McIntyre Direct

Reduce Your Photography Costs
December 1, 2003

Roughly speaking, all catalogs are styled in the tradition of either Louis Vuitton or Wal-Mart. No, really. The former are created using a traditional catalog workflow: merchandiser, designer, photographer, stylist, color house and web printer. The result often is a high-end look that’s inspirational enough to coax customers into paying the substantial product costs. Cocktail-party stories about these catalogs feature the photographer too heavy to fit into a helicopter and an art director arguing with modeling agencies by cell phone while standing on an island in a remote Alaskan lake shooing deer away from a fully styled bedroom set at midnight (true,

Plan Next Year’s Catalog Program
October 1, 2003

“Our goal for next year is to have a goal.” The national food cataloger had flown me to its planning meeting for next year’s program. As the company’s CEO called the meeting to order, I was concerned about making a good impression. Could I measure up to this high-level cataloger’s expectations? I opened the meeting crisply: “Let’s start by discussing the basic goals and strategies you’ve used in the past.” The CEO gave a slow, deep sigh and said, “We have no goals; we have no strategies.” A little strategic thinking about your goals can put you ahead of your competitors. And

Hiring Great (and Not-so-Great) Staff (1149 words)
October 1, 2003

By Susan J. McIntyre Catalogers have a uniquely tough time when hiring employees, because good cataloging requires several skills that many people don't have — skills like math. "I can't figure out this math problem," said the designer, a recent college graduate with a good GPA. "Well, I hope I can help," I said doubtfully. Math classes were far in my past. He placed a sheet of paper in front of me. "The regular price of this item is $40, and there's a 10-percent off sale. So how do I calculate the new price?" Catalog math isn't that advanced.

It's Not Easy Being Big (1241 words)
August 8, 2003

By Susan J. McIntyre Company growth brings with it a host of unique problems that can lay you low if you're unprepared. Comma Crazy "I've got a lot of changes," said the cataloger. I sighed. We'd already been through countless rounds and sent files to the color house very late. And the cataloger still was making changes. Color costs were soaring. I got out my red pen. "Ready for your changes," I said. "OK," said the cataloger, "in the first sentence, third word, remove the comma before the word 'and' ... " One nice thing about smaller catalogs is that

It’s Not Easy Being Big
August 1, 2003

Comma Crazy “I’ve got a lot of changes,” said the cataloger. I sighed. We’d already been through countless rounds and sent files to the color house very late. And the cataloger still was making changes. Color costs were soaring. I got out my red pen. “Ready for your changes,” I said. “OK,” said the cataloger, “in the first sentence, third word, remove the comma before the word ‘and’ ... “ One nice thing about smaller catalogs is that often they’re run by entrepreneurs who are pretty good at distinguishing between things that matter and things that don’t. But as a catalog company

Hiring Great (and Not-so-Great) Staff
June 1, 2003

Catalogers have a uniquely tough time when hiring employees, because good cataloging requires several skills that many people don’t have — skills like math. “I can’t figure out this math problem,” said the designer, a recent college graduate with a good GPA. “Well, I hope I can help,” I said doubtfully. Math classes were far in my past. He placed a sheet of paper in front of me. “The regular price of this item is $40, and there’s a 10-percent off sale. So how do I calculate the new price?” Catalog math isn’t that advanced. But spend an afternoon calculating breakeven on

Tesing 1, 2, 3...
April 1, 2003

Timing tests, list tests, cover tests, select tests — testing can do wonderful things for your catalog, and carefully thought-out tests should be in every circulation plan you create. However, that “carefully thought-out” part can get embarrassing. But They’re All Getting the Same Thing A national business-to-business cataloger wanted to test how mailing one less catalog per year to each buyer segment would impact sales. Executives split a large buyer segment into two unequal parts, mailed the usual number to the larger segment (control), and one less to the smaller (test). In each flight (single mail drop) where test and control both got

How to Waste Your Marketing Dollars
March 1, 2003

When you call a catalog advertising agency, designer or copywriter, you expect to have things your way. After all, you have the cash. While you certainly can have things your way, the strongest-selling catalogs generally are those in which the cataloger has worked as a partner with — not a dictator to — the creative team. How can you bring a detailed knowledge of your product line and customers to the table, without smothering the creative process with non-negotiable rules? Following are four guidelines that may help. 1. Leave your quirks at the door. A national manufacturer with a highly respected brand launched

Meet Your Buyers
December 1, 2002

“Martha! It’s here! It’s here!” Everyone jostles one another as they rush the catalog into the front room and sit down to read. “Let me read it first!” “No, me!” “Don’t wrinkle it!” While they don’t say so out loud, I think many catalogers envision the above scene when their catalogs arrive in the homes of their target audiences. And for a few of your better customers, this scene may not be too far off. Studies have shown that catalogs are more positively received by consumers than any other form of direct mail. But assuming you’ve already covered all the basics (and so your

Be a Survivor
October 1, 2002

The most unlucky cataloger I ever knew was a food cataloger who watched helplessly in 1994 as its retail store in Northridge, CA, turned to rubble in a disastrous earthquake. A year later, the same cataloger was again forced to watch as its retail store in Japan literally slid into the ocean in the Kyoto earthquake. Next time you think the gods have singled out your catalog for special torment, remember this cataloger. Cataloging has seen its share of recent collapses and closures (e.g., Fingerhut, Springhill Nursery, Willis & Geiger, Balduccis). Several others have come right to the brink of disaster before