Step 3 — From all list owners who said “yes” to your pre-clears, select your top picks and place your orders. If too few approve your pre-clears, request more pre-clears. If pre-cleared acceptances turn to nays when you actually order, request more pre-clears. Time until you have enough list orders to equal your mailing requirement: two days to two weeks. Again, the bottleneck often is the list owners.
Step 4 — Your data-processing vendor gets name files, does the merge/purge, sends you reports and ships files to the printer for addressing catalogs. Time for data processing: one to two weeks, which includes time for lists to arrive with too few names, wrong names, corrupted files, etc.
Step 5 — Your printer gets name file, binds and addresses your catalogs, loads them on trucks, and delivers them to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Time for binding/mailing: one to two weeks (binding is physically much slower than printing).
Step 6 — USPS receives and delivers your mail. Time: three days (if you do bulk mail center entry) to three weeks. Tip: Try to mail at the nearest post office that accepts bulk mail.
Total time for the complete list-to-mailbox process: seven to 14 weeks. Can you do it faster? Yes. In the case study I noted earlier, we confined our list selections to those most likely to be approved; we used a data processing house willing to work nights and weekends; and we started all processes immediately. It went very quickly, but we weren’t in-home in the cataloger’s hoped-for 10 days.
The Creative Side
Catalog owner: “We need advice. No matter what we do, we can’t get our catalog in-home before Thanksgiving. We’re losing sales.”
I asked, “When do you start design?”
“Sometime in September.”
“Have you tried earlier, like May?”