Could Your Catalog Mailings Be Feeding Your Competitors?
The other day, an experienced catalog mailer told me that her company increases its pay-per-click (PPC) ad spend on the day it receives its competitor’s catalog in the mail. “Interesting,” I said. It’s her theory that her competitor’s mailings increase the overall demand — and therefore the Google searches — for common products sold by the competitor and her. She also firmly believes that when her competitor mails a catalog and stimulates demand for, say, ergonomic office accessories, there will be an immediate increase in the number of prospects who go online to search for ergonomic office accessories.
By increasing her PPC ad spend, she capitalizes on this increased traffic. She’s done it many times, and it works, she claims. Interesting, I thought. And certainly worth a test. Clearly the more specific the product line is, the more noticeable the result. I doubt any one mailer or mailing changes the search volume for popular products such as laser printers or digital cameras.
It made me think about how the role of the catalog has changed over the years. Its primary role used to be to get an order. Your catalog was your salesman. It made the presentation, overcame objections, comparison shopped and closed the sale. Another key value of a catalog used to be that it presented a plethora of hard-to-find products in one easy-to-find, and read, place. Today nothing is hard to find.
In the Web world of today, your catalog no longer operates in a vacuum and, most likely, has lost its ability to totally control the customer and the selling environment. With the advent of online searching (Google.com), online instant knowledge (Wikipedia.com), easy shopping comparison (PriceGrabber.com), bid shopping (Priceline.com) and one-click buying (Amazon.com), our catalog world has certainly changed!
Should our mailing strategies change, too? Should we mail full-range, all-purpose catalogs our competitors, like the example above illustrates, can exploit? Or should we be thinking about promoting unique offers only available on our Web sites? Have we reached the point that no matter what we promote or sell, the prospects’ first reaction is likely to search their interests — that our mailings created — on Google? If we’re not there yet, we soon will be.
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Terence Jukes is president of Ability Commerce, a 140-person firm that designs, builds and runs e-commerce and related marketing programs for catalog companies. He can be reached at TerryJ@AbilityCommerce.com.