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Stephen R. Lett spent the first 25 years of his career in executive-level positions at both business-to-business and business-to-consumer catalog companies, including Monarch Marketing Systems, Tandy Corp., Edmund Scientific Co., The Drawing Board and Country Curtains. Additionally, he owned... the Writewell Co., and started (and owned) The Write Touch.

He also taught direct marketing at Indiana University. Today, Steve owns Lett Direct, a catalog and internet consulting firm specializing in circulation planning, plan execution, analysis, as well as internet marketing and email marketing. He’s the winner of a Silver Mail Box Award from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), is a past chairman of the DMA’s Catalog Council, and a former member of the DMA’s Committee on Ethical Business Practices. Steve also writes a monthly column in Catalog Success Magazine.

It's a new year and the Lett Direct team has put together "50 Best Tips for 2015" that will help you increase your profits. While not in any particular order, these suggestions are being made to help you improve your print catalog and digital marketing programs. Some of our suggestions might be obvious while other tips might stimulate your thinking. Regardless, we hope our tips and suggestions for 2015 will benefit your business.

I began my catalog career over 40 years ago. I've learned several lessons over the years about the dos and don'ts of catalog marketing. I'd like to pass along some of what I've learned and the principles we follow today as we advise our customers. I've seen companies with the best of intentions make decisions opposite of what they should have done. Often these decisions have been an attempt to save money (or at least they thought). In many cases, adding rather than reducing is the better choice.

There's a favorable relationship between the incremental costs of adding pages vs. the actual return. Pages generate a high return on investment. For example, increasing page count from 52 pages to 60 pages yields a 15.4 percent increase in the number of square inches of selling space. Yet, typically the cost is only 7.4 percent more for the eight extra pages (again, this is approximate depending on the quantity printed).

Catalog executives always seem to have a great deal of interest in their average order size. They become concerned when they see it decrease. What's more, catalogers often spend time trying to artificially increase the average order size without really understanding the implications of doing so. That's why I want to provide a good understanding of what's behind the average order size and other measurements that might be more important to your analysis.

Print catalog circulation is starting to increase for a number of reasons. First, mailing a catalog drives business to the internet. We know that up to 80 percent of all orders placed online were the result of mailing a catalog. Second, the lifetime value (LTV) of a catalog buyer is higher than other channels. For example, if a consumer goes to a search engine for a particular item, they might buy it at the right price, but it doesn't mean they'll buy again. However, if the order originates via a catalog, the consumer is more inclined to make repeat purchases.

Catalog response rates have been flat or trending down the past few years … or so it seems. The web is certainly a factor, but there are several other reasons why this is the case. When response rates start trending down, what action should you take? How should you alter your print circulation to compensate for lower response rates? Often, the actions management take are the opposite of what should be done.

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