B-to-B Cataloging: Hire or Outsource?
The most successful catalog/multichannel marketers follow a proven principle: They know what they do well, and they outsource what they don’t.
To be a successful B-to-B multichannel merchant, you need to staff or outsource 10 core competencies, which are unique to multichannel merchants. These are merchandising/product development, branding, creative, marketing, database, Internet, call center, inventory, fulfillment and print management. Take a moment to identify which of these you staff internally and those that you outsource; then ask these questions:
1. Can you identify the person in charge of this competency? Someone needs to actively run each of these areas. If one of the functions is on autopilot, you’re placing your company at risk. For example, who’s in charge of your database? Do you have a definitive answer, or do you say, “I guess it’s so and so”?
2. Is that person an expert? Your managers need specific training to effectively perform each of these functions. You want people who can accomplish their tasks with minimum intervention from you. You may have a specialty or two of your own, but you need managers who know a lot more about their functions than you do.
What’s Your Answer?
If you answer no to either of the above questions, your business is at risk. For that core competency, you’re likely spending too much money, not getting the response you could, missing a strategic opportunity, not staying current with technology or all of the above. Successful B-to-B catalogers outsource the competencies in which they lack expertise or only need part-time help.
For example, B-to-B marketers often produce only one or two catalogs a year with multiple cover versions for their drops. They can outsource creative for less than hiring an art director who specializes in catalogs.
This principle can apply to whole departments. Take this actual event, for example: After serially hiring and firing fulfillment managers, one company president outsourced his entire fulfillment operation. He realized that some core competencies required specialization unique to his business, and others required a specialization that was transferable. The challenge is to know which is which for your particular business.
A columnist for Retail Online Integration, George founded HAGUEdirect, a marketing agency. Previously he was a member of the Shawnee Mission, Kan.-based consulting and creative agency J. Schmid & Assoc. He has more than 10 years of experience in circulation, advertising, consulting and financial strategy in the catalog/retail industry. George's expertise includes circulation strategy, mailing execution, response analysis and financial planning. Before joining J. Schmid, George worked as catalog marketing director at Dynamic Resource Group, where he was responsible for marketing and merchandising for the Annie's Attic Needlecraft catalog, the Clotilde Sewing Notions catalog, the House of White Birches Quilter's catalog and three book clubs. George also worked on corporate acquisitions.