Going Back To School

Let me be clear right up front – most B2B catalogs make no effort to be efficient, generally because they don’t need to be. But a day of reckoning is coming.

Now that school is back in session, I want to take a timely look at an educational catalog I received over the summer. I received this catalog because they used one of the prospect mailing lists on which I am a seed name.

I know that many teachers use their personal funds to purchase school supplies for their classrooms. Many educational catalogs are targeted directly at the teacher and homeschoolers, who want to get additional/supplemental resources for their classroom, which the local school district may or may not supply.

I have documented several times in the past year how many consumer catalogs are moving toward smaller page counts, smaller formats – or no catalog at all – in an effort to reduce costs and drive more traffic to their website. The consumer catalogs know they are in a survival struggle, and are taking the necessary evasive actions.

However, B2B catalogs still believe that “if you don’t show it, you can’t see it.” I received several other similar educational catalogs this summer, which all shared the same characteristics, but I’m going to highlight The Benchmark Educational catalog, which is 306 pages! Almost every spread is the same – just pages of books or booklets that aid/encourage reading and learning. Maybe teachers find the catalog exhilarating, but to me, it is incredibly boring, since every spread looks alike.

But here is the bigger problem. There are literally thousands of SKUs represented and every single one is photographed and shown. Nothing is line listed, and no effort is made to promote the idea to “check out our full assortment online”.

I know why every product is shown – Benchmark Education develops all their own products. The creator of each book/booklet obviously believes their products are just as great as every other set of books in the catalog. Therefore, the Creative Director responsible for designing and creating this catalog could never not show a product, as that would be an affront to the creator, no matter how poor a seller that product might be. In my opinion, this catalog is yet another final vestige of communism, socialism and Marxism – every product, no matter how poorly it may sell, gets the same treatment and exposure as every other product.

Just add more pages to accommodate more products. Make no effort to be efficient, selective, or make optimal use of the company website.

But here is the truly ironic part. Benchmark devotes a whole spread right at the beginning of the catalog touting that many of their products are available “digitally”, through “One Portal”, compatible with all your devices. The company has met the 21st century with their products, and recognized that students need online access to their learning aids. But, they have yet to acknowledge that the customer – the teachers – are online shoppers as well. Instead, they force them to hunt through 300+ pages of print.

The day of reckoning is coming for catalogs like this. Sure, because Benchmark produces their own material, they probably have great margins. Their giant 300+ page catalog is probably very profitable. But, imagine if they cut the book to half the size, and mailed it twice?

I’m sure they argue internally that at 300 pages, their catalog is a resource that gets kept throughout the year. And since I’m not a customer, I don’t know if they send periodic smaller page count books to their customers, which are more targeted. But even B2B companies with great margins will reach a point when they need to become efficient, cut pages, and plow the savings into more prospecting for new customers. And the new prospecting is doubtful to be accomplished by mailing more catalogs.

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by Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235

blapierre@datamann.com

 

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At The Start Of Every Disaster Movie, A Scientist Is Ignored

Last week was an interesting week for me. I did not mention it at the time because it did not seem like a big deal, but my posting last week on Ted & Muffy – A Sad And Cautionary Catalog Tale was the 300th I’ve done for this blog in my six years here at Datamann.

I bring that point up now because that posting had the highest open rate, and highest pass-along (forwards) of all my postings this year. Not bad for mid-summer when many people are on vacation.

In addition, I had 11 new subscribers sign-up the day the posting went out. That may not seem like much, but for a mature blog on a small industry, 11 new subscribers in one day is way cool, and way above average.

But here is what makes this all so interesting: I was writing about a catalog that tried to appeal to a new demographic, and failed in spectacular fashion.  I could see from my email tracking that many of you forwarded that email – probably to advocates within your own company of a similar strategy.

If I had written about some arcane aspect of catalog circulation planning, merge/purge processing or matchback, hardly anyone would have forwarded it, and I would not have gotten so many – if any – new subscribers.

But when I offer evidence of a creative catalog melt down, you jump all over it. It is beyond morbid curiosity – you don’t want the same fate to befall you.

