Mini-Catalog Heads South With Versions in Spanish, Portuguese

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A company's mini-catalog campaign saw enough success last year selling surface measurement equipment in the United States to use the same format to target Central and South America this spring, though it changed the language to suit the various countries.


BYK-Gardner USA, which sells equipment to measure color value and density of ink, paint and plastic used in manufacturing processes, printed 16,000 mini-catalogs in Spanish and 15,000 in Portuguese. The 7-by-5 1/4, 24-page catalogs were polybagged with trade journals and mailed in April and May to Central and South America.


Expectations match what was achieved with staggered drops last fall in a much larger effort to a similar audience in the United States. The domestic campaign has achieved a 1 percent response so far, placing it above the break-even level. And with anticipated sales in the pipeline and a sales cycle ranging from six months to two years, the final U.S. response is expected to reach 2 percent.


"This was a great way to keep in touch with active customers and generate sales of new products, but both campaigns were primarily prospecting efforts," said Michael Gogoel, vice president and general manager for BYK, Columbia, MD. "It's a characteristic of the business that most customers are not repeat customers. They might buy a piece of equipment once every five or 10 years. We must keep in front of them often enough so that they will think of us when they are ready to buy."


Circulation for the U.S. effort totaled 550,000: 225,000 placed in card decks; 250,000 inserted into trade journals; 25,000 mailed with a letter to active buyers on the company's house file; and 50,000 mailed to inactive buyers on the house file. Inactive buyers were those who had not made a purchase in the previous year. The letter to them began, "Dear Valued Customer: We've missed you!"


Targets were the same for the U.S.-based, Spanish- and Portuguese-language versions: quality control and research and development personnel, including automotive and appliance companies and furniture manufacturers.


"Card decks are not as popular in Central and South America," Gogoel said. "For the card decks we used in the U.S., we went to major trade journals that produce card decks. It's a cost-effective way to get to our audience. They fold the mini-catalogs in half so they appear to be the same size as a typical card, and they are guaranteed to be put as the first piece in the card decks. The mini-catalog falls out of the deck and dominates the deck since everything else is just postcard-sized pieces."


Card decks were used in 11 publications including Quality Magazine, Modern Plastics and Industrial Paint and Powder.


Cost considerations were paramount when the mini-catalog format was selected, especially since direct mail is much more expensive than card decks.


"We found it to be a cost-effective alternative to sending our main 330-page catalog to our whole file," Gogoel said.


Per-piece expense for the mini-catalogs -- created by Web Direct Marketing Inc., Wheeling, IL -- totaled 20 cents to 60 cents compared with $3 for the main book. Production and printing cost 9 cents for each mini-catalog, with another 10 to 50 cents for insertion, depending on whether card decks or magazines were used. The mini-catalogs contained 50 to 60 items and had an average price point between $4,000 and $5,000.


"They translated it for us, and we monitored the translation because the translation needed review to ensure its accuracy," Web Direct president Vernon L. Carson said. "We brought in people who are translators -- one to handle Portuguese and one for Spanish -- to make a judgment, and we sent it back for a final approval. They have a master catalog, but no one has ever translated that into a mini-catalog for them for any targeted marketing effort. It was a bold investment that's paid dividends."


Production and printing for the main book cost $1.20 apiece, but total cost rises to $3 when postage is added.


An information request form not only mentions visiting bykgardner.com, it asks recipients to mail or fax the form that inquires about instruments they are interested in. The telephone or fax order options are noted on the bottom of the cover. The call center in Maryland is staffed by 10 people. Calls placed via the number printed at the bottom of the Spanish- and Portuguese-language books are handled at BYK's office in South America.


"We don't expect them to buy out of the book since many items require a technical explanation," Gogoel said. "Leads are generated through the call center, and those who are interested can have a salesperson visit their site."


The U.S. effort is generating an average of one item per order. Results from the Spanish and Portuguese books have not been totaled, though a similar result is expected. Prices in the Spanish and Portuguese books are shown in U.S. dollars.


Response rates for the U.S. effort included: active customers via direct mail, 4.5 percent; inactive customers by direct mail, 0.7 percent; trade journal inserts, 0.3 percent; and card decks, 0.3 percent.


"The card decks and inserts allow us to hit a lot more people at a lot lower price than direct mail, giving us roughly an equivalent cost per lead or sale," Gogoel said.


Total cost of the books, including production and distribution, that were printed in all three languages was $250,000.


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