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Kalmbach Publishing: Riding High on the Hobby Train

This month, Customer Portrait presents Kalmbach Publishing in Waukesha, Wisconsin.  Kalmbach joined the Advantage community in 1982.

In 2008, Kalmbach Publishing celebrated their 75th anniversary as a special interest publisher serving a diverse set of hobbyist markets. Kalmbach provides information to their customers through a variety of media channels including books, events, magazines, television partnerships and web sites.

Kalmbach editors and many other staff members are active enthusiasts themselves, sharing the same passion and curiosity for their leisure time pursuits as their readers. This mutual enthusiasm fosters long-term relationships with customers, and their Advantage system supports that effort with extensive customer loyalty-building features.

Kalmbach's markets currently include model railroading?with the 75-year-old Model Railroader as the flagship?beading and jewelry making, astronomy, scale modeling, and bird watching. They produce 15 magazines and a host of special-interest publications (SIPs). The book division publishes about three dozen books annually, and they also maintain nearly 30 Web sites.

An independent and privately held publishing company in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Kalmbach continues to grow and diversify by acquiring and launching products, and by capitalizing on opportunities within their core markets. To support their growth strategy, they actively monitor trends and look for opportunities to acquire existing products and launch new ones. Advantage is an important tool in that effort.

Advantage has been a part of Kalmbach's success since 1982. At that time, Kalmbach was looking to expand and needed a system that could support their growth and help them build their special interest databases. Advantage fit the bill then and has supported their growth ever since. In 1982, Kalmbach converted less than 100,000 records onto Advantage, while today they serve nearly 1.5 million.

In addition to CIR (Circulation Management), PRO (Product Order) and other core modules, Kalmbach uses ADM (Advertising Management) and BDM (Bulk Distribution). They added the Web module in 1999 and CEM (Conference and Event) in 2004. CEM helps them to manage the Bead&Button show, which Kalmbach acquired along with Bead&Button magazine in 1996. They moved the show to Milwaukee in 2001 and it has grown to become the world's largest consumer bead show. The 2009 Show offers more than 500 beading classes and workshops and will feature nearly 300 exhibitors on the show floor. About 3500 seats were sold on opening day for class registration in January!

Nikki Lorenz, Business Systems Manager, has been working with Advantage since 1985, although she prefers not to be referred to as ACS' "oldest" client. "The Advantage product has really evolved since we signed on, as has the level of support ACS provides," says Nikki. "I have always been able to count on ACS to be there when I need them and to provide whatever services are necessary. We have developed a great partnership through the years."

Jim Schweder, Vice President of Technology at Kalmbach, has this to say about ACS/Advantage: "A true business partner. The ACS team has always been helpful and understanding as we expand our use of the Advantage system."

As a long-time Advantage client, Kalmbach has hosted many site visits for prospective Advantage customers. ACS is always happy to send prospects to Waukesha because Kalmbach's well-run operation never fails to impress other publishers. The company's strong emphasis on customer service is always noticed and remarked upon. Kalmbach employees know the Advantage software very well and use it to its full capacity, which also makes a very positive impression. These factors have made Kalmbach the leader in turning site visits into sales for Advantage. (We are still working out the sales commission details!)

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