February 03, 2011

Dear Catalog CEOs: NEMOA Questions

Dear Catalog CEOs:

NEMOA hosts their annual spring event in a few weeks (click here to view the agenda).

There are three reasons I am supportive of NEMOA.
  1. They gave me an opportunity to speak in 2007, when I was a nobody consultant who just finished working for twelve years in the Pacific Northwest, far away from the hallowed catalog geography known as New England.
  2. NEMOA stood behind you, always, steadfast.  The vast majority of organizations abandoned you long ago, or abandoned you recently, out of necessity, or out of a lust to chase the next shiny new object in the marketing toolkit.
  3. NEMOA modernized.  They try.  They maintain their catalog roots, while giving an acceptable amount of mindshare to new topics.
So I wholeheartedly encourage you to attend their conference next month.

And when you attend, why not ask your peers a series of questions.
  1. Are any of you, after proper attribution, generating 10% or more of your annual sales because of your social media efforts?  If the answer is yes, is your core customer age 55 or older?  If the answer is yes, and your business is non-competitive, what the heck are you doing that is different than what the pundits suggest you do?
  2. Are any of you, after proper attribution, generating 10% or more of your annual sales because of your mobile marketing efforts?  If the answer is yes, is your core customer age 55 or older?  If the answer is yes, and your business is non-competitive, what the heck are you doing that is different than what the pundits suggest you do?
  3. Are any of you seeing 15% or greater improvements in productivity, above and beyond your core merchandising productivity, from your list rental or co-op activities?  If so, what is your vendor doing to generate such significant increases?
  4. Many catalogers with a 45-49 year old audience are observing an interesting phenomenon ... they are able to significantly reduce page counts without a significant drop in demand (after matchback).  How many of you are actively testing page counts and unique formats, and what have you learned?
  5. The year is 2015.  What does your catalog business look like?  What is the mix of sales by marketing channel?  What are you doing to grow your business in each advertising channel, so that your business looks in 2015 the way you want for it to look?
  6. If your customer is age 60-64, what do you think your customer will look like in the year 2020?  Will your customer be age 70-74 (i.e. you will follow this cohort into their 70s), or will you appeal to a 60-64 year old customer?  This is important, of course, because if your customer ages with time, you'll need a plan for maintaining the vitality of your brand, right?
  7. If your demographics aren't favorable, what is your exit strategy, or your strategy to reinvent yourself?  Exit can mean any number of things, of course.
  8. Merchandise means everything.  Nobody talks about it, because it is more fun to wonder if LivingSocial will outperform Groupon, but customers buy from us, in large part, because we offer merchandise that meets a genuine customer need.  Ask a non-competitive brand at NEMOA what their merchandising secrets are.  And, in kind, what can you share with your peers?
  9. Talk with your peers about succession planning.  Specifically, our businesses have fragmented in ways we couldn't imagine.  How do we find a person to run the business in 2017, and what kind of skills does this person need to possess?  Will a social media expert be able to run your company?  A copywriter?  An accounts payable analyst?
That's only nine questions.  I could have written nine hundred questions if I wanted to.  Please meet with your peers and discuss these and other questions.  Skype me into your meetings, if necessary.