November 17, 2008

The Five Stages Of Multichannel Grief

You're probably familiar with the five stages of grief, especially if you had a boatload of money in a 401k account.

Our industry is certainly going through this process, as catalog marketing rapidly evolves into an opt-in preference for a specific minority of the population (which isn't a bad thing).

Here's one view of the five stages. Where do you think we are? What do you think acceptance looks like?

  • Online pureplays like Amazon will never make it, all they do is lose money and offer stock options to inexperienced employees.
  • Zappos will never make it, they cannot afford free shipping and next day delivery.
  • "Do Not Call" won't impact us, because we're not like sleazy telemarketers.
  • "CAN-SPAM" won't impact us, because we're not like sleazy spammers.
  • The USPS would never jack up our postage rates while giving the banking industry a pass.
  • Customers love catalogs, they love curling up by the fireplace, with a warm blanket, reading catalogs from companies they've never purchased from.
  • Nobody sits in bed with a notebook computer on their lap, shopping for merchandise.
  • Catalogs still work, all you have to do is run a matchback program to know that.
  • Who are these third-party opt-out services telling me I cannot mail catalogs to customers?
  • Why do third-party opt-out services consume non-renewable resources like coal and oil but tell me I cannot consume renewable resources like trees?
  • The DMA wasn't on our side, we need to create a new organization that looks out for us.
  • Those bankers ruined the economy, and now my business is in the tank.
  • I cannot compete with big box retailers who knock-off my products and sell them for 15% less than I can sell them for.
  • I cannot compete with Zappos and their free shipping, rapid-delivery model.
  • If we do paid search and social media and mobile media and e-mail marketing and retailing, maybe we'll have enough channels for everybody to love us and then maybe we can mail catalogs to everybody.
  • If we participate in third-party opt-out services, maybe we'll get good PR.
  • If you're willing to buy from us during these challenging economic times, we'll take up to 60% off your order and give you free shipping.
  • If you're willing to give us your e-mail address, we'll tell you about special offers and discounts.
  • If you're willing to participate in a co-mailing program with me, we'll both save a few pennies.
  • If you're willing to manage my database and do my matchbacks, I'm willing to do all of my customer acquisition and housefile circulation via your algorithm.
  • If I use recycled paper in my catalogs, will you promote the fact I am a "green marketer"?
  • Ok, Amazon, it looks like your business model is going to work. If you (Amazon) will sell my merchandise on your site, I'll give you seven percent of every transaction.
  • I cannot believe sales dropped by twenty percent in the last month or two. This is awful.
  • I wish it were 1993. Things were simpler, and better back then.
  • I'm doing all of this social media stuff and nobody cares.
  • I'm doing all of this paid search stuff and it doesn't scale.
  • I have an e-mail marketing list of a million people and almost none of them respond, ever.
  • I'm doing mobile marketing and only a hundred and forty folks care.
  • I've added a couple dozen new micro-channels over the past five years, and yet customers (until last month, when things got ugly) still spend the same amount they've always spent.
  • I cannot believe I have to bail out banks, only to have the banks make it very hard for me to borrow money to run my business.
  • What a shame that I have to let go of ten percent of the workforce to even have a chance to be profitable next year.
  • Let's cut the catalog marketing budget way back when marketing to online-only buyers, especially those who interact with online marketing channels.
  • Let's let the customer opt-in to future catalog marketing when buying online.
  • Let's acknowledge that e-mail marketing doesn't dramatically move the sales needle, and completely re-invent the medium.
  • Let's not view new channels as "the next big thing", let's experiment.
  • Let's completely open the books with non-competitive brands, allowing all of us to learn what others are doing well.
  • Let's view ourselves as direct marketers with a catalog advertising channel, rather than catalog multichannel brands.
  • Let's accept the premise that you don't have to offer all customers all marketing channels.
  • Let's let the customer decide how s/he wants to interact with us.
  • Let's acknowledge that cataloging is a rural endeavor, online marketing is an exurban/suburban practice, and retailing is a suburban/urban discipline.
  • Let's run our business off of the profit we generate, not the amount of credit we can access.
  • Let's acknowledge that without people, algorithms don't exist.
  • Let's remember that the vast majority of the vendor community genuinely cares about us and wants to help us.
  • Let's invent new ways to create demand.


  1. Anonymous10:13 PM

    I know that this is not meant to be funny but it is. You've put a lot of thought into this Kevin and outdone yourself!



  2. This was actually my wife's idea. I think she's seen me go through each stage over the past decade.


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