Profile of Success: An Established Institution
• Securing better margins: For about the first 25 years the company existed, it secured business through competitive bids. “Those were so competitive, the product markups were infinitesimally small,” Zaslow recalls.
• Dealing with 50 years of rising postal costs: When the company first launched its catalog, ATD often drove more business by mailing more catalogs. “We operated on the premise that the more dung you threw at the wall, the more would stick,” Zaslow says. But that strategy became unsustainable as postal costs rose.
• Launched the catalog: ATD, which originally stood for American Textile Distributors, but was later proudly recoined America’s Top Distributor, launched its first catalogs to increase margin on its products. The company was able to market more cheaply using direct mail and catalogs as opposed to sales reps. The catalog was intended to automate the selling process, keeping a sales vehicle in front of customers whenever they needed it.
• Mailed smarter: As the catalog business matured and associated costs rose, Zaslow says he realized the “see what sticks approach” wasn’t sustainable. Now, the cataloger constantly strives to reassess who its best customers are and applies that knowledge to its prospecting efforts. Always narrowing down his prospecting strategy, Zaslow notes, “Today we mail far fewer prospects, and those we do mail have a far better return than we did 20 years ago.”