Circ Planning for Next Season: 13 Key Questions to Ask, Part 1
In the first installment of this two-part series on catalog circulation planning and what issues/problems to watch for, this week I provide the first six of 13 points to consider before finalizing your circ plans.
Too often catalogers go right to the details of planning their circ — list by list and segment by segment — without taking the time to examine the big-picture issues of circ planning. Step back and consider the issues. Circ planning should be a more robust exercise than simply mailing every list that’ll perform above breakeven.
Consider these questions before finalizing your circ plans:
1. Do you have incremental list universes of housefile and/or prospect names that can be mailed above breakeven based on past results? The first step in planning next season’s circ is to outline the list universes of the prospecting lists that are available. Which lists are available with what quantities of proven circ?
2. What are the types of house-buyer and inquiry lists? How deeply can the housefile be mailed given the most recent results from mailing the housefile? Given the recent break-even costs from postage and paper increases, what’s the housefile universe of names that can be mailed above breakeven?
3. What would be your potential increase in circ? How would a potential increase affect sales, catalog costs, number of new customers and types of customers you’d acquire? Catalogers often run a series of “what if” scenarios using the same circ as last season, and then using the maximum circ given the proven profitable list universes from the housefile and prospects. Then they form in-between scenarios to outline the sales and profit implications of circ plans between the status quo and maximum growth circ.
4. What alternatives (e.g., paid and natural search, space ads in magazines) are available for acquiring new customers? The cost of acquiring these new customers must be compared with the costs of acquiring new customers through other channels. Know the cost of acquiring customers from traditional catalog prospecting vs. the cost of using the Web to deliver new customers.
5. Is there circ that needs to be pruned from last season based on an end-of-season analysis of results? What circ didn’t break even?
6. What will happen to sales and costs if you maintain the same circ as last year? If you were to hold circ constant with last season or last year, would you meet your growth, sales and profitability goals?
Next week in the second of this two-part series on catalog circ planning, I’ll continue with questions seven through 13 for finalizing your catalog’s circ plans.
Jim Coogan is president of Catalog Marketing Economics, a Santa Fe, N.M.-based consulting firm focused on catalog circulation planning. You can reach him at (505) 986-9902 or email@example.com.