Live from ACC: Big Ideas for Small Catalogers

Orlando, FL–Get ‘em and skin ‘em. That’s what J. Schmid & Associates chairman Jack Schmid and senior vice president, client marketing Steve Trollinger told attendees to their Small and Start-up Catalogs Intensive at the Annual Catalog Conference yesterday. What they meant was acquire new customers through traditional and innovative means, then retain them by offering timely and appropriate marketing messages.

According to Trollinger, a multichannel merchant’s most valuable asset is its buyer list, which outperforms outside lists by 4-10 times.

Aside from the traditional way of building a customer file, through list rental, Schmid offered two dozen alternative file builders. The number-one way to obtain names, after renting lists, he said, especially when a catalog is small or just launching, is by customer referrals. When a cataloger mentions the name of a friend who recommended that you receive their catalog, response rate is higher than a cold mailing.

Other new customer acquisition alternatives Schmid recommended included:

* free-standing inserts in newspapers. Schmid gave the example of a citrus fruit cataloger that, after trying list rentals many times, nearly gave up on its business because it couldn’t make the rentals work. As a last attempt, the company placed free-standing inserts in daily newspapers and saw a huge increase in sales.

* package inserts and blow-ins. This method of customer acquisition, said Schmid, can be used to generate inquiries or sales.

* television advertising. To make this method work best, the ads need to be targeted to a niche audience.

* marketing on egg cartons. This method is a perfect example of marketing outside the box. Schmid explained that when he worked for “My Weekly Reader,” it had seemed to be reaching the threshold of new customers available through traditional means. So when an opportunity arose for the company to advertise on 10,000 egg cartons, despite how strange it seemed, Schmid said the company took a chance, ran the marketing, and had a great success.

* public relations. Often overlooked, public relations is an easy way to keep the name of your company in front of the customer – and for next to no cost. Magazine and newspaper editors are always looking for the latest and greatest news, so by offering exciting or new information about your company and its news, you not only help the publications do their job, but also get your company brand in front of the public and possibly new customers.

Once new customers are flowing in, what should be done with them? Trollinger gave three strategies for companies to execute when recruiting new customers. First, track your customer by source, such as whether they are mail, phone, or Internet buyers. Second, measure the cost of the new names. In other words, what can you afford to pay to capture those names? In general, companies allow 12 months to break even on a new customer. Third, determine how long you can mail inquires. Although the length of time before an inquiry becomes stale is longer for catalog inquirers, Trollinger said online inquires can get stale after only six months, which is why he suggests to “work them hard when you have them.”

Consponsored by MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT magazine and the Direct Marketing Association, the Annual Catalog Conference is running through May 25.

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