Sonic Foundry Launches Consumer Book

Madison, WI-based business-to-business software manufacturer/marketer Sonic Foundry is now tapping consumers. In August, Sonic Foundry began mailing 500,000 copies of a 16-page b-to-c edition. Like the core book, the spin-off sells audio/visual software tools that enable users to produce their own CDs, streaming video, and other digital content.

While the b-to-b book targets multimedia content professionals, Sonic Foundry director of marketing Dave Chaimson says the consumer edition mailed to “high-tech households” — families with income of more than $75,000 who are likely to have computers and Internet access. The book mailed to names rented from catalogers such as Hammacher Schlemmer and The Sharper Image and magazines including Family PC and PC World Parents. The company is also mailing to its house names to test the consumer book against the b-to-b version.

Market feedback led Sonic Foundry to test the consumer book. “As our product line expanded, we tended to look toward more consumer-friendly product derivatives,” Chaimson says, namely less complex, less expensive products.

The same but different

While expanding from b-to-b to b-to-c may seem like an effortless way to increase sales, a company like Sonic Foundry should pay close attention to the differences between the two audiences, advises Katie Muldoon, president of Tequesta, FL-based catalog consulting firm Muldoon & Baer.

For one, “the consumer buyers usually aren’t as wise as business buyers about computer products,” she says, noting the need for greater explanation of products. In fact, while Sonic Foundry’s b-to-b book assumes a certain level of professional knowledge, the new catalog is more user-friendly and colloquial. It also includes lifestyle photos, quotes from industry pros, and such phrases as “You can be a star producer too!”

Another caveat: “As the average order tends to be lower for a consumer catalog than it is for most business catalogs, this will also need to be factored in to the business plan,” Muldoon says.

A second edition of Sonic Foundry’s consumer book was scheduled to begin mailing this month, with drops in December and January as well. The company will then take a “wait and see” approach about the new catalog’s future. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the resulting economic uncertainty have made the mailer unsure of how or when to roll the book out, Chaimson says.

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