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Tactics > customer recruitment The case for inserts By Jim Lewcock

Inserts can be a cost-effective means of recruiting new customers. Here’s how:


hese days, posting your recruitment catalogue to a

cold list of mail order buyers will cost a fair old whack. And once you have rinsed your “best matches” via the data pools, you might

still be left wanting. For more than 20 years, hundreds of mail order companies have found success using inserts—minicatalogues inserted into newspapers and magazines—to recruit customers in high volumes. No doubt hundreds more have also found failure through inserts too. So here are some tips to help you make inserts work harder than ever.

Serious Readers scaled down off-the- page to focus on inserts in niche titles


Inserts are for keeps Forget the perception that inserts fall out and go straight in the bin. In fact, we estimate that one insert is usually five to 20 times more responsive than an off-the- page advert in the same media. • One-stage or two-stage proposition? Almost always opt for one-stage, which is better value “per page” in advertising cost. Use the pagination/space to sell the products straight off the page with web and phone contact details and an order form. Consider two-stage when the product cost is more than £150. For example, posh reading lights seller Serious Readers converts well from brochure request insert advertising. • Get the print format right. The print cost can be up to 75 percent of your insert marketing spend, therefore its efficiency is vital. Use low pagination if you can sell your product with a single proposition, like online butcher Donald Russell does, or if you sell a specific product category such as garden seeds or vitamins. Use a higher pagination insert if you have a wide product range with broad appeal, such as homewares or apparel. Consider also size— large formats are generally better—and think economy on GSM. Paper is expensive so don’t get too fussy—the consumers aren’t. Opt for 51gsm to a maximum of 80gsm paper on high pagination inserts, and 80gsm to 115gsm on lower pagination. For two-stage inserts, print on 170gsm for a direct-reply coupon in the post. Yes, still about 70 percent of two-stage insert response can come via post. • Always offer a discount or a free gift. Test percentage discount versus cash discount versus free gift, then test what level of percentage or cash discount works. You can test numerous creatives within one insert campaign. Complete creative format changes should cost only £450 to £800 in extra print costs. • Use lots of titles. A test campaign of 500,000 inserts should include between eight and 10 different titles. Code change costs per title vary from £50 to £150 in mono plates. Don’t use a press specialist media agency; they plan inserts all wrong. You don’t start with the Daily Mail and Telegraph—most people who tried and failed to get inserts to work started and stopped in national press. • Love mailed media. Versus cold direct mail, an insert in mailed media won’t cost you a penny in list rental or postage—and mailed media responds two or three times better than media sold in shops. • Consider product despatch inserts. These hidden gems are harder to source—you won’t find them in Brad or Mediatel. But inserts in other companies’ product despatches allow you

Direct Commerce Catalogue e-business

Donald Russell uses inserts as a major customer recruitment driver

to reach proven active mail order buyers. And the response will usually top anything else on your insert media schedule. • Know the market media rates. Inserts have the biggest variance in media entry cost from client to client compared with any other channel. A tip is to check with fellow CatEx members or you might be paying £10 per thousand more than everyone else—that’s £10,000 on a 1 million insert schedule. • Be realistic about recruitment targets. Aim for breakeven or an allowable cost per name, or perhaps a small profit in the core media during high season. • When to insert? Excluding garden or gift categories, you should advertise all year round resting late November to end of December. Best testing months are typically September, October, January and February. • Swap inserts. You can build a small insert campaign swapping distributions or data with other, non-competing, mail order companies. • Make cash from inserts. Many companies accept inserts in their mailers or product despatch to generate additional income. In fact, some cataloguers’ operating profits and mailing schedules rely heavily on this extra insert income. Some of the brands that accept paid-for inserts in their customer mailers or product despatches include JD Williams, Scotts & Co, Shop Direct, Book People, Amazon, Play. com, Healthy Living Direct, Jolliman, Chums, Easylife, La Redoute, Damart, you get the picture.

This is not a niche industry; more than 10 billion inserts a year are being booked in the UK with mail order being the biggest volume sector—be part of the action, but do it right.

Jim Lewcock is managing director of The Insert House, and founder of The Specialist Works Group.

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