By Matt Kinsman

"There’s always something that can go wrong in fulfillment," says Fulfillment Management Association
president Nicole Bowman. "I speak one language, you speak another."

If there’s one issue that’s the mother of all hang-ups with your fulfillment company it’s communication breakdown.

"Publishers sometimes think that fulfillment companies can absorb anything that comes their way without any notice. And that is not the case," says Bowman.

Carole Ireland, president of circulation consulting services company QCS, says large and small publishers generally miscommunicate in different ways. "Large publishers can assume that the vendor really understands their business. They don’t and they won’t unless the publisher makes a concerted effort to share its specific goals and challenges with the fulfillment company on a regular basis."

This includes mail dates, what’s being sent, if there’s a premium and how many responses are expected. In other words, complacency is a killer. "In one case, the circulation manager was not reviewing all the reports and group renewals were not sent out for six months. Since groups were a large segment of the file, this error was very costly." According to Ireland, the mistake was north of $10,000.

Smaller publishers operating on a shoestring will sometimes expect the fulfillment vendor to double as a marketing department, says Ireland. "Small publishers often try to manage without a circulation manager;or with a person who was the receptionist last week. The lack of circulation expertise and knowledge on the publisher’s side puts the vendor in a dicey position." In this case the vendor ends up helping the publisher understand who’s responsible for what in the relationship.

Ireland’s common sense-based solution focuses on inclusion: "Ideally, the fulfillment vendor will be involved in the publisher’s annual planning stage, or will receive a detailed plan to review. They can usually accommodate any marketing needs as long as they have the time to plan."

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