Direct Mail

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

Lists: Behavior Matters Most
February 1, 2001

Early in my freelance copywriting career, I was hired by The Bradford Exchange to launch Plate World, a magazine for collectors of limited-edition plates. Started by J. Roderick MacArthur, son of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur (as in the foundation that bears their name and the people who made zillions selling mail order life insurance), the concept of The Bradford Exchange was to create a kind of stock exchange for collectors’ plates. It persuaded collectors that if they bought plates at the issue price, they stood a chance of making money in the so-called Secondary Market, which is pretty lucrative with some

Alternate Media Other Catalogers Use and Why
September 1, 2000

Producing and mailing a catalog can be a most expensive undertaking. With alternate media you can achieve some of the same goals as with a print catalog: Testing, driving customers (new or existing) to your e--commerce site and building awareness/loyalty. Speaking at the Annual Catalog Conference in June, Kevin Kotowski, of Olson Kotowski & Co. in Los Angeles, named some top reasons catalogers use alternate media, or “non-catalog pieces:” 1) cheaper prospecting than with full-sized catalog drops, since most alternate media are cheaper to produce and mail; 2) building and strengthening your customer relationships with name and product awareness; 3)

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

Lifetime Value: Acquisition Costs Across Different Media
June 1, 2000

Two things are common to many database marketers. First, they can measure acquisition cost well (what it takes to turn a prospect into a customer), but they don’t employ a sound method of judging lifetime value (LTV). Second, they emphasize prospecting rather than retention/cross-selling/upselling. The combination of these two traits, measuring acquisition but not LTV and concentrating on prospecting rather than retention, often leads to profitability problems when testing new media. For a “traditional” cataloger, who sells only through direct mail and prospects only with rented lists, there can be a major difference in the long-term profitability of buyers from different sources. For

Continuity Marketing: Pleasures and Pitfalls
May 1, 2000

Several years ago I went to Peter, my doctor, for a routine checkup and saw some colorful boxes on the end of the counter. Patricia, the office manager and Peter’s wife, said they were dietary supplements for people over the age of 50. “Should I get them?” I asked. “I take them and I feel wonderful,” she said. “Do you and Peter get a piece of the action?” She said she did, which I had no problem with. So I ordered LifePak Prime for my wife Peggy and myself—60 little cellophane packages, each with four horse pills to be taken twice a day with

Developing a Turnaround Plan
January 1, 2000

The holiday season is over. Those record orders and sales days have finally come to an end. You are feeling optimistic about the season ending but then—reality sets in! You now find your company very short on cash. What do you do? Where do you turn? How can your company continue to operate? Welcome to the dilemmas of the mail order catalog business! Post-holiday rush is the time of year that many catalogers find they need to implement a turnaround plan to ease under-capitalization. Under-capitalization is a common problem among small- to medium-sized catalog companies, especially in times of low activity when