For those of you who don’t ordinarily attend NEMOA events, they’re usually like minireunions of longtime catalog practitioners and typically have a big "Rah! Rah! Go Catalog!" flavor to them. But the mood and whole underlying tone at the Spring 2009 NEMOA Conference held a couple of weeks ago in Boston was different from any NEMOA event I’ve ever attended.
In a nutshell, the theme this go-round was, “Hello? Reality check.” Sure, many of the longtime catalog guard were in attendance, and there were plenty of hugs and kisses and much catching up to go around. The NEMOA board and its boundlessly energetic directors, Janie Downey and Terri Patashnik, chose a wonderful new location (Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel) after many years at the aging Royal Sonesta in Cambridge, Mass., and the facilities were just right for the seminars.
But in most of the sessions and receptions, I kept hearing the same thing: Catalogers must get out of the mode of thinking of themselves as catalogers or even multichannel merchants. As one speaker pointed out so matter-of-factly, “We’re all sellers of product, period. The channel we sell from is up to our customers, and we have to be there for them wherever they choose.”
In fact, in gazing beyond my laptop, I noticed perhaps the most extreme levels of attentiveness taking place during sessions delivered by Christopher Kimball of America’s Test Kitchen and Clark Scheffy of IDEO, neither of whom even sell anything through catalogs.
Bottom line is, if you don’t broaden your marketing efforts well beyond print catalogs soon and change your whole mind-set about who you are and what your business is, you’ll be left behind.
‘Stop Focusing on the Catalog’
Bill LaPierre, Millard Group’s senior vice president of list brokerage, who at many past NEMOA conferences has delivered his no-holds-barred critiques of bad catalog efforts in his “What Were They Thinking?” presentations, focused primarily on catalogers’ Web efforts this time, even poking fun at a number of blunders made by NEMOA board members’ companies. In fact, he advised the catalogers in attendance to focus on customers going online and to “stop focusing on the catalog.”