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*Grainger, 5 Partners Set to Market Mega BTB Site

When industrial-parts direct marketer W.W. Grainger Inc. launches its mega-site OrderZone (www.orderzone.com) on May 15, the initial marketing push will focus on the customer databases of Grainger and the five other firms involved in the venture.

“This is not consumer marketing like Amazon.com or Priceline.com where you've got William Shatner reaching millions of people. This is business-to-business,” said Daniel Hamburger, president of Internet commerce at Grainger, Chicago. “You have to take the approach that is most leveraged.”

Grainger is currently sifting through the six firms' databases to find business that are customers of two or more of the companies involved in OrderZone — which Hamburger estimated will number in the hundreds of thousands — and plans to mail them solo direct mail pieces to drive them to the site.

Grainger's five partners in OrderZone are Cintas Corp., Cincinnati; Corporate Express Inc., Boulder, CO; Lab Safety Supply, Janesville, WI; Marshall Industries, El Monte, CA; and VWR Scientific Products, West Chester, PA.

Altogether, the six firms have 5 million business customers. The initial marketing push for OrderZone will include some 5 million mail pieces and several hundred million banner ad impressions overall. Grainger has put up all of OrderZone's $10 million budget, the bulk of which will be spent through the mail selling customers of the six companies on the benefits of ordering from a single site.

Grainger also has begun inserting package and invoice stuffers promoting OrderZone. Hamburger estimated the company ships about 100,000 packages per day. Also, Grainger's customers will begin seeing advertising for OrderZone in their June catalogs.

Hamburger added that to put OrderZone in perspective, it's important to understand how numbers differ between BTB and consumer marketing. For example business' average order sizes are much larger.

“Five million [customers] may not sound that sexy, but we have customers who spend $50,000 a year with us. Our largest customer spent $500,000 on Grainger.com last year. That's one customer as opposed to a consumer who bought a book for $20.”

Grainger's average order size online is between $200 and $250, or twice its print catalog average order size, said Hamburger.

Branding also will be part of Grainger's strategy.

“We are pursuing a multidimensional advertising strategy with direct and database marketing as the anchor, but it starts with general advertising and PR because with OrderZone by Grainger, we're establishing a new brand,” said Hamburger.

Indeed, Grainger has signed a portal deal of unspecified financial terms for space in Netscape's NetCenter (www.netcenter.com).

“They are the clear leader in the business portal area,” said Hamburger. Under the deal, OrderZone will be promoted throughout NetCenter including the site's business channels, its 'What's New' area and through text links in advertorials. “This is not just a banner ad buy. This is a sponsorship deal, and you'll see the volume turned up in a major way when we launch,” said Hamburger.

The company also is training call center employees to pitch the site. Grainger's call centers process 250,000 calls a day, estimated Hamburger. Grainger also is supplying its partner companies with collateral for their outside sales forces.

The Web site is being tested with 25 to 30 customers. When the site launches, the customer service application will be set up for use by call center representatives, giving agents access to each customer's total account history, and by January of next year the company plans to expand the use of the application to personalize the experience for customers. Upon visiting the site and entering a login, customers also will be able to access their total account history to aid them in navigating the site.

Last year, Grainger reported $4.3 billion in sales.

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