How Are You Staying In Contact With Regular Buyers?

Direct Marketers must determine how their brand remains relevant to regular buyers, instead of just continuing previously successful methods to stimulate interest. In the past, regular mailings of a multi-page catalog with very few changes brought a reasonable response rate. Today, communication devices are changing the landscape of how shoppers connect with marketers and their products. Many marketers have moved to email marketing as a way to keep their brand and products in front of busy consumer buyers. But direct mail remains a very strong influence that should not be discounted.

“Customer behavior is evolving more rapidly than retailer behavior,” says Lou Weiss of The Vitamin Shoppe. “The proliferation of technologies gives consumers the opportunity to change how they interact with retailers. The consumer is getting further away from us everyday. They may not be able to hear us. That’s not a comfortable place for a retail marketer to be.”

It has been said printed direct mail pieces arriving in the mailbox bring greater effectiveness by actually placing a well-designed piece into the hands of the consumer. Marketer printed materials have better odds of being viewed. Consumers are constantly bombarded with emails and have become desensitized and conditioned to eliminate them before even opening them.

The reduced direct mail volume of late means a printed piece has less competition for attention in the daily mail pile. It is not necessary to mail multiple catalog pages, secured by three wafer seals to gain consumer attention. Rather, it is necessary to reach these consumers many times throughout the year, keeping your brand in front of them. Direct mail accomplishes this the way it always did. Finding a less expensive way to communicate through direct mail is something worth considering.

Combining direct mail efforts with the interactivity of the website experience with video, chat, QR codes, promotions, and special discounts are all necessary in this evolving market.

Less is More

Marketers have come to understand that they can get more bang for their buck by sending out a condensed version of their catalog that focuses on driving consumers to the website.

This condensed version, known as the Slim-Jim, worked well until recently. The cost for this multi-page option continues to grow due to the rising cost of paper. Additionally, the USPS requirement to affix three wafer seals around the ends and face of the book makes opening the catalog a consumer challenge. Some studies have documented a reduced response rate of up to 25% resulting from the wafer seal intrusion.

B & W Press saw the growing concern over increased postal rates and paper costs in the direct marketing industry.

As a result, we responded with our modified version of the Slim-Jim catalog. Our creation, the Mini “Slim”™ Catalog was appropriately trademarked to serve as a Mini version of the Slim-Jim, offering in-line print finishing, with ink-jet & mailing services at significantly reduced costs. The unique folded page format feature allows the Mini “Slim”™ to mail with easy-opening fugitive spot tacks.

So how do we introduce this innovative product and grow its use when our potential clients ask us for some hard data about response rate? That’s the challenge for sure, but we can report a trend that has developed in the past 2 years. 90% of our current Mini “Slim”™ customers repeat and grow their mailings.

A regular business-to-business catalog client confirms a consistent 4% response rate with regular mail drops of 150M-to-250M every two weeks. The Mini “Slim™” Catalog is out performing their regular full-size catalog 8-to-1.

This points to a significant success ratio with regards to response. Sure, there have been a few poorly designed catalogs, failing to show the right products to stimulate web traffic. But those marketers learn to cross-promote their print catalog, website, and other channels. They tweak their next runs, adding promotional discounts, or other premiums to improve the ROI.

Now is the time to consider the Mini “Slim™” Catalog. Reach your consumers and drive online sales with this product at 2 ½ times less the cost of a full size catalog.

Comparing the Mini “Slim” Catalog Costs to Other Direct Mail Options

There is no question these are turbulent economic times in direct marketing, and everyone is seeking any new best way to drive sales. Since the phrase “Multi-Channel-Marketing” was first adopted, direct marketers have been seeking the most cost effective means of driving web traffic.

Some marketers have changed strategy in recent years, and committed all of their marketing efforts to a single web e-commerce approach, eliminating all of their direct mail expenses. On the surface they are saving marketing dollars, but how effective has the result of exclusively web marketing to their web site been?

