Profile of Success: Press Button for More Voltage
BACKGROUND: “In the late ’80s, I realized there was a gap in the electronics accessory distribution market,” says David Lorsch, founder, president and CEO of DBL Distributing. “There were a few people in the Eastern U.S. that were growing the market via catalog and flier. But there was nobody in the West. Around the point I started my company in 1989, there was no distributor specializing in accessories to independent retailers west of St. Louis. I identified what I perceived to be a hole in the
market. And luckily, I was right.”
BIGGEST INITIAL CHALLENGE: Finding a customer. “I really started with nothing,” Lorsch says. “I hadn’t been a distributor. I didn’t have a customer base. I literally started from scratch from an idea, and I proceeded from there.” The B-to-B wholesale cataloger serves electronics retailers and consumer electronics installers.
HOW HE TACKLED THAT CHALLENGE: “First, I looked for product lines,” he says. “Then, I created a catalog, which I didn’t know how to do, then bought a mailing list. I sent [the catalog] out to somebody and waited for somebody to call.”
CURRENT CHALLENGE: Diversifying marketing communications. “With 17,000 SKUs and some rapidly [changing] prices in some of our product categories,” he says, “it’s very difficult to keep the catalog current. It’s always been a challenge, but there’s a lot more price volatility today in some categories.”
HOW HE’S DEALING WITH THAT CHALLENGE: “We’re developing more frequent communication by smaller subcategory catalogs, vendor-specific catalogs and more frequent fliers,” Lorsch says. “That would allow us to communicate more frequent price drops. Our e-mail marketing is ongoing and evolving daily. We’re putting out at least six to eight e-mail blasts a week and trying very hard to balance that so that we’re not spamming customers.”
BIGGEST MISTAKE AND RECOVERY: About 10 years ago, DBL Distributing printed its catalog without pricing for its dealers so they could have a counter copy to show to customers. “We made a custom copy and the DBL logo was supposed to be stripped, but it hadn’t been stripped off three pages,” Lorsch recalls. “A dealer said he couldn’t use it. I had to refund $15,000 to $20,000. We stopped doing custom jobs.”
The key in all these things, Lorsch advises other catalogers, is not that you make a mistake; it’s how “you respond and react to the error,” he says. “You hope every day you make good decisions most of the time, react very quickly to the bad decisions, and minimize the damage.”
LORSCH’S KEYS TO SUCCESS: “Good price, good product, good service and take care of the problems,” he says.
HOW HE KEEPS THINGS FUN AT DBL: Lorsch hosts company barbecues every month if the company makes its sales quota. The cataloger stages “DBL Wars” (like “Star Wars”) and other sales competitions where it splits employees into teams.
For the complete interview, log on to CatalogSuccess.com and look for Profile of Success (Complete Interview): A Chat with David Lorsch.