I received an email from a reader that asked why I had waited until I saw Ted & Muffy’s final PDFs to comment on the odd and potentially disastrous creative direction in which they were taking the catalog. Why hadn’t I spoken up when the catalog was planning this new direction? Oh, that question was priceless….

As I’ve said in this space many times before, I’m not a catalog creative person. You would not want to mail a catalog I designed. But that doesn’t mean that after 30+ years of mailing catalogs, I can’t spot a pending disaster.

Mailers – and more specifically – my clients at Datamann, know this. They know I will tell them when they are making a boneheaded mistake. That is why they wait until the final files are due at the printer in less than two hours, to send me the PDFs of their catalogs.

They wait that long because they don’t really want to make any changes. They want affirmation that this year’s fall catalog is perfect. “Bill said it was great!” If I tell them there are problems, just like the scientist at the start of every disaster movie, my advice is usually ignored.

I do have two clients that send me copies of their respective catalogs, when it is pretty far along in the design process, but with still some time to make a few important changes if necessary. They ask me to look at it from a 30,000-foot perspective. I’m not reading copy or checking prices. I’m looking at the catalog the way a consumer would. Since both of these clients are based in the UK and mailing here in the US, I comment on things which they may not be familiar with here in the US.

Both of these mailers know what they are doing. They have been mailing a long time. They are not looking for me to nit-pick their catalog, but suggest obvious omissions or changes that if fixed, would drive response.  Most of time, I don’t find fault with anything. Sometimes, I will suggest changes to offers to make them more responsive to an American audience.

Here is the point. They don’t always agree with me. But, they want a catalog that drives response and drives sales. They usually make the changes I’ve suggested. They are not looking for affirmation of a job well done – they are looking for profits.

Of my 300 prior postings, my favorite was this one I wrote back in 2013 on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (Pickett’s Charge and How I Became A Catalog Critic). It is the story of how I stood on the sidelines 25+ years ago when I worked at Brookstone and watched our Hard-To-Find Tools catalog be eviscerated. I learned from that experience that most people that want to make major creative and merchandise changes to a catalog don’t have a clue as to what they are talking about. They often don’t even have any “skin in the game”, and don’t have to share in the responsibly if the changes fall flat.

Here are the final two paragraphs from that posting – which are worth repeating:

“Finally, I learned that most people are too afraid, too naïve or not experienced enough to speak up. Business is not warfare. But, we have all experienced similar futile new business efforts similar to Pickett’s Charge. The question is, what do we do about it? As Pickett’s men marched across the Gettysburg field 150 years ago, some of them must have felt that they were doing their duty. Conversely, some of them must have felt that not only was this not a good idea, it was just going to be a slaughter. But those men could not complain – they just had to keep marching. You don’t.  When you see something happening to your website or catalog that just seems like it will lead to disaster, you have to speak up and take action.

One last thought – I have been critiquing catalogs and websites for more than 20 years. In all the speeches I’ve given, and all the catalogs I’ve criticized, I have only received one nasty-gram after the fact – and that catalog went out of business a year later for the reason I cited in my critique.  I have always been fair and factual in my commentary, and never personal. But, I also don’t hold back. You should not either – when your job and your company’s sales are on the line, don’t beat around the bush.”

 

Ya Snooze, Ya Lose – The Joys of Dynamic Pricing

This is part two of why last week was interesting. Sometime in early July, I put a pack of five solar eclipse glasses in my Amazon shopping cart. They were $5. On Thursday August 10th, I finally decided it was time to order them. When I opened my shopping cart, the price was now $20. Plus, my wife, with whom I share my Amazon Prime account, had a put some other stuff in the cart.

I waited until she got home from work that night to confirm she wanted the other items. When I finally went to place the order around 8 PM that night, the glasses were now $25. Plus, they were out-of-stock. They would ship on August 16th, and arrive on August 21 – the day of the eclipse. Since our UPS deliveries from Amazon don’t arrive until about 6 PM, the glasses would arrive about 6 hours too late.

