January 29, 2009

Bloodbath At The Fiscal Year End

Based on your feedback, companies are going off the deep-end right now, in order to book severance expense in the final days of the fiscal year. Catalog jobs and management jobs seem to be in vogue.

Meanwhile, others are taking a hatchet to catalog circulation. Then this individual suggests that the CMO of Epsilon is predicting the end of marketing via the mail. Epsilon, if I recall, owns Abacus. What is Epsilon doing to help you through the transition? Or do you keep paying four cents a name for a channel that is not getting the job done? At some point, we have to change. It's up to us.

Some of the stories you're telling me are amazing. One individual was relocated to a new job in December, forced to move the family all the way across the country, only to be let go three weeks later.

Maybe the worst part of all of this is that we've created a feedback loop that dooms our own future. We're outsourcing day-to-day work. So much of the multichannel marketing work is now done by list brokers and co-ops and list processing vendors and database marketing vendors that we've created an impression among leadership that we're not needed.

And what did all of that outsourcing do for us, anyway? Some short term profit, of course. Short-term profit seems to be the curse of capitalism.

Please PAY CLOSE ATTENTION ALL YOU ONLINE MARKETERS. You're two years away from this. If e-commerce sales go sideways for the next few years, you're next. You, too, outsource key elements of your strategy (paid search, e-mail marketing) --- and at some point, somebody is going to decide that a retail executive or one of the more experienced catalog people or a merchant can do your job. It's been happening in cataloging for the two decades I've been in the business. It is coming to a online marketing department near you, once you aren't increasing sales at +15% per year, every year.

Online marketers, it's a good time to start thinking about how to wean yourself from Google, a good time to start driving sales independent of catalog marketers and television advertising and newspaper advertising and radio. How will you drive sales on your own, using your tools? Will Social Media save you? Twitter? Time for some social media accountability.

Of course, we'll get through this, and we'll innovate our way to new jobs and new responsibilities. And with luck, we'll remember the lessons of outsourcing, and of clinging to the traditional aspect of evolving business models.