The Four Steps to Take Before Starting a Catalog (Ya Gotta Start Somewhere)
I’d like to address the must-have core competencies you’ll need when either starting or maintaining a catalog. But first, I’ll respond to Micah and Rob’s comments from last week. Yes, the Internet is both a pull AND push medium. I didn’t forget e-mail to drive business. I just left it out for the sake of contrasting pull vs. push. Thanks for speaking up.
On to the topic of the next few weeks: What does it take to start a catalog business?
Many of the people who ask this aren’t necessarily sitting at their kitchen tables, looking to be the next Lillian Vernons. They’re accomplished retailers, e-commerce companies or both. The main issue seems to be fear of the unknown, essentially not really knowing how to build and mail a successful catalog, as well the financial risks associated with launching a catalog. I often get questions regarding catalog circulation and ROI, creative, production and printing, merchandising and inventory forecasting.
First, you need to find yourself either a really good mentor already in the business, or a consultant to guide you through the steps. If you don’t want to go that route seriously, consider educating yourself at the assorted industry conferences (see the Direct Marketing Association’s Web site, www.the-dma.org, for details on all of its conferences).
The next thing you should do is find yourself vendors who are specific to the catalog industry and pick their brains. A good place to start is with catalog printers. Make sure the printer you find is a bona fide catalog printer; in other words it uses a process called inline printing to print, bind, inkjet, prepare and mail your catalog. This will save you money as all of the processes are done in a sort of assembly line. Make sure it offers destination entry discounts; in a nutshell, that it’s trucking your catalogs closer to the end destinations (the bulk mail centers) to gain postal rate savings.
Finally, make sure your printer offers co-mailing programs; essentially an opportunity to be married up with other catalogs. That can save you even more money.
Once you find a few good printers you want to work with, get them to provide you some price quotes that you can match up with each other and see who offers the best combination of customer service (and advice) and pricing.
Next week, I’ll offer you some tips on how to get a competitive and accurate price bid from a catalog printer (which can be tricky). I’ll start discussing the next topic in the list of core competencies you’ll need to get started in the catalog business.
As always, please feel free to post your comments to this article and ask any questions you want by filling in the form below.
Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing and a professor of direct marketing at Miami International University of Art and Design. He can be reached at email@example.com
Jim Gilbert has been creating direct marketing programs that drive superior ROI for almost 30 years. Fluent in consumer or B-to-B, creative, operations, and analytics, he marries the strategic and tactical sides of direct and social media marketing in a seamless fashion that gets results. He's CEO of a multidiscipline direct marketing agency, Gilbert Direct Marketing, Inc., which focuses on direct mail, catalogs, DRTV, telemarketing, print, alternative direct marketing media and social media marketing. Jim has been involved in start-ups, expansions and turnarounds, and is an expert in helping multichannel marketers get to the "next level." He's a former adjunct professor, teaching direct marketing at Miami International University, and is President of the Board of Directors of the Florida Direct Marketing Association. Jim loves to talk direct marketing, and has done many lectures on direct and social media marketing.