I’ll be at the Datamann office in Vermont that day, probably hoping that it is cloudy, so that I won’t feel like I blew this big opportunity.

 

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by Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235

blapierre@datamann.com

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Ted & Muffy – A Sad and Cautionary Catalog Tale

Most of you have an obsession with youth. You believe that the solution to your response problem is to appeal to a younger audience with your catalog. You have the 65-year-old woman in your back pocket, but you struggle to get her 35-year-old daughter to even look at you, let alone place an order. It is even worse if you appeal to a 45-year old, and you are attempting to acquire a 22-year old customer.

I’ve mentioned many times before that Datamann works with a number of UK-based catalogs mailing here in the US. They were all brought to us by a consultant with whom we work, who is based in London.

One of those companies was Duo Boots. Prior to 2015, they had a great catalog of nothing but women’s fashion boots, knee length and thigh length. These all-leather boots are handmade in England, and individually fitted to your foot and calf measurements.

Cool products, well made, great story and delightful catalog. For a fashion catalog, it did not stray from focusing on the products, the beauty of the products, or the craftsmanship of the boots. I’m usually not a big fan of editorial content in a catalog, but in their case, I thought it was well done. The book had a few design flaws (too much knock-out type), but in general, I loved their catalog.

Then in the fall of 2015, the Art Director sent me PDFs to review for the coming Fall season. They were repositioning the catalog to go after a younger audience. And, they were changing the catalog name to “Ted & Muffy – Fairytale Fitters”.

What? 

Below are a few of the spreads from that catalog in 2015.

I pleaded with the Art Director not to go in this direction. The consultant in London pleaded with them. Then we both begged them not to do it. We knew what the consequences were going to be. No one listened. In their mind, we were two old guys that did not understand how to appeal to the intended younger audience.

Aside from the totally bizarre creative direction, I was also concerned with the decrease in product density and a significant price increase. In addition, the products themselves were changing, with more “colored” boots.

The catalog mailed, and results, as you would expect, tanked. In 2016, they toned down the fairy tale aspect, and focused more on the boots, but still stuck with the new name of Ted & Muffy.

Sadly, things did not go well, and we learned earlier this year that the company had been placed under the administration of the bank, which luckily – and rather quickly – found new owners, that are keeping the business alive in the UK.

I’m sure there were many factors which led to the company’s downfall. The odd creative style is the most visible evidence of how the catalog drifted in a direction that alienated not only existing customers, but prospects as well. But pricing, product density, and overly trendy merchandise all contributed.

The point is this – it is really difficult to take an existing brand, especially one that is doing reasonably well (and they were doing well, at least here in the US), and think that you can acquire a totally different demographic by changing the creative, the mailing list and even the merchandise. If you are going to do all that, it’s probably better to just start a new title, and protect the core business.

I received the email below a few weeks ago. Duo Boots is back. Ted & Muffy, at least the name and the funky styles are gone. The new owners cannot be held accountable for the mistakes of the past, and I wish them well with the business.

Let the catalog brand positioning lesson of Ted & Muffy be a cautionary tale to any of you who are thinking that you can wave a magic wand over your catalog and suddenly get a younger consumer to be your new customer. It ain’t going to happen.

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by Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235

blapierre@datamann.com

 

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Early Summer Catalog 2017 Observations

Getting Smaller

During the last week of June, I received seven “mini-catalogs” on the same day. Each had a slightly different height and width, though none were tall enough to be a traditional “slim Jim.” They were smaller, about the size of a digest catalog (5 ½ X 8 ½ up to 6 x 9). The one from TravelSmith was 52 pages, but the others were more of a glorified brochure, folding out to six to eight panels/pages. I had also received one earlier in the month from Scientific Direct for Father’s Day, which was a 16-page digest size with a small selection of appropriate gifts.

None of these came from Datamann clients, so I can’t report that these are setting the world on fire with response and new customer acquisition. But, they are examples of what I have long advocated in this space – mailing smaller, targeted pieces to more consumers/prospects. Throw more hooks in the water and you increase your chances of catching a fish.

