Which is First? The Chicken (Product) or the Egg (Marketing)?
First, some comments on reader comments from last week’s blog:
To Lauren and Michelle: You made some excellent points on the difficulties of working within an organization whose top managers aren’t direct marketers. No doubt, retailing and direct marketing are very different disciplines. It’s analogous to being a surgeon: you can be a great heart surgeon, but before you attempt brain surgery, you better get some training.
To Robespierre: Although I’m not a merchandise person, I’ll address some merchandise issues in future postings.
As for this week’s blog, I divide catalog marketing into three main arenas: product, marketing and operations. All require very different skills.
In my experience, the people engaged in these disciplines each chiefly believe that they’re the key drivers for the success of their individual companies. To product people, there’s no business without the product. To marketers, you have no business unless there’s a way to bring those products to the end consumer.
Hence, you always have something of a cold war between the product and marketing sides of a catalog business -- a sort-of battle to be the dominant element in the business.
(Of course, it’s really the data people who control the business. Just ask any I.T. person! Kidding, well sort of.)
Personally, I fall squarely into the marketing camp. I work a lot with product people looking to develop catalogs and direct marketing at their companies.
I always get the same reaction when I tell merchants that to me, it doesn’t matter what they sell. I usually say something like, “as long there is a market, and you can make the metrics work, you could sell ice cubes direct.” This always earns me a cross look. After all, they’ve put their blood, sweat and tears into developing some incredible products, right? In my career, I’ve sold everything from custom-made shirts to psychic services direct and I know this to be fundamentally true.