Inserts find favor with b-to-b firms

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Insert media is going mainstream in b-to-b as more marketers and direct marketing companies realize its value as a cost-effective way to expand their customer base.

Reflecting that growing awareness, the Direct Marketing Association last fall changed the name of its Alternate Response Media Council to the Insert Media Council. It also held its first-ever "Insert Day" in September in Rye Brook, N.Y.

Ad agencies such as True North are employing insert media to great effect for their b-to-b clients, and list managers are heeding the call by beefing up their service offerings on the b-to-b side.

American List Counsel announced in June it is centralizing most of its insert brokerage and management business within a single, dedicated unit based in its Valhalla, N.Y., office. Called ALC/Insert Media, the new unit is headed by Dean Barile, who was named managing partner. He was previously senior director of client management for insert media at ClientLogic.

Insert media falls under the direct mail umbrella and includes package inserts, bind-ins, blow-ins, ride-alongs and statement stuffers.

A major appeal is cost-efficiency because the marketing messages ride along with other products or media. "The primary reason [for its use] is that it is a less expensive way to deliver information into the hands of prospects than some other media," said M.H. "Mac" McIntosh, president of Mac McIntosh Inc., which specializes in b-to-b sales and marketing consulting. "To mail it in an envelope might cost you more than that, to buy it in ad pages might cost you more than that, and to distribute it at an event might cost you more than that."

Others agreed. "Any business will find insert media more cost-effective," said Diane Caruso, VP-insert media at Stanton Direct Marketing and co-chairwoman of the DMA’s Insert Media Council.

Inserts can generate good response rates. According to the DMA’s "2003 Response Rate Study," inserts garner an average 1.46% response rate, with an industry high of 5%.

McIntosh said b-to-b marketers would be wise to consider using insert media. "A lot of b-to-b marketers haven’t thought about it, and I think they should," he said. "It’s one more tool in the marketer’s tool kit for getting the message across, and it certainly needs to be considered."

Of his own clients, McIntosh said, "Those who have used it have had continued success and continue to do it."

Earlier this year, Thomas Industrial Network tapped True North to promote its Web site,, and Thomas Register Regional Buying Guides. True North put together a multimedia campaign that broke in March and included insert media.

A b-to-b marketer that got into the insert game early is Pitney Bowes, which launched its targeted insert media program to small businesses in 2001, as part of a larger integrated campaign that included direct mail, telemarketing and field sales. It sent out 1 million pieces of insert media in 2001 and boosted that to 12 million pieces in 2002, reaching 35 million last year. Its insert program includes marketing messages sent along with bill statements.

"Pitney found that inserts were the lowest cost but had the greatest return," Caruso said.

Walter Karl Inc. this spring began promoting its insert media programs based on the SBC Communications lists it manages. It can reach both business and residential customers in the U.S. through programs including the Business Statement Stuffer Program and the Ride-A-Long Program for Businesses.

Despite the potential opportunities that exist for b-to-b marketers through the use of insert media, some executives say it’s not for everyone. "With inserts, you can’t be as targeted," said Linda Callahan, senior VP at list company Leon Henry. She said, for example, that her company manages MCI’s b-to-b bills and the information that is known about those customers is too general and broad. "You know you’re going to a four line address that uses long distance," she said. "That’s just about [any company] of any size."

Callahan said offers have to be broad enough to go to targets that are not too specific. The larger b-to-b suppliers, she said, are the companies most likely to benefit from insert media. "Once you have to start pinpointing engineers and CEOs, it is going to be a lot more difficult," she said.

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