Most B-to-B catalogers sell to the government, albeit in a passive mode. Using the SmartPay credit card, federal buyers appear on B-to-B buying lists with some regularity. When properly targeted, they can become a significant percentage of any B-to-B cataloger’s business.
Don Buck, a B-to-B catalog executive at C&H Distributors, died on Dec. 12 from an apparent heart attack after finishing a game of racquetball. He was 56.
The old Banana Republic catalogs from the 1980s used to feature several vignettes about the adventures of co-founders Mel and Patricia Ziegler, where they talked about how they found this neat, safari-esque stuff on recent journeys. These were classics. They’re bound for some yet-to-be-founded catalog Hall of Fame. Personally, I looked forward to getting those catalogs and always spent at least an hour with each. Around that same time, PaperDirect also was mailing catalogs. They had vignettes in them, too, but they were from PaperDirect product users — people who were employing the products you were looking at in the catalog. If your vignette
All markets have unique needs, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the business-to-government (B-to-G) market. Regardless of the validity of the premise, B-to-B catalogers must address this issue to meet the expectation of treating the market differently. This perceived difference, plus the perceived value of treating the market niche differently, can lead to premium prices and increased market share. I focused on this premise during a session I presented at last week’s MeritDirect Business Mailer’s Co-op in White Plains, N.Y. The first demonstration of this was in 1990 when National Audio-Visual put out the first “government edition” catalog. It also included the
Many people in government, including lawyers, don’t understand how business is done. As a result, they occasionally apply rules that are onerous to manufacturers. Now is such a time, and that should bode well for B-to-B catalogers selling via open market (no contracts). To stay on the General Services Administration’s (GSA) schedule — which is a very popular and highly used government contracting vehicle representing more than 12,000 vendors and more than 10 million SKUs — manufacturers are required to give the GSA all pricing data so the government can determine what a “fair and reasonable” price for government buyers is. The
Every August and September, there is a spike in federal spending. This is the annual “use-it-or-lose-it” period referred to as the “busy season.” Government agencies (federal, state and local) are allocated specific funds each year. If money is left at the end of the fiscal year, the agency doesn’t get to keep it; the money goes back to the Treasury Department. The federal fiscal year (FY) is Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, while most states are on a July 1 to June 30 fiscal year. The question then becomes, how does a company go after that end-of-FY “treasure trove?” Here’s where B-to-B catalogers stand to benefit
The attraction of the business-to-government (B-to-G) market for B-to-B catalogers is rising. Though some catalogers have experienced little success, others have had tremendous growth in this market even without those hard-to-come-by government contracts. The two keys are education and perseverance. All levels of government (federal, state, local, school districts) buy every type of legitimate business product or service imaginable. Over the years, many catalogers that have grown successful government-business units have done so even without a government contract. Some of these mailers are very significant players in their respective niches. Consider the following stats and factors: 1. GSA SmartPay program. Formerly the IMPAC program, the GSA
Selling to the U.S. government, which includes federal, state and local governments, can be a sweet deal for a cataloger. There are more than 70,000 government jurisdictions in the United States, and they buy $2.5 trillion for goods and services each year! The funds usually are spent through specific contracts, or they constitute discretionary purchases. The latter is spent on small purchases (called micropurchases) through purchasing, field and regional offices. It’s spent by government credit card users (Federal government and some state governments), and others who must acquire goods quickly. The use of SmartPay, the federal small-purchase credit card (formerly known as
While attending a recent business marketing conference, two things really struck me. First, direct mail not only lives, but thrives. Indeed, how do you drive Web traffic? Snail mail! Who wants a print catalog? Web browsers! Second, what do customers do when they want to order? They pick up the phone and call. My point isn’t that they use the phone, but rather what occurs—or at least, should occur—during the call. And it isn’t some idealized version of customer relationship management. Rather, they want simple, old fashioned customer service. Let me illustrate with an example from my own catalog-shopping experience. There’s a
By Mark Amtower While attending a recent business marketing conference, two things really struck me. First, direct mail not only lives, but thrives. Indeed, how do you drive Web traffic? Snail mail! Who wants a print catalog? Web browsers! Second, what do customers do when they want to order? They pick up the phone and call. My point isn't that they use the phone, but rather what occurs—or at least, should occur—during the call. And it isn't some idealized version of customer relationship management. Rather, they want simple, old fashioned customer service. Let me illustrate with an example from my own
Just four years ago, selling to the United States government was easy. That was the first time I saw a memo from a CFO establishing guidelines for online purchases using government issued credit cards. Those guidelines were short and sweet: (a) the Web site must offer secure purchasing; and (b) buyers should purchase from known vendors. That was it! During the past several years, things have gotten noticeably more complex. In that time, I have been monitoring vendor Web sites and government list servers and consulted with some notables in the industry. As a result, I have evolved a list of Web “basics”