May 2007 Issue


B-to-B Prospecting: Dig Deeper for Better Names

B-to-B catalogers’ prospecting list strategy has never been more important. Why? “You have a universe of shrinking names,” says Kim Lowenthal, executive vice president at American List Counsel. “To put it simply, the volume of business names is less than before.” Plain and simple, fewer names for prospecting can slow sales growth. And many mailers trace sluggish sales to list universes that shrank years before they felt the decline on their top lines. To meet your file growth goals, you’ll probably need to use several prospect list selection techniques and strategies. And by selecting the best lists from a variety of sources, you

Catalog Doctor: Intense, Competitor Analysis

Patient: Doc, I feel like my competitors are growing, but my business remains flat. Do you have any suggestions? Catalog Doctor: Studying your competitors is a great way to get ideas on how to reinvigorate your catalog program, regain market share and revitalize your customer base. Patient: Can you prescribe something for me, Doc? Catalog Doctor: Here are 10 easy tips for doing a competitor analysis to help you find your rivals’ strengths and weaknesses, and zero in on your best paths for growth. ONE: Set Specific Goals If you set concrete goals, you get concrete results from your competitor analysis. And you’ll

Cataloger Spotlight: Professional Uniforms

Professional Uniforms was started in the early ’70s as a retail uniform shop that supplied scrubs and medical apparel to the local medical community. After changes in location and attempts to expand the number of stores, the company hit a wall in the local and regional markets. As a result, the owners, the Fotis family, decided to reach out to large-scale markets through the use of limited mailings in the forms of flyers. Through trial and error, a catalog and brand were coaxed and forged into two successful catalog/Web businesses — Lydia’s Uniforms and MadAboutMouths — targeting the medical apparel market, and one book

Copywriting: Long or Short Copy? What’s Right for You?

Long copy? Short copy? Clever copy? Informative copy? What turns on the 2007 catalog shopper? If you were, for instance, to look at a catalog like Chico’s, a women’s apparel marketer, you might think that the less copy, the better. But, if you look at electronics cataloger Crutchfield, you’d see plenty of long, descriptive copy. So, what’s the right copy formula that’ll make customers do what you want them to do — that is, buy your products? Copy Differentiates Along with getting your prospecting and customer catalogs regularly, your customers have access to so much on the Web. The Internet has become an odd

Creative Cut: Green Mountain Sticks to its Green Word

In the ever-improving world of coffee, the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters catalog has a clear focus, which is simply stated in the opening of the president’s letter: “Coffee is more than just something to drink; it’s a powerful connection to each other, and to the rest of the world.” In this catalog, coffee is the world’s language. You read it in the letter. You see it in the merchandise selection. Green Mountains’ mission is to support the global community. Many businesses make this their intention, but with Green Mountain, it’s a reality, evidenced on every page of its catalog. From the onset, I felt

Customer Retention: Don’t Worry, Be …

For years now, Garnet Hill, a Franconia, N.H.-based apparel and home furnishings cataloger, has placed follow-up calls whenever customers encounter a problem with the company. Specifically, 24 to 48 hours after a customer complaint, Garnet Hill calls the customer and casually asks how the problem was handled and if it was resolved. Smart and sensitive upselling techniques make Garnet Hill’s customers feel cared about. Liberal employee discounts have its employees wearing the clothing and using the products it sells, so it’s easy for them to personalize the experience. This “touchy-feely” group has products open and laying around so reps literally can get their

Database Marketing: Mining for Gold

At the turn of this century, cataloging — and all retailing for that matter — was revolutionized by the emergence of e-commerce. Shopping at home became easier than ever, and consumers warmed up to the concept of wielding their purchasing power with the click of a mouse. Today, so many orders are coming in online that it’s becoming difficult for some catalogers to recall the times when they were all but completely reliant on their call centers for order-taking. Your Web site, however, isn’t just a vehicle through which orders can be taken and processed more efficiently; it’s a powerful data-gathering tool that an

Disaster Management: Plan Ahead

Sometimes after a meeting or a difficult interaction we think, “What a disaster!” Sadly, there have been many recent disasters, real ones, that have put families, businesses and communities at risk or out of commission. Most people avoid the topic of disaster planning like the plague — but it’s the plague that might be coming. An AT&T survey on disaster planning found that, on average, more than 30 percent of U.S. companies have no disaster recovery plan at all. What’s more, of the companies surveyed, more than 20 percent have neither updated nor tested their plans during the previous year, and more than

Disaster Preparedness: A Quick Guide

Whether you’re just embarking on disaster planning or looking to update the plans you already have, consider the following. 1. Designate a readiness team or individual coordinator to make lines of responsibility clear. The coordinator should know all necessary contact information, such as evacuation routes and check-in locations, and that these also are readily accessible in all operating locations. Have employees provide emergency contact information and that they program these numbers into their cell and desk phones. 2. Set up phone and e-mail contact chains and test them. Set up multiple voice mailboxes in remote locations so that employees can call in to leave messages about

