July 06, 2007

What I Value

Many (i.e. more than just a handful) of my loyal readers recently shared their thoughts with me about my attitude toward cataloging and multichannel retailing. The most popular word used to describe the message I'm conveying is 'doom'.

If you've worked with me in person, on a day-to-day basis, you know I'm not about doom. I am all about pointing the ship toward a viable future. During my career, the companies I've worked for generated $50 billion in net sales and $4 billion in earnings before taxes. The leaders I've worked with know something about pointing the ship toward a viable future.

So let's list a few things that I value in our multichannel world. These are sustainable things that frequently lead to increased sales and profit, or at minimum support an enjoyable work environment. These concepts and ideas are not about 'doom'. You're invited to contribute your ideas at the end of the article.

I value vendors who speak honestly, and don't market their products and services using fear and arrogance as a tactic.

I value bloggers who do not tear down multichannel retailer customer service for the sole purpose of increasing the readership of their blog. Someday, multichannel retailers will figure out how to fight back against bloggers. Woe to all bloggers when the brands decide to fight back.

I value online marketers who credit retail and catalog marketing for a portion of their success. I believe these folks make up the next generation of great direct marketing leaders.

I value multichannel retailers who use the online channel for customer acquisition. Maybe the biggest advantage a multichannel retailer has is an active online and catalog customer acquisition program that fuels future retail growth.

I value industry experts who are willing to admit that catalog response is declining, and that e-mail response is declining. Both facts are frequently (though not always) true, and there's nothing wrong with admitting it.

I value search marketers who teach their clients the art of search marketing while managing search tactics in an ethical manner.

I value executive teams who listen to the ideas of their analysts, managers and directors first, considering the ideas of vendors and research firms as a secondary source for growth.

I value online marketers who allow search marketers to do their jobs, but remain highly engaged in this form of art.

I value multichannel retailers who increase sales and profit by capitalizing on people. Technology cannot succeed without people. People frequently succeed without technology.

I value executive teams that get along, work collaboratively, and genuinely care about the people they support.

I value e-mail marketers who do their job in an ethical manner. It has been my experience that e-mail marketers are among the least appreciated of all marketers, and drive far more sales in a multichannel retail environment than they get credit for.

I value catalog circulation staff, folks who do hard, tedious, endless cycles of work without sufficient appreciation from online marketers, e-mail marketers, or multichannel executives. Almost all of the tactics used by e-mail marketers were invented by previous generations of catalog marketers.

I value multichannel websites that are warm and inviting, while practicing the art of "selling" merchandise.

I value individuals who have the title of "Director". These folks are among the least appreciated employees in any company, working without the strategic or decision-making authority of an executive while dealing with many of the same headaches that any executive has.

I value multichannel businesses that chart their own course, developing their own take on how to sell merchandise to customers instead of following the advice of the latest research report.

I value research organizations that don't try to increase top-line sales and stock price by beating up the very multichannel retailers who purchase their research reports.

I value multichannel leaders who focus on strategy more than day-to-day tactics, who focus on vision more than ten hours of back-to-back meetings, who let their Directors manage all of the day-to-day tactics, who do not micro-manage every aspect of multichannel marketing.

I value catalogers who use the paper they send to customers to tell a compelling story about their products and services, who add warmth and humanity to their marketing.

I value multichannel CFOs who have artfully managed advertising and capital spend between cataloging, online marketing, e-mail marketing, multichannel inventory systems, and physical stores.

I value database marketers who have accurately measured the incremental contribution of catalogs, online marketing, e-mail marketing, multichannel inventory systems, and physical stores by using test/control methodology.

I value creative staff who artfully manage the balance between taking creative risks, who visually present merchandise using time-honored techniques, who communicate a warm and humble marketing voice to the customer.

I value database marketers who understand that must-have merchandise, presented in an attractive manner, sold at a fair price, and coupled with excellent customer service is what drives the success of a company --- and as a result, stay out of the way by not complicating the business with theoretical concepts like "return on customer" or "lifetime value".

I value merchandising staff, the folks who truly 'get' multichannel marketing, the folks who pay all of our bills. No vendor, no research organization, no executive, no director, manager or analyst makes any money without brilliant merchandisers who intuitively understand what the customer wants to purchase six to twelve months before the merchandise will ever be available.

I value brand marketers who focus on small details like sponsoring a cancer run over big concepts like television advertising.

I value compensation, human resource and executive teams that give analyst and manager staff much more than meager three percent cost-of-living salary increases when multichannel businesses are successful.

I value compensation, human resource and executive teams who reward star performers in creative ways, and are not limited by a mythical budget or performance review cycles.

I value multichannel vendors that keep scorecards of their successes and failures, and openly share these scorecards with their clients and prospects.

I value compiled list vendors that are trying to develop viable matchback algorithms for the catalog industry.

