How To Know If A Slim Jim Is Right For Your Business?

They’re popping up everywhere.  The economy seems to be on an upswing and many e-tailers are expanding their horizons into the direct mail sectors.  They are looking for a format that could possibly work for them.  On the other hand, with the recent hike in postage, some catalogers are questioning cutting back the catalog side of their business.  If you are thinking about starting a catalog program or if you are thinking about reducing your current catalog program, we encourage you to think steady.   A Forbes article from 2012 (less than two years ago) titled Why Are Print Catalogs Still Around, writer and marketer Louis Geller explains that “even with everyone on the Internet, catalogs are still mailing in the billions (with a b) and the reason from the marketers’ perspective is the

Example of slim-jim catalogsfoundation of direct marketing: catalogs work! They more than pay for the costs of getting them into the hands of customers and prospects.”  If you are one of the catalogers that is electing to reduce your catalog circulation, perhaps you should try reformatting your current program first.  Changing to a Slim Jim format is a great way to reduce costs without sacrificing your circulation. Likewise, if you are an e-tailer looking for the best means to begin campaigning the good old fashion way a Slim Jim might be a good solution over postcards, brochures, flyers, or tri-folds.


There are some fantastic benefits to printing Slim Jims for any cataloger; it’s not just a solution for those wanting to cut costs.  Slim Jims are an excellent way to change to a new look.  They are smaller than an average catalog or magazine and so stand out more in a pile of mail.  Yet, it is still large enough to be recognized over a postcard.  Because of the size and postage savings, many catalogers can get away with using higher quality paper resulting in a more effective piece of marketing.   So, how do you know if a Slim Jim is the right format for your business?  Ask yourself the following questions:+


What is your product?  If your product requires large double spread pages or if you have a lot of products to sell on a single page then a Slim Jim may not be for you.  But, if your products are not as plentiful or you have say one type of product that could easily be marketed on a smaller format, then a Slim Jim could be a good alternative for you.  The Aero Garden catalog comes to mind .  That catalog has one style product that is perfect for a Slim Jim.  As you can see in this snapshot of their Slim Jim, just about each page focuses on one design of their product.




How many will you be mailing? If you have a million customers receiving your full size catalog and you decide to switch to a Slim Jim, you might want to think again.  An article in Multi-Channel Merchant called The Skinny on Slim Jims explains that “There are no statistics regarding the response rates for slim-jims vs. flats. But printers and consultants agree that reduced response often results from a switch to the smaller format.”  If you are printing 100,000 books, switching to a slim is a good test; however, if you are printing a million books or over, it would be to your benefit to research your customer feedback prior to the change.  Sending out a supplement perhaps of 100,000 Slim Jims to a select base would be a good way to start.


When is the last time you revamped your circulation program? Understanding where the problem is coming from before embracing solutions to correct the problem is a key factor to the success of any program.  If your catalog seems to be less effective than previous years and you think you have a circulation problem, perhaps you should forget the reformatting and focus instead on your mail file.  Changing trim size, although, it may reduce your costs, will not solve your circulation problems.  If your catalog is not driving sales, then something’s wrong and you won’t regret the time you put in to revamping your program.


Are you planning on mailing postcards or flyers?  Steve Lett from Lett Direct explains that “post cards do okay when used to (1) drive retail store traffic and (2) they can be effective driving web traffic (not always).  However, a single 2-sided post card cannot begin to replace a multi-page catalog in terms of contribution to profit & overhead“(see article Are Post Card Mailings Effective).  The Dingley Press can produce a Slim Jim catalog for essentially the same net cost in the mail and allow for more square inches for product descriptions.  The Slim Jim can be mailed out at the letter rate saving money on postage, just as a postcard would, but with the possible success of a catalog.


That said if you are thinking about reducing your catalog program or starting up a new program, then what do you have to lose?  Why not give it a try?  It’s worked for millions of catalogers so far.  If there is one certainty in the catalog industry, it is that catalogs do work. Why wouldn’t you do everything that is necessary to continue and/or grow your program?  In the long run, it could be what makes or breaks your business.



About the Author: Jim Gibbs

Vice President of Sales & Marketing at The Dingley Press. Jim has been with Dingley since 2002 and lives in Maine near our Lisbon, Maine plant location.