Cataloger: Best Leads Are Homegrown

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Multititle upscale baby products cataloger, Kids Stuff, said the results of a test e-mail campaign show that all catalog leads are not created equal.


Kids Stuff Inc., North Canton, OH, began sending e-mails last October to its catalog requesters. The e-mails inform customers that their catalogs have been mailed and thank them for their requests.


The e-mails then ask, "Why wait? Shop our online store today and take $10 off your first order of $35 or more."


Ruth Krise, vice president of marketing at Kids Stuff, declined to provide the response rate of the "why wait" e-mails, but she said the company plans to discontinue them because they have not proved successful.


"The problem has been that the bulk of our requesters have been coming from other sources on the Internet," Krise said. "We're paying for leads that we've been getting [from catalog request sites], but to my knowledge to date, they have not been qualified leads.


"The best requesters we get are the ones that we get from our own customers or the ones that we get from our own Web site," she said.


Catalog request sites include Freeshop.com and CatalogCity.com. Krise said the company, which fulfills catalog requests on a monthly basis, decided to test this type of e-mail promotion because Kids Stuff had previously used an expediting service to mail catalogs within a few days of when the request was made and that service was not cost-effective.


The campaign has not been a total loss for Kids Stuff.


"At least [we] responded to [requesters], and now they're looking forward to getting [our] book," Krise said.


She is not swearing off the use of third-party request services, however. "There may be other ways to qualify some of these leads by running them through our model," she said. "But I think the purpose of using such a wide net to get all these free requests in isn't necessarily the best method."


The marketer has been e-mailing customers since October on a weekly basis.


Kids Stuff, which began in 1978 in the basement of the home of founders William and Jeanne Miller, mails three catalog titles: The Natural Baby Catalog, a natural-fiber clothing, furniture and toys catalog; child-safety products catalog Perfectly Safe; and Jeannie's Kids Club, which sells discounted merchandise to members for an annual fee. The company also sells shoes for children on its 1-year-old Web site, www.kidsstuff.com, under its LittleFeet section.


This year, Kids Stuff plans to mail 8 million books across its titles. The books are designed inhouse with the help of an outside graphic designer. The company produces two main books for each title for the spring/summer and fall/winter seasons and mails about once a month.


The company, which expects to generate $17 million in sales this year, focuses most of its prospecting efforts on Natural Baby and Perfectly Safe. Walter Karl Inc., Pearl River, NY, handles list brokerage for the cataloger. Kids Stuff's target demographic is new mothers -- predominantly first-time mothers -- who are well-educated Internet users and have a high household income.


Average order size is $70 for Natural Baby, $76 for Perfectly Safe and $85 for Jeannie's Kids Club. Average order size is lower online. Thirty percent of the company's orders are generated online, and 85 percent to 90 percent of those orders are catalog-driven.


Kids Stuff handles its own fulfillment, and Danner Press, Canton, OH, prints the Kids Stuff books. The company also operates an outlet store in Canton, used mainly to liquidate discontinued merchandise.


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