Yes, I know that postage would cost the same if these mailers had mailed 48, maybe even 64 pages. I know that some of you think it ludicrous to not take advantage of that.

But, let’s look at this example below from Great Courses. They sell “educational courses” which are primarily intended for lifelong adult learning. For example, they have a course on the American Civil War, taught by a professor at the University of Virginia, comprised of 48 30-minute lectures. You can download the video, or buy the DVD.

I don’t have a copy of one of their catalogs, but in the past, they have mailed me what seemed like a 100+ page course catalog. Since my interest would only be American History, about 95% of that catalog was wasted on me.

But here is the more important point – according to the six-panel “mailer” I received in June, they have over 8,000 courses. How could you ever do justice to a product library that extensive by mailing a catalog, unless it was at least 100 pages long? You can’t.  The alternative is to mail a flyer intended to get you excited enough about their products to go to their website. I think their piece did a great job of that.

Garnet Hill mailed my wife an eight-panel mini brochure of school backpacks. Again, I think it is a great piece, and it would make no sense to burden this piece with additional products (kid’s clothing), even though the postage would be “free”.

The reason? The focus here is on backpacks – and the offer is targeted. It makes Garnet Hill appear as an authority on backpacks, certainly sustainable, eco-friendly backpacks. Of course, they need to work on their targeting a bit more, as our son is 17 and will be a senior in high school next fall, but that’s a topic for a future blog.

These companies are testing new formats, new sizes, new page counts, new product assortments. They are trying new things to survive because many of them found that they can no longer afford to keep mailing the “old-school way”. What are you doing differently?

Who are you? Is this spam?

Working for a computer service bureau company like Datamann, our IT staff is constantly reminding us of proper internet/email/computer safety. It is probably no different where you work. As a consumer, you start to get leery of anything in your email inbox that looks suspicious.

Last week, I put something in my cart at Performance Bike. A day or so later, they sent me an abandoned cart email. But the “from” was “Customer Service”, not “Performance Bike”. Ordinarily, I would have deleted this as spam, but the subject line made me suspect that this was intended for me.

 

Plus, I have ordered from them in the past. They know who I am. So, why was the “personalized” greeting left blank with “Dear  ,”?  Oh, my – these are such simple things to fix, but which when left unattended, make customers migrate to Amazon.

Catalog Sales:

I did not hear good things about sales for the first half of the year. Many of you, and not just Datamann clients, reported soft response for most of the winter, spring and early summer. And if the 40%, 45% and even “50% off everything in the catalog” discounts that I saw the week of July 4th are an indication, some of you had a very soft first half.

No one can quantify overall response and give a blanket statement that “sales were down by 8%” over last year. Some of you actually did better than plan and last year. But here is something to think about for those of you that were soft:

  • The economy is doing generally well, with the stock market continuing to gain in record high territory;
  • Gas price are low, and even dropping (at least they are here in New England) as we enter summer, which is traditionally when gas prices increase;
  • Except for some hot weather in the southwest (but it was a dry heat), the weather has been mostly “typical” nationwide;
  • Yes, there is some political drama playing out in Washington, but no more so than usual. There have been no national events that distracted the nation’s attention to the point of where consumers froze in place;
  • With thousands of retail stores closing nationwide, you might think that catalogs – even your catalog – would benefit from the reduced shopping opportunities at the local level.

With all these advantages piling up, why is your response soft? Go back to the question I asked at the beginning of this piece – What are you doing differently? If you are simply following the same pattern of mailings, throwing in some retargeting, testing a new co-op segment and more PPC – that’s not enough.  You need to change the whole dynamics of your business to drive catalog sales. That is what we will look at over the rest of the summer.

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by Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235

blapierre@datamann.com

 

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What Happens To Catalogs When …

This posting is part 3 of What Is To Become Of Single Title Catalogs – Revisited 2017.

