The Most Rewarding Part

In this week between the holidays, I’m not going to indulge in any catalog industry bashing or industry postmortems. Instead, I want to share with you what is the most rewarding part of this blog for me. It is receiving all the emails and notes from readers, like you, each week, commenting on what I’ve recently written, and sometimes asking about something I wrote long ago.

My pledge to you will be to always do the right thing, by writing about the truth on all aspects of this industry, as I know it to be. I’m not always correct (and there are some of you that let me know when I’m not). I’m not going to sugarcoat what is happening or what you have to do to survive. So far, my approach seems to be working, as subscribers to this blog grew another 32% in 2017. Thank you!

Here is a sampling of some of the most rewarding emails I received in 2017 from readers commenting on things I had written.

  1. When I made the comment that probably only 1% of my readers had ever been ice fishing, one reader from Nebraska sent a photo of she and her husband, standing on a lake somewhere in South Dakota (which looked like the Arctic tundra) with her ice fishing auger in hand, and a caption that she was the 1%.


  1. The catalog creative director that remembered I had critiqued her catalog during one of my “What Were They Thinking” speeches, more than 20 years ago, and who further recalled that other speakers at that event had predicted that catalogs would be dead in 10 years, yet she is still going strong 20 years later.


  1. A CEO who thanked me for including a quote in one posting from Jim Elliott (“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”), as that quote was hanging in the company’s conference room.


  1. The CEO who said this of my posting about writing a thank you letter to a person that had helped me earlier in my career, and who had just turned 100: “though not a mention of catalogs or merchandising, I gained as much from this post as any you have written recently.”


  1. The Art Director, whose catalog I eviscerated last summer by calling it boring and lacking of passion, who wrote to say “I agree. It’s boring. Love your article regardless! It’s inspired me!!” (Her email meant a lot to me. I often worry that some of you will think I’m just being an old grump when you read something very negative that I’ve written about someone’s catalog. It was nice to get confirmation from the catalog in question that even the Art Director agreed.)


  1. The note from a merchant commenting on my statement that most catalogs lack passion: “Well said Bill! No innovation, new product introduction or great idea ever got traction without someone with passion & grit to see it come to fruition. Champions don’t follow or go with the flow. Big companies have big meetings with many stakeholders so they all agree.  When you have consensus, you are sure to only support mediocrity by playing it safe!  The problem is not new product, but the true passion to sell it!”


  1. The CEO who sent me a note after a posting I did on the difficulties of being a catalog CEO in 2017 who stated “I’m a big fan of your blog and try to read it first thing Monday.  I think you really nailed it on this one.  Great work.”


  1. The note I received from one of the catalogs which I recently cited as going out of business here in New England: “We’ll be the first to admit that we didn’t do enough to update the catalog; but the bottom line is that without some unique and/or proprietary product we weren’t going to be successful in this business and I’m afraid that was our inherent weakness and the problem plaguing the vast majority of our industry.” Truer words were never written than that comment about unique products.


  1. I received more than a dozen emails from readers two weeks ago following my posting called Gone Too. Half the comments were from people who noticed my joke about Vermont (where they think pure thoughts while packing your order), and the other half were from readers who also owned a cabin or camp in the woods. Several even sent pictures, including one of a very elaborate outhouse!


  1. There are several people I want to thank who routinely take the time to send me notes that keep me honest by pointing out either errors or flaws in my logic, or who routinely have a kind word, and sometimes both. They include Lis Kislik, Ernie Schell, Steve August, Jim Alexander and Frank Oliver – thank you for keeping me in line, for giving me your time, and often for providing ideas for future postings.


  1. Finally, I want to thank Jake Foley at Datamann, who, when he has time, will offer grammatical changes based on his writing skills which were honed by a very strict English teacher. And of course, thanks to my wife Shari, who reads EVERY posting before it goes out, and who laboriously corrects my poor spelling and punctuation. She also recommends when I need to “tone it down”.


I don’t think of myself as a writer, and certainly not a gifted one. But I love direct marketing. I love the idea that you can send someone a message – either through the mail or electronically – and get them to do something. I started out my career in fund raising, which is 100% harder than cataloging. In fund raising, you don’t ship someone their sweater or winter boots – all you have to give someone for their donation is a warm feeling and a sense of gratitude.

Please keep the emails and comments coming. I love hearing from you. I tried to respond to every comment I receive.

Have a happy New Year, and we’ll start the new year off next week with why you must do something different.

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by Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235