Card decks may prequalify prospects, but response rates can be as low as two in 1,000 When prospecting, catalogers often overlook card decks – bundles of 25-40 cards, enclosed in an envelope or a polybag, mailed to subscribers of a magazine or industry group members – in favor of sending books to rented catalog names. But in light of increased mailing costs, catalogers may want to give card decks a second look. “Essentially, our business has been built up using card decks,” says Ed Siegel, president of Siegel Display Products in Minneapolis. The cataloger of portable trade-show displays participates in up to 15 deck programs a month, using the cards as a catalog-request vehicle. Because the recipients have to actively request a catalog, card decks in a sense prequalify prospects and reduce postage. Siegel even rates his leads based on information, such as the respondents’ type of business and job title – gleaned from the cards. For instance, his “A” leads use metered postage, attach a business card, and have job titles pertaining to marketing, advertising, or sales promotion. Requiring the recipient to pay for the postage on the reply card, as opposed to offering a postage-paid card, prequalifies leads even more, says Craig Winer, vice president of Garrett Wade, a New York-based woodworking tools cataloger. “You get fewer names, but they’re better names when you don’t prepay postage, because those who respond are more motivated,” he explains. “And we save on the cost by not having to include postage.” The cataloger participates in one to three card decks a year. The relatively low cost of card decks is another of its advantages. Winer pays about $12/M-$16/M for card decks targeting do-it-yourselfers, usually subscribers to a hobbyist magazine. Other sponsors of card decks – often magazine publishers – typically charge anywhere from $15/M to $90/M, though most are on the lower end of the spectrum. VentureDirect Worldwide, a New York direct marketing firm that manages integrated ad campaigns, typically charges $41/M-$55/M for its card decks, most of which have circulation of 50,000-150,000. Why so cheap? One reason for card decks’ low cost is their low response. For business supplies cataloger New England Business Service (NEBS) of Groton, MA, which has used card decks for more than 15 years, the response rate for lead generation efforts averages 0.2%, says Susan Nawrocki, vice president of marketing. That’s two responses for every 1,000 card decks. NEBS’s best-performing decks achieved a response of 0.35%. VentureDirect president Rich Baumer estimates card-deck response rates at 0.25% to 1.0%. In comparison, a typical response from a rented catalog list is 1%-2%. And keep in mind that respondents to a catalog mailing are buying; respondents to a lead-generating card deck are simply requesting a catalog. While she won’t say exactly how many card-deck respondents ultimately make a purchase, Nawrocki does say that “the cost of conversion – the amount we have to spend to get a new customer to buy from us for the first time – is very low.” NEBS tries to spend no more than $200 to acquire a customer; card decks can cost NEBS as little as $180 a conversion. Keen on Those Elusive `Tweens’ The “tween” market – kids ages 8-13 – is one of the fastest-growing consumer segments around, and a hot niche for catalogers. According to the New York-based Institute for International Research, tweens spend nearly $14 billion a year and influence more than $128 billion in family spending. Overall, New York-based research firm Media Metrix estimates that the tween demographic is growing second only to the senior demographic in the country. But in spite of rapid growth, it’s become harder for catalogers to target this market due to increasing privacy restrictions. For instance, some marketers used to gather names of tweens from their Websites, and rent names from other catalogers’ Websites. But under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, passed in October 1999, online marketers cannot obtain personal information from children younger than 13 without verifiable permission from their parents. “Ten years ago, there were all kinds of available [kids] lists,” says Joy Contreras, vice president of consumer list management for Pearl River, NY-based list firm Edith Roman Associates. For instance, restaurants used to rent the lists of the members of their birthday clubs – kids who had birthday parties there, or who signed up to receive a free dessert or other goodie on their birthday. But privacy concerns put the kibosh on those files as well. One type of tween list is abundant: subscriber files from magazines such as Seventeen, Cosmo Girl, and Teen People. And the conventional wisdom that magazine files don’t work for catalog mailers, and vice versa, doesn’t hold true for tweens, says Michael Heaney, vice president of sales for Peterborough, NH-based list firm Millard Group. “This market breaks the trend.” New York-based teen apparel cataloger Delia’s, for one, rents names from magazines such as YM and Girl’s Life, says Estelle DeMuesy, executive vice president of Delia’s Direct. The company also places advertisements in teen magazines encouraging readers to call for a catalog or visit Delia’s Website, she says. And the cataloger rents names from direct mail music clubs such as Sony and BMG. To comply with privacy restrictions, Delia’s mails catalogs directly only to girls it knows are ages 13 and up; for others, the company “title-slugs” the address labels. For example, a label would read “To the DeMuesy family.” Rye, NY-based gifts mailer Lillian Vernon goes a step further. It mails its Lilly’s Kids spin-off only to parents and grandparents, says vice president of public affairs David Hochberg. The company enhances its house file of 5 million names with demographic data including the presence of children in the household. In fact, Edith Roman’s Contreras says most mailers turn to lists of adult names enhanced by the presence of children in the household when targeting tweens. In some cases, catalogers can even select the age and gender of the children within the household. © 2001, IndustryClick Corp., a PRIMEDIA company. All rights reserved. This article is protected by United States copyright and other intellectual property laws and may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, redisseminated, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without the prior written permission of IndustryClick Corp.