Branders.com is one of the most aggressively growing B-to-B ecommerce sites serving marketers on the Web. We called Larry Lunetta, Branders.com General Manager Web Products & Services, to find out what he's learned about marketing to marketers since the site launched almost a year ago.
Q: We admit it, we love your site because it's a fun tool. We like being able to see what our logo would look like on stuff.
Lunetta: Lots of ad agencies are using our site even before they've locked down logos for clients. They use our tool to show clients the suggested logo in various circumstances. How it looks when you change from multicolor to black, etc. Don't get us wrong, we want them to buy promotional products from us too! We figure one will follow the other.
Q: You came from the Silicon Valley software marketing industry. How is marketing tchotchkes to marketers different from your old job?
Lunetta: It's a very ubiquitous product -- 92% of all businesses use promotional products at least once a year. But this market is like the proverbial "herding of cats." There isn't one magazine that everyone in sales and marketing reads. In the high tech biz, once you got ads into the big high tech bibles you were done. They had a million-plus circ and you reached everyone. To reach marketers you have to use a lot of different techniques, some which are still in experimentation mode from a reach and ROI perspective. So we've done a fair amount of direct marketing -- snail mail, email and banners with strong offers.
Q: What do you think about the seminars a lot of companies aiming at marketers are using?
Lunetta: I've used them in the past. Unless your average order is punching five-six digits I don't see that as a productive use of resources. Yes, it's very fun to say, "Wow! We'll be in 17 cities in the next few weeks." But, we actually had a person attend a seminar of this type, and she was the only one who showed up. I'm sure in the conference room it sounded like "we'll get tons of qualified leads to eat our danish" but marketers are too busy for this.
Q: What about Webcasting?
Lunetta: I've been on the phone more than once trying to attend one, asking "which URL and I supposed to be on?" I think it's going to get better. It's not a bad surrogate for seminars but still has a ways to go. The problem is you end up doing PowerPoint presentations because you can't get the bandwidth to do realtime video. You start to compromise the content.
Q: Lots of people are using white papers to impress marketers. What do you think about going that route?
Lunetta: We're doing "The Guide to Buying of Promotional Products" and I like it a lot. It's genuinely useful to people. People doing white papers have to realize not everybody's a geek. We sit in Silicon Valley and sometimes I think we make the wrong assumption about the rest of the world -- how comfortable they are with technology.
Q: We know you've tested print ads because we've seen them in a lot of places. How's that worked out?
Lunetta: I used to get such fantactic reach in core PC books. You pay for it, but you get the comfort of getting all of the audience at once. That's not the case for Branders.com. We have to use more of a variety of publications for ads. They're all focused on sales and marketing professionals and exhibition professionals. The challenge is the reach. The circulations aren't nearly what you'd like to see to get the word out.
Q: How about email newsletters?
Lunetta: We do use a number of electronic newsletters. We prefer to sponsor the self-help guides, the tangible "how I can do my job better?" titles like MarketingSherpa's. Our ads are short and to the point with an offer to make them more attractive. Our "buy and get a scooter" promotion was a hoot! A lot of times people would say, "If I give you three $500 orders can I get three scooters?" So it's not necessarily dollars off that works, sometimes it's just something fun.
Q: Your site does an email newsletter of its own, how's that working?
Lunetta: Our "See Before You Buy" newsletter has a 53% open- rate and only a .04% unsubscribe rate, so we believe we have a very good formula.
Q: 53% open rate?! That's about double the industry average!
Lunetta: We're very sensitive to spamming or the perception of spamming so we use opt-in (not opt-out) as a method to make sure people get what they want. We keep the newsletters very short and focused. We've found these are busy people, so we help them cut through the clutter of the day.
Each issue will fit on a single screen. They're very graphics oriented with only a small amount of text explaining what the picture is. We send them out every two-four weeks depending on what season it is. In the spirit of efficient messaging we try to keep them as focused as possible -- we do a separate newsletter for each idea or type of product.
Q: Lots of our readers are themselves looking to buy tchotchkes that can help them stand out in the marketplace. What's coming up, what are the trends we should expect to be seeing?
Lunetta: It's the eternal question - how can I stand out? Uniqueness dials up as one of the key buying behaviors. We have a group of merchandisers chartered to find unique products on an ongoing basis.
The things that worked best recently for high tech marketers have been the cell phone couch in the shape of a miniature lounger (people loved that, it's fun) and the translucent desk sweeper that's shaped like a VW Bug.
Anything translucent now is hot. The promotional market used to be in its own world, but now it's influenced by retail. Retail is all translucent these days -- it's being driven by the iMac. You'll see lots of mundane products all being cast as translucent -- pens, calculators, etc. And they're in all the iMac-type colors, tangerine, lime, and violet...
The other trend is promotional apparel designed for women. Until very recently inevitably all apparel was men's apparel. At @d:tech and other upcoming shows, I'd expect you'll see female booth staff better dressed than in the past.
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