Direct Channels Have National Bankers Supply Counting Its Money
Operating in a market specifically designed for handling large sums of money, National Bankers Supply Corp. was faced with one ironic problem: It wasn’t generating enough of its own money. Having acquired the 23-year-old bank supplies catalog company in 1996, President Roy Shields, along with his business partner Steve Perhacs, had their work cut out for them. Consider these hurdles:
* The housefile at the time was well below 1,000 buyers, most were inactive or one-time buyers;
* The catalog hadn’t been reprinted in over six years;
* The philosophy and culture within the company was stale and lacked vision; and
* Not surprising, growth was limited or negligible.
For the first few years, Shields continued to operate at the status quo by mailing to the pre-existing housefile and not searching for prospects — basically, seeing minimal, if any, growth.
Then in 2001, Shields decided it was time to reverse course. He initiated a plan designed to build up the cataloger’s housefile. This signaled a departure from the company’s previous practice of using sales staff to sell its products by phone or visits to clients. He recognized the need to incorporate direct marketing channels to ensure future growth.
“I wanted to bring people to my door,” Shields says, “to get our name and products in front of large masses of people.”
Upgrading the catalog was essential for future growth, Shields says. The company invested money in such key areas as photography, creative teams and the use of color in its catalog for the first time. The standard mailing quantity was 5,000 catalogs a year when he and Perhacs acquired the company, and it remained at that level throughout the ’90s. Beginning in 2001, National Bankers Supply replaced the dated black-and-white catalog with a color version and began to prospect more aggressively.