Mini-Catalog Has Sizable Payoff for Support Plus

Support Plus has acquired many a new customer through traditional prospecting — sending out its full-size book to rented lists. But that costs $6-$7 a convert.

By editing its 56-page full-size catalog into a 12-page, 3-3/8″ × 5″ mini format, however, and delivering it in co-op mailings and in other catalogers’ packages, Support Plus has found that it can acquire customers for half that amount.

“It’s the lowest-cost way we’ve ever had to get a customer,” says Edward Janos, president/CEO of the Medfield, MA-based cataloger of support hosiery, footwear, and other lifestyle products for older adults. “Getting a customer for less than $3 is a very good value.”

Support Plus inserted its first 500,000 mini-catalogs last fall into envelopes sent out by New Maturity Direct. “We delivered that mini for close to 10 cents — it’s pretty hard to do that through the mail,” Janos says. Although the mailing converted just “a small percentage,” because it was so inexpensive the company profited nonetheless.

Indeed, because a mini is so much smaller than a full-size book, catalogers shouldn’t expect to pull the same response as from a full-fledged prospecting catalog, says Vernon Carson, president of Web Direct Marketing in Wheeling, IL, and the man who is considered the originator of the mini-catalog.

“The mini is not a catalog. It really is a promotional device to generate an order,” Carson notes. As a result, he says, “you’ll get 50%-60% of the response of a full-size prospecting book.” In addition, the average order size will be lower because minis tend to be stocked with hot sellers and lower-priced product geared toward impulse buys.

Support Plus’s initial mini featured about 30 products, many of them at sale prices. For example, the cover highlighted Futuro Mild Support Knee Highs at $8.95 a pair, down from the regular $12. For tracking purposes, telephone and Web customers were required to submit the key code from the order form in order to receive the discount.

In the six months following last fall’s test, Support Plus received 1.3 sales per customer from the mailing. “That means 30 out of every 100 who bought have rebought within six months,” he says.

That’s not quite as good as the company’s house file, where 80% purchase again within six months. But it is better than the two-step approach to inserts the company has taken in the past, where prospects must be enticed to request the catalog before Support Plus has a chance at making a sale. What’s more, the mini has staying power, Carson says, because prospects will hold on to it longer than an insert.

Last year, in addition to the envelope, Janos tested the mini as an insert in 200,000 catalog packages. The package inserts didn’t pull as well as the envelope offers, which were positioned in the window. Janos thinks the package inserts got lost in the packages. So Janos is increasing the size of the mini, to 4-3/4″ × 7″, for the next round of testing. “They go out with five or six other inserts. If they get too small, they’re hard to get noticed,” he says.

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