A BRIEF INTRODUCTION
A lot has happened at The Kid’s Directory (the KD) since the last newsletter some six months ago so there’s a fair amount to cover. I want to give you a heads up on upcoming events and special advertising sections as well as an update on some old business that has reared its ugly head again.
FIRST SOME FEEDBACK FROM
Over the past few months we have received a dozen letters from returning advertisers that had been woed away by competitive publications with promises of cost savings, better response or specific targeted issues. As it turned out, the promises made never measured up to what they had experienced with us so they have come home or have promised to come home as soon as the contracts they were forced to sign expire (remember, we don’t have contracts).
There was one letter in particular that caught my eye. It was from a new advertiser and the first line read: “Thank you all so much for all you do for our business, our family and our community…your thoughtfulness is overwhelming.” After talking about how we had made her business grow, she went on to talk about how we had made her daughter’s birthday memorable by providing tickets to Schlitterbahn. But the reference I liked the most was her thanking us for the “ways we provide for our advertisers to come together.” Honestly, it is that sense of community amongst good people with good businesses working with one another that charges our batteries and makes coming to work such an easy thing to do.
UPCOMING SPECIAL SECTION
By the time this newsletter reaches you, you may have already received a mailing from us promoting The Holiday Gift and Activity Guide. We are trying to entice you into advertising in this special section we have in the November and December books that is now in its 10th year. Think stocking stuffers, clothing, sporting goods, toys, family holiday camps, dance lessons, etc.…presents and fun stuff…anything or any service that might find a place under a family Christmas tree or in a Christmas stocking. Ad deadline will be around the 12th of October for November and about the same time frame in November for the December edition. We can help you make this the best Christmas season ever!
A new event, The Celebration of the Century, will be held on October 6th at the University of Houston main campus. Go to our web site (www.kids-houston.com) for more details. The event has been created to increase awareness of the Montessori vision of Dr. Maria Montessori. Many of the Greater Houston area Montessori Schools (some 200 at last count) will participate and of course, families wishing to learn more about a Montessori education are more than welcome. This is a free event and there will be all sorts of family entertainment and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who serves as honorary chair for the event, is scheduled to make an appearance. We will have snakes, face painting, a petting zoo and clowns playing around in the KD booth area. If you have an interest in booth space contact Deborah Elias at 713-334-1800 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
The Woodlands Children’s Festival is also just around the corner on November 10th & 11th. This event just gets better every year. The demographics are great, it is well attended and an awful lot of fun. It is, however, limited in its reach; focusing mainly on North and Northwest areas of Houston. It’s a great opportunity for our advertisers to get in front of a bunch of their prospective customers and interface with lots of happy families and kids. Call or email Vanessa (Vanessa@kids-houston.com) to get the particulars on how you can join in. We promise that you’ll have a great time. If you have an interest in setting up your own booth at the event, then you need to contact Mandi Sallee at firstname.lastname@example.org. And don’t forget the best news….we will overprint the KD like crazy so all our advertisers will be getting the proverbial bigger bang for their buck!
We have a treat for all your little princesses, goblins and super heroes. We’ve created a link on our web site (www.kids-houston.com) called ‘Halloween Resource Guide’ that highlights where to go and what to do for Halloween. Kid friendly low octane ‘Haunted Houses’ and the best costume options in town are listed with phone numbers and directions. Be sure and let them know the KD sent you! In early January, we will be running the The Early Enrollment Guide as well as our incredible Spring and Summer Activity Guide. Watch our web site for further updates and expect another newsletter in the mail in late fall talking up these really great advertising opportunities.
