Lett Direct Inc.

Cost-cutting Tips You Can Take to the Bank
September 1, 2007

Much has been said and written about the stunning postage increase that took effect earlier this year. With new rates running upwards of 40 percent-plus greater than the previous ones for some Standard mail (catalog) categories, this may be the toughest challenge I’ve seen this industry encounter in all my years covering the business. Fortunately for all of us, we have sharp minds like our lead columnist Stephen R. Lett and his vice president at Lett Direct, Sandy Wolstencroft. Steve and Sandy took it upon themselves to break down virtually all the ways you can implement change in your catalog mailing strategy to

Strategy: Prospecting to Selected ‘Pockets’
August 1, 2007

A headline of the July 5, 2006, edition of USA Today reported that we are now a nation of 300 million people. By 2025 the U.S. population is projected to reach 350 million; 400 million by 2040. With the population growing, why is it more difficult to prospect cost-effectively, and why aren’t universe counts increasing? This month, I’ll discuss ways to expand your prospecting universe, even when the print catalog market size doesn’t seem to be growing. According to Abacus, catalog households are declining as overall households are increasing. With more buyers ordering via the Internet (not necessarily the driving media), the count

Strategy: The Importance of Source Code Tracking and Matchbacks
July 1, 2007

Prior to e-commerce sales on the Internet, a catalog typically could trace 80 percent of its orders and revenue to a specific source or key code. Catalogers didn’t worry about the remaining 20 percent. They’d simply allocate it proportionally across all source codes. Life was simple in those days! Today, tracing orders to a specific code is much more difficult and complex. That’s why the use of matchbacks has become a way a life for catalogers. This month, I’ll focus on the importance of tracing to a specific source code through a matchback. Source Codes Demystified A source code is simply an identifier

Strategy: Anatomy of a Marketing Test
June 1, 2007

Testing is the way to the promised land. Without testing, you’re up a creek without a paddle. Although some elements are easier to test than others, just about everything can be tested. Properly structuring a test is a whole other matter. It means testing only one variable at a time. It requires focusing on keeping all elements the same, except for the one variable being tested. If you’re testing two offers against one another and against a control group, for example, be sure all variables and conditions are the same for each test group. As far as the difference between a control

What You Should Know About List Rental Data Cards
May 24, 2007

By Stephen R. Lett How do you know if a list you're testing for the first time will work, or if it's even the right list to test? Obviously, there's no way to know for sure prior to mailing. But studying the list data card in advance and really understanding what it tells you can help minimize the risk of testing. This month, I'll review what a list data card says about a file and how you can better interpret this important information. <Market and demographic profile. The main considerations for list usage are the product category/ market and the demographic profile of

Strategy: Circulation Planning
May 1, 2007

Circulation planning is not what it used to be for a variety of reasons. The Internet is having the largest impact on circ planning, but there are other factors that make circ planning more complicated and challenging. Today, more is left to interpretation than ever before. This month, I’ll explore what’s new and changing in circ planning, concentrating on five major areas of change: source code tracing, sources of sales, cooperative databases, contact strategy and prospect universe limitations. Source Code Tracing The most significant change has to do with our ability, or lack thereof, to trace orders and sales to a

Strategy: Should You Remail the Same Prospect Names Within a Season?
April 1, 2007

Remailing the same prospect lists or cooperative database segments in the same season is common. But should you remail the exact same names? This is a frequently asked question, and as you’ll see, the best mailing strategy might not be obvious. When a particular list is mailed, or cooperative database model segment is used, results are tracked by source code. If the results meet a predefined criteria — e.g., incremental breakeven, 20 percent less than incremental breakeven — you want to remail that same list or model. If 10,000 names initially were tested, it would make sense to mail 20,000 names next time, and

Strategy: Maintaining a Relational vs. Flat File Marketing Database
March 1, 2007

A housefile, or customer list, is a valuable marketing tool if you maintain it properly. It enables more targeted marketing; facilitates various analyses; and generates incremental income from renting and/or exchanging names with other reputable mailers. When talking about building and maintaining a customer housefile, there are two issues you need to address: 1) collecting data into your order entry system, and 2) extracting relevant subsets of this data to build a marketing database. If you circulate multiple catalog titles or have a large file of records for which you’d like to see transactional history and do complex queries, maintaining a relational database

Strategy: Maximizing Outside List Performance
February 1, 2007

Most catalogers can’t break even on the initial order when they mail to prospects. That’s often why start-up catalogs have difficulty surviving. Catalogers, new and old, depend on repeat purchases for profitability, i.e., turning one-time buyers into customers who purchase two or more times. This month, I’ll discuss ways to maximize outside list performance on the initial order to get closer to the incremental break-even point. You can maximize outside list performance by increasing response and/or your average order size (AOS). I prefer to focus on improving the response rate because it yields a greater number of new buyers, thus growing your 12-month

Strategy: Should You Purchase Your Own Paper?
January 1, 2007

Purchasing your paper direct through a paper merchant might be a way to save money, but it’s not for all mailers. This month, I’ll help you determine if you’re a candidate to purchase your own paper and what it can mean in terms of savings, as well as the risks and common misconceptions associated with it. While printers traditionally have been more qualified to purchase and manage paper than most small- and medium-sized catalogers, the management and economics of purchasing paper have changed in the past few years, often making it wiser to buy your own paper. Paper merchants have made it easier to