What is a Catalog Circulation Consultant?

A Catalog Circulation Consultant is a Direct Marketing specialist who determines who to mail, how often to mail and when to mail. Engaging the services of a Catalog Circulation Consultant will help ensure that you maximize contribution to profit and overhead by increasing the revenue per catalog mailed. They will keep you from over-circulating catalogs or from leaving profitable circulation on the table. There are three parts (maybe more) to their work as follows.

Circulation Planning

A Catalog Circulation Consultant specializes in creating and executing catalog circulation plans designed to maximize profit contribution. All planning is done from the “bottom-up” on a list-by-list, segment-by-segment basis. They develop an annual catalog circulation plan specifically tailored to meet the needs of the client. This forecasts all catalog mailings for the upcoming year/season and provides you with a detailed weekly and monthly order and revenue forecast. You’ll gain a solid overview, from a financial standpoint (i.e., budget and cash flow), for the upcoming mailing season. As the time approaches for each catalog drop, the consultant will update the circulation plan based on the most current information available and adjust the pending drop accordingly. They play a proactive role looking out for the mailer’s best interest.

Plan Execution

The Catalog Consultant and their team will fully execute the plans they create. This includes ordering rented lists, database models and names, issuing written merge/purge specifications to service bureaus as well as making sure that the electronic mail files arrive at the printer prior to the deadline. They have the capability to coordinate any and all activities with external vendors. The consultant will negotiate vendor pricing on your behalf. Additionally, all clients benefit from the consultant’s network of approved vendors. The consultant is responsible for ensuring  the house file is segmented properly. Typically, a consultant will segment the house or buyer file  by Recency-Frequency-Monetary Value (R-F-M) for mailing purposes. And they will coordinate all house file updates and provide reports, which highlight any changes in the house file counts. Furthermore, an experienced consultant will bring extensive testing experience to the table. You’ll benefit from the wealth of knowledge the consultant gathered over the years. Testing is an essential tool that is often used to discover what you need to change to increase your sales. Don’t leave anything to chance.  My belief is that just about everything can and should be tested. This includes promotional offers, cover designs, minimum order requirements, etc. Knowing what to test, how to test and what to re-test is important to the success of any marketing program. Structuring a test properly is essential for actionable results. Drawing from vast testing experiences, the consultant will we set up the proper A/B type splits and put strict testing rules in place in order to deliver comprehensive results for the client.

Performance Analysis

Analysis and reporting are the third and final part of a Catalog Circulation Consultant.  A detailed analysis by segment and by list will be provided. Results will be ranked based on the revenue per catalog mailed and then projected to 100% complete. You will see the response rates, average order sizes, etc. Other special analysis can include lifetime value, merchandise square inch reporting, catalog breakeven points (house file and prospects) and more.

Your brand is unique, which is what sets you apart from the competition. But with individuality comes a set of specific problems. A Catalog Circulation Consultant understands that every client is different, which is why they offer customizable print and digital programs. They will want you to describe your brand in detail and explore what channels they believe will most contribute to increased profitability. One size does not fit all, and there is more than one path forward.

It is important to view the Catalog Circulation Consultant as a trusted partner like a member of your own staff. Consultants are specialists in their area of expertise and work as a team to drive both growth and profitability for your brand. Their fee is cost justified. Don’t think of it as costing money but rather think of the fee as saving you money. It is just as important to know what not to do as it is to know what action to take.