May 16, 2011

Follow Up To Dear Catalog CEOs: 10 Problems

If you're a catalog expert, it would be instructive for you to review the comments from Ernie Schell and Don Libey, following yesterday's post about ten problems that challenge our industry.

The goal the article, of course, is to get you to think.

Mr. Schell points out that there are successful catalogers catering to a younger audience.  We don't hear enough about that.  I know of a business that was founded by catalog marketing experts, right in the teeth of the Great Recession ... this business is growing rapidly, catering to a 30-44 year old audience.  It can be done!  Unfortunately, it seems like it is the exception, not the rule.

Mr. Libey points out that catalog success can be found in B2B catalog marketing.  That's true.  85% of my client work is in B2C, where we are facing very different challenges.  B2B catalog marketing is a blend of classic catalog marketing, e-commerce, replenishment needs, unique products not found elsewhere, volume discounts, and human beings.  This results in a very different dynamic than the issues that challenge B2C folks.


Again, the goal of the article is to get you to think.  I'm not about to promote solutions, there's no more certain way to be wrong than to tell everybody what to do and how to do it.  Each situation is different.


That being said, there are themes that I stand behind.
  • Brilliant merchandising usually wins.
  • Great customer service usually wins.
  • Reducing catalog marketing expense to customers who don't want as many catalogs results in increased profit.
  • B2C customer files are aging rapidly, and our industry won't talk about the implications of this problem.
  • Matchbacks and Attribution benefit our vendor community more than they benefit us.
  • We are letting our vendors push us away from innovation, especially in customer acquisition and print production.
  • We need smart people.
It's good that smart people like Ernie Schell and Don Libey commented ... now our industry needs your feedback.  What's working, what's not working, what are the problems, what are your suggested solutions?  If you work at Abacus, or Experian, or Donnelley, or Quad, or any of a veritable plethora of catalog vendors, you likely disagree with my comments ... hop on and share your thoughts about where you disagree with me.  We don't have to agree.  We do, however, have to help catalogers achieve improved productivity.  I thoroughly welcome disagreement on this blog, as long as the disagreement is well-thought out, rational, and data driven.  Share your thoughts!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kevin;

    I was very interested in your article yesterday listing the "10 problems slowly burying the catalog industry". Particularly interesting to me was #8 "paper & printers". Where you indicate catalog executives are not experimenting with page counts because their printer is pinning them to the most efficient ways they offer to produce a catalog.
    I face this issue as well every day. Our company, B & W Press, Inc., offers a unique 10 page Mini "Slim" Catalog that we developed for the purpose of driving consumer traffic to the catalogers web site.
    The Mini "Slim" mails at the standard letter rate and (depending upon the quantity) mails at a rate of .299/piece all-in, allowing the catalog marketer to reach their shoppers 2 1/2 times for the cost of a typical full size catalog. It's a 'sell more-buy more' approach.
    Everyone who sees our product samples for the first time, immediately tells us this is a great product that they think the product is a winner! Then they either limit any 'testing' to such a small quantity, or they wait and wait. It appears the industry marketers only 'follow-the-leader' when it comes to major changes to their annual marketing strategies.
    We have clients who roll out larger quantities of 1,500,000 per quarter in planned drops of 150M to- 250M, every 10 days to two weeks. They are reporting better-than-expected results at a fraction of their previous cost.
    The product is unique in that we produce it in-line {web finished} with no bindery involvement, sorted right into mail trays at the end of the line.
    Without a doubt the reduced page count is the way to go. As we tell our prospective clients; the content of their product offerings is typically beyond the scope of any total page count they can afford in the catalog world. There is an obvious benefit to driving their shoppers to their web site. The product is now approaching its third year since introduction. It has been a significant marketing hurdle to get marketers to 'test'.
    I have been following your blog for about 18 months now and am always impressed by your recommendations that appear to contradict what the major catalogers are doing. I appreciate your point of view and am encouraged when I read an article like yesterday's post. Paper and postage concerns are not going away. At some point catalogers will turn to this alternate direct mail device because it works!

    Thanks !

    Dan Kimball / Sales / B & W Press, Inc.
    email; Dkimball@bwpress.com

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