Profile of Success: Power Outage?
This month, Brendan Edgerton, vice president of direct marketing for consumer electronics cataloger Crutchfield, discusses his life in the catalog business. Catalog Success: How did you get started in the business?
Brendan Edgerton: I had a nontraditional start. I was in Chicago in grad school heading toward a degree in American literature, teaching at Loyola, and came over to the dark side of catalog marketing as a way to support myself.
I started off with Herbert Krug & Associates, a small consulting firm. We did everything from circulation planning to list management/list brokerage to helping acquire and sell companies. I got to learn the business from the inside-out there.
The quantitative side of me started to get attracted to that side of the business. From there I moved over to Crate & Barrel full-time. Then I moved to Atlanta to work at Benchmark Brands, a health care direct marketer, then a B-to-B stint in Colorado with Corporate Express, prior to coming over to Crutchfield in Virginia.
CS: What career would you have chosen if you hadn’t gotten involved in the catalog/multichannel business?
BE: I was looking into editorial/copywriting, something where I could take those nascent skills as an English major and interests in literature and bring all that over to an environment that was feasible from a business standpoint. I still have a passion for teaching and enjoy anything where I have an opportunity to work with folks, either from an English-as-a-second-language standpoint or instruction in other areas.
But I think I would’ve worked my way over into business one way or another. It’s funny, that first job was offered kind of as an 80 percent creative/20 percent quantitative thing where I’d be using my skills to help write copy in support of the different catalog clients. It ended up heavily quantitative — circ management, metrics. So a bit of a flip on the ratio that I got into, but it ended up working out fine.
CS: What do you enjoy the most about the catalog business?
BE: I love that it’s an instant gratification game. I also enjoy the ability to execute a test immediately, either online or in print, and learn from the results. You kind of stay humble because not everything is going to be a success, but you then roll that back into a continuous improvement model. That’s what’s fun about direct — it’s always moving forward and getting smarter as you go.
CS: What do you enjoy the least about the catalog business?
BE: We tend to tolerate a certain level of mediocrity in our execution — I mean this across the catalog industry. In economic downturns, that can come back and bite us. That’s when everybody starts focusing on optimizing models or getting more efficient in the mail or conserving costs. It’s unfortunate that it takes those massive, winnowing-out time frames to get people focused on doing this well. The faster we learn together, the more viable our industry becomes, and we can better maintain consumer interest and a level of performance.
To read or listen to the full interview, click on the link A Chat With Brendan Edgerton, at right.