In December of 2005 we sent out a newsletter that covered some difficult territory (you can view newsletters on our website). In the section entitled, It’s Not the Name That Counts, I talked about a print broker out of Dallas that was selling Kids’ Directory franchises throughout the country (note the placement of the ’ in Kids’). For a couple thousand dollars, franchisees were given a binder with instructions, some CDs and were then sent off into the world to become publishers. Literally hundreds of these little publications were cropping up and one of them happened to land in Houston. It was called the Kids’ Directory of Fort Bend County. We received numerous calls from advertisers and others who said they had been solicited by a kids’ directory and were irritated and confused. I promised that I would deal with this problem and cautioned all of you to be wary of solicitation from anyone who purported to be part of the Kid’s Directory (The KD)—but was really from The Kids’ Directory.
Well, where we are today is certainly better than where we were…but we still have a ways to go. The one publication that called itself The Kids’ Directory of Fort Bend did change it’s name to Kid Stuff. They are also being careful not to offer up a confusing sales pitch that suggests that they are in any way connected to us. There is another publication that just started in the Spring and The Woodlands area called Kid Stuff Directory. I’ve also spoken to that owner and she too has agreed not to mislead or confuse advertisers. And today we heard of yet another publication that is supposed to be on the streets soon with its very first issue. It’s called The Kids’ Resource. It, like the Kid Stuff publications just mentioned, is the same size as the KD. The Kids’ Resource has also put up a web site that is so remarkably similar to ours that if it were a college paper submission, this new publication would be expelled and thrown out on their ear for plagiarism. They are also soliciting our advertisers with an email barrage that coupled with its web site is full of false and misleading claims. I know...I know…I know that imitation is the highest form of flattery or praise (or something like that) but this is more than a little irritating. And to top it off, there are still two other publications within our distribution area that we will have to deal with in the near future.
With few exceptions, the various look alike publications coming out of the Dallas franchise operation or from wherever are of marginal quality and typically offer a pretty awful to abysmal performance records; this hurts us. Sometimes people assume and are sometimes told that we are all part of the same family…so...its guilt by association. We can overcome this confusion… heck, most of the time the prospective advertisers figure out that there is something foul afoot on their own. But we don’t like expending the energy clearing up confusion that should have never been there in the first place. The real issue for me has always been one of integrity. As I said in a previous newsletter: “…I am more than a bit miffed that someone or another business would try and capitalize on something that they themselves did not earn.”
It’s not that we don’t like competition…We love competition. We have thrived amidst a huge variety of competitive challenges for some 17 years. Competition gives us the platform from which we distinguish ourselves from others. We have come to know that given the light of day, we will affirm our reputation as the best advertising value in Houston. When you come to understand what all the numbers mean (it’s not just about the price) there is no question that the KD is the least expensive of the lot. So it is not honest competition that concerns us… it is duplicity or said another way…dishonesty that bothers the heck out of us. So we repeat the same request as before: If any reader of this newsletter experiences misleading claims from any of the various kids related publicatios referenced above, please let us know. Just call (713-663-7555) or email us (email@example.com). We’ll follow up.
THE ART OF DISTINCTION —
OUR RELENTLESS PURSUIT
I have always believed that if you adopt the mentality of a service and commit to quality and excellence, success will follow; A publisher’s ‘Field of Dreams’ if you will. So every time that we feel pressure from the marketplace, or have seen a dip in sales our first reaction has been and will continue to be to enrich our quality. By spending more money, more time and more energy making what we offer better. And, without exception, these efforts have been rewarded. For the past 17 years we have continued to enjoy steady growth and an extraordinarily loyal customer and readership base.
Our pursuit of quality is in everything we do. We print locally so we can attend press checks to ensure the quality of the final product…and to make sure that colors, clarity and resolution remain consistent year after year after year. We have a distribution end of the company that employs over 25 people, some of whom have been with us for over seven years. We do it ourselves because it gives us the opportunity to continually refine our distribution and expand our circulation. Within the last year we have increased our circulation by 17% (our total monthly circulation now stands at approximately 81,000) and we’ve added a net of some 800 points of distribution. I phrase our expansion in ‘net’ terms because while we are adding new points of distribution, we are always refining those distribution points that we already have…or said another way; we delete those that are not appropriate (or productive) for our advertisers while we continually add those that better serve the needs of our advertisers.
