Rethink Your S&H Rate Schedules
September 1, 2003

If you set your catalog’s shipping and handling (S&H) charges based on competitors’ rates, industry standards or consumer acceptance, you may need to update your strategy, say officials of The Direct Marketing Association (DMA). This is especially true for your online orders. Here’s why: Today’s consumers are more knowledgeable about S&H charges, and some even have won class-action lawsuits against companies that they think overcharge. To combat this consumer backlash against high S&H rates, The DMA advises the following when devising fees: • Make them reasonable. “You must be able to clarify and justify to consumers that your S&H rates have

How to Profitably Use Mini Catalogs, Solos and Flyers
September 1, 2003

What if you could achieve double the response rate you currently earn with your catalog mailing? What if you could mail for much less than the cost of the catalog? And what if you could do all this and make a profit? You can. Highly targeted, lower-cost marketing communications vehicles such as mini catalogs, solo direct mail pieces and flyers complement your catalog mailings. An advantage business-to-business (b-to-b) catalogers have over consumer catalogers is their knowledge of purchasing motivators, industry-wide purchasing patterns and product life cycles. Think about it: Customers in certain industries buy during specific times of the year, while others buy

Reform Reservations
September 1, 2003

The President’s Commission on the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) recently issued its recommendations on postal reform. Indeed, some of the ideas generated by this esteemed group may actually help turn around the beleaguered USPS — that is, if the Commission’s suggestions actually are approved by Congress and the subsequent implementation is smartly done. I especially like the idea of expanding retail access to postal products and services. And the work-sharing discounts is a plan that strikes me as particularly insightful. I encourage you to read the recommendations for yourself, and tell your congressional representatives your thoughts on them. You can find a

Mac’s Revs Up Catalog Fulfillment
August 1, 2003

Problem: It took Mac’s Antique Auto Parts several weeks to fulfill catalog requests. Solution: Implemented QuikPak’s catalog-fulfillment service. Result: Prospects now get catalogs within seven days of their requests. Multi-title niche cataloger Mac’s Antique Auto Parts, a supplier of replacement parts for vintage and classic Ford vehicles, couldn’t seem to deliver catalogs to requesters in less than four weeks. That was before January 2001 when it implemented a new catalog-fulfillment service. Back then, Mac’s mailed its 12 catalog titles using bulk rates through a service located near its Lockport, NY, headquarters. Because each of the catalog titles has a different weight, it took

Acquire Customers With Alternative Media
June 1, 2003

I’ve been in direct marketing for 40 years. I got into the business when direct mail was king and off-the-page advertising was queen. Little telemarketing was done. Certainly there was no DRTV. And e-mail was just a gleam in the eyes of a select few. Today, direct mail is still the workhorse of direct marketing — the most efficient way for a marketer to reach those potential customers with the right demographic and behavioral patterns. As a result of our starting the newsletter WHO’S MAILING WHAT! (now Inside Direct Mail) and running it for 15 years, I’d estimate that more than 200,000 mail packages

Postal Relief... For Now
May 1, 2003

No doubt you, too, gave a sigh of relief when you heard the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) won’t raise its rates until fiscal 2006. Last month, Congress passed — by a stunning margin of 420-0 — a bill that allows the USPS to restructure its payments to employees’ pension plans. You may remember that last year, USPS officials determined they had overpaid the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) by more than $70 billion. To make the correction, the agency needed congressional approval, which it got in April in an impressive example of bi-partisan support. Without the legislative change,

The Change Agent
April 1, 2003

About Cuddledown Catalog Established: 1973; Bradley bought the company in 1988. Headquarters: Portland, ME Merchandise sold: down products and other high-quality home textiles Annual circulation: about 2 million Number of SKUs: about 3,000 Sales channels: catalog, retail store, wholesale and Internet Why he helped to start a grass-roots campaign among mailers calling for a restructuring of the U.S. Postal Service: Bradley attended a conference in January 2002, and during a presentation given by an executive of a large catalog, it became clear to him that the bigger companies weren’t getting anywhere significant on postal reform. “I have a hard time not doing something about

Develop Better Shipping Plans
March 1, 2003

The following is a checklist to help you develop cost-effective and customer service-oriented shipping plans. The direct-to-consumer in-dustry finds itself at a crossroads in terms of shipping and handling (S&H) policies and charges. Specifically, some studies show consumers are refusing to place orders if the S&H charges are perceived to be out of line with those charged by competitors. But S&H is a necessity for most catalogers. It often represents 8 percent to 10 percent of a catalog’s average order and net sales, and it offsets some of the pick-and-pack labor, outbound freight charges, and packing materials needed to ship consumers their orders.

Track Your Results with Source Codes
January 1, 2003

One of the aspects of cataloging that I’ve found useful is that everything you do from a circulation and marketing standpoint can be tracked to a specific source, or key, code. When a marketer runs an image ad (non-direct-response) in a general interest magazine, for example, it’s difficult to know the effect the ad has on sales. But when you, as a cataloger, run a direct response ad or mail a catalog, most of the orders can be traced to a source, so your marketing and circulation efforts can be measured. This month, I’ll offer examples of the common list results you

Taking a Bite Out of Undeliverables
November 1, 2002

Niche cataloger Shari’s Berries International guarantees that its chocolate-covered strawberries reach recipients a mere day after they’re dipped—a business plan that puts a heavy emphasis on reliable address data. Indeed, according to Lowell Feil, vice president of operations, until May 2002 his department experienced delivery address problems with about 10 percent of its orders. Though the company’s FedEx shipping system caught nearly all of these during the package-scanning process, catalog call center reps then had to call and re-verify the addresses. This not only strained call center resources, it often resulted in delayed product shipments and ruined customer surprises. Company executives