As Good Lists Wither, Inserts Bring Growth for Garden Tool Marketer

The increasing number of insert media programs on the market in recent years provided much-needed opportunities at a time traditional mailing list universes were down and new lists were hard to find, according to one longtime user of inserts.

“It seems like more than anything else, new insert media programs are being introduced to the market faster than, say, new lists coming into the market,” said Steven LePera, media director at Mantis, Southampton, PA. “Clearly, the biggest opportunity has been with insert programs.”

Insert media makes up one-third of direct marketing activities for Mantis, a 20-year-plus DMer of garden tools. Its control insert for the Mantis Tiller has been in use 10 years. The full-color insert is a lead-generation tool offering more information and a free video about the product. Follow-up mailings are done to make the sale.

Mantis' insert mailing period starts right after Christmas and continues through early April.

“We will do other things in the balance of the year, but that is our primary season,” LePera said.

Mantis uses several types of insert media, including package inserts, card packs, bind-ins, blow-ins, statement stuffers, ride-alongs and cooperative mailings. The company also uses solo direct mail to rented lists, space advertising, television and banner advertising online.

Perhaps the biggest challenge Mantis faces is the specialized nature of its offers.

“It's a challenge because not everyone is a gardener, and there are only a finite number of lists or programs targeting gardeners specifically,” LePera said.

However, he considers inserts to have an edge over other types of direct marketing for a few reasons based largely on cost.

“Anytime you do a solo mailing you're already talking about several hundred dollars per thousand,” he said. “The average package insert program has about a $60/M base price listed on its data card, and they are negotiable.”

The low cost of insert media also lets Mantis do deeper testing than it could in traditional list rental mailings.

Mantis sticks to targeted gardening or do-it-yourself-type lists for solo mailings because that's what works. When using inserts, it has been able to stray from its target market with some good results.

“As you get a little further from our core market, it gets a lot harder very quickly to make lists work,” LePera said. “With insert media, the cost efficiencies allow us to prospect a little further out from that core business successfully, which makes them really viable for us. You can't do the segmentation that you can do with list rental, but from a cost standpoint you can live without being that fussy.”

Mantis is in some programs that wouldn't seem like a fit but they work, he added, declining to name them.

Rollout potential is another appeal of inserts.

“So many programs offer big numbers that you almost have to test them,” he said.

Though Mantis has used insert media for the majority of its time in business, its use of the medium rises each year. It currently sends tens of millions of inserts annually, he said. And though a relatively small number of those millions of cards comes back and an even smaller number makes a purchase, “the economics work.”

Of all the types of insert programs, LePera said, package inserts do best in terms of response, though he declined to cite figures.

“For us, package inserts are best,” he said, “probably because the people who receive them have recently made a mail-order purchase.”

Still, new and innovative program types have come along in recent years. One such program is a variation of a ride-along called an onsert program.

“Onserts are inserts that ride-along with magazines that have no internal advertising,” LePera said. “The piece has about 25 percent editorial copy from the publisher of the magazine on the insert itself.”

And Mantis is testing a program in which its ad is printed on the back of ATM receipts at specific banks. Though he wouldn't bet the rent on the program, LePera said he thought it was worth a test.

Mantis uses Leon Henry Inc., Scarsdale, NY, and 21st Century Marketing, Farmingdale, NY, as its insert brokerage firms.

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