PATIENT: “Doc, I really need to cut catalog program costs again, but without impacting sales. We've already done the standard things like lighter paper, fewer pages, operational efficiencies, and so on. What's left?” CATALOG DOCTOR: “You've done well so far. What's left isn't as easy as the standard cuts. Most require study and elbow grease.…
PATIENT: “Doc, we've recently experienced a sales drop and I don't understand why. What's the best way to track down why it happened and how to fix it?” CATALOG DOCTOR: “You're doing right to quickly dig into causes behind the sales drop. The quicker you know why, the faster you can fix things. Here's a…
“Our audience is dying. We need to attract a younger audience to get sales back up.” I've heard this over and over for years from both consumer and business catalogers. Yet their age-range demographic reports usually show counts remaining stable, not declining. What's up? While it’s true for catalogers with older customer bases that a…
PATIENT: "Doc, our new owners want to change the catalog so it's more like a series of ads — aspirational, exciting, clean, with attention-grabbing headlines on each spread. They figure ads work to drive sales to their brick-and-mortar stores, so that proven formula will work for the catalog too."
PATIENT: My catalog’s in a fairly crowded market. All my competitors look similar and carry many similar products. Is that the best way to do it? Will I sell more being more like the competition, or should I work to be really different? CATALOG DOCTOR: Being different is better for your catalog, but there are some wrinkles, too. Learn the signs and symptoms of being too much like your competitors. Do your customers get you mixed up with your competitors? If so, you’re losing out on building customer loyalty and higher response. Sit back, let me tell you a story. Five
PATIENT: Doc, I’m a longtime catalog marketing pro running a multichannel business. But between the down economy and the expanding Web, I’m depressed and confused about how to get my business back on track. With all of today’s changes, are there any prescriptions you can give me? CATALOG DOCTOR: You’re suffering from a recent affliction called Lost-Boom Syndrome, or LBS. It’s been sweeping multichannel businesses since this economic malaise set in, creating anxiety and despair. LBS exhibits multiple symptoms, requiring a multiple therapy approach. Let’s look at each symptom and its therapy. Symptom 1: Sloppy Marketing The most recent economic boom allowed
PATIENT: The copy in my catalog has always been good. But the young people on my staff say it needs to be way shorter — that no one reads anymore. My older staff says I need to keep copy long so customers get all the information they need to buy. I want to keep up with the times, but I don’t want sales to go down. Who’s right? CATALOG DOCTOR: They’re both right, but you don’t need to choose. Your copy can be short and informative. The key is to organize copy in ways that make life easier for your customers. To see
PATIENT: Why aren’t catalogs prettier than they are? Isn’t a beautiful design the best thing for my catalog? CATALOG DOCTOR: It’s true that many catalogs aren’t as pretty as they could be. Most important, of course, is what lifts sales. Will beauty improve sales for you? Let’s try to answer that, then look at how to achieve beauty. Look at Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous “Mona Lisa,” acknowledged as beautiful art the world over. Whether from the colors, the proportions or the mysterious smile, it has the underlying elements that make people want to look at it and hang it on their walls.
PATIENT: Doc, 20 years ago, I launched a new catalog successfully. Now I’m thinking of launching another one. But I’ve been out of the business for a while. A lot must have changed in the last 20 years. What’s different about a launch or spin-off today that I need to know? CATALOG DOCTOR: Many of the old prescriptions for a launch or spin-off still work. But there are also new, complex combination treatments because of today’s postage costs, paper costs and the growth of the Web. Kitchen Table Still Usable? Launching a brand-new catalog from your kitchen table is still a theoretical possibility. Then
PATIENT: Doc, almost all our orders used to come through the call center. Now 75 percent come via our Web site. We’re ready to give up on our catalog and go Web-only. Is that a good idea? CATALOG DOCTOR: To keep your Web business healthy, I advise keeping your catalog. You’ll be surprised how much the catalog drives both sales and profits. It’s probably the primary driver of Web site orders. PATIENT: But how can I know for sure? I need to be able to justify an ongoing investment in the catalog. CATALOG DOCTOR: Let’s look at four different ways to learn how
Patient: Doctor, although I have a consumer catalog, I’ve found some business customers on my list. I’m unsure of whether or not to try to find more business customers. Is B-to-B a good growth tonic for me, or a snake-oil serum? Catalog Doctor: B-to-B can be a good segment for some consumer catalogers to try to grow, especially if you sell business-appropriate gifts or productivity products. Plus, average order values can be double that of consumers, which can help cure slow growth and profitability. To grow that B-to-B segment, however, you need different treatments than you’re used to. Here’s a nine-step prescription. 1. Hang a welcome
Patient: Doctor, our creative has always been snappy — our photos vibrant, copy right on, headlines catchy — and our customers always responded. But lately, sales have been sluggish and customers aren’t responding to our creative like they used to. What’s wrong? Catalog Doctor: Sounds like you folks have a touch of creative lethargy. It can happen to any cataloger. Your creative just needs some pepping up. Let’s run some tests to see which prescription is right for you. It may require a mix of treatments. Let me start by asking (and responding to) a few questions: 1. When’s the last time
Patient: Doc, this postage increase worries me. Should I switch from a standard-size catalog to a digest or slim jim? How can I switch without making my business sick? Catalog Doctor: A digest or slim jim can produce a strong, healthy business. The smaller size often evokes a more personal, “company-that-cares” feel. When combined with upscale design and photography, it also evokes quality and “best of class.” Patient: How can I tell if a digest or slim jim is right for me? And how do I avoid the potential pitfalls? Catalog Doctor: A digest or slim jim might work for you if you fall under one
During a session I led at the ACCM conference last week in Boston on how smaller catalogers can compete with the “big guys,” Terry Powers and Mark Mackaman of ComputerGear, a 15-year-old cataloger of computer-related t-shirts, gifts and accessories, said their key to success is “unique product, unique product, unique product.” They emphasized the importance of protecting those products via copyrights, trademarks and patents. The ComputerGear executives also stressed developing efficient operations. They cross-train CSRs to pull, pack and ship, and they make many of their own products, subcontracting manufacturing that they can’t handle efficiently in-house. They also recommended testing at least one thing —
Patient: Doc, I feel like my competitors are growing, but my business remains flat. Do you have any suggestions? Catalog Doctor: Studying your competitors is a great way to get ideas on how to reinvigorate your catalog program, regain market share and revitalize your customer base. Patient: Can you prescribe something for me, Doc? Catalog Doctor: Here are 10 easy tips for doing a competitor analysis to help you find your rivals’ strengths and weaknesses, and zero in on your best paths for growth. ONE: Set Specific Goals If you set concrete goals, you get concrete results from your competitor analysis. And you’ll