Prepared Meals Dot-Com Enlists Catalog

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GreatMeals.com, a 1-year-old Web-based marketer offering prepared meals, mailed 100,000 catalogs on April 13 in its largest direct mail campaign so far.


The 24-page catalog contains photos of GreatMeals' 97 prepared main courses and side dishes. The main courses are packaged to feed two and typically cost around $12, while side dishes feed four and are priced at about $8.


The book's cover mentions a 20 percent discount and free shipping for orders exceeding $50 -- offers not available at the firm's Web site, www.greatmeals.com. The catalog has an order form that can be mailed and a toll-free number for GreatMeals' inhouse call center.


The campaign totaled $60,000, with creative done inhouse. Kathy Turley, director of marketing, said the company hopes the catalog generates orders from 1 percent of its recipients. She said the firm's average Web order is $90.


"We are targeting people like working mothers that are time-starved," Turley said. "People who have no time to cook, but still want a good meal."


GreatMeals, Bethesda, MD, used its inhouse customer list and rented a number of segmented lists. Names of people with direct marketing purchasing histories were sourced from catalogers such as Martha By Mail, Time Life Cooking and Williams-Sonoma. Magazine subscription lists from Bon Appetit, Wine Enthusiast and Working Mothers completed the prospect database.


People targeted were located within three days' delivery via ground service from a United Parcel Service hub near Richmond Cold Storage, Richmond, VA, the firm that prepares the meals and packs them in flash-frozen containers.


In addition to creating sales, the catalog was designed to drive people online and mentions GreatMeals' site on nearly every page. The campaign also is meant to brand the company against its chief competitors, HomeBistro.net and Alazing.com, a Web-based firm run by Omaha Steaks.


"We don't want to be thought of as a gifting or special occasions business," Turley said. "We want to be an every day type of service where people become accustomed to ordering, whether via the catalog or online, on a regular basis."


The company mailed a test catalog to a limited number of households in October, Turley said. However, she would not divulge results.


While other prepared-food Internet start-ups have had financial problems, Turley said GreatMeals is on solid ground. She attributed this to GreatMeals' lack of warehouse expenses since it outsources fulfillment.


The firm expects to send 100,000 catalogs to a new list of prospects in May, once again targeting households within three days' delivery of Richmond.


And while GreatMeals offers delivery anywhere in the United States, the firm plans to sign an agreement with a western U.S. food distribution company sometime in the next 12 months so it can start targeting the rest of the country with direct mail and other promotions.


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