Tips and Insights on Choosing the Right Circulation Vendor
SpecComm International is a publisher of 16 magazines and guides for both the b-to-b and consumer markets. Founded in 1981, the Raleigh, N.C.-based company also produces a host of newsletters, Web offerings, research and analysis, and data and custom media products. After investigating and negotiating with nearly 10 circulation vendors over the course of this past year, SpecComm announced this week that it settled on ARGI, a provider of subscription fulfillment, reader service and database marketing solutions headquartered in Montvale, N.J.
Two of SpecComm’s executives who were at the heart of the selection process, Lesley Castle (vice president) and Victoria Gardner (director of information technology), agreed to offer their thoughts on the process of choosing a circulation vendor.
Inbox: Was there an “Ah-hah!” moment that caused you to realize you should look at outsourcing your circulation and fulfillment operations?
Lesley Castle: When we found out what the cost of upgrading software was going to be, the decision at that point was that we needed to look at all of our options, including outsourcing. I don’t think there was really an “Ah-hah!” moment because Vicki and I have spent the better part of a year now looking at about eight to 10 different vendors. Trying to get apples to apples compared from different vendors is a very difficult task. I’ve read many magazine articles that tell you to have a very [specific] request for proposal, but the problem is that [the vendors] aren’t all quoting the same things. So a lot of it was give and take in trying to figure out what the right fit was for us.
Vicki Gardner: In the initial contact with the vendors and in looking at their Web sites and reading their marketing materials, I found it very difficult to determine who was good at what. There are some vendors who concentrate on consumer [magazines] and others who concentrate on controlled and b-to-b. It’s just very difficult to even narrow down the range of vendors we should be looking at. Once I got into discussions with a couple of vendors, it was pretty clear that we were going to be an extraordinarily different kind of fish than they had ever dealt with before.