Shari Altman

Shari Altman
Changing Channels

Whether you want to grow your business or maintain your database size as customers age out, prospecting is a challenge every successful cross-channel retailer needs to master. For some, buying lists and using paid search are the beginning and end of their prospecting efforts. But many eventually realize that to grow their businesses — and combat limited list universes
and increasingly competitive paid search pricing — they need to look at expanding further into multichannel prospecting.

The New Alternative

“Alternative prospecting strategies” almost seems like an oxymoron. The lines between traditional and alternative prospecting approaches have blurred — today all marketing is driven by multichannel consumers. So let’s define “alternative” as media other than mailing print catalogs to rented lists or paid search. Yes, we need to lump in paid search with traditional print mailings because search has become mainstream and is no longer considered an “alternative.” But what’s a cataloger to do if, as Marc Coan, owner of Made in New Mexico, points out, you want to come up with another way to prospect? “We have the infrastructure in place,” he notes.

What Sells Where?

You’d think that writing an article addressing methodologies to determine which products to feature on a Web site vs. a print catalog would be a no-brainer, right? Web pages are unlimited; printed pages are expensive real estate. It’s easy: Just put your best-sellers in the catalog and dump everything else you have in stock on your site. How difficult can that be? Most Web sites feature the full assortment of products offered by a company, but exposure on a catalog page is a more deliberate decision. For Russ Gaitskill, president/CEO of the Garnet Hill home furnishings and apparel catalog, decisions for catalog products are based

Proper Positioning

Few catalog/multichannel merchants include inserts in their prospecting or retention media plans, a fact that continues to baffle those who use inserts profitably. Most catalogers use bounceback catalogs as a kind of retention insert (though most don’t think of them as inserts). Few consider the strategic value of inserts to their retention rates, not to mention prospecting media mix. But there are countless other strategic benefits of including inserts in your prospecting. The assorted retention plans that can help you achieve overall business goals are worth looking into. Consider the strategic value of inserts for prospecting and retention separately. Strategic Prospecting Benefits 1. Inserts are an

The Double-edged Sword of Inserts’ Implied Endorsement

Inserts in packages or statements benefit from an implied endorsement of the sponsoring marketer whose package or statement the insert is riding along with. This can be a boon or a curse. In most cases, package inserts create a positive boost with the implied endorsement. Customers are receiving merchandise they ordered; they’re happy to receive what they’ve ordered and will look more favorably upon the inserts in the package because of it. This includes those bounceback catalogs many catalogers insert in outgoing shipments. But beware if customers aren’t happy with the merchandise in that package. Then, that implied endorsement becomes a “curse.” “When customers

Prospecting: Teach an Old Trade New (and Not so New) Tricks

Imagine copying the names of doctors and lawyers from the phone book and mailing them a crude, black-and-white catalog. John Figi, founder of gift food cataloger Figi’s, did just this —and was rewarded with a response in excess of 10 percent! That was in the 1940s, when Americans were starved for retail options. Fast-forward to 2007. Companies have more than 20 square feet of retail space per capita. Customers and prospects have thousands of Web sites from which to order, as well as about 10 to 20 catalogs delivered weekly. Naturally, it’s small wonder that prospecting response rates are declining. So, just what techniques

Setting Your Goal: A Roadmap to Success

Whether you’re a large cataloger, a nonprofit or a small family-owned business, your catalog will have sales goals to achieve. The tools and methodology used may differ, but the steps necessary during the planning process don’t. The basic roadmap to success: 1. Review past product sales history of units sold, gross profit and gross margin to identify products worth selling again. 2. Review list performance and sales by customer segment to identify lists worth repeating and list categories or segments worth testing or expanding. 3. Determine the availability of inventory. 4. Investigate the availability of additional lists, list categories or segments that match your

Special Report: The Art and Science of Catalog Management

Two essential ingredients of any successful catalog business — marketing and merchandising — have artistic elements where experience, creativity and intuition count more than numbers and cold hard facts. But they also have numeric benchmarks that if ignored, can spell disaster for customer acquisition, customer retention and brand integrity. Marketing and merchandising skill sets and viewpoints are vital, and impact the bottom line. When they’re in sync with each other, the resulting catalog invariably is better than either can deliver on its own. Interaction between the two disciplines is a two-way street, rather than a linear path. There are several ways to

The Sum of Crutchfield’s Parts

New product selections for consumer electronics cataloger Crutchfield are driven by its merchandising staff, which works closely with manufacturers. Vice President of Merchandising Rick Souder and the merchandisers thrive on launching new products. Since Crutchfield deals in high-tech consumer electronics, its merchandisers are organized by product groups to gain an in-depth familiarity with a particular product category, such as televisions or car stereos. Crutchfield’s marketing department steps in to determine if these new products will appeal to its customers, and if so, how and when this product information will be communicated. “The marketing challenge is to get the word out about your products in

Get Creative As You Prospect

Take the road less traveled. Cataloging, by its very nature implies acquiring customers via renting lists. For some, that’s prospecting in a nutshell. But most catalogers eventually go beyond lists as a means to not only grow the business, but also to combat limited list universes, or as part of an overall expansion into multichannel marketing. But which directions make sense for your business? There are so many traditional choices, such as co-op databases, inserts, space ads, solo mailings, television or radio advertising. Compound that dilemma with the influx of newer online methods, such as paid search,, eBay and

Don’t Touch That Dial!

In many ways, direct response television (DRTV) and cataloging are at opposite ends of the direct marketing spectrum. DRTV promotions — be they infomercials, spot commercials or home shopping — focus on selling to an unknown prospect or customer. Meanwhile, with only a few exceptions, catalogers target their promotions to specific prospects, customer lists or audiences. Yet both have to deal with all the challenges of today’s direct response marketing. For example, they must present products in compelling ways that make the sale, despite ever-increasing competition from other direct marketers, retailers and e-merchants. Also, they must address customers’ privacy and data security concerns,