Tap Opportunities in Niche Markets

Insert media is no longer just an annual session at an industry trade show, it’s a reality for marketers.

Through the years, insert media has quietly blossomed into a $10 billion segment of the direct marketing industry. Big mailers know how to maximize this medium with print runs in the double- and triple-digit millions and reduced rates on media costs.

Mainstream mailers book high volumes with blanket purchase orders for the year, sometimes to beat out the competition. Small and large mailers both insert into niche market programs with lower volumes, less competition and targeted audiences.

Everyone in insert media knows of the cost effectiveness, especially compared with sending a solo piece. But what happens when programs are saturated and responses become lower over time?

Should creative be switched, low-performing programs eliminated or is it time to experiment with a novel approach? As Michael Feldstein, director of alternative media at Boardroom Inc., said in his session at this month’s DMD New York Conference, “the best programs often are not even on the market.”

What if mailers were presented with new insert opportunities with no competition, where they would be the only offer in the envelope, package, magazine or catalog. Would this lift response and help the overall campaign?

Entering from stage left, another level of insert media is available with “programs” not in the marketplace and created specifically for mailers’ needs. These unique opportunities, often smaller in quantity, are designed to generate new customers in niche markets. With only one advertiser, responses get the jolt needed for mailers to meet their overall campaign projections.

Unique insert programs have the same formats as the traditional ones with a few added benefits:

o Riding solo.

o Potential customers have not been exposed to other offers.

o Response rates tend to be higher.

o No clutter in the package, mailing, catalog or magazine.

o Offer perceived as added value.

Why would a company want to accept an insert piece from a direct response mailer? Start by mentioning all the well-known companies accepting inserts. If you are trying to get a cataloger to accept an insert piece, give them the short version of the increasing list of catalogers accepting blow-ins. When these companies realize they can generate incremental revenue by accepting inserts like the “big guys,” they may be more receptive to your offer. These companies may even prefer testing the effect on their customers and the ease of the insertion process.

Know your target audience and list the types of companies that match your profile. Come up with noncompetitive choices and then contact these companies one by one by phone.

These sources of untapped customers can be uncovered in various ways. The library has many catalogs providing contact information and relevant mailing history for direct marketers. Since these reference books are printed in advance, you may encounter a few disconnects while trying to find some diamonds in the rough. The Internet is another good source, but be cautious of Web sites that look like they were designed by an amateur. You need companies with sizable volume and traffic.

With smaller online companies, you may find good opportunities with newsletter sponsorships. Some of these companies will let mailers place a banner in exchange for product to be given away as a contest. Others may have small but targeted e-mail lists with extremely low advertising rates.

Learn to ask the key questions to determine whether the company is worth further discussion. Talk about the revenue a company can generate by accepting inserts, so it knows what’s in it for them. Explain that if the insertion gets a good response, the mailer will want to roll out, which can easily double revenue. Devise creative lines to get beyond the gatekeeper so your proposal is given to the owner or marketing director. Offer rates that make sense so the company immediately calculates a win-win situation. Always keep your mailers’ cost-per-thousand rates in mind when negotiating a deal. Explain how the pieces arrive in marked cartons and the ease in which they can be inserted, many times done by hand. Discuss a 30-day net payment plan and explain that some flexibility is needed to get checks in and turned around.

If you come up with a catalog company sending out regular mailings, rather than by request only, ask whether you can submit insert samples to its printer. Even if the owner or marketing director is interested in testing this concept, the printer ultimately will need to approve the piece based on size and weight. It’s easier working with a regular size catalog than the slim-jim style.

Niche magazines offer blow-in or tip-in opportunities. Avoid publications needing a page of advertising to accompany the inserts or rates higher than the mailer ordinarily would pay for a package insert. Subscriber copies deserve the same pricing as a package insert rather than a catalog blow-in. If the magazine is newsstand only, the rate should be lower.

Newspapers targeting the general or ethnic market often accept inserts to be blown in or hand inserted. They also have the flexibility of accepting an overweight piece.

You may want to start this process by sending an e-mail explaining the “program” in further detail. Then if interested, follow up by sending samples and additional information about insert media in general. With all the attention insert media is getting, it’s easy to send backup articles. Start building a rapport with your new contact.

It may take large companies years to realize that the incremental revenue is worth the effort or a tough economy to dictate the acceptance of inserts. Smaller companies usually make quicker decisions, but their volumes are usually lower.

All of this takes time, effort and tenacity, but in the end you have created unique insert media opportunities for mailers in uncluttered, targeted environments that can produce good, or even great, results.

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