‘Professional’ buyers

Jan 01, 1999 10:30 PM  By

Mailing to the office is a necessary tactic for business catalogs, but many consumer catalogers have also been finding that it pays off to reach prospects at work. Food gifts mailer Harry and David and apparel cataloger Brylane, for instance, have been mailing into offices for several years; and Playboy tested it for the first time this fall with its Critic’s Choice video and Collectors’ Choice music catalogs.

Harry and David began as a business cataloger, so using business lists to sell its products to people at work seemed a natural outgrowth of its strategy. “Harry and David originally sold its products to businesspeople who gave its products as gifts, as well as kept them for personal use,” explains Nancy Tait, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Medford, OR-based parent company Bear Creek. “Consumer marketing grew out of that. We continue to mail to businesses and consumers because both strategies work.” Tait won’t disclose results but says she gets names from business and consumer compiled lists.

This past fall, Playboy began testing mailing to names, at home and at work, with job titles such as librarian, faculty administrator, and corporate administrative assistant, says Elice Branca, director of circulation and research for Playboy’s $77 million catalog group. “Our goal is to gain depth in an office environment,” she explains. “We look at business lists for titles that are a good fit, choose a home address from the file, and then mail to both places where we can.” Playboy doesn’t customize catalog wraps or covers for prospects with specific job titles, but it may test that concept in the future.Branca won’t elaborate on what kind of files she’s renting but says that results look promising. Playboy is also planning to test doctors’ and dentists’ offices in a drop this month. “I see a lot of doctors with video players in the waiting room to keep people occupied, and I think there’s a lot of opportunity there for us,” Branca notes.

New York-based Brylane has for several years used a similar tactic for all of its apparel catalogs, including Chadwick’s, by mailing to nurses and teachers at school and hospital addresses. “Nurses and teachers are prime customers for us because they’re large markets; they match our female, middle-income demographic; and they buy value-priced women’s wear,” explains president Peter Canzone. Deciding how many catalogs to send to businesses vs. homes is based on past results. Still, Canzone notes that business mailings represent just a small percentage of $1.3 million Brylane’s overall revenue.