J. Schmid & Assoc.

Make More Profits From a Static Product Line
August 1, 2004

One of the most common merchandising questions from business-to-business (b-to-b) catalogers is how to increase sales (or profits) from static product lines. Often, b-to-b merchandising teams are at the mercy of a manufacturer’s research and development budgets, as well as the timely release of new product introductions. How can you keep revenues from becoming just as static as the product line? Following are some answers to that question: 1. Modify the packaging. When the product itself remains constant, change the packaging. For example, try stackable boxes with preprinted labels so that when placed on shelves, the information is easily seen. Perhaps the

Circulation Strategies That Measure Up
June 1, 2004

Four critical components can help you create business-to-business (b-to-b) circulation strategies that measure up. While each may not apply to all b-to-b catalogers, they are: a goal, a tracking plan, good metrics and benchmarks, and buy-in. A cataloger’s ultimate goal is to establish a driving force behind a successful contact strategy. Are you striving to grow the buyer file, generate more leads, increase profits or drive up revenues? Each will have a different path. Housefile growth typically means you’ll prospect more, focus more on inquiry conversions and be more aggressive with reactivation strategies. You also may try new acquisition methods such as space ads,

Five Tactics for Developing Creative That Works
April 1, 2004

The primary function of your catalog is, of course, to sell merchandise. This goal supersedes any individual opinions about aesthetics. Successful creative strategies don’t necessitate a subjective discussion. What works is what sells. While there isn’t one secret formula for success, here are five tactics that can help guide your creative decisions. 1. Foster a dependent relationship among your creative, marketing and merchandising teams. Give your creative team the tools it needs to develop a catalog that sells merchandise. Such tools include information gleaned from a square inch analysis and marketing promotions, as well as any merchandising changes such as new items,

Nine Tips for Two-step Acquisitions
February 1, 2004

In the old days of cataloging, a two-step acquisition was defined as a prospect converting to a customer after he or she responded to two different marketing efforts — thus taking two steps. Step one was to respond to a compelling advertisement to get a catalog. Step two was to respond to the catalog by placing an order. With two-step acquisition, the broad advertising net usually was cast in a trade magazine, and prospective customers replied by phone. Tracking costs for such acquisitions was simple, as the choices for the first step seemed finite, and the conversion meant loyal, long-term customers. In

How to Develop a Profitable Merchandise Mix
November 1, 2003

Maintaining a sound balance between assortment, price points and gross margin is a difficult task for any cataloger to master. Add to the job the “clanging” of other variables — such as the mix between new and repeat products, imports vs. domestically sourced items, branded vs. private-label merchandise, and durables vs. disposables — and you see how harmony quickly can turn to cacophony. It’s not unusual, therefore, for business-to-business (b-to-b) catalogers to merchandise a catalog with every product and part number found in the warehouse. A decision to increase catalog page count often is then a function of SKU count. And the

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

Six Circulation Tactics to Try
July 1, 2003

Analyze Your Current — Not Past — Customer Base You don’t use outdated response data to build your circulation plan. Rather, you use the most current response data available, right? So why do many catalogers depend on studies that are several years old to define their customers? A comprehensive analysis of your current customers’ job titles and SIC codes for the companies they represent can provide valuable insight. The more you know about your best customers, the more effective you’ll be at reaching others like them. For example, say you’ve been targeting 25 percent of your circulation to computer analysts; this is based

How to Make List Prospecting Work
May 1, 2003

For business-to-business (b-to-b) catalogers, the basic prospecting process using lists consists of several steps. In this article, I’ll focus on three of them: - understanding what you can spend on a customer; - identifying the potential prospect universe; and - using your merge/purge reports. These general steps include the key elements of getting through list prospecting in a way that gives you the most information and greatest opportunity for success. Expense Per Customer Understanding lifetime value, or even 12-month payback, is the first step in the customer-acquisition process, no matter what method you use to get new clients. Determine what return on investment

Sales Topper or Door Stopper
March 1, 2003

As a business-to-business (b-to-b) cataloger, you know that your large catalog is an essential selling tool, as well as a brand differentiator. Its benchmarks of success may include strong revenues, remarkable customer response and overall profitability. A good strategy for any catalog’s mailing frequency should be based on the book’s anticipated order-response curve. But when you create a large b-to-b catalog that’s expected to have a shelf life of four, six or even 12 months, how can you ensure that it keeps selling well during its entire campaign? The following 10 steps can help. 1. Understand the order-response curve. This is defined

Effective Customer-contact Strategies
January 1, 2002

Because 2002 may be a difficult year for many catalogers, I will focus my columns on proven business practices that currently are working for other catalogers. In this way, we can, as an industry, learn from and assist one another through these challenging times. Determining how many times to contact your customers and prospects is one of the most common and important questions marketers ask. But it’s not the only critical question. Discerning when and how best to contact them can help you devise an effective customer-contact strategy. If you’ve never performed a contact strategy test or haven’t updated yours in several years,