Formulating a B-to-B Catalog Mailing Plan, Part 1
July 17, 2007

Calculating customer acquisition costs and devising a profitable mailing plan are forever a challenge, regardless of the economic conditions or changing consumer buying habits. During last week’s MeritDirect Co-op in White Plains, N.Y., the list firm’s vice president of database strategy Dan Harding helped to provide some of that strategy. Included below are some of his tips. 1. Avoid acquisition costs as a lone decision-maker. Figure out your future profitability costs in relation to your overall costs and the various categories of cost, Harding said. Knowing your future profit overall won’t help much, but you can divide your costs into 10 categories (such as

Learn How to Improve Now from a Great Futurist (No, Not Me)
July 13, 2007

As has been its annual custom, B-to-B list firm MeritDirect’s annual co-op event in White Plains, N.Y. on July 12 was kicked off by a provocative and entertaining presentation by catalog veteran and futurist Don Libey. Having heard Don speak plenty of times in the past (and despite his frequent speaking appearances, rarely does he repeat a single concept, strategy or idea), I’ve long since learned how to filter through his motivational pep talk and the meat of what he delivers. While always entertaining, his shtick is always chockfull of meat, but it often looks beyond tomorrow. And after all, we all want to

27 Steps to Efficient Catalog Productions
July 1, 2007

This Web-only exclusive offers 27 quick steps in the catalog production process worth considering. 1. Determine unique selling proposition. 2. Define editorial position. 3. Determine catalog look. 4. Complete square-inch analysis. 5. Preliminarily review continuation product. 6. Preliminarily review new products. 7. Prepare product information sheets. 8. Review pick-up copy and presentation. 9. Paginate and allocate space. 10. Finalize merchandise selection. 11. Present initial design concepts. 12. Layout catalog, first draft. 13. Design order form. 14. Revise layouts, second draft. 15. Write manuscript copy. 16. Plan the photo shoot. 17. Shoot new photography. 18. Revise manuscript copy. 19. Finalize pricing, sizing, etc. 20. Finalize photo picks. 21. Prepare composed pages, first draft. 22. Proof loose color. 23. Revise composed pages, second draft. 24. Finalize composed pages. 25. Create

Catalog Production: Sorting Out a Complex Process
July 1, 2007

Catalog design and production today are faster than ever, but the process still can be daunting. The steps outlined here begin with branding considerations and end with catalog printing. Some firms add interim proofing steps that may or may not improve the catalog, but certainly do add to the expense. For that reason, consider these to be the optimum number of steps needed to efficiently organize the production process to create a catalog on time and on budget. (In addition to the 17 outlined below, you’ll find 10 more key steps online, if you follow the story to the Web at end of

10 More Key Steps to On-Time/On-Budget Catalog Production
July 1, 2007

In my print story, I outlined for you what I believe to be the 17 most important and crucial steps in the catalog production process. But there are 10 others that also are worth seriously considering. 1. Define your editorial position and the entire tone of your catalog copy by your brand strategy. If it’s low price, you’ll be screaming sale or value at every opportunity; but if it’s quality, you’ll focus on product benefits and your tone will be more authoritative and/or educational. 2. Prepare product information sheets for all new products. These sheets will be the bible used by copy and

Pointers From the Pros: Printers Offer Their Tips for Mailing Smarter
June 1, 2007

Printers are full of useful (and free) advice for their catalog clients. Their suggestions range from doing more customizing and co-mailing to learning more about how the postal rate increases are affecting catalogers. Here are some of their top tips for catalogers: 1. Consider a trim cut to get into co-mailing. “Even a minor trim size modification may allow them to mail with other catalogers and save postal dollars,” advises Dave Blais, senior vice president of sales and administration at Quad/Graphics. 2. Make it personal. Customizing and personalizing catalogs is a growing trend, Blais notes. But more catalogers should consider it to increase response. “Some

Editor’s Take: On the Great Postal Disaster of 2007
May 1, 2007

With the much dreaded postal rate increase taking effect this month, hopefully by now most catalogers have made at least some of the adjustments needed to continue to grow — or at least survive. As we’re in the heart of the industry’s conference season, many have been feasting on scores of postal cost-cutting tips coming from presentations, special emergency sessions and the media. For our part, after breaking the news on our Web site ( about the Postal Regulatory Commission’s punishing catalog rate increase that was more or less hidden in its rate recommendation to the U.S. Postal Service’s Board of Governors,

Operations: Put an End to the Blame Game
April 6, 2007

If your catalog’s back-end operations are suffering from the”blame game” -- that is, contact center and distribution center (DC) reps have gotten into the nasty habit of pointing fingers at one another when problems arise -- try this team-building tactic offered by Liz Kislik, president of Liz Kislik Associates, a management consulting firm: At least once a year, bring your contact center reps to your DC and have them actually work there for a day, picking orders, packing boxes, etc. “This helps minimize the ‘they’ scenario. When reps are talking to customers about fulfillment problems, it helps the reps to understand the difficulties encountered

IndustryEye: Catalogers’ Updates, People on the Move & Letter to the Editor
April 1, 2007

Catalogers’ Updates Outdoor co-op cataloger Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) in February said that $58 million will be distributed to its active members through its annual patronage refund based on the co-op’s 2006 sales of $1.18 billion. This is the second consecutive year in which sales rose more than 15 percent. Anyone can shop the REI catalog, Web site and stores, but only members share in the co-op’s profits. A total of 3.1 million active REI members received their patronage refunds calculated at 10 percent of their eligible 2006 purchases. Never Been Stronger In addition, based on 2006 results the outdoor retailer will dedicate

Recycled Knowledge
March 1, 2007

As a catalog marketer, you’re constantly battling to bring every penny to the bottom line. The winds of change have been blowing strong in the industry. Changes in postage and a strong resurgence in pressure from environmental groups ultimately will hurt profits. Be not afraid; at least one of the clouds on the horizon has a silver lining. I’d be hard pressed to say that any changes in the postal rates could be turned into a positive. But I can make a case that embracing recycled paper (or its environmentally friendly alternatives) can enhance your business in spite of the perceived cost premiums. First, it’s important