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum, where the direct marketer is following the old-school cataloger model, used in earlier more successful times. A full size multi-page catalog, designed to showcase a great deal of their merchandise, mailed out on a regular repeating cycle. These old-school folks built a great house list of repeat buyers, when it was cost effective to print and mail larger page counts. In those days they could afford to prospect heavily to increase the house list. Given today’s increase in paper costs and postage, it’s difficult to remain profitable following this older marketing model.

Some catalog strategists have suggested mailing the multi-page catalog, actually works against the buying pattern of today’s customers. They believe today’s customers are going to buy online, regardless of a catalog being received at their home or not. Sounds good, right? But what is going to spark the interest in the marketer’s web site and motivate the consumer to log-in to take a look at the latest and greatest product offerings? If direct mail is a necessary channel, what direct mail components provide the best options?

A typical Slim Jim catalog, {size approximately 6” x 10 1/8”- 32 pages}, or a typical Full Size catalog {size approximately 8” x 10 1/8”- 24 pages}, offer 1,944 square inches respectively. These catalog standards have been effective direct mail marketing options available to the industry for years. {See the comparison chart below for costs}. The page count allows the marketer a good representation of products, but due to the vast number of SKU’s they may offer, most marketers only place a sampling of what’s available in their catalog. Today, the ultimate goal is to drive consumers to the company web site, where expanded product descriptions, size charts, video presentations, etc. etc. reside. Most marketers seek the client email addresses for follow-up contact on the internet.

A more up-to-date contact strategy might include a ‘postcard’ mailer with a specific ‘hot product-or- two’, designed to motivate the consumer to log-on-to-the-web site, between catalog mailings. This strategy seems simple enough; we run a very inexpensive printed piece, and mail it out at the cost of a standard letter, hoping we ‘stimulate the market’. How effective are postcards? They must work satisfactorily & cost efficiently, because we see these oversized postcards repeating in our in-coming mail all the time.

The standard oversized postcard, {typically a 10.5” x 6” flat mail piece} offers one full, and one partial, surface for product placement. If it is designed correctly there’s an offer, and a call-to-action, with a deadline of some sort, inviting the recipient to log onto the web site. Strategists suggest a postcard campaign should supplement, but never be intended to eliminate a catalog.

Is there any room for improvement?

The Mini “Slim”™ Catalog Mailer, B & W Press’s alternative mail piece, is a 10 page, spine pasted catalog. The ‘Mini’ was specifically developed to serve as an alternate direct mail piece, targeted to your consumer base of customers, and priced competitively to economically reach prospective customers. The Mini’s 10-page format, allows you show your best sellers from several of your product categories. An optionally designed Mini “Slim” Catalog with attached order form and BRE works as a stand alone, all-in-one product showcase with attached ordering device. The construction formats available for viewing at are uniquely folded with fugitive spot tack closure, qualifying for mail entry at the ‘standard letter rate’. {no wafer seals needed-ever!}

The chart below shows comparative all-inclusive costs of a few options;

*Information regarding costs for Postcard, Slim Jim, Full-Sized Catalog obtained from “Retail Online Integration”-August 2010 issue. The title of the article is “Print-Plus: Are Postcard Mailings Effective?” written by Steve Lett of Lett Direct, Inc.

*  09-08-2010


Mini “Slim” tm


Full-Size Catalog

Qty Mailed:





Selling Space:

1.75 surfaces

10 Pages

32 Pages

48 Pages

$ Printing/Paper:





$ Postage:





$ Mailing Service:





Cost per Piece:





Total Cost:





Think of the Mini “Slim”™ Catalog as an over-sized postcard, with 10 pages of product to encourage the consumer visit to your web site. The typical ‘testing’ requirement can be waived, as we already know the over-sized postcard works.

The Mini “Slim”™ Catalog option provides 10 full pages with three spreads to showcase your products. The Mini offers the ability to create a targeted catalog version inexpensively so you can mail specific seasonal items to specific best customer lists, or for prospecting purposes. While the paper and production costs are a bit higher than the postcard, the POSTAL cost is the same. In the coming months we will be discussing the impact of this new direct mail option.