The early bird catches the worm...
Northern Parrots is the UK's leading parrot accessory provider. Before setting up the business Mike Taylor, Managing Director at Northern Parrots, previously ran a pet store, before spotting a gap in the market.
Mike explained: "When running the pet store, we used to sell and deliver parrot cages, and other parrot related products, and over the years we were getting more and more enquiries. It's amazing how many people actually own a parrot in the UK! So it was at this time when I thought to myself we could actually make a successful business out of just catering for these parrot owners."
Polly wants a catalogue...
So in 1997/98 Mike set-up Northern Parrots and began to market his business. "From the pet store days we had already built up a good database of both suppliers and consumers. So the first stage was to let our customers know what we had to offer them. So we put together our very own handmade catalogue, which was about 8 pages long," said Mike.
Over the next few years, as Mike's business grew, so did his catalogue, going from 8 pages, to 16 pages, to 32 pages. He commented: "The catalogue was getting bigger and bigger, and it was at this stage that we decided to get a couple of companies involved to help us with the design of it, and to help us put it all together. It got to that point where a more professional approach was needed."
During this time, Mike's catalogue then grew to 64 pages in length, but as the business got bigger, Mike was keen to maximise all his marketing efforts, and make sure everything was working as best it could for him. He said: "We were doing some advertising in the relevant consumer magazines, along with some PR, but I knew we could probably be doing more with the catalogue. So that's when I decided to get an expert in."
After much research, Mike met with 3 companies, all specialising in catalogues. Each presented their work, and provided samples of what his future catalogue could look like. After much deliberation Mike decided to work with Ian Simpson and the Catalogues 4 Business (C4B) team.
"Right from the off Ian and I hit it off. He 'got' me and 'got' the business. What's more he wasn't all about just revamping the catalogue, which yes it needed, but there was a science to his work. He knew what he was doing."
So in 2005 C4B began work on Mike's first new catalogue. They formatted it in certain ways, so that the best selling products were placed on certain pages, and the least on other pages, they re-designed the look of it, and created a more user friendly index, amongst many other things.
Mike explained: "C4B made some huge changes, both which were pleasing on the eye, and on my wallet. As the catalogue grew in page size, it was beginning to become more and more expensive to post out to people, which was a free service we offered. C4B managed to make it lighter in weight, but not lose the quality of its appearance."
In 2011, Mike's catalogue now has 100 pages, and goes out to thousands of customers each time. What's more, and in such a cyber dominated world, the Northern Parrots Catalogue is still the main driving force in getting sales for Mike's company.He said: "Of course, we have a website, and we take a lot of orders through the website. But it's only when we send our latest catalogues out do we see a huge rise in sales both from the catalogue itself and online."
Mike continued: "People still like to have something tangible in their hands that they can browse through. This is when a catalogue comes into its own. It's ok when you know what you want, you can go on a website and get it, but if you're not sure what you're after then flicking through the pages of a catalogue is so much easier".
Mike sends out a new catalogue up to 6 times a year, and every time it goes out, it provides the company the biggest lift in sales, far more than any of our other marketing activities, such as Adwords or magazine advertising. Mike explained: "When a catalogue goes out, our sales would double digit increase for that month. I can't ask for more than that. Not only is it a great sales tool, but it also prompts people to go to the site as well. We use source codes, so we know the catalogue is getting people to buy online as well as directly through our mail order service."
Mike concluded: "Over the last 5-6 years C4B have transformed not only our catalogue but our sales. If anybody's looking for a catalogue for their business, then look no further than C4B, they will deliver!".