Stephen R. Lett

Stephen R. Lett spent the first 25 years of his career in executive-level positions at both business-to-business and business-to-consumer catalog companies, including Monarch Marketing Systems, Tandy Corp., Edmund Scientific Co., The Drawing Board and Country Curtains. Additionally, he owned... the Writewell Co., and started (and owned) The Write Touch.

He also taught direct marketing at Indiana University. Today, Steve owns Lett Direct, a catalog and internet consulting firm specializing in circulation planning, plan execution, analysis, as well as internet marketing and email marketing. He’s the winner of a Silver Mail Box Award from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), is a past chairman of the DMA’s Catalog Council, and a former member of the DMA’s Committee on Ethical Business Practices. Steve also writes a monthly column in Catalog Success Magazine.

In late November, we surveyed the All About ROI editorial board members and other marketing insiders to gauge their views on the year ahead. At press time on the eve of the 2009 holiday homestretch, with their hopes for a better sales outcome than 2008 looking modest at best, few saw an especially bright light shining by December. Instead, many settled in to make the appropriate adjustments for reduced demand.

One morning a few months ago, I experienced a true moment. I realized that, after spending the majority of my 25-plus-year career covering the catalog business, that business can no longer be treated as such. Today, it's really about selling and serving any way the consumer wants you to.

Catalog Success recently took two of its longest-standing columnists to task. Strategy scribe Stephen R. Lett and Catalog Doctor Susan J. McIntyre have spent the better part of their careers producing or helping clients produce print catalogs. But do catalogs have a future in this integrated selling environment?

I’m optimistic that 2009 will be a better year for multichannel merchants, even though the experts say our recovery will be gradual. There are bright spots within given merchandise categories, such as religious goods, pet supplies and hobbies — all of which are doing well — just to name a few.

Tired of reading about what a tough year it’s been for so many businesses across the board? Frustrated with your own results? Scared about the economy? Whether or not you’re struggling as much as others, here’s a little tonic: our annual best-of feature, in which we’ve pulled what we believe to be the 50 best and most implementable tips of the year from Catalog Success magazine as well as our weekly e-newsletter, Tactics & Tips. There’s nothing fancy here. Each paragraph is taken from a particular story that’s referenced, so you can turn or click back to reread the full story or act on

When I taught direct marketing at Indiana University, I told my students to write “merchandising” if they didn’t know the answer to a question so they could receive 50 percent credit. I wanted these second-year MBA students to know the importance of merchandising. But product selection and circulation determine the success of any catalog/Internet business. And knowing how many pages to circulate is my topic this month. Specifically, I’ll explore the following: • What basic criteria determine proper page count? • What are the economics of adding pages? • How can adding pages be a successful strategy in these difficult economic times?

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