The Truth About Industry Salaries (and how they detract from hiring the best employees): Catalog Marketing Hiring Tips, Part 3

For the past two weeks, I’ve offered my take on what’s wrong with the catalog-marketing hiring market. I did this after a survey published by Bernhart Associates ( stated that 24 percent and 53 percent of direct marketing companies were having a “difficult” and “somewhat difficult” time finding top-notch talent.

This week, I submit my thoughts on the state of our industry in terms of hiring salaries. As a preface, it’s been a long, uphill battle, but I think that direct marketing is finally starting to get the recognition it deserves. It seems that the rise of the Internet has helped legitimize our

A List Primer for Product Side Management

Since last September, we’ve discussed printing, merchandise and catalog creative execution. Over the next few weeks, I’ll serve up some suggestions and insights regarding the list side of the catalog business.

Always remember, the 40/40/20 rule of direct marketing states that list selection can impact 40 percent of your direct marketing efforts.

For starters, you’re probably paying WAY too much attention to your merchandise and creative efforts! That’s O.K., it’s only natural. You’re a merchant in a product driven company and you want your products and your brand image to represent the sum of your hard work. Besides, your products and image are the calling

Can Creative Lightning Strike Twice?

The following is a true story. The names have been changed to protect, well, me.

Some time ago, I was hired to run, actually turn around, a consumer mail order company that sold apparel and accessories. The company sold high-quality products to a niche market, and prospecting wasn’t so easy. Sales and profits were declining despite the fact that the company’s industry was seeing a growth spurt.

We decided, as part of the overall turnaround strategy that the catalog’s image needed a makeover.

Frankly, the catalog looked horrible, so we hired a great catalog agency to fix things.

The agency re-did everything from our logo to

Proper Care and Feeding for Your Internal Creative Team

If you decide you want to tackle catalog creative development in house, my recommendation is to follow a few simple rules regarding your creative talent. As I said last week, developing catalogs for mail order is different than branding. The more your design team understands the roots of the direct marketing business the better for your business.

Rule #1: If you’re hiring a designer or a creative director, hire vertically. Find someone with a background in your industry. If you market clothing, then find someone who has designed mail order clothing catalogs, etc. There’s a lot of creative talent out there, but it’ll make your

How to Choose the Right Design Team to Implement Your Catalog

When clients come to me with questions about starting a catalog, invariably the subject of creative development comes up. Should it be their internal creative department despite its limited knowledge of catalog development; their agency, which really knows the business; or someone else entirely?

My answer to those questions always is this: Choose designers who specifically know the mail order catalog market. Why? Consider the following:

A catalog used to generate sales via mail/Internet ordering is a very different animal from a branding vehicle. It may look similar, but companies that create mail order catalogs know exactly how to build a catalog that not only builds

Increase Sales With This Simple Call Center Training Technique

As direct marketers, we spend a great deal of time and money developing programs to make the phone ring. But it’s the call center agents that truly make the cash register sing.
Thus, I like to spend a great deal of time training customer service reps (CSRs) to be powerful brand advocates with the ability to make a difference with all customers. Personally I hate calling a company and hearing some disinterested rep deal with my order in a lackluster way. It tells me that the company I’m dealing with doesn’t get that the people manning the phones are the voice of the

Why Must I Wait for a Wii? And Will the Internet Rescue You or Bury You?

I’m in the process of digesting an insider’s report by Universal McCann that projects growth for direct mail and the Internet in 2007 to be 7.5 percent and 15 percent respectively.

This means that direct marketing growth is once again estimated to outpace other areas of advertising.

This forecast further reinforces my opinion that there’s never been a greater time to be in our industry. So if you’re a pure-play Internet marketer, there’s never been a better time to increase your business by starting a catalog. If you’re already a cataloger, according to a recent Web poll on, 76 percent of you saw

Postal Reform, Shmostal Reform: Beat any postal increase NOW (and look like a hero!) Part 3 of 3

Continuing the discussion started here a few weeks ago, I’m firing off some more tips to offset any postal increase, anytime. Use them in good health.