Due Diligence Homework: Key Issues to Watch For

As a heads-up for catalogers, let’s note some challenges you need to watch for: 1) The 2007 postage increase is much more nasty than one can imagine. Not only will it decrease your reported profits, but it will also increase your prospect breakeven. And it will, of course, shrink the size of your economically available, mailable prospect universe. Investors already have determined that higher postage will retard catalog business profitability in 2007 and beyond. So catalog company valuations already have begun to shrink for sellers, buyers and growth financing sources. 2) By having to report shipping and handling revenue you receive (from customers) in your top

E-commerce Insights: Multichannel Planning Is a Complex Endeavor

Scratching your head over the interaction between your online and offline marketing efforts? Not sure how much to advertise online? Unclear of the true impact of your catalog mailings? You’re not alone. This column won’t completely solve these puzzles, but it’ll offer some relevant ideas. How Much to Advertise First, assume you’ve already established your high-level financial goals, either for your online program or for the business as a whole. Such goals should be specific, numeric and time-based. Be sure the whole team understands and buys into these goals, and works toward meeting them each week. Typical goals are profit-and-loss-based, and include a revenue

E-mail Continues to be Vital Merchandising Tool

Results of the Chicago-based the e-tailing group inc.’s 6th Annual Merchant Survey found that e-mail continues to play an important role as a tactic for online retailers because it is cost-effective and can be used for targeted initiatives. This year, 95 percent of respondents ranked e-mail as very to somewhat valuable as a merchandising vehicle compared to 91 percent last year. When asked about the top uses of e-mail as a merchandising tool, 86 percent said they use it to drive incremental revenue and 80 percent said it was good for increasing purchasing frequency. Here are other top applications of e-mail as a merchandising function: *

E-mail Marketing: Tips on How to Get Your E-mails Delivered

Your e-mail is legitimate, but it might be getting blocked because some ISPs think it’s spam. In many cases, that’s probably because ISPs can’t be sure of who you are. This and other e-mail deliverability issues Lyris Technologies addresses in its recent white paper, “The Role of DNS, Unsubscribes and Bounces in E-mail Deliverability.” The e-mail marketing and delivery solutions provider notes that many ISPs offer several tips for helping the ISPs verify your identity. * Have a static IP address to have a complete DNS (domain name system) record. Lyris describes DNS as a giant phone book for computers to find each other. A

Editor’s Take: On the Great Postal Disaster of 2007

With the much dreaded postal rate increase taking effect this month, hopefully by now most catalogers have made at least some of the adjustments needed to continue to grow — or at least survive. As we’re in the heart of the industry’s conference season, many have been feasting on scores of postal cost-cutting tips coming from presentations, special emergency sessions and the media. For our part, after breaking the news on our Web site ( about the Postal Regulatory Commission’s punishing catalog rate increase that was more or less hidden in its rate recommendation to the U.S. Postal Service’s Board of Governors,

Industry Eye: Catalogers’ Updates, People on the Move & Tech Talk

Catalogers’ Updates Metrostyle: This unit of New York-based Redcats USA, is emblazoning the cycle two winner of “America’s Next Top Model” TV show, Yoanna House, on the cover of its spring catalog in an attempt to showcase the catalog as a women’s apparel fashion authority. Selecting the contest winner comes after Redcats changed the name of this value-priced book from Lerner. Harry & David Holdings: In April, this multichannel marketer agreed to sell its Jackson & Perkins catalog/ wholesale plants and gardening tools business to an investment group led by Donald and Glenda Hachenberger for $49 million. In a separate deal, Harry & David also agreed to

Making Work Fun and Meaningful

It’s perhaps surprising to see people so attentive to their work at a company known for emptying out when there’s good surf to be found at a Southern Californian beach not five minutes away. But a walk through the Ventura, Calif.-based headquarters of Patagonia reveals a close-knit staff readily engaged in designing, testing and marketing this outdoor cataloger’s apparel and gear. Then again, perhaps it’s not all that surprising, given that the catalog’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, in his book “Let My People Go Surfing,” (The Penguin Press, 2005) wrote: “Work had to be enjoyable on a daily basis. We all had to

Multichannel Marketing: Putting it All Together

In the mid ’90s, Louis Stack, founder and president of Fitter International, was like many people — he’d never seen a Web site. Then a Web developer from Florida offered to create one for his Calgary, Alberta, Canada-based company that sells balance and fitness equipment around the world. By 1997 — the same year Stack’s catalog, Fitterfirst, was launched — the site was downloading orders. Today, Fitterfirst also sells products from a retail store attached to its headquarters, and through 2,500 international dealers and wholesalers. Like plenty of other multichannel marketers in North America, Stack’s challenge these days is in coordinating his company’s multichannel efforts.

