Denny Hatch

Denny Hatch

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

A Web Site I’d Like to See Launched

With 10.1 million people unemployed in the U.S., why buy from China? I recently Googled “catalog” and these sponsored links popped up: SkyMall online catalog Search hundreds of SkyMall products online. Official site. Shop now Newport News Runway-inspired fashions for less. Shop our 2008 styles and trends. Signals Mail Order Catalog Fun & Great Gifts for All Occasions Your One-Stop Holiday Gift Store Crate & Barrel Furniture Find Contemporary Furniture for Your Home Online at Crate & Barrel! — November 11, 2008 Late last summer I ordered two pair of chino trousers

Do You Make it Easy to Order on the Web? (My Bet is No.)

A true story: This past Sunday I decided to order a Christmas gift for our friends Doris and David and another for my cousin Suzy — ideally the same gift for both, something foodie and festive. I went to the following Web sites: Swiss Colony, The Wisconsin Cheeseman, Hickory Farms, Red Cooper, Fortnum & Mason,, See’s Candies, Ghirardelli Chocolate Co., Jelly Belly, Mrs. Field’s Gifts, Figi’s, Dean & DeLuca, Cross Creek Groves, Godiva Chocolatier, and Harry & David. All were happy to take my order for two of the same item. I could not for the life of me figure out how to

A Road to Success

In years past, automobiles were distinctive. Each model made a statement about itself and its owner. Today, many cars tend to look similar. The handful of exceptions include the Mini Cooper, PT Cruiser, VW Beetle, Bentley, Porsche and, of course, the Corvette. Since first introduced in 1953 by legendary designer Harley J. Earl (1893-1969), about 1.25 million Corvettes have been built, and more than 1 million are still on the road. Every year in late August more than 5,000 of these sleek muscle cars converge on the Carlisle, Pa., fairgrounds to be bought, sold, swapped and ogled by 60,000 enthusiasts, while more than

Inviolable List Principles

Richard V. Benson, consultant and author of “Secrets of Successful Direct Mail” 1. Lists are the most important ingredient to the success of any promotional mailing. C. Rose Harper, first woman to serve as chairperson of the Direct Marketing Association, Direct Marketing Hall of Fame inductee, and former president of The Kleid Co. 2. Direct marketing companies don’t have a single mailing list — they have many. How many? Only segmentation will tell. Your opportunities to segment a customer file into marketing units when purchasing behavioral characteristics are vast. Thus, while the marketing Information network (mIn; offers more than 42,000

Masters of Reinvention

Paul Fredrick Sacher is one of the five premier catalog merchants of menswear — primarily dress shirts, neckties and cufflinks. If he had 100,000 customers like Franklin Watts, he would be in hog heaven. Frank Watts was a hard drinking, wildly irreverent and funny traveling book salesman who founded a children’s publishing company in 1945 that bears his name today. The son of a Baptist minister, Watts once said that from his earliest boyhood he was made to wear a shirt and tie every day to be presentable in case a parishioner came to the rectory. All of his life, the only time Watts

The Secret to a Successful Web Site

It should have such incredible perceived value that your visitors want to bookmark it By Denny Hatch When I travel, I like to bring my laptop so I can check e-mail and read English-language newspapers online. To do that, of course, I need the right phone jack for the country I'm visiting. Recently I went to Spain. Before I left, I visited the Web site for the Magellan's catalog, clicked on "Info Center," scrolled down the country guides list to Spain and found that Spanish telephones are accessible with the RJ-11 adapter used in the United States. Terrific! No order needed from

A Grand Plan in Action

The metamorphosis of Rob and Diane O’Connor from wide-eyed idealists to razor sharp, gimlet-eyed catalogers who are on top of every facet of a $17 million merchandising operation is as inspiring as it is fascinating. Now in their early 60s, the O’Connors are at the top of their game and supremely fit. How fit? Rob O’Connor recently ran a 150-mile marathon across the Sahara in 100-degree heat carrying on his back bedding, an eight-day supply of food and a small stove. In the process, he raised $17,000 for cancer research at the Cleveland Clinic as a thank you for his successful prostate surgery.