9. Get closer with your letter carrier: If you’re not using a printer who does destination entry programs, then find one quickly. With destination entry your printer trucks your catalog closer to the bulk mail centers and sectional center facilities. The end result is that your mail has travels a shorter distanceon its way to the end reader (your customer). The cost for trucking will be less than the discount from the post office. The end result: you save

Postal Reform, Shmostal Reform: Beat any postal increase NOW (and look like a hero!) Part 2 of 3

Continuing the discussion started here in December, here are some more tips to offset any postal increase, anytime.

6. Drive ’em on in. Can you get away with not mailing a catalog? How about testing a miniature catalog, or even a postcard designed to drive customers to your Web site. But don’t just implement it without knowing its impact; test it meticulously. (For more on miniature catalogs, watch for a special feature coming the February print edition of Catalog Success.)

7. Prospect with your best foot forward. Consider creating a smaller catalog just for prospecting purposes. Place your best selling products in it (from our squinch

Postal Reform, Shmostal Reform: Beat any postal increase NOW (and look like a hero!)

Regardless of the fact that postal reform is on the verge of being signed into law, we all know one thing. Just like death and taxes, you can always count on postal rates to go up. So whether we get consistent, rate increases that are, alas, consistent with the consumer price index, or a whopper every few years, who cares? Because we always must work to compensate for increases.

The rule of thumb is for every penny your catalog costs go up, you must generate 2 cents per catalog mailed to compensate for it.

That means one of three things needs to happen: Your catalog

Just 384 More Shopping Days Left till Christmas 2007: A Call to (Early) Action

At this point, you’ve done just about all you could to ensure your best holiday 2006 success. And based on the results from last week’s poll on our home page, most catalogers should have a successful season. The results showed that 70 percent of readers who voted project that their holiday sales will be up over last year. This indicates a robust holiday season for most of our readers’ companies.

As impressive as that seems, it still leaves a sizable number of catalogers who expect their sales to be flat or down. This makes me wonder both what went wrong and how we as a

Give Thanks For Being a Cataloger

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. My family and I certainly did.

And as this is the time of year when we reflect on what we’re truly thankful for, let me share this with you. I’m thankful for my career in direct and catalog marketing.

Think about it: In what other industry are almost all of the actions we take directly measurable, where our worth as businesspeople can be so easily quantified? I take comfort in that. Don’t you?

As direct marketers, we don’t have to create billboards, institutional ads, or even beer commercials, and pray that they eventually drive in revenue through brand recognition.

Four Last-minute Tactics to Increase Your Holiday Revenue

I’ll keep this column brief (I know you want this week to end. I can’t wait for the advanced stages of tryptophan sleepiness to set in after the turkey is done). Want to add some revenue before the end of the year? Try the following:

1. Add an extra mailing in before the end of the year. Try it this way: After your last mailing is complete, mail one more catalog just to your hotline buyers, those who just responded from your last mailings of the year. If it’s too late to get your printer involved, grab some of your bounce back and office copy

Perchance to Dream (of New Customers and Untapped Riches)

Last night I had a dream. I had a vision of many customers. Not just any customers, but the most coveted buyers of them all…mail order buyers!

And They bought often and recently, and liked to purchase many products at a time. They loved these products so much that they would never consider returning them. They liked to purchase in a specific category – they were niche buyers. A plentiful niche that was easily identifiable, a targeted market – the lowest hanging fruit from the tree!

And I remember in my dream that I felt warm and secure knowing that these were soon to

Which is First? The Chicken (Product) or the Egg (Marketing)?

First, some comments on reader comments from last week’s blog:

To Lauren and Michelle: You made some excellent points on the difficulties of working within an organization whose top managers aren’t direct marketers. No doubt, retailing and direct marketing are very different disciplines. It’s analogous to being a surgeon: you can be a great heart surgeon, but before you attempt brain surgery, you better get some training.

To Robespierre: Although I’m not a merchandise person, I’ll address some merchandise issues in future postings.

As for this week’s blog, I divide catalog marketing into three main arenas: product, marketing and operations. All require very different skills.

In my