Profile of Success — What’s Good For the Goose …

BACKGROUND: A trained CPA Liz Plotnick-Snay will soon enter her 12th holiday season with the Delaware, Ohio-based Gooseberry Patch catalog, a company started in 1984 by her next-door neighbors JoAnn Martin and Vickie Hutchins. The two working moms — JoAnn was a teacher, Vickie a flight attendant — shared a love of collecting antiques, gardening and country decorating. As their children grew, so did Gooseberry Patch and they eventually moved the business to a building large enough to house their kitchen and home décor products, gourmet foods, cookbooks, calendars and organizers. The Gooseberry Patch catalog is filled with hand-illustrations of its products. It also

Strategy: Circulation Planning

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

Three Tips from Catalog Veteran Morlee Griswold, Catalog Director, Patagonia

From starting a mail-order video company when she was in graduate school to running the catalog business for $250 million outdoor gear multichannel marketer Patagonia, Morlee Griswold has had plenty of experience selling direct. Following are her tips on how to get started, and succeed, in the catalog business: For new catalogers: Work with the best vendors available. “Network ahead of time, get good recommendations and really do your homework before you choose your vendors,” Griswold says. Since each piece of the direct marketing puzzle has become so specialized, it’s likely that a small catalog startup will need to rely heavily on vendors and/or partners. “If

Timing, Relevance, Personalization Are Keys to Cutting Through Clutter

Marketers are facing the mounting challenge of consumers feeling they’re bombarded with messages they didn’t ask for, don’t need and find disruptive. This so-called “clutter” has led to decreasing response rates. A new whitepaper prepared by the Winterberry Group with data supplied by Mintel Comperemedia, Responsys and Vertis Communications finds that timing, relevance and personalization are three keys to cutting through that “clutter” and driving consumer response. Here are some tips taken from the report to help catalogers and other direct marketers achieve those goals: 1. Make timing count. Coordinate offers with life events, such as marriages, births, new moves. Consumers are also more open to

Valuations & Acquisitions: Why Deal Due Diligence Is Worth a Try

In my last Catalog Success column, “What Acquisition Due Diligence Reviews Can Teach You” (February 2007, pg. 37), I explained why catalogers can benefit from embracing and using the analytical models employed by acquirers and financing sources in this industry as they decide which catalog/Web marketing businesses to pursue. Now, onto the use of due diligence methodologies in catalog deal-making. These are some of the key analyses you should use in most of your seasonal circ plans and your annual strategic plan. Furthermore, and of no small importance, these are the same metrics and analyses your local banker should be using when deciding on

Ways to Use Models

To help maximize profitability: You can do so through the use of optimizing prospect circ, and 12-, 24-, and 36-month lifetime value calculations. This includes decisions about sales vs. profit growth and improved “managing” of reported profits. For company valuation calculations: 1) to tell the “catalog opportunity story” when raising growth financing — whether from a local bank or equity/debt source; 2) when buying another company —to help define purchase price and secure financing; 3) when selling part or all of a catalog business; 4) for customer list valuations in deal-making — or for your local banker, who won’t increase your line of credit without strong, analytical explanations; and 5)

Web Exclusive: More on Green Mountain

Design Issues The use of a color band works as a design tool when it ties in copy and photo for a quick read for the customer. But on pg. 45, the vertical color band actually confuses the issue. It contains a headline for cocoa, cookies and coffee, but the photo is for marshmallows, which are sold on the opposite page. More confusion: The copy beneath the marshmallows is the Winter Essentials Gift (photographed in the right-hand corner). The copy beneath Winter Essentials is for a mug. Direct mail ordering is to be quick and hassle free, not a puzzle. There are numerous examples throughout

Writing Short vs. Long: Which is Right?

When is it wise to write short vs. long? Depends on the merchandise you sell. Consider both approaches: Short Copy Approach When is the right time to use long copy vs. short? Let’s analyze Chico’s and two other multichannel apparel marketers, J. Jill and Talbots, and their use of short text. Chicos’ short, arty, loose approach to dressing: Fun Up Tanya Jacket $138.00 Embroidery and appliqué accent an artistic swirl pattern on this eye-catching denim jacket. Slash front pockets. Imported. 98% Cotton, 2% Spandex. Machine wash. J. Jill’s simple, loose approach to dressing: Beloved Denim Jacket Feminine and flattering with waist-shaping details. Button-front placket. Curved flap pockets and on-seam pockets. Banded hem. 231⁄2˝