February 17, 2009

Catalog Filter

If you needed to talk to somebody who "knows" modern catalog marketing, who would you speak with?

I can tell you who to speak with about fulfillment. These folks know all about paid search. I can talk to this organization about renting lists. Or speak with these folks about co-op names. I can find e-mail marketing experts here. And nobody is willing to pay for the services of this organization, but we all sure like having them out there lobbying for us. If we want to suppress catalogs to individuals who don't want dead trees in their mailbox, we go here. Want a robust database and inexpensive demographic appends? Talk to these people. Need to bask in the fellowship of an organization of peers? Join this organization. Or work with these folks for the best possible paper pricing. And then integrate that organization with your favorite printer while you're at it, then cross your fingers that the government doesn't clobber you with another unreasonable postage increase.

That's only a small part of the ecosystem, isn't it?

And if you were to ask any of those folks how to execute modern catalog marketing, you would get an incomplete answer, wouldn't you? The paper rep would tell you that some small company is growing by 39% right now because of catalog marketing. The database marketing firm would demand you integrate all your data, because Best Buy did that, and look at their performance! The co-op would tell you to keep the gas on customer acquisition, the e-mail marketing expert would tell you to focus on customer retention. The social media expert might tell you to abandon all of that and focus on the 2 in 100 individuals currently using Twitter.

What is likely to emerge from the great decentralization and outsourcing of catalog marketing is what I call the "Catalog Filter". This is an individual who can synthesize information, who can separate noise from strategy.

This individual knows that paper is dying. This individual also knows that you cannot just jump off the paper bandwagon today. This person builds a bridge to the future.

This individual sees through marketing speak. She knows that "buy online, pickup in stores" is nice for the customer, but is expensive and may not increase long-term customer value by a penny. She knows that Google is destroying e-commerce while giving the impression that it is causing e-commerce to grow. She knows that algorithms are dehumanizing the shopping experience. She knows how to merge offline advertising with online execution. She knows exactly how much profit is generated five years from now by the marketing and operational tactics that are executed today.

The "Catalog Filter" does not follow the industry script. As you know, the industry script is written to benefit service providers. The catalog filter is there to benefit YOU, to give YOU a roadmap to the future, to integrate and synthesize ideas for YOU!

This individual is about to emerge from the ether. I don't think this person is a traditional catalog marketing expert. This person is, however, a person with considerable catalog marketing experience, a person who can see the future but doesn't try to jump over the present.

The longer it takes the economy to rebound to "normal" (i.e. not the bubble years of 2003 - 2006), the faster this "Catalog Filter" will emerge.

In your opinion, who do you think fits this bill? Is there an individual, or an organization, that can be the "Catalog Filter"? Who do you trust?


  1. Anonymous7:04 AM

    I have had some brushes with people who know catalogs (the catalog industry? the profession?) and I have the greatest respect for the ecosystem (yes!) they work with. It's daunting, and I think it requires a lot of experience before beginning to be good at it.

    That said, can't answer your question at all. I learned a lot from Geoff Smith when he was at PersonalCreations, and I think he is now at ShopNBC, but, really, where are these people?

    If ONLY you had inserted the same kinds of links from your paragraphs 7 to the rest of your blog, or elsewhere, I'd be busy reading for hours. What a provocative list. Please do them as future topics, soon.

  2. Chris, I'm not sure where these people are! I do think they'll surface.


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