July 22, 2008

Mailbag

An assortment of recent questions from you, the loyal reader. All are actual questions from you.


Q: What is the future of catalog marketing?

A: This is simply my opinion. Catalog marketing will become a housefile-based marketing tool. In other words, you'll send catalogs to loyal customers who want to receive catalogs. There's an entire ecosystem that depends upon the catalog customer acquisition model for survival. Long-term, I don't see how this ecosystem will survive. Long-term might be thirty years, long-term might be thirty months. I don't know which timeframe is reasonable.


Q: Why are you so supportive of third party catalog opt-out services, going to great lengths to encourage link-baiting?

A: I am not supportive of third party catalog opt-out services. I am fully supportive of our industry honoring the request of a customer/prospect who no longer wishes to receive paper-based marketing, whether it comes into our call centers or via third party services. Also, the last thing I'm trying to do is link-bait. It has been amazing how long-time catalog employees from reputable brands in the Northeast have been such big critics on this topic.


Q: When are you moving your blog off of the blogspot platform?

A: It is very likely that this will happen sometime this fall, opening up the blog to those of you who cannot read it at work.


Q: How much does a typical Multichannel Forensics project cost?

A: Depending upon the number of twelve month buyers you have, the cost is usually between $10,000 and $50,000.


Q: How much longer can you keep giving away information for free? How do you ever expect to sell books or consulting projects when you don't have to buy the book to learn what you need to learn?

A: I'll keep giving information away for free, forever. This is a different business model than you are used to working with. In the past, our vendor community offered glitzy articles in trade journals, giving away free advice like "target your best customers with a relevant merchandise offering". Thanks, I hadn't thought of that one! Our industry desperately needs to share ideas. We need to collaborate more, compete less. We need to be "friendemies". We are already a loose federation of companies who already share our most valuable asset --- our customer file, with each other. Think about how absurd this is --- we share our best customers with each other, but we won't share our best ideas with each other. What's up with that? I'll continue to offer free advice, spreadsheets, books, you name it, until I cannot make a living or you tire of the content. And by the way, the books have a heck of a lot of content that never gets covered in the blog.


Q: What is more important ... how customers interact with channels, or how customers interact with products?

A: Customer interaction with products is by far more important than customer interaction with channels. We've been sold a bill of goods on this whole multichannel thing. Explore, on a deep level, customer interaction with products.


Q: Why do you have a grudge against folks who preach the benefits of "best practices"?

A: I don't hold a grudge against "best practices". Here's the problem, folks. Who decides what a "best practice" is? A blogger? A vendor? A consultant? Too often, the purveyor of the best practice is biased (trying to sell something as a consequence of the best practice), and occasionally, is wrong!! Best practices should include building blocks that take you from earning a grade of "F" to earning a grade of "C" on your direct marketing exam. Best practices are important if what you do is broken. Best practices hold you back if you need to innovate. Go walk into a Sears store, and you'll see a litany of best practices, all contributing to an endless array of negative comp store sales.


Q: Is e-mail marketing dead?

A: E-mail marketing, as a template-based campaign strategy, may die a slow death similar to the slow death crushing the catalog industry. And yet, direct marketing will survive, it always has. E-mail marketing must evolve. Expect to see businesses use e-mail as a form of entertainment in the future. Expect to see e-mail marketing evolve into a social forum, an interactive platform where customers interact with other customers and employees.


Q: Is blogging dead?

A: Blogging as defined in 2005 or 2006 is already dead. Folks move in multiple directions these days, opting for the MySpace/Facebook/LinkedIn route, the essay-based blogging route, or the glorified text messaging world of Twitter. And yet, if you are a business, and you want to create a forum that allows your customers to see "who you really are", it is still a good time to do so. Blogging may be dead. Authenticity is alive and well!


Q: What software do you use?

A: I use SPSS to analyze customer behavior. Most of the web analytics community would blast me for being a fossil, using programming code perfected back in the 1970s and 1980s. Until somebody creates software that replaces what I can do, I'll continue to make a living being a fossil!


Q: Are folks visiting my website from Yahoo and MSN truly different than those visiting from Google? Do they act different in the future?

A: Yes, and Yes.


Q: Can you really increase readership via online copy marketing?

A: Yes! The words you use, and the hyperlinks associated with certain phrases give you the consumer intelligence necessary to significantly increase visitors / readership / subscribers / purchasers / conversion. We'll talk more about this in the future.


If you have any questions you want answered, e-mail me, or ask them in the comments section of this post.

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