Live from ACC: Sunday School for Small Catalogers

San Francisco–Advising small and start-up catalogers not to neglect many of the same concerns that large catalogers deal with, Jack Schmid and Gina Valentino of Shawnee Mission, KS-based consultancy J. Schmid & Associates kicked off the Small and Start-up Catalogs Intensive on Sunday morning.

Among the issues that small catalogers can’t afford to ignore are postal requirements. When getting ready for a mailing, “somebody at your company needs to be in first-hand communication with someone at the Postal Service,” said Valentino, vice president and general manager of J. Schmid. Even large corporations sometimes make mailing miscalculations that result in the need to discard thousands of stuffed envelopes, she noted.

Schmid, who is chairman of the agency, pointed out a few main issues for small catalogers that won’t be going away anytime soon. For one thing, Schmid predicted that ultimately catalogers will have to charge even out-of-state customers sales taxes, thereby losing an advantage they have so far had over retailers. Catalogers will also have to continue to answer questions from consumers and the media about what they are doing with the personal information of customers in their database. Many customers question the company’s commitment to the environment when they receive duplicates of the same issue of a catalog in their mailbox.

Valentino recommended that small catalogers not overlook the creation of a strong Website. “Not having a presence on the Internet today is like not having your name listed in the Yellow Pages,” she declared.

Schmid stressed that one of the biggest mistakes small catalogers make is thinking they can wing it instead of having a long-range plan. “If there’s one thing I want you to take away, it’s that there should be a process, a system that you keep doing better and better,” he said.

Schmid said, for example, that small catalogers should be testing the effectiveness of their catalogs at least every quarter, or even before every mailing. He suggested that companies test during their busiest time of the year. While all catalogers, regardless of size, should test regularly, small catalogers don’t use the results to their best advantage, he said. Too often they either don’t do anything with the results or don’t believe the results.

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