The man’s tone was solemn; his usually voluble partner was silent.
“Our consultant projected a sales increase of 300 percent. We significantly boosted spending to handle it.”
“And what sales increase are you seeing?” I asked.
He paused. “We’ve had a 25-percent drop. We’re nearly bankrupt.”
Catalogers put a lot of time, money and emotional effort into fine-tuning their positioning, design, circulation and product line. But when it comes to data processing (DP), most catalogers simply trust that all will be well.
This can lead to disaster. In the true example given above, the business-to-business cataloger’s consultant had promised a 300-percent increase in sales, based on superior list selection. But the fulfillment house pulled the wrong SIC codes, the wrong names were mailed, and sales crashed.
The cataloger could have checked the DP results with as much care as he or she routinely proofed design, color and printing. The following basic proofing steps will detect many DP problems:
• Examine partial dumps of rented lists to confirm you’re getting the lists you’re ordering.
• Review output counts by mailing code to confirm that list segmentation is correct.
• Review live ink-jet output at bindery start-up to confirm that the names, mail codes and customer numbers being printed are correct.
Unfortunately, few catalogers use all three, or even two, of these steps.
The Competence Quotient
A cataloger’s in-house DP publishing guru of 10 years suddenly departed, and I was speaking with his replacement by phone.
“So I’ll need your housefile for the next mailing sometime around Friday,” I said.
“I only accept list requests on Mondays,” he said.
“But see, we need the list by this Friday, or we’ll miss the mailing.”
“You should have asked me last Monday.”
Despite the latest round of layoffs by the dot-coms, the market for employees with DP experience still is tight—which means some pretty odd ducks are showing up when catalogers advertise for system administrators. In the true example noted above, the cataloger had employed for many years a wonderful system administrator who had fine-tuned the company’s system to something approaching perfection. And then she left ... and the perfect cataloging system suddenly looked like a nest of undocumented confusion.