How long does it actually take to produce a catalog? The answer depends on if you’re trying to do it the textbook way or the other way …
March 20th. The phone rings.
New cataloger: “Hi, I just printed my first catalog, so now I need some lists. Can you get me some lists so I can mail my catalog by the end of this month?”
“You want to be in the mail in 10 days, and you’re starting the list process now?”
“You bet. I wanted to leave you plenty of time.”
Producing a catalog basically is a two-part process, with each part occurring simultaneously. Imagine two trains rolling side-by-side on parallel tracks. One track is the merchandise/creative process, the other is the list acquisition process.
In the true-life example above, this first-time cataloger followed the incorrect plan of running his trains sequentially. That is, he wanted to create and print the catalog, then get lists and mail it. That won’t work if you want to mail soon after you print.
This cataloger was missing two things: a proper understanding of the simultaneous nature of the catalog-building process and a proper schedule for the list process.
A Schedule for Lists
Following is a schedule this cataloger should have used for handling the list half of his catalog-building process:
Step 1 — About the same time as you start catalog design, call a list broker, discuss your project and request recommendations. Time until recommendations arrive: one week, maybe two.
Step 2 — From those recommendations, choose 30 percent more lists than you actually will use. Have your broker submit “pre-clears.” That is, have the broker ask the list owner: “If I order this list, will you be able to rent it to me?” Time until pre-clears arrive: two to three weeks. List owners respond slowly to pre-clear requests.