Do the Job Manually
In an era of computerization, it’s easy to imagine that all your competitors’ tasks are fully automated. Such a thought can make you, an individual cataloger, feel a bit embarrassed about your many manual tasks.
But no matter how many computers you buy, you’re still going to find yourself forced to manually perform certain tasks simply because cataloging comprises many activities with ever-changing components that resist computerization.
But manual tasks don’t mean inefficiency. One key to profitable cataloging is knowing how to perform manual tasks well.
“Congratulations! You’ve paralyzed every phone in the company!”
A national gift cataloger (that also has a nationwide chain of hundreds of retail mall outlets) devised the idea of helping out its mall dealers by mailing a catalog (personalized with the dealer’s name and address) to the dealer’s top 100 customers.
At this time, the cataloger invited each dealer to send a list of its top 100 customers with a submission deadline. The cataloger imagined receiving hundreds of e-mails, each with a nicely formatted mailing list attached.
But when the program manager reached her desk on deadline day, she found her company’s phone system paralyzed due to the hundreds of mall dealers simultaneously faxing their lists.
How was she going to turn this mess into a concise mailing list?
As a cataloger, you sometimes must mail a non-computerized list. Such lists can’t be ignored; they’re often productive, containing data pertinent to the customer, such as membership information from poorly funded local organizations, or raw sales data from a sales force that relies on personal contact rather than telemarketing.
In such cases, the trick is knowing which firms to turn to that manually will enter data from any format you give them, including piles of paper. These firms generally are efficient, often take last-minute jobs and can handle short runs without cost penalties.