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DM News' Essential Guide to Lists and Databases: Fitting Insert Media Into Your Marketing Mix

Most marketers still based last year’s efforts on mailing lists and space ads, and e-mail and the Web are certainly compelling. So how do you fit insert media into the mix?

The first step is obvious. Schedule a test. Be sure to test at the right time of year (during your strongest response season). Use a qualified broker who has knowledge of the marketplace. Next, ensure you use as a control piece an insert that draws sufficient response to be statistically viable. Don’t re-create the wheel. Use creative that you previously used successfully.

Also, use enough insert programs to amortize the expected variables in response rates. Usually 15 programs will tell you enough to determine the next steps. Start with large-volume insert programs because your statistically reliable test will be distributed more quickly the greater the volume of the distributor.

Whatever you do, try not to project from too few insert programs. Wide disparities exist in the volume, frequency of distribution and response rates, and using too few programs will bias your results and affect your potential.

Now that test results are in, you can start to manipulate the medium. For example, you will have response rates to let you determine your breakeven point and what price you can pay for distributions to bring a profit. Insert media is a highly negotiated medium that requires skills and timing that your broker provides based on his or her knowledge of the medium.

You also know which types of insert programs show promise, so it’s time to reconfirm your expectations and also dig a little deeper into the programs currently available. There are more than 1,600 insert programs ranging from package inserts through statements, co-ops, ride-alongs, catalog blow-ins and bind-ins, sampling packages and every conceivable venue for your product.

Your final step is to expand and exploit the medium. Just as you use mailing lists or space ads directed to your marketplace, inserts will reach your market. When you have an insert piece that shows signs of life, you are at the point where you are not only having fun, you are making a profit on a new medium.

Your broker can negotiate prices based on volume (and your printing prices obviously come down on volume) and you can see what else is available in the market. In effect, you are going back to stage two and testing another group of insert programs while you expand and exploit the volume available.

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