A Chat with October’s Profile, Bill Boatman, Founder and Owner of Bill Boatman and Company
CS: What is your current challenge?
BB: The postal rates. We saw a 40 percent hike in our postal costs. The good thing with our catalog is that it has an extremely long life. Within the last year we’ve had orders from catalogs that are 15 years old.
CS: How are you dealing with that challenge?
BB: We’ve started to do a lot of co-mailing. We print slim-jims and have for about ten years now, which helps cut down on some of the cost. We’re doing a costs vs. revenue analysis to determine how we can become most efficient, how many times a year to drop the catalog. We’re still undecided on how many times a year to mail.
CS: What was your biggest mistake and how did you recover from it?
BB: It took us a while to learn that the seasons of the year played seriously into our response rates. We attempted to mail too heavy and during the off-season when we started. Hunting is primarily a fall and winter activity. We began to stagger our mail drops, increasing drops in the fall and winter months while lessening drops during the off-season, spring and summer. We also use data analytics, particularly RFM, to keep the catalog running at peak efficiency. The basics haven’t changed, it’s just that today we have instant access to response rates.
CS: What sets your company apart from the others?
BB: We’re working for a limited audience and we’ve chosen to stay in our niche. Most of the competition has disappeared in our niche. Only two to three percent of our business is from walk-ins,
but these people pass us along to their family and friends. We’ve become a tradition amongst some families. I’ve been dealing with many of the same customers for decades, some of whom I’ve become good friends with. A lot of times a guy will come into the store and will say ‘my father used to buy from you’ and then you remember his family.