Direct Mail

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

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

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