Your seasonal catalog strategy and catalog circulation plans were developed many months ago, and now the Holiday season is rapidly approaching. But you’re in good shape because you’ve already ordered paper and scheduled catalog production time with the printer based on your catalog in-home dates. And now it’s time to execute the final steps of mailing your catalog.
Use the following timeline as a guide to mailing your print catalog:
- Review your circulation plan and YTD catalog results. Adjust the catalog plan (if needed). Run the house file RFM segmentation counts and order prospect lists 7 weeks before the catalog mail date (and 4 weeks before the mail file is due to the printer).
- Once all lists have arrived by the list cutoff date, your house and prospect files should be run through address validation and NCOA prior to merge/purge. The catalog mail date is now 5 weeks away and the mail file is due to the printer in 2 weeks.
- Review merge/purge logic and list priorities
- Assign key codes to lists for tracking
- Don’t forget to include decoys.
- Review your merge output counts and decide which records will receive a catalog. This is the time to set up your catalog versions and/or catalog test and control groups. If you are testing versions, rekey the splits. We are now 4 weeks away from the catalog mail date and the printer deadline is next week.
- The catalog mail file has been created and is ready to ship. Review counts and key codes before the mail file is uploaded to the printer. If there are test and control groups, I usually check the actual mail file to make sure that the groups were set up correctly.
If you’re testing different catalog covers, you want to avoid sending two catalog versions to the same household and invalidate the test. This mix-up happens more frequently than you think – especially if you don’t communicate with your vendor about the merge/purge criteria!
- The printer now has the catalog mail file, but you still have another catalog QC check to manage. Ask to see copies of the inkjet simulations. You want to look for:
- Truncated records
- Missing data elements
- Confirm customer account numbers match the customer name and address
- Verify that the catalog versions have been matched to the correct mailing lists
- The catalog has now been mailed – or at least you assume. Always confirm with the printer. Ask for either a co-mail report with the USPS appointment dates or a dated postage document that shows actual delivery to the post office. Check your decoy report to make sure that the catalog arrives in-home as scheduled.