Direct Mail

Don’t Try This at the Office
January 1, 2006

Smart marketers, sales teams and business owners recognize the opportunity to develop a direct mail piece that exclusively promotes a single product — an item with a strong margin and an identifiable target audience. Usually the item has a high price point and specific benefits for the buyer — as well as a surplus of information that necessitates more space than a catalog page realistically can accommodate. If identifying the opportunity is that easy, how quickly do you become a victim of either yours or a colleague’s best intentions? If you’re unsure, here are mistakes to avoid when implementing a single-product mailing.

Fulfillment: California Court Clarifies Rule on Cataloger Fees
October 25, 2005

Reported by Donna Loyle, editor in chief, Catalog Success magazine In a precedent-setting case for catalogers, a California Appellate court recently clarified rules concerning fees listed on order forms. In short, the fees were allowable because the order forms created shipment contracts, not sale-on-approval contracts. The case is an important one for direct marketers. The case, Wilson vs. Brawn of California, was brought by a customer of International Male catalog, owned by Hanover Direct. The plaintiff, Jacq Wilson, argued that the insurance fee he paid for his shipment was deceptive, even though he knew of the fee before ordering and did not want to return the

By the Stats: Cataloger Response Rates Increase
October 25, 2005

Average response rates for catalog mailings increased this year, according to the recently released “2005 Response Rate Report” from The Direct Marketing Association (DMA). The average response rate for catalogers so far this year is 3.67 percent. This compares favorably to 2.23 percent in 2004, and 2.41 percent in 2003. However, The DMA cautions that this year’s increase may be an anomaly. A few catalog responders to the response rate survey reported above-average rates, possibly skewing the overall results. Other catalog-related findings: ¥ 1.8 percent: median cataloger response rate; ¥ $2.41: revenue per contact; and ¥ 57 cents: promotional cost per contact. Source: “2005 Response Rate Report,” The Direct

Nine Tips for Two-step Acquisitions
February 1, 2004

In the old days of cataloging, a two-step acquisition was defined as a prospect converting to a customer after he or she responded to two different marketing efforts — thus taking two steps. Step one was to respond to a compelling advertisement to get a catalog. Step two was to respond to the catalog by placing an order. With two-step acquisition, the broad advertising net usually was cast in a trade magazine, and prospective customers replied by phone. Tracking costs for such acquisitions was simple, as the choices for the first step seemed finite, and the conversion meant loyal, long-term customers. In

Fulfill Inquiries Fast
June 1, 2003

At Lett Direct, we sometimes conduct studies to determine how quickly companies fulfill catalog requests (i.e., inquiries). While some catalogers do a great job turning around requests, many don’t. Unsolicited (and solicited) catalog requests can be extremely valuable, and a high percentage convert into buyers. Therefore, inquiry fulfillment needs to be monitored more closely and given a higher priority. This month, I’ll discuss the importance of inquiry fulfillment and provide results of a recent study we conducted. Unsolicited catalog requests come from many sources. We don’t always know their origins, but we do know inquiries are “diamonds in the rough.” If someone takes

Acquire Customers With Alternative Media
June 1, 2003

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

Costly Production Errors Reduced
August 1, 2002

The Hacker Group/FCB, a direct marketing agency in Bellevue, WA, produces hundreds of millions of direct mail pieces each year. In the past four years it has consistently reduced its production costs resulting from error. How did they do this? Gayl Curtiss, executive vice president and general manager, shares some of her strategies. Many of her tips directly translate to catalog production. • Award employees bonuses that are directly tied to error-free performance. When compensation is tied to performance, employees are encouraged to pay extra attention to their work to eliminate mistakes. Employees should have clearly defined written roles and responsibilities, so they know

How and What to Test Effectively
April 1, 2002

Testing is the key to direct marketing success. The key, however, is knowing what, how and when to test. While testing is important, it’s not always cost-effective. This month, I’ll discuss how to structure tests, how to read the results and when it makes economic sense to do so. When creating test panels, you’ll need to weigh a number of factors. The method that’s mathematically most accurate may not be cost-effective. Conversely, the most cost-effective method may produce skewed results. And in some cases, it may not even make economic sense to test. The point is to determine the economic benefit from

Acquire New Customers, Without Spending $1K/M
July 1, 2001

Periodically I get phone calls from fledgling entrepreneurs who have great products and want to get into direct mail. “What else have you got?” is always my first question. “Wha ... what do you mean?” “What other products?” “This is my only product.” I say, “In the words of consultant Susan McIntyre: ‘The key to long-term profitability is to build a large house list of repeat buyers.’ That’s true for any direct marketing business—catalog or otherwise.” “But don’t you want to hear about my product?” “What does it sell for?” “Uh, $20, maybe.” “Test it in space,” I tell the person. “Take a small

Lillian Vernon: Merchandising Maven
May 1, 2001

Lillian Vernon began selling personalized belts and handbags with a black and white ad 50 years ago. Now, the company offers more than 6,000 items through nine catalog titles and a growing Web business What do Katie Couric, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hillary Clinton all have in common? It’s not their political affiliations. Think porcelain Easter baskets and personalized bean bag chairs. Now you get the picture: These celebrities are among the 23 million people who have shopped the pages of Lillian Vernon’s catalogs. The namesake business Lillian Vernon launched in 1951 on the kitchen table of her small, Mount Vernon, NY, apartment has