B-to-B Cataloging: Cast a Powerful Net
Finding and retaining good employees tops the list of major concerns for catalogers. Often catalog companies are located in less populated areas, where finding qualified staff is a challenge. If you’re located in a larger city, you face the challenge of losing your trained staff to other companies.
Salary, benefits and work environment are important for employees. But an overlooked aspect of employee retention is brand. Brand not only helps attract and retain customers, but it’s also essential for attracting and retaining good employees.
A good gauge of whether customers will want to shop at your company is whether employees want to work there. In B-to-B, are your employees excited about your brand because they identify with it?
What is Brand?
If you define your catalog’s brand solely by consistent use of your logo, predetermined color palette and established fonts, you may be on the verge of a brand identity crisis. When was the last time you shopped a catalog because you thought the company’s logo was cool? When was the last time an employee said, “I’m sticking around because of the color palette?” Though consistent design treatment is a vital part of branding, it’s a mistake to think that branding stops there.
Brand is what sets you apart from your competition — competition for retaining both customers and employees. For B-to-B catalogers, defining brand can be a challenge, especially if you sell a commodity product. Though brand primarily can be about your product, it easily extends beyond your merchandise selection. Taking a brand inventory is a good exercise to help you identify key elements of what makes you unique. To simplify matters, begin your brand inventory in terms of product, price, service and customer base.
Start with your product selection. Does it make you special? Do you carry products that address similar benefits, such as convenience, ease of use, reliability or other business concerns? Is there a theme in your product mix that your merchandising staff uses to find new items to carry in your catalog? If so, you may have a good start on defining your brand.
A columnist for Retail Online Integration, George founded HAGUEdirect, a marketing agency. Previously he was a member of the Shawnee Mission, Kan.-based consulting and creative agency J. Schmid & Assoc. He has more than 10 years of experience in circulation, advertising, consulting and financial strategy in the catalog/retail industry. George's expertise includes circulation strategy, mailing execution, response analysis and financial planning. Before joining J. Schmid, George worked as catalog marketing director at Dynamic Resource Group, where he was responsible for marketing and merchandising for the Annie's Attic Needlecraft catalog, the Clotilde Sewing Notions catalog, the House of White Birches Quilter's catalog and three book clubs. George also worked on corporate acquisitions.