Circulation Strategies That Measure Up
By Steve Trollinger
Four critical components can help you create business-to-business (b-to-b) circulation strategies that measure up. While each may not apply to all b-to-b catalogers, they are: a goal, a tracking plan, good metrics and benchmarks, and buy-in.
A cataloger's ultimate goal is to establish a driving force behind a successful contact strategy. Are you striving to grow the buyer file, generate more leads, increase profits or drive up revenues? Each will have a different path.
Housefile growth typically means you'll prospect more, focus more on inquiry conversions and be more aggressive with reactivation strategies. You also may try new acquisition methods such as space ads, card decks or insert programs. And file growth almost certainly means greater expenses and smaller profits.
Profit growth means narrowly focusing efforts on the best buyers in your database with more frequent mailings (e.g., catalogs, e-mails, postcards) and keeping prospecting efforts to a profitable minimum.
Of course, housefile growth and profit growth can be achieved simultaneously — though one should get priority.
A good contact strategy ultimately will result from solid data-driven analysis. The only way to get the quality data you need is through detailed tracking.
B-to-b marketers have as hard a time as any capturing comprehensive transactional data. Selling cycles may be longer than for consumer offerings; the buying process may be disjointed (i.e., the decision maker, the purchaser and the end user may be in different locations); and the systems simply may not be in place to capture data that can easily be accessed and manipulated. But good tracking is critical. Without it, you're simply guessing.
It's also true that many b-to-b catalogers who coordinate mailed efforts with outbound telemarketing, e-mail campaigns and sales calls will have more difficulty applying orders to the correct channel without conflict among managers. Salespeople will want credit for as many sales as possible, as will your catalog managers. And don't forget your Internet manager whose business will grow even if he or she does nothing. You need a plan for categorizing sales prior to mailings. Stick with the plan to the end.