Can Creative Lightning Strike Twice?
February 12, 2007

The following is a true story. The names have been changed to protect, well, me.

Some time ago, I was hired to run, actually turn around, a consumer mail order company that sold apparel and accessories. The company sold high-quality products to a niche market, and prospecting wasn’t so easy. Sales and profits were declining despite the fact that the company’s industry was seeing a growth spurt.

We decided, as part of the overall turnaround strategy that the catalog’s image needed a makeover.

Frankly, the catalog looked horrible, so we hired a great catalog agency to fix things.

The agency re-did everything from our logo to

Proper Care and Feeding for Your Internal Creative Team
February 5, 2007

If you decide you want to tackle catalog creative development in house, my recommendation is to follow a few simple rules regarding your creative talent. As I said last week, developing catalogs for mail order is different than branding. The more your design team understands the roots of the direct marketing business the better for your business.

Rule #1: If you’re hiring a designer or a creative director, hire vertically. Find someone with a background in your industry. If you market clothing, then find someone who has designed mail order clothing catalogs, etc. There’s a lot of creative talent out there, but it’ll make your

How to Choose the Right Design Team to Implement Your Catalog
January 29, 2007

When clients come to me with questions about starting a catalog, invariably the subject of creative development comes up. Should it be their internal creative department despite its limited knowledge of catalog development; their agency, which really knows the business; or someone else entirely?

My answer to those questions always is this: Choose designers who specifically know the mail order catalog market. Why? Consider the following:

A catalog used to generate sales via mail/Internet ordering is a very different animal from a branding vehicle. It may look similar, but companies that create mail order catalogs know exactly how to build a catalog that not only builds

Four Last-minute Tactics to Increase Your Holiday Revenue
November 21, 2006

I’ll keep this column brief (I know you want this week to end. I can’t wait for the advanced stages of tryptophan sleepiness to set in after the turkey is done). Want to add some revenue before the end of the year? Try the following:

1. Add an extra mailing in before the end of the year. Try it this way: After your last mailing is complete, mail one more catalog just to your hotline buyers, those who just responded from your last mailings of the year. If it’s too late to get your printer involved, grab some of your bounce back and office copy

A Halloween Catalog Horror Story (I’d Turn Back if I Were You)
October 31, 2006

Last week, I blogged about getting the most out of your printer. This week, I’ll talk about some things you should never do when producing your catalog and managing your expenses.

The way to ensure your return on investment in the catalog business is to pay close attention to your catalog expenses, namely, printing, mailing, postage, design, prepress (these days called “premedia”), lists and service bureau. Coupled with cost of goods and operating expenses, they are the fundamental numbers you need to work up in order to define your break-even point for a particular mailing.

Carefully handling that break-even point by tightly managing catalog expenses is

Ya Gotta Start Somewhere, Step One: Getting the Most Out of Your Catalog Printer
October 24, 2006

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

The Four Steps to Take Before Starting a Catalog (Ya Gotta Start Somewhere)
October 17, 2006

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,