Window of opportunity

As one of the leading brands of bras for nursing mothers, Bravado Designs knows it has only a small window in a wom­an’s life to sell its products.

“Often women make the decision to breast-feed very early in their pregnancies,” explains Alina Szober, marketing manager at Bravado. “But they won’t buy a nursing bra until their non-pregnancy bras no longer fit or until the few weeks before their baby is born.”

To drive sales through its Web site and its bricks-and-mortar retail partners, the Toronto-based company relies almost exclusively on direct marketing and word-of-mouth pro­grams to quickly develop a relation­ship with its target audience. “We need that woman to go from brand awareness to brand evangelism in a big hurry,” Szober says. “We deliver messages so when that woman goes into a retail store, she asks for our product by name.”

The more information, the better

For Bravado, that means develop­ing and managing a targeted list of pregnant women and also making sure they have as much information as possible, including geographic location and the baby’s due date.

“I can focus on education and relationship building during the first two trimesters,” says Szober. “By the time she needs a nursing bra, she has developed a lot of trust in our site.”

Each year about 4 million babies are born in the US, which means at any time there are millions of preg­nant women seeking information and support. “That need for knowledge definitely works to our benefit,” notes Szober.

Though it occasionally buys lists, Bravado prefers to build and manage its list internally, using a combina­tion of targeted content, sweepstakes, giveaways and outreach to get women to go to its site and opt in for more information.

“By using our own content to build an internal list, we offer relevant infor­mation at each critical juncture,” she adds. “Our list grows exponentially because there’s something of value.”

However, she cautions, the key is realizing that not every pregnant woman needs to be included in a list of expectant moms. Some are too far down the socio-economic ladder to warrant a direct marketing effort, while second-time mothers are more confi­dent and seek out less information.

For first-time moms, the market­ing mantra tends to be “first in, first win,” says Tina MacNicholl, president of the Catamount Group, a direct-response company which merged in 2006 with Morex and its BabyToBee prenatal marketing Web site, which works with leading brands to craft e-mail and direct mail campaigns. She adds that the battle to be that primary source of information can be fierce: “New lists are launched in the pre-natal arena fairly regularly.”

Though her list generation is 100% Web-based, MacNicholl stresses the importance of using multichannel marketing to get offers to pregnant women, including phone calls, solo e-mails and traditional mail. “It’s really about maximizing the use of the list and its information,” she explains.

Updating and cleaning lists is key

BabyCenter is an online, indepen­dent Johnson & Johnson subsidiary that has a popular week-by-week baby development calendar that pregnant women can opt in to re­ceive, which has helped the site build a large database. L. Jasmine Kim, SVP and media group gen­eral manager for the site, stresses getting a list together is only half the battle; marketers must diligent­ly manage the names and informa­tion they have gathered.

“We update our list every day, not just with new users, but with women moving from one trimester to the next,” Kim says. “We also clean our list daily, checking it against post office information and noting which e-mails bounce back.”

Because pregnancy is considered a health condition, it is subject to both HIPAA regulations and state privacy laws protecting medical information. That unique issue, and the fact that these sites are protective of their audi­ence relationship, means that they rarely rent opt-in lists of pregnant women to other marketers. Instead, sites such as BabyCenter partner with other brands to create and deliver brand messages and offers.

But Kim points out that a targeted list of pregnant women can be of value to a range of brands, includ­ing financial firms, pharmaceuticals and even auto manufacturers.

Szober says, however, that for a brand to become a trusted source, the messages it provides must be authentic. “With a lot of direct mail, it’s about the short-term goal of a sale,” she says. “But our objective is to provide more than information on nursing bras — we want to bol­ster the self-esteem of moms during pregnancy and childbirth.”

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