Ironically, in a world in which it’s necessary to be online to stay competitive, many Website designers are turning to print catalogs for the tools to help them do their jobs. Capitalizing on this opportunity, computer cataloger Tech Squared in May launched Net Direct: the Sitebuilders’ Superstore catalog, offering hardware and software for building and maintaining intranet and Internet sites. The $40 million Tech Squared also publishes the DTP Direct catalog, which targets graphic artists.
“There’s a real need for an intranet- and Internet-building catalog,” says Rick Apple, president/CEO of the Edina, MN-based company, “and our core graphic artist customer is slowly migrating to the new media. In fact, we believe that Net Direct’s audience is larger and growing more rapidly than DTP’s audience.” He expects Net Direct’s circulation to grow from less than 500,000 in May to 3 million by the end of year. The catalog mails every 75 days.
The initial 56-page Net Direct catalog mailed to prospects in three distinct “user groups”-Webmasters and teams responsible for building and servicing intranets and Internet servers; programmers and developers; and graphic designers. Products include server and networking hardware, development tools and applications, and graphics software. “In many cases, these groups work closely together, which explains why we combined these products into one book,” Apple says. “Someday we may spin off catalogs specific to each group, but only after we learn what kinds of products those customers are interested in.”
Apple declines to disclose Net Direct’s results. In August the company mailed a second edition and launched a fully transactional Net Direct Website.
Understanding buyers and vendors For now, Net Direct’s customers are more interested in the catalog’s “mature” product categories, Apple says, such as networking hardware and software. “While they’re curious about the newer technologies, they’re not sure about the longevity of those products,” he says. “It’s our job to stay on top of the technology and work with our vendors to establish ourselves as leaders early on.”
While sharing administration, operations, and facilities with DTP Direct, Net Direct has its own staff of account managers specifically trained in the Internet- and intranet-building market. “Not only do we need to understand our customers’ businesses,” Apple says, “but we also need to understand the products we sell and the vendors that develop them, to fulfill our customers’ specific needs.”