each company operates differently, so it’s worth testing out.”

Renting gender selects isn’t prohibitive: It typically costs an additional $5/M. And more b-to-b gender selects are available. In September, industrial supplies marketer K+K America, the $295 million parent company of the C&H Distributors, Browncor, Dozier, Avenue Industrial Supply, and Catalog Business Furniture Essentials catalogs, put the select of nearly 60,000 12-month female buyers of its C&H title on the market. “We look at ways to leverage our house file and its value on the market,” says K+K corporate circulation manager Steve Kassnel.

Day-Timers has been offering a gender select to renters of its list for the past two years, “but it’s still a relatively low percentage of our rental activity,” Christensen says.

Gender unbiased

Indeed, not all b-to-b marketers care about prospects’ gender. Lincolnshire, IL-based office supplies cataloger Quill Corp. records the gender of its house file names, says director of database marketing Randy Geyen. “But we haven’t mailed to gender-selected lists, because job titles are more valuable to us than gender.”

Many b-to-b catalogers share Quill’s viewpoint. For West Chester, PA-based VWR Scientific Products, a $1.53 billion cataloger of laboratory equipment, “researchers are researchers,” says Matt Malenfant, senior vice president of marketing and corporate sales. “We look for [professional] discipline and application, and that’s not gender-related.”

Likewise, Bill Heyman, co-owner for Marlborough, NH-based Supreme Audio, which sells audio/visual supplies to fitness instructors, says gender is “100% irrelevant to my business. We mail to job functions, not gender.”

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