During a session I led at the ACCM conference last week in Boston on how smaller catalogers can compete with the “big guys,” Terry Powers and Mark Mackaman of ComputerGear, a 15-year-old cataloger of computer-related t-shirts, gifts and accessories, said their key to success is “unique product, unique product, unique product.” They emphasized the importance of protecting those products via copyrights, trademarks and patents.
The ComputerGear executives also stressed developing efficient operations. They cross-train CSRs to pull, pack and ship, and they make many of their own products, subcontracting manufacturing that they can’t handle efficiently in-house. They also recommended testing at least one thing — lists, covers, even trim size — on every mailing.
Also on the panel was Craig Bowen of GiftTree, a high-end gift basket multichannel marketer. He said success as a smaller player is all about attitude: Set high goals and act like a big guy, to become one. It starts with assembling a talented, competitive team that shares your values and work ethics, then putting the team first and owner’s profits second by sharing the rewards through promotions and great benefits.
Bowen also explained how GiftTree takes big steps to create growth momentum, like writing its own commerce platform, importing its own baskets, and designing and producing its own folding cartons for gift basket contents to keep its gifts unique and looking great.
I offered tips on avoiding mistakes that hurt small catalogers. These include the following:
* me-too products
* not understanding your products’ benefits
* excessive backorders
* skimping on customer service.
I identified where smaller catalogers and multichannel merchants can compete with larger ones on a level playing field by delivering high quality products, having unique signature products, prospecting through co-op lists, and using multichannel synergies.
Smaller marketers also have advantages over larger ones, I pointed out.