A note of tremendous importance to any consumer of advertising: circulation without a refined and meticulous distribution strategy is and will always be…overstated. It is not what you have or produce, it is all about what you do with what you have.
Our graphics department in conjunction with our sales staff has taken a proactive stance with our advertisers, helping them create an advertising face that both communicates and excites. Ads that we create or ads that advertisers submit are all scrutinized to make sure that the advertiser gets maximum value out of their advertising dollar. In the same vein, our sales staff will caution advertisers if they feel that monies are not being well spent. It is not uncommon for us to ‘down sell’ with comments like: “Maybe a smaller ad would work as well” or “You might consider periodically varying the size of your ad based on
your marketing plan”.
We also take some responsibility for the quality of our advertisers. We follow Smucker’s lead...with a name like Smucker’s... ‘it has to be good’®. If you’re an advertiser with the Kid’s Directory, you have to be good as well. So we visit every school or daycare that wants to advertise with us and we try to visit each retail entity as well. It turns out to be a ‘win - win’ policy. Potential advertisers that fit within our readership demographic are encouraged to join the KD family while those that would not be well served by our readership are directed towards other advertising mediums that better meet their specific needs. So everybody wins. The end result of all this attentiveness is that our readers have come to trust the advertisers they find in the KD…precisely because they know that we do our homework. Think Smucker‘s. We are really proud of comments from our readers like the one that follows:
“I want to thank you for producing such a wonderful resource. We have found schools for our 3 children, great party ideas and wonderful family excursions. We haven’t yet found a single advertiser that was not of exceptional quality.”
Trust is something that is earned over time. At the KD we have earned trust in spades…not just from our advertisers, but from our readers as well. Maintaining that trust, however, is no easy trick. We encourage our readers to keep us on our toes!!
SO WHERE IS ALL THIS TAKING US?
This discussion has been a bit of a springboard…a hint of what is to come. In the coming months you will see a new look to the KD, a look that will further convey who we are, as apart from our competition. It is yet another example of our continued effort to improve our publications. We are going to spruce up our graphics and improve our distribution…again. Our eye is always on the elusive goal of creating and sustaining success for our advertising base. Our core belief has always been; if our advertisers are successful, we will follow their lead. It’s going to be an exciting time for us and our family of advertisers!
NEED ANY GRAPHICS WORK? MAYBE SOME PRINTING?
This hasn’t been mentioned in a good while…..but the Kid’s Directory has one heck of a graphics department whose services we make available to our advertisers as well as the general public. We offer tremendous artistic abilities and strong marketing savvy at rates that are about half that of market. We can do this because we have about ten to fifteen days a month when the demands of producing a monthly publication slow down…quite a bit actually. We want to use our time more productively so we offer our art department up to you and your business. You get exceptionally good work and we get better utilization of our assets…yet another win - win situation. One caveat however: clients must work within our deadline schedule. So if you have a crunch deadline, then we are likely not your cup of tea.
And did I mention that we often can save you a bunch of money on your printing costs? Because of our volume and our relationship with local printers, we can often quote printing prices that are a lot lower than you as an individual company can find. Call us!
With first pick going to our advertisers, we now have in house tickets to:
September 29th thru November 25th
September 29th thru April 13th
Texas Renaissance Festival
October 6th thru November 25th
The Nut Cracker Market at Reliant Arena
November 10th & 11th
October 6th thru April 13th
Dickens on the Strand
December 1st & 2nd
In the next few weeks we will be adding passes to Santa’s Wonderland as well as a few other holiday surprises so there is a fair amount to choose from. Give us a call and we will see what we can do for you. Advertisers always get first priority so if you are not currently an advertiser, consider this a bribe.
Thank you for being so patient and wading through all this verbiage. Please call us with any of your comments or questions. We are here to serve you.