The Dual-use Concept

By Denny Hatch I am a late-night talk-radio junkie. I have this little pillow speaker, and when I wake up during the night, I turn on the radio and hope the talk will lull me back to sleep. From midnight until 2 a.m. Rollye James, a woman with a brilliant intellect and an encyclopedic knowledge of rock-n-roll music, is on the radio. Then from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. is Coast-to-Coast AM with George Norry who replaced Art Bell, one of the great Renaissance minds of the 20th/21st centuries. What these talk wizards have in common is a sponsor called C. Crane

Acquire Customers With Alternative Media

I’ve been in direct marketing for 40 years. I got into the business when direct mail was king and off-the-page advertising was queen. Little telemarketing was done. Certainly there was no DRTV. And e-mail was just a gleam in the eyes of a select few. Today, direct mail is still the workhorse of direct marketing — the most efficient way for a marketer to reach those potential customers with the right demographic and behavioral patterns. As a result of our starting the newsletter WHO’S MAILING WHAT! (now Inside Direct Mail) and running it for 15 years, I’d estimate that more than 200,000 mail packages

VWR International: Synergy in Action

We are the largest store in the world doing an exclusive mail order business. We occupy 25 acres of floor space, employ 2,000 clerks and have 2,000,000 customers who buy from us by mail. From 15,000 to 35,000 orders and letters come to us daily. Our average daily shipments are: 2,500 packages by freight, 4,000 by express and 6,500 by mail—a total of 13,000 packages daily. ... We have just issued a new catalogue—No. 68—the largest, finest and most complete book of its kind ever published. It contains 1,200 pages, 17,000 pictures. It gives wholesale prices and truthful descriptions of 70,000 things. —Montgomery Ward

IKEA, Sweden’s Jewel

Focus On: Merchandising & Creative The year was 1943. World War II was raging across Europe. Norway was occupied by Germany. The Nazis needed access to open ocean and the deep-water fjords to shelter their great ships. Next door, Sweden remained neutral and relatively untouched by the conflict. In the town of Elmtaryd, Sweden, in the parish of Agunnaryd, an ambitious 17-year-old boy named Ingvar Kamprad traveled from farm to farm selling seeds from a box on the back of his bicycle. He had other items to sell—fountain pens, pencils and matches—but couldn’t inventory them all on a bicycle. So he hit on

What a B-to-B Catalog Should Be

I am a sucker for perfection—those things in life that cannot be improved upon. Examples include toothpicks, McDonald’s french fries, the Boeing 747, Avery labels, a Bombay Sapphire martini, Fred Astaire movies, Rubbermaid® products and business-to-business (b-to-b) catalogs that don’t waste my time. The catalogs from Consolidated Plastics are good examples of the latter. The Twinsburg, OH-based company produces four b-to-b catalogs: Plastics; Rubbermaid Commercial Products (right); Bags, Packaging and Shipping Supplies; and Commercial Mats and Matting. My favorite is the Rubbermaid book, which features bright colors, terse but perfect copy, absolute ease of navigation and no-hassle ordering. The cover

Whatever Works: Where Product is King

John Peterman ran some ads for a cowboy duster and built the $70 million J. Peterman catalog business. Mel and Patricia Zeigler discovered a cache of surplus French army shirts, ran small ads and parlayed them into Banana Republic. Ditto Lillian Vernon with personalized women’s belts and handbags. For Larry Brown, it was … uh … a toe-straightener for six-toed feet. Really. Brown, 55, started out as a rookie in the Great Old Days of mail order, and has a repertoire of wild and colorful stories to prove it. He says he never chose the mail order business. The mail order business

Find New Customers, Without Breaking the Bank

It is imperative to determine the lifetime value of customers by source. Robert Hackett, RRD Direct’s vice president of sales, provides the following formula: Lifetime value is a function of frequency of purchase, multiplied by the gross margin, multiplied by the duration of brand loyalty. What can you afford to pay for a new customer? To make that determination, Gary Hennerberg of the Hennerberg Group suggests you take the following steps: • Research customer lifetime value. • Calculate every imaginable fixed and variable cost associated with selling your products, including cost of goods sold, inbound 800 number costs, business reply mail, postage,

J. Peterman Redux

This month, we begin a new column devoted to introducing you to your colleagues in cataloging. Enjoy! Who did not love J. Peterman’s catalogs—dubbed “Owner’s Manuals”—and his wonderfully wafty copy that turned every SKU into an award-winning short story? But in the late 1990s, Peterman lived every cataloger’s worst nightmare: investors squeezing him to grow and be profitable, forcing him to spend his time chasing capital rather than chasing great product and making deals. In the end, he tried to open 70 retail stores, succeeded in opening 10, but then went bust, turning over the detritus of a magnificent dream to a