It doesn’t matter if your animal companion is a cat, dog, fish, hamster or iguana. All pet owners have something in common: They need stuff. Lots of stuff. Kibble, brushes, beds, habitrails, heartworm medicine, squeaky toys…the list goes on and on.
Doctors Foster and Smith is using DRTV to prospect for people who need that stuff. The Rhinelander, WI-based pet-supply cataloger has a revamped slate of 30- and 60-second spots set to roll out in January.
DRTV has been part of the company’s promotional strategy for more than three years, says Internet marketing and analysis manager Gordon Magee. The on-screen exposure has been a plus: Customers generated via television have performed just as well as those acquired through traditional catalog prospecting.
Wausau, WI-based Golden Icon created the DRTV spots the company is using through the end of this year. The new 2007 spots are being created by Saint Paul, MN-based Creative Images.
While he wouldn’t say much about the new round of commercials for fear of tipping off the competition, Magee did say they’ll inject a bit of humor into the DRTV formula that’s worked well in the past, stressing the ease and reliability of ordering from the good Doctors.
And yes, there really are Doctors Foster and Smith — “It’s not Betty Crocker,” says Magee. Brothers Dr. Race Foster and Dr. Rory Foster, along with Dr. Marty Smith, founded the catalog in 1983. (Rory passed away in 1987 from ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.)
In the past, some of the Doctors’ DRTV spots have offered things like $5-off coupons to entice response. Now, however, the focus is more on branding the company as an authoritative resource for pet supplies. Products aren’t sold directly on screen, but a URL and phone number are always featured.
This year’s spots were built primarily around women in the core 35- to 55-year-old demographic. One 30-second ad showed a woman sitting by a roaring fire with her faithful golden retriever, interspersed with shots of her using a laptop to order products for her canine friend.
Both an 800 number and a URL are featured in the spots, although, not surprisingly, the Web address now generates more response.
Using the Web to boost DRTV response is a growing trend, says Rick Sangerman, senior vice president for client services at Chicago agency A. Eicoff & Co., which worked with Doctors Foster and Smith media and tracking for its DRTV efforts. “It varies by client, but we have some that might get 70% of their responses online.”
When asked how the catalog was tracking the spots’ ROI, Magee notes that unlike many DRTV marketers, the company decided not to create a unique 800 number or URL for each commercial. Instead, it’s using the DRTV campaign to help brand two easy-to-remember phone numbers, 800-442-PETS and 877-442-PETS.
As for a Web site, the catalog opted to use a URL it already had but didn’t really promote, fosterandsmith.com. “That site had gotten minimal traffic, so we knew if there was a bump it would be from TV,” he says.
The company’s main site is drsfostersmith.com, which Magee admits can be hard for people to remember. Other URLs used include peteducation.com and etropicals.com.
The lifetime value of DRTV-generated buyers is similar to those acquired through catalog prospecting. “They’re putting in their second or third order at about the same rate,” says Magee, adding the average order for both was about $87. The data card for the company’s mailing list features more than 450,000 hotline buyers from the last three months and 1.19 million customers from the past 12 months.
Overall, Sangerman says, Web responders are younger. “What we’re seeing is that [marketers] are getting as good or better customers online as opposed to 800 numbers, in a demographic, psychographic and financial sense.”
Fifty-six percent of the company’s business is now online, a figure that as a raw statistic can be misleading because many people use the Web as a catalog-ordering mechanism, says Magee. And then there’s a smaller percentage who browse online and then order by phone.
The market for the company is broad, notes Magee, as over 60% of U.S. households own pets. The core demographic for Doctors Foster and Smith is women ages 35 to 55 who earn more than $50,000 a year. He expects that base to widen still, as the company heightens brand awareness for its multiple divisions: dog, cat, reptile, pond and live aquarium. In the latter, the good Doctors sell live fish and live coral raised domestically at the company’s northern Wisconsin headquarters.
“It’s a unique thing for us,” he says. “We have a coral farm that’s right outside my window, so in the middle of early October flurries, we have saltwater coral. Part of it is to keep the pressure off the natural coral reefs.”
To make that product more enticing, customers of the company’s LifeAquaria.com site can visit the Diver’s Den area and look at photos of actual coral available for purchase that day. This focus on the aquatic isn’t surprising: Fish are the company’s biggest segment after dogs and cats, and the sector is growing fast in popularity.
The company mails over 40 million catalogs annually, with multiple versions for divisions such as dog, cat, fish, live aquarium, pond, reptile, small animal, pharmacy, bird and wild bird. Besides DRTV, prospecting is done through list rentals. And while “catalog is still king,” the Internet is also a huge driver of new names, says Magee. Doctors Foster and Smith has done well with co-registration, paid and natural search and comparison shopping sites. Magee hopes the DRTV spots will boost brand recognition, so that even if prospects don’t respond instantly, when they receive a catalog or search a term like “dog beds” they’ll recall the television spot and think, “Oh, they’re national. I’ve heard of them. Let’s go take a look.”
DRTV is a big opportunity for catalog marketers that not only are looking to generate leads but want more accountability, agrees Sangerman. “And by doing a brand/direct response combo [in DRTV], marketers can drill down and get more media efficiencies because they measure station by station on the front end, as opposed to doing a general ad buy. That’s attractive to people.”
Magee believes the company is fortunate in that sales pretty much hold steady from quarter to quarter.
“Of course, in the last week of December the bottom drops out of a business like ours since consumers are otherwise occupied,” says Magee, who in the past has owned Labradors and golden retrievers but currently has no pets of his own. “But we do see a spike after Thanksgiving and around the holidays.”