I value staff who work at list vendors, folks who grew countless multichannel businesses in the pre-search era, folks who are now being 'consolidated' or 'downsized' in spite of continued excellent and selfless work.

I value anybody who has the courage to stand up to Google and suggest that they are siphoning profit off of all of our profit and loss statements for transactions that would have occurred anyway.

I value online marketers who understand that Google is siphoning profit off of all of our profit and loss statements for transactions that would have occurred anyway, and react to this by better balancing natural and paid search activities.

Realize, of course, that we are to blame for this by participating in paid search, but kudos to those who balance natural and paid search.

I value database marketers who have accurately measured the amount of profit that Google has siphoned off of our profit and loss statements.

I value web analytics folks who measure customer behavior across multiple visits, instead of solely focusing on individual visit metrics.

I value information technology experts who serve internal customers (i.e. those of us who request work of IT folks) in a humble and helpful manner.

I value multichannel leaders who allocate enough investment in information technology so that IT folks can serve us in a humble and helpful manner.

I value multichannel HR departments that focus on cross-pollination of skills between online, catalog and retail channels, and reward employees for their total contribution, not just their channel contribution.

I value multichannel leaders who have the courage not to outsource catalog circulation.

I value multichannel leaders who support an 8-5 workday filled with meaningful and rewarding work over a 7-7 workday filled with meetings.

I value multichannel leaders who allow employees to work from home, and have the courage to hire employees who may not live in the same geography as the corporate office, allowing those employees to contribute from their existing home sans relocation.

I value multichannel leaders who openly communicate with their employees, are visible to their employees, and share the issues the executive team are dealing with so that employees can do their best to help the business succeed.

I value the efforts of analysts and managers at multichannel retailers, the folks who execute all of the gaudy strategies that executives attempt to implement. Without loyal, talented and dedicated analysts and managers, executives couldn't possibly enjoy the millions of dollars they receive in salary, stock options and bonuses during their leadership reign.

I value the efforts of call center and distribution center staff, the folks who are the real engine behind multichannel marketing. You can thrive without great systems. You cannot run a business without poorly paid humans taking phone calls, managing live chat, or picking/packing/shipping merchandise. The day somebody figures out how to properly compensate these folks for their true contribution is the day some 'brand' goes bonkers.

Your turn. What do you value about multichannel marketing?


  1. kev, your posts are consistently outstanding. not sure how you became so prolific, either. the quality + quantity of your ideas is right up there with seth's.

    and what's amazing is that you have such a tightly confined editorial platform (multichannel), whereas seth will blog about the marketing aspects of many areas of the human experience. the difference is akin to a super authentic, out of the way, five-star sushi hole-in-the-wall vs. a topflight las vegas buffet. i love both, but ...

    you are my favorite blogger.

    more wasabi!

  2. Great Post. Great listing.

    You have been good throughout the post but suddenly turned rude at the end. How can you expect us to add more when you have listed everything possible?

    Sorry to say but I felt you could have better saved time and said, "I value everything and everybody associated with Multichannel Marketing." It says all what you have listed.

    I agree with you on the actual content. Multi-channel marketing offers lots of options and each option has its advantage. If properly carried out, it gives the good of all worlds. But ride may be tough as the bads will try to come too.

  3. Anonymous3:16 PM

    FWIW I value organizations that really, truly have customers woven through (or baked into) their DNA. At the end of the day customers are the only revenue-generating asset any company has, and have both an intuitive and an analytical focus on their behavior is both commendable and, oddly, rarer than it should be.

  4. Harry, thanks for the nice comments. I've experimented with many different styles over the past year-plus, and have landed on a style that you read now. I had to find some way to educate with numbers, hold on to all the other readers who weren't very interested in geeky math, and represent my personality in the written form for those considering hiring me for various projects.

    Le_Plan --- you outline the many challenges, good and bad, that I face when writing this stuff. At the end of the day, I hope to represent "the little guy", I try to be a voice for all the good folks working at multichannel retailers who have good ideas that are being stepped-on by executives who listen to vendors & research organizations & consulting firms. Those little folks who don't have a voice occasionally get crabby, sort of like the way I get crabby. I try hard to not get grumpy.

    Anonymous --- there sure is a balance between intuition and analysis that is hard to find in business. I used to be so customer focused, and strongly believed that customers were a dependable, reliable asset. Then I worked at Eddie Bauer, and watched product/creative/promotions ruin a customer base ... it was product/creative/promotions that drove customers away. At Nordstrom, the company basically did everything opposite of how I would do it, and it worked so incredibly well that I had to change my framework. New product and great employees were a magnet that customers were attracted to. Take great in-store employees away, and customers disappear. I probably stand alone on this concept, especially in the customer-friendly blogosphere, but it would be hard for anybody who didn't go through 1995-2007 at Eddie Bauer and Nordstrom to not end up in the same place I arrived at.


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