What’s the Failed Search Rate on Your Web Site?
November 11, 2008

I had an interesting debate with a client the other day about internal site search failure rates for B-to-B catalogers. He asked me what I thought the acceptable rate of internal site search was. He suggested that 15 percent, 20 percent or even 25 percent was “normal.”
B-to-B marketers know the ease with which customers can find the product(s) they want when shopping on your site is key. Unlike their B-to-C counterparts, B-to-B marketers often have more than 100,000 items listed on their sites. Large B-to-B catalogers can have more than 500,000, and I know of at least one who has more than 1

Are You Spending Enough on Your Photography?
November 4, 2008

Food and fashion catalogs have long since recognized the importance of quality photography in their books. But B-to-B catalogers have skimped on this important catalog component too often. The old adage of “a picture is worth a thousand words” still holds true. More importantly, bad photography — unclear, out of focus, too small, etc. — communicates a negative message. With today’s impatient buyers, you only have a few seconds to communicate your product benefits. The quality of your photography is essential to doing this effectively.
So when reviewing your catalog’s photography, ask yourself the following questions:
* Do the pictures properly display the attributes

Increase Productivity and Effectiveness Via New Technology
September 9, 2008

As an industry, we’ve had to weather difficult market conditions before. Whether you want to call it a recession or not, there’s no doubt that times are tough. B-to-B customers are “cautious.” Not dead, but cautious. During such times, B-to-B marketers need to recognize the mind-set of their customers and come up with relevant products, offers and pitches. They also need to keep a close eye on costs. Often, this leads to new, less expensive ways to operate.
Over the course of history, one trend I’ve seen time and time again is B-to-B marketers’ willingness to embrace new technology to increase marketing effectiveness and/or

Behind the B-to-B Online Video Explosion
September 2, 2008

In case you haven’t noticed, the use of amateur video to sell products online is exploding. YouTube has made amateur video perfectly acceptable, and B-to-B catalogers have realized the power of video to educate, inform, sell, demonstrate, serve and communicate.
All this is changing online business shoppers’ expectations. I dare predict that a year from now your Web site will be “old technology” if you don’t have videos that inform visitors of your products and/or services. It should also include videos from your customers showing how they use your products.
No, this won’t force you to build a big, expensive video production facility. Let

Plan Your Year-End Promotions Right Now
August 26, 2008

Many B-to-B marketers have product lines that lend themselves to end-of-year and beginning-of-year promotions. Those should be planned now! Of course, if you sell seasonal products, such as business holiday greeting cards or tax forms, your fourth quarter business is especially important. Most B-to-B marketers still see sales surges at year’s end due to final spending of companies’ yearly budgets.
Your call-center reps may need additional selling tools and promotions at this time of year to take advantage of customers’ seasonal spending propensities. The key driver is your customers’ need to spend all of their annual budgets so they can justify asking for larger

Are Your Call-Center Reps Performing?
August 19, 2008

When times are tough, B-to-B marketers need to stay close to their customers via their call-center reps. On the front lines, reps hear customer objections, concerns and moods. Marketers will want to stay informed to develop sales tactics and offers that will incentivize that next purchase. As you stay close to your reps, you’ll inevitably discover that some are getting better results than others. Why?
Here are some common metrics you can use to evaluate your inbound call-center reps.
1. Paid time, time ready to receive calls and time on the phone. You’ll be surprised at how much of the paid time gets eaten

How to Turn Around Declining Sales
August 5, 2008

In this economy, no one should be surprised to see sales slump. The question is, what can you do?
First, understand why sales are down. Just like a boat that’s filling with water, the leak could be anywhere! Here are some areas to examine as you diagnose the problem.
* Circulation quantities — have you cut back?
* Response rates and orders — have they fallen across the board or just in some segments?
* Average order value — are you getting the same number of orders, but customers are spending less per order? If so, try offering a benefit if customers place an

Key Trends From the MeritDirect Co-op
July 22, 2008

Recently I had the pleasure of being the keynote speaker at the MeritDirect Co-op — the annual gathering of some 400 B-to-B catalog marketers in White Plains, N.Y. As usual, it was a curious and enthusiastic group. I wanted to share my take on the mood of such a group and a couple of important trends I see developing in B-to-B direct marketing today. Here’s a sampling of what I gleaned from the three-day event.
* Cost increases and the slumping economy are weighing heavily on B-to-B marketers’ minds. Their margins and profits are being squeezed.
* Most agree the job of marketing

Beauty is Only Search Deep
May 13, 2008

If your Web site doesn’t rank in search, then it really doesn’t matter how it looks. But once it does rank, how good it looks and converts visitors to buyers is critical to acquiring new customers online.
These days, with constantly rising postage rates and mailing costs, finding new customers online is mandatory. It’s no longer a “nice to have” option. Smart online marketers realize their Web site’s search engine optimization performance is key. They also know it’s not just about how your site looks and performs, but also how your site ranks in Google and other leading search engines. It’s all about potential

B-to-B SEM: How Are You Really Performing?
April 29, 2008

When I talk to catalogers these days, I often ask about their online acquisition performance. Inevitably, they respond by telling me about the percentage of their total orders they’re now taking online and how efficient that is. (If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know that I believe taking orders online, while efficient, has some downsides.) After I listen politely for a moment or two, I probe a little deeper by acknowledging their online order performance and restating my question. “Yes, but how many new customers are you finding online? New customers that weren’t driven there by a catalog mailing or some other offline