Hello Direct Gives Winter Books a Makeover

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Business-to-business headset and telephone equipment cataloger Hello Direct made changes in its Winter catalogs this year to give the books a cleaner look that was easier to read.


"We had a very dense book in the past and we reduced the space for many of our products," said creative director Greg Burke. "We reduced the quantity of copy opportunities, making it easier for the eye to scan, and we've gone to a consistent format for the price boxes. And our font uses tended to vary too much last year."


Burke discussed the significance of organizing some key products that have been given greater visibility while others have been positioned as alternative products.


"With headsets, we would have given them equal opportunity, with two of the products placed on a particular spread," he said. "This time we let one dominate and turned the other into an alternate opportunity."


Due to a reclassification of corporate accounts, Hello Direct dropped 7.2 million Winter 2002 books, slightly less than the 7.6 million Winter 2001 catalogs dropped.


"Some didn't make sense to mail this year based on past buying," said Bob Faville, director of direct marketing at Hello Direct, San Jose, CA.


Unlike the Winter 2001 catalogs, this year's Winter books announce "43 NEW products inside! See page 3!" in the upper-left corner of the cover. As was the case last year, new items are identified as such throughout the catalogs.


"Our customers are early adopters of new products and technology, and it's important for them to know when we come out with new telecom products," Faville said.


What has not changed this year is the house file versus prospect mailing strategy, which calls for 34 percent of the books to be mailed to the house file while prospects receive the remaining 66 percent.


"We use an array of lists, including normal BTB compiled lists, responders, subscribers, and we also use Abacus," said Faville, whose company produces catalogs quarterly. "We mail our highest percentage of prospects in the Winter catalog. We can acquire in Quarter One and get a return on that throughout the year."


Also remaining unchanged is the page count of 60.


"We tested a 24-page prospect catalog last year in Quarter Three and a 48-page prospect catalog in the fourth quarter of last year," he said. "The 24-page did not work. The 48-page did well and will be retested this year. Also, in previous years we spread ourselves too thin at over 100 pages.


"But at 60 pages it comes in under the 3.3-ounce weight for the mailing discount for piece weight versus pound weight."


Approximately 80 percent of the company's sales are made to businesses that range in size with between one and four employees up to 250-seat call centers.


The company is projecting an average order amount of more than $300, with the average units per order expected to be about two. Both totals would be unchanged from last year.


The anticipated response rate for the Winter 2002 catalogs is similar to last year's, which was more than 1 percent.


Faville said postal expenses compared to last year have increased 10 percent while the cost of paper, while not offsetting the upward trend in postal costs, has fallen 10 percent.


The company produces separate catalogs for its corporate accounts, house file and prospects each season using different covers while only certain pages within the books are changed.


"The 12-page cover, which includes the first six pages and the last six pages, can include different offers or can highlight different products based on the target audience," he said.


A different house file catalog is mailed each month while the corporate account and prospect books are created once each quarter.


However, the company this quarter is producing three versions of the prospect book, including one with a control cover featuring various products that has the highest circulation among the prospect catalogs. The prospect catalogs using a skeleton and scrunched head on the covers are test books.


The weekly mailing schedule for all of the catalogs started on Dec. 26. Drops through March 11 will take place for corporate account and prospect books. A second house file book begins mailing on Jan. 21 while the third starts going out on Feb. 18.


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