How to Manage Customer Touchpoints
July 1, 2001

A beleaguered catalog industry has begun the painful process of paying the piper for the excesses of the 1990s. Collectively, we woke up in the fourth quarter of 2000 to the first sobering reality check in nearly a decade—namely, slower growth. Today, nothing less than corporate profitability and business survival are at stake. Another unpleasant jolt to our euphoria arrived earlier this year in the form of an average 17-percent, bulk-rate postage hike. The ink had barely dried when yet another round of postal hikes was announced. Escalating fuel prices ignited a troubling round of rising shipping costs. And mounting paper prices

E-commerce: Unconquered Territories
June 1, 2001

After faltering at the starting block, online procurement might have found the magic combination to finally make businesses sit up and notice: indirect buying. And PC giant Dell Computer is leading the pack. Businesses have resisted online buying services until indirect e-procurement arrived on the scene mostly because open buying was slow and perceived as less-than-secure. E--procurement is the purchasing of support goods and services through an online, private customized catalog. The catalog contains products a company is interested in, and has approved for employee purchase, as well as a company’s negotiated pricing. According to AMR Research, the worldwide market

Business-to-Government E-commerce Basics
April 1, 2001

Just four years ago, selling to the United States government was easy. That was the first time I saw a memo from a CFO establishing guidelines for online purchases using government issued credit cards. Those guidelines were short and sweet: (a) the Web site must offer secure purchasing; and (b) buyers should purchase from known vendors. That was it! During the past several years, things have gotten noticeably more complex. In that time, I have been monitoring vendor Web sites and government list servers and consulted with some notables in the industry. As a result, I have evolved a list of Web “basics”

You Can’t Buy Customer Loyalty
April 1, 2001

If you’ve paid attention to popular culture during the last 40 years, you’ve come to learn there are certain things in life that money, apparently, can’t buy: love, happiness and all of those priceless things mentioned in the MasterCard commercials. But in the world of direct marketing, we have another to add to the list—customer loyalty. The Customer Hierarchy If you segment the customers in a cataloger’s database to fit into a typical customer hierarchy, you’ll see various levels of buying activity and inactivity that move a person from being a prospect to a “trier” to a buyer and so on until loyalty is

Case Study: Multiple Zones International
October 1, 2000

There’s nothing like having a billionaire for a neighbor. Especially one that throws a little business your way, like Microsoft did when it named Multiple Zones International (MZI) its chief supplier of computer hardware, software and services. The contract is one of many changes taking place at MZI. Since moving online in 1995, MZI has seen fast growth in revenue and transactions, creating a $115-million company. What began in 1989 as a three-title catalog company with PC Zone, Mac Zone and The Learning Zone, has grown into a multi-channel retail operation that includes a new business-to-business division. The new Zones Business Solutions division is

The B-to-B Mailer’s Rules of the Road
July 1, 2000

“Compared to the business-to-business arena, consumer direct marketing is a no-brainer.” —Lee Kroll, Kroll Direct Marketing Many will disagree with Lee Kroll’s statement. But I, for one, think he’s dead on. Read on, consider all of the challenges the b-to-b marketer faces when it comes to lists, and decide for yourself. Consumer Direct Marketing The universe has roughly 110 million households. Most receive mail in a box or through a slot in the front door. They answer their own telephones. True, in the words of Chicago freelancer Lea Pierce, “All mail is opened over the wastebasket.” But, chances are pretty good that if you

Creating a Winning Catalog
May 1, 1999

Cataloging is not a beauty contest. Catalogers are in business to make money, so it’s not always the prettiest catalog that gets the best response or sells the most merchandise. While an aesthetically pleasing catalog works for apparel and home furnishing offerings, for some types of merchandise, a less pretty, more product-dense approach works better. The Damark catalog, featuring electronics and computers, is one such example. Damark focuses on product and price. It uses inexpensive paper instead of thick coated paper. It includes simple product shots instead of fancy spreads. It utilizes short, benefit-driven copy instead of long-winded, story copy. And it works: