13-14. Customer service, fulfillment. While never skimping on providing top-notch customer service, make sure your fulfillment is able to “talk” to another part of your company, Libey said. “Third-party fulfillment isn’t the way to do it if you want to be a tier 1 cataloger,” he said. “Develop decentralized fulfillment centers all over the country. Go right into the lap of the customer.”
When it comes to fulfillment, catalogers should try to be like Wal-Mart and Target by coming to live in customers’ towns. “It’s all about supply chain,” he said.
15. Finance. Tier 1 catalogers are able to score investment money. But their investors have non-ownership relationships with equity, Libey said. On the other hand, investors in tier 2 or 3 companies say, “We can’t give you a buck and a half without having 85 percent ownership of your company,” Libey said.
To dominate a niche and be a “real” player, catalogers need $15 million to $30 million available for opportunistic acquisitions for new customer acquisition in investment prospecting.
16. Creative. Libey said he’s observed many catalogers abandoning everything they’ve learned, spending so much time learning the online side and other non-creative matters. “Create creative offers,” he advised. “Don’t be, ‘This is what we got, this is what we sell it for,’ and just offer an occasional discount.”
17. Circulation. Don’t abandon circulation planning in favor of relying totally on co-op databases. Circulation planning in many companies, Libey noted, is being placed in the hands of the most inexperienced people at catalog companies who do little more than “partner up with Abacus and let them take care of it,” he said. “Circulation planning is very complex and it’s the lifeblood filtering through your company. It needs to be in the hands of professionals who understand it in depth.”