In a Catalog Success webinar last week called The Coordinated Sell — Redefined for 2009 & Beyond, Stephen R. Lett, president of the catalog consulting firm Lett Direct, highlighted his presentation on how to refocus your catalog company to thrive in today’s and tomorrow’s evolving multichannel environments with 10 takeaway tips for the audience to implement for improved profitability. Here’s a look at Lett’s top 10 list. (This is the first part of our two-part coverage of this webinar that was sponsored by Sigma Micro. Next week, we’ll recap the presentation of Rob O’Connor, vice president of the Creative Irish Gifts catalog.) 1. Segment
Lett Direct Inc.
My entire career since graduating from Indiana University in 1971 has been devoted to catalogs. There have been good years and off years. I can honestly say, however, that this is the most difficult and challenging year I’ve seen for catalogers. Gas prices, consumer debt and the national election all combine to create the perfect storm. In such tough economic times, it’s logical and necessary to reduce expenses and save where possible. But these cuts aren’t always made in the best places. Some catalogers have reduced page counts without doing a proper square-inch analysis. Many have eliminated mailings to Web-only buyers without proper testing.
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Catalogers always need to know how to maximize their printing, paper and mail distribution programs, especially now that we all face seemingly continuous paper and postage cost increases. In our April issue (pg. 34), I exposed 10 places where expensive fat is hiding in your paper and its printing process. This month, we're going to do the same for your postal expenses. More than 50 percent of the cost to print and mail a catalog is postage. Therefore, the manner in which you distribute your catalog into the U.S. Postal Service mailstream is critical to containing postal costs. In this column, I’ll
When it comes to catalog marketing, I don’t like to leave anything to chance. Just about everything can and should be tested, including promotional offers, cover designs, minimum-order requirements, etc. Knowing what and how to test and retest is important to the success of any catalog. This month, I’ll review a few basic rules of testing, analyze the impact that a test of purchase minimums has on special offers and show how you might set up a test of your own. Bucking the Minimum I often see the minimum purchase to qualify for promotional offers set too high. Instead of encouraging people to order,
Adding new buyers is critical to any catalog business. At a minimum, catalogers need to replace lost buyers due to attrition. A lack of prospecting to outside lists will cause a reduction in the size of the housefile and start a downward spiral that’s difficult to reverse. Prospecting has certainly become more difficult and more costly, but you can’t afford not to. This month, I’d like to share ways to increase the performance of outside lists. This will lower the cost of acquiring a new buyer. Most prospecting is done at an incremental loss. Accept that you can’t make money prospecting based solely on
The management of catalog businesses large and small depends on order curves. Yet order curves are affected by several different factors — mail delivery, the weather, time of year, etc. — all of which affect delivery times. This month, I want to touch on the factors that affect these curves, because your actions have the most influence over how soon orders start flowing after the initial mail date and when order levels will peak. Typically, orders start flowing in seven to 10 days after the initial mail date based on a normal five-day mail distribution pattern. If the initial mail date is
To those catalogers who won’t rent out their buyer file, I have a question for you: It’s nearly 2008, who are you kidding? While most do rent out their files, some catalogers still feel they’re keeping others from mailing “their” customers by not renting out their buyer files. Oh yeah? This may have been true 15 or 20 years ago, prior to the introduction of cooperative databases, but certainly not today. Those who continue not to rent their housefile are missing out on the opportunity to mail “good” names themselves while gaining additional list rental income. This month, I want to discuss best practices
Catalogers spend loads of time and money acquiring one-time buyers. But there’s more you can do to get these individuals to purchase again. Typically, fewer than half of your first-time buyers make a second purchase. With the high cost of mailing catalogs today coupled with lower response rates, most catalog companies acquire new buyers at an incremental loss. Catalogers must be willing to make an investment in acquiring a new buyer to grow, knowing the payback will come sometime in the future. The amount of time to payback the investment — normally one year — can be reduced by developing a strategy to
If you’re like most catalogers, you’ve either discussed giving up the use of a bind-in order form with envelope or you have already eliminated it. There’s a definite trend to eliminate the bind-in order form/envelope typically found in the center of catalogs. Is that really the right thing to do? This month, I’ll offer the pros and cons of using a bind-in order form/envelope, provide you with actual test results and give you the criteria to use to make the right decision for all the right reasons. Facts Don’t Lie I first explored this topic in a Catalog Success column back in