What is a Catalog Circulation Plan?
In a nutshell, a catalog circulation plan is a blueprint for your catalog mailings. Driven by your data and a clear understanding of past catalog results, it’s a plan that addresses who you should mail, how frequently you should mail, how many catalogs you should print and how to accurately track results, so you can design and refine catalog circulation in a way that optimizes target customer reach and grows your brand.
A winning catalog circulation plan—which includes catalog circulation, order and revenue forecasting and implementation—enables you to leverage all your marketing data and translate it into an executable mail campaign that generates success across all your marketing channels. It also enables you to measure which segments are your most to least profitable customers, so you can mail even smarter in the future.
By properly attributing sales revenue and analyzing what’s gone right and wrong, a catalog circulation expert gains insights about past catalog mailings that drive future catalog circulation plans, putting your company on a steady track of acquiring and retaining new and existing customers.
Ideally, you want to mail people who already like (better yet, love) purchasing from you and those who have yet to become converts—two groupings known respectively in the direct mail biz as house file and prospect selections.
This means getting your catalog into the hands of people who will buy from it directly and/or be driven by it to make purchases through your website or stores.
While there are many components to a great circulation plan, three key elements are proper handling of house file selections, prospecting and circulation plan execution—done in the context of projected sales, response rate and mail list orders.
To identify the most profitable segments of your house file, you can group customers by purchasing characteristics, such as Recency, Frequency, and Monetary measurements. In other words, you can group customers by how recently they’ve purchased from your catalog, how frequently they’ve purchased and by how much they’ve spent. This RFM analysis will let you identify and quantify your “best” catalog-receiving customers, while also identifying unprofitable mailings—less frequent and inactive customers who would likely be a waste of further direct mailing dollars.
Prospecting involves renting customer names from other companies’ house Your catalog circulation plan should incorporate both continuing prospect lists (those you’ve mailed before) as well as new test lists. Prospects should include same- and out-of-category lists, so that you can test results of say, new-to-you apparel and non-apparel buyers. You can segment rental lists using the same RFM measurements as your house file, to help determine whose customers perform better and by how much.
Once you determine which house file and prospect names will make up your catalog’s circulation, you can send them to a service bureau to “de-dupe” and “clean up” the file based on your instructions for how to prioritize different segments (e.g., with best-performing RFM groups at the top and lower-performing RFM groups at the bottom). The bureau will run the names you supply through a “merge/purge” to eliminate any duplicates between the names of your customers and your prospects’ (interfile duplicates) and within any files themselves (intrafile duplicates). The bureau can also run the names against a National Change of Address (NCOA) file to update addresses for customers who have moved. Taking these steps minimizes rental costs and mis-delivered catalogs. Once you’ve created a complete and “clean” list of people who will receive your catalog, you’re ready to execute your circulation plan.
Mailing for (More) Dollars
Over numerous catalog mailings, you can use data analytics to test, track, and measure performance of various segments, enabling you to tweak future mailings and optimize each catalog circulation plan.
For example, you can regularly compare the performance of your house file versus prospects with your breakeven cost and look for sales spikes and how they sync up with email campaigns, holiday and other annual promotions. This will allow you to get a thorough understanding of the types of offers and timing that help you meet or exceed your goals—for both catalog AND company revenue.
Getting the Catalog Circulation Advantage
We live in a perpetually evolving marketing world. And catalogs can play a powerful role in it—provided you understand how to MAIL them and how to EVALUATE their value—as a multi-channel marketing tool.
With a record helping clients in the consumer, B2B, apparel, food and beverage, fragrance, luxury and other industries, Hansel Group Marketing has the knowledge and experience to continually extract actionable insights from your data that will enable you to grow and sustain your business. We help companies put together their circulation plans and manage their mailings from start to finish. Call us for a free, no-obligation consultation to learn how strategic catalog marketing can drive success for your entire company.