April 07, 2013

Dear Catalog CEOs: Team Chemistry

Dear Catalog CEOs:

Think back, over the course of your career.  How many times would you say that you worked in an environment that possessed great team chemistry?

It was easier to generate team chemistry in 1993 than it is in 2013.  Especially in marketing.  It's hard to have great chemistry when so many functions have been outsourced.
  • You used to have a customer acquisition department.  Now you ask Abacus to give you a bushel basket full of 61 year old prospects.
  • You worked with your IT team to maintain an in-house customer database.  Now, you outsource your database to Merkle, your web analytics to Google.
  • You used to hire a statistical programmer, who knew your customer and your merchandise assortment inside and out.  Now, you outsource statistical modeling to Clario.
  • You used to have an entire team that performed catalog circulation housefile planning.  Now, you have one person.  Tough to have team chemistry with one person involved.
In marketing, we know that when you double marketing spend, you fail to double sales, correct?

When you have team chemistry, 1+1 = 3.  You know this if you've worked on a team that has great team chemistry.

It has become really difficult to produce a great outcome in catalog marketing.  Who is accountable?  Remember the old days when the Chief Merchant would light up the entire marketing department for perceived incompetence?  How is s/he going to do that today?  Is s/he going to get on a plane and yell at a vendor?  Conversely, how is the statistical analyst at Experian going to hold the Chief Merchant accountable for perceived poor performance?

One of the reasons we catalog brands are in an demographic-fueled spiral (customer base aging rapidly) is because we don't have teams anymore.  How could a group of individuals learn, understand, synthesize, and act upon a complex demographic transition when the team is spread across numerous companies with varying levels of accountability?

In a quest to minimize expenses and pursue best practices, we've neutralized the one area where 1+1 = 3 ... team chemistry.

When did we decide to devalue the importance of people?  Maybe it was 2001.  We decided that people had to be slaves to "multichannel".  Today, people must be slaves to "omnichannel".  We're told that people must work together, in order to link channels together, even though nobody can prove that profitability increases when we accomplish this herculean task.  We teach employees that they should squelch creativity in an effort to appease channels.  What's wrong with us?

Why don't we demand that people work together to benefit people?