Are Your Call-Center Reps Performing?
August 19, 2008

When times are tough, B-to-B marketers need to stay close to their customers via their call-center reps. On the front lines, reps hear customer objections, concerns and moods. Marketers will want to stay informed to develop sales tactics and offers that will incentivize that next purchase. As you stay close to your reps, you’ll inevitably discover that some are getting better results than others. Why?
Here are some common metrics you can use to evaluate your inbound call-center reps.
1. Paid time, time ready to receive calls and time on the phone. You’ll be surprised at how much of the paid time gets eaten

How to Turn Around Declining Sales
August 5, 2008

In this economy, no one should be surprised to see sales slump. The question is, what can you do?
First, understand why sales are down. Just like a boat that’s filling with water, the leak could be anywhere! Here are some areas to examine as you diagnose the problem.
* Circulation quantities — have you cut back?
* Response rates and orders — have they fallen across the board or just in some segments?
* Average order value — are you getting the same number of orders, but customers are spending less per order? If so, try offering a benefit if customers place an

Key Trends From the MeritDirect Co-op
July 22, 2008

Recently I had the pleasure of being the keynote speaker at the MeritDirect Co-op — the annual gathering of some 400 B-to-B catalog marketers in White Plains, N.Y. As usual, it was a curious and enthusiastic group. I wanted to share my take on the mood of such a group and a couple of important trends I see developing in B-to-B direct marketing today. Here’s a sampling of what I gleaned from the three-day event.
* Cost increases and the slumping economy are weighing heavily on B-to-B marketers’ minds. Their margins and profits are being squeezed.
* Most agree the job of marketing

Beyond a USP: The Secrets to Competitive Advantage
July 22, 2008

The concept of competitive advantage has evolved over the past 60 years. Some companies have attempted to apply advertising pioneer Rosser Reeves’ concept of the unique selling proposition (USP) as a way to maintain competitive advantage in their markets. Reeves’ brilliant conception of the USP was simple: “Buy this product, get this specific benefit.” It remains a powerful technique for marketing individual products. However, when applied to an entire company, it has an inherent weakness. I discussed this concept during a session I led at the recent MeritDirect Business Mailer’s Co-op in White Plains, N.Y. When FedEx began overnight delivery to all 50 states

Revving Up B-to-B Catalog Effectiveness
July 22, 2008

There are some great-looking B-to-B and hybrid B-to-B/B-to-C catalogs these days for both exotic and mundane product lines. But beautiful or ugly, plenty of them compromise response and profit by using layout and copy that ignore key selling and design principles. Applying those principles can help creative teams and management realize full value from their catalog mailing investments. Along with consultant Sandra Blum, author of “Designing Direct Mail That Sells,” I discussed this in a session at the MeritDirect Business Mailer’s Co-op in White Plains, N.Y., last week. By taking the audience on a visual tour and analysis of more than 20 catalogs we

Employ 5 Must-Do’s for an Effective B-to-B Marketing Database
June 24, 2008

Bad data costs money, affects customer relationships and results in missed opportunities, said Andrew Kapochunas, leader, customer data quality, for business credit information and report provider Dun & Bradstreet, during a session at the June 10-12 DM Days New York Conference & Expo. With that in mind, he discussed five “must-do’s” for effective B-to-B marketing databases. Must-do 1 Get out of the 1980s mind-set by benchmarking your marketing database for address accuracy, Kapochunas said. Find ways to better identify and correct inaccurate addresses. Must-do 2 Benchmark your marketing database for address completeness. Mailing the results of U.S. Postal Service address correction may be eliminating

Get a Little Bounce From Bouncebacks
March 1, 2008

Bounceback programs are often limited to inserting a copy of your most recent catalog — preferably with a different cover — into the fulfillment box. But as shipping rates, fuel surcharges and paper costs all increase, more catalogers are opting against this approach. They’ve run the numbers, and their incremental sales from those catalogs no longer justify the expense. If you’re in this position, or are wondering how to leverage shipping expenses, try a strategically planned and formally managed bounceback program. A bounceback program can help build your brand, improve customer retention and develop a new revenue stream, regardless of whether you’re in B-to-C

The 2008 Catalog Success 200
March 1, 2008

Companies of all sorts can quantify their value in numerous tangible ways, from sales volume to store counts to merchandise value and so forth. For catalogers and multichannel marketers who rely primarly on the catalog/online/direct element of their businesses, it's all about growing the housefile. If a multichannel marketer is adding new customers at a rapid clip, that's a winning team you want to be a part of. Launched in 2003, the Catalog Success 200 has always made housefile growth its raison d'etre. So here follows our sixth annual exclusive ranking of U.S.-based catalogers (or U.S.-based catalog units of foreign companies) with the fastest

U.S. Box’s Product Array Impresses, but Confuses
February 1, 2008

The U.S. Box Corp. catalog does a great job of showing potential customers that the company carries an impressive array of paper products to cover the packaging needs of everyone from boutique shops to catering companies to jewelry stores. However, the book has a number of flaws too, most notably a number of confusing product references that can leave customers scratching their heads. Front Cover Solid, Back Lacks The front cover shows both people and products; it’s engaging and fun. I’d recommend adding the Web address and toll-free phone number to the cover and spine of this perfect-bound, 176-page annual catalog, as well as

Update, Upgrade, Convert
February 1, 2008

Having a hard time finalizing your 2008 contact strategy? You’re not alone. The mission hasn’t changed: You want to develop the most efficient way to convert prospects into first-time buyers and first-time buyers into repeat customers. But piece together the rapid pace of technological change, the volatile economy, the ongoing migration and evolution from phone to Web ordering, then add the likely distraction of the presidential election throughout the year, and it can make any marketer feel like throwing in the towel in bewilderment. Realistically, there are only three ways to proactively convert known prospects to buyers and one-time buyers to repeat buyers: