Live from ECMOD: B-to-b from Blah to Bravo

London–It’s been said many times: Business-to-business catalogs need not be boring. But many b-to-b marketers still struggle with developing enticing creative that also sells. The Consortium, a U.K. supplier of educational products, found a way to appeal to its customers with creative that works. In the session “B-to-B: More Effective Customer Recruitment and Reactivation” at the European Catalogue and Mail Order Days (ECMOD), held here Nov. 23-24, the Consortium described how creating “pen portraits” of customers in both their business and personal lives helped drive creative and boost sales.

According to copanelist Grahahm Ellor, a planner with marketing agency TDA, a pen portrait is a collage using pictures and words to describe customers based on characteristics, attitudes, and behavior, This helps take marketers beyond traditional b-to-b profiles and SIC codes.

The Consortium had identified relevant job roles in target organizations, said product marketing manager and copanelist Mike Harding. It then drew up a customer profile using the pen-portrait approach and found that its audience to be primarily teachers, most of whom are female, age 25-40, and operating under budget constraints. “This allowed us to identify an appropriate tone and mood for a campaign’s creative,” he said.

The cataloger then created its “googly eyes” campaign, in which a pair of rattling eyes appeared through the window of an envelope that proclaimed, “Ordering office supplies can be fun!” Inside the envelope was a personalized letter, an offer for a free digital camera, and an eight-page flier introducing the Consortium with a catalog request promotion on the back cover. The package also featured a six-panel foldout cartoon described how the Consortium had help schoolteacher Mrs. Trip get all she needed to make her lessons educational and fun. It also promoted specific product lines such as paints, music instruments, and sports supplies.

The promotion mailed in September–just after teachers had received their supplies for the semester and were perhaps less than satisfied. Harding said that of the teachers who had received the googly-eyes promo, 2.7% of the primary-school teachers and 13.6% of the secondary-school educators had requested a catalog, and 0.4% overall had placed at least one order. While business mailers should still use data such as SIC codes and number of employees, Harding said, “pen portraits allow you to think deeper about your customers.”

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