Focus on Hospital Sales Puts Medical Products Cataloger in the Pink

A 20 percent reduction in catalog circulation is paying off for a business-to-business marketer of medical products.

Health Care Logistics Inc., Circleville, OH, reduced its circulation from 70,000 mailed for its 2003 catalog to 56,000 this year as it eliminated more than 18,000 independent pharmacies to focus on its core target — pharmacies, purchasing directors and nursing services departments, all of which are located in hospitals.

“We were sending it to independent pharmacists, who are no longer getting it,” said Scott Ottenweller, the company's director of marketing. “We now focus on them separately with a retail catalog that is geared to chain drug stores. They didn't have a need for the majority of products in the main catalog. That includes primarily the front-end retail products like First Aid, which has been reduced in the main catalog. They now get a smaller book.”

The company had budgeted for an average order this year of $177. The total thus far for the annual catalog that mailed in mid-November is $189.

“We like to mail it before our annual trade show, the American Society of Health System Pharmacists, which took place in early December in New Orleans,” Ottenweller said. “It's a huge show for us.”

Also, company sales are tracking 14 percent ahead of last year's pace. Most of its revenue is generated during the January-February period, when hospital budgets drive sales.

Perhaps the catalog's most noticeable characteristic is the use of whimsical cover themes. The current catalog is officially known as the “2004 Cata Miranda Catalog.” The cover features a cat wearing the Carmen Miranda-inspired fruit-basket headdress. Last year's “2003 Duck Hunter Catalog” cover used a cigar-smoking duck dressed in an orange jacket that contained the words, “I hunt HCL Rubber Chickens.” The duck held a net with chickens in it.

“The cover theme has to do with the idea that medical products are boring, basic and mundane,” Ottenweller said. “The idea was to get something crazy, funny and stupid on the cover so you just don't throw it away. It's a standard feature.”

Price breaks are provided for many items based on the quantity ordered. The catalog's average price per item is up 4 percent.

“Amazingly, we haven't had any resistance to the increased price points,” he said. “We had been keeping pricing consistent for about four years.”

Prices range from 10 cents for a divider used in a dispenser to $3,400 for the Exakt 50 Ointment Mill. Hot selling items include the Quiet Crusher ($50 for one to four units), Daschner bin liners, narcotic cabinets, HCL Super Tough Bins and HCL Security Seals, which are used for crash cart boxes and drug cases.

The current book targeted 14,000 prospects that included professionals selected from a hospital database, the same one that was used for the 2003 catalog.

“It's the Hospital Blue Book, which is a pretty effective list,” he said. “It has individual names, which is a far more effective way to target the market as opposed to sending it to a general hospital department.”

The house file targeted by the book increased this year to 42,000 from 37,000. Along with the hospital departments, the catalog also is mailed to correctional facilities, nursing homes, wholesalers, home health agencies, EMS agencies and pharmacies servicing nursing homes.

Ottenweller said the most noticeable difference in the current book is the use of larger photographs.

“The picture is what sells the product,” he said. “They like to know the exact details of the products. Seeing it in action and providing a sense of where and how it's being applied is a good visual.”

The page count was reduced to 656 pages this year compared with the previous year's 688. The SKU total has remained constant at 5,600, including 1,000 new products.

Also constant is the use of the opening page for two listings of contents — by page order and alphabetical order — along with indices in the back of the book done alphabetically and by item number.

Five percent of the book's sales are generated via e-mail with the Web site ( producing 15 percent along with an additional 5 percent through the company's toll-free fax number. The balance is via phone orders.

Online orders are up 60 percent from a year ago, as the percentage of orders called in has correspondingly dropped from 80 percent.

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