Ya Gotta Start Somewhere, Step One: Getting the Most Out of Your Catalog Printer
A few points to add to last week’s article on where to start, then on to today’s topic.
The good news is, there are many places to learn about catalog marketing.
Earlier in my direct marketing career, when I switched to the specialization of catalogs, I found Catalog Success magazine to be an enormous resource. There also are a lot of great books on general direct marketing, but not many about cataloging. The one book I found, which has become the go-to guide for me, is “How to Profit Through Catalog Marketing” by Katie Muldoon (NTC Business Books, 1995). While it’s currently out of print, you can buy a used copy from most online booksellers.
I’m also an advocate of education in general, which is why last year I started teaching direct marketing at Miami International University. As it happened, in 1993 after I sold my publishing company, it was New York University’s Direct Marketing Certificate program that really jump-started my career in direct. Currently, there are a number of universities that offer courses in direct marketing, right up to an MBA level.
Also, regarding my mention of the Direct Marketing Association, there are local chapters in many cities throughout the country. There are some other mail order clubs, too. Also, there is an organization called the National Mail Order Association (www.nmoa.org) that can help as well.
Getting Print Bids From Catalog Printers:
If you look at a catalog printer’s price quote, and you’re not already in the catalog business, you may be awfully confused. I know I was the first time I got a catalog print quote.
The thing is, with a catalog printer you’re not just getting a quote on printing alone. The most efficient catalog printers — and the only ones from which you should get quotes — also do the following:
* Bind the catalog and any other materials, such as an order form, together. Many times I’ve had materials printed in addition to the catalog that were bound or blown in. Most companies don’t bind in order forms anymore. However, other inserts, such as special offers for different market segments, still get bound in. Many times this printed material gets printed elsewhere and shipped to the printer for binding.
* Print the customers’ names, addresses and associated postal barcodes on the outside of the catalog and inside the order form. They also print additional messages and special offers on the outside of the catalog and the order form.
* Sort the catalogs out to take advantage of postal discounts, and then palettize them based on this sortation.
* Truck the catalogs closer to the end reader by delivering them — on the same truck as other catalogs to save money — to the Bulk Mail Centers (BMC) and Sectional Center Facilities (SCF).
All of these processes, plus plate making, shipping bounceback copies to your offices and other miscellaneous charges, get line items on your price quote.
Which is why I say that it’s a good idea to make friends with your printer.
Seriously, a good printer rep will be looking to mail your catalog in the most efficient way possible. Work with it to determine the most efficient trim size and number of pages.
Catalog postal rates are determined by the weight of the catalog. Also, since catalog printers have different press efficiencies, ask yours whether plates of eight, 12 or 16 pages work better. Also, ask which trim size fits its presses for the best pricing.
Once you’ve discussed all of the possibilities with your potential printer, have it take the quote and put it in a spreadsheet, projected out by the amount of catalogs you’re planning to mail. I regularly plan out an entire year in advance, but for the purposes of long-range planning, I’ve had printers develop print models for three to five years out.
When getting print quotes from multiple vendors, take the first quote you get and use that as a standardized form. Get each printer to follow the same format.
More on catalog printing, paper types and costs, and then I’ll start to discuss selecting the best list broker for your particular type of merchandise.
As always, please feel free to fire off a comment using 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.