Don’t Keep Secrets, Share Your Plans With Service Providers

It’s the last month of the third quarter of 2008. If you have finished your plans for next year, have you shared them yet with your service bureau, list broker, printer, Web desiger, e-mail service and software vendors?

We know so much about our own business we often forget others inside and outside our companies don’t have our level of knowledge. If you were to ask your service providers if they would like to learn more about your plans for the coming year, I expect they would all say yes, please.

Sharing your plans can help you in several ways. First, you can improve your relationships with your service providers by demonstrating that you want them to participate in your future plans.

Second, engaging vendors early in the game helps them think through and ultimately satisfy your needs for their services.

Third, indicating you are committing your firm to work with them—and thus insuring their future revenue—can allow them to offer you better pricing.

For example, say you are planning to market to new areas like Canada or the European Union. If you share your plans with your list broker and merge/purge service, they will be able to start research now on list availability, contractual arrangements and the different address processing and postal qualification required.

Or, if you are going to try new catalog formats or supplement your catalogs with self-mailers, your printer and your paper broker will be able to book paper production and press time far ahead of your competitors. Plus, they will be able to do so at the times you want and not just at the times that are left in their schedules.

List rentals, data processing and printing all use minimum quantities and per-thousand charges as the basis for their pricing. Offering assurance of the minimum quantities you are planning for is very likely to get you better deals for next year.

If you are on the service side of the business and your clients have not yet come to you with their plans for next year, offer them any information you have that might help them with their planning. You likely know about trends in the costs of processing or the future availability and costs of rental lists or expected changes in the costs of paper, printing and postage.

Postal discounts for intelligent bar-coding and other changes are going to come into effect next year. You know more about them than your clients and can share what you know. If your production and finance departments are going to set new minimums be sure to share those developments with your customers now so that they will not be surprised with their first invoice in the new year.

If you look back over the last year or two of your service bureau, broker and print production reports and response analyses, you should be able to get a very good sense of who you want to work with and what results you want to achieve next year.

You are more likely to achieve your planned response rates and revenue if you share your plans with your service providers now. By doing so you will be able to lock up your arrangements for your lists, your processing and your printing by partnering with your vendors to get more efficient, better researched and lower cost services.

Bill Singleton is a manager of analytics and consulting services at The Allant Group.

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