There is a great scene in the 1967 movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? that speaks to where the catalog industry is today. In case you don’t recall, or have never seen the movie, Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy portray a married couple whose 23-year-old daughter wants to marry Sidney Poitier, who plays the role of a black doctor, and who is equally in love with their daughter. This movie was a big deal because interracial marriage was still illegal in 17 states when it came out.

The movie takes place during an 8-hour period, as the parents of Sidney Poitier’s character, and Hepburn and Tracy, are all trying to come to grips with the idea. At one point, Spencer Tracy is talking with Beah Richards, the actress playing Poitier’s mother. She is trying to understand why her husband and the character played by Spencer Tracy are both having such a problem with this planned marriage. Tracy’s character is opposed to the marriage, and Sidney Poitier has already stated that unless he approves, there will be no marriage. Poitier’s mother says the following:

What happens to men when they grow old? Why do they forget everything? I believe…those two young people need each other…like they need the air to breathe in. Anybody can see that by just looking at them. But you and my husband might as well be blind men. You can only see that they have a problem. But do you really know what’s happened to them? How they feel about each other? I believe… that men grow old. And when sexual things no longer matter to them, they forget it all. They forget what true passion is. If you ever felt what my son… feels for your daughter, you’ve forgotten everything about it. My husband too. You knew once… but that was a long time ago. Now the two of you don’t know. And the strange thing… for your wife and me…is that you don’t even remember. If you did…how could you do what you are doing?”

When Catalogs Grow Old:

What happens to catalogs when they grow old? Why do they forget? Why do they lose the passion that brought about their being in the first place and made them successful?

The retirement of Mikey Drexler as CEO of J Crew is, as Kevin Hillstrom stated, is the end of an era. He was not only a great retailer, but a greater cataloger. His departure is an opportune time to reflect on what is happening as catalogs grow old.

I can remember going to DMA Catalog Conferences in the 1980s and 1990s, and there were always one or two great catalog “personalities” that gave keynote speeches. They didn’t talk about how they were using retargeting to drive a 2.8% lift in response.   They did not talk about their cloud computing systems. They talked about their passion for the merchandise they were selling, and the passion they had for their customers.

Most important, they talked about how there was always another dragon to slay – their personal quest was to make the catalog a great place to work, a great place for their customers to purchase products, and a successful company (meaning: profitable). The quest was all about slaying the next dragon, and the next, to accomplish all these goals, and have peace in the kingdom.

Today, catalogs seem to have as much interest in their customers as United Airlines does for its passengers. Today, it is about catching the prey, and making them pay. There is no focus on who the customer is and what the customer wants. The co-ops have an algorithm that finds viable names for you to mail. But, do you really know what those prospects value in you? Do you know what those buyers really want from you?

The quest is gone. As Beah Richard’s character says, “You have forgotten what true passion is.” For catalogs, there are still dragons to slay, but most catalogs have given up, leaving someone else to slay them.

The reason the quest is gone has two parts:

First, remember the old saying about buying computers, that “no one will ever fault you for buying IBM?”  It was the safe choice. There is an equivalent in catalogs today. It is to be predictable. It’s always easy to do the predictable. If the predictable doesn’t work, no one is going to question or blame you, because it is what you are supposed to do. If it doesn’t work, it must be the fault of the economy, weather, or Amazon.

Look at these recent catalog covers. They are predictable.

Just looking at three covers from each company you might not think that. But line up a year’s worth of these covers, and you will see that they are not only boring, but have no passion. It is not just the covers either, but the whole tired product assortment and direction of the catalog. The original founders of these titles had passion, but passion is a luxury they can no longer afford, as passion requires you to break the mold and test new things that run the risk of not working.

In the three examples above, it is easy to see my point about passionless catalogs just going through the motions to keep the presses rolling. But be honest – are your catalogs any different? When was the last time you had a customer contact you and say, “Wow, I really love what you are doing with your catalog. I can’t wait for it to come each month”?  Conversely, when was the last time a customer said, “Man, I really hate what you are doing now”? Either response from a customer would show that there was still some interest out there, and that they were at least looking at your catalog, as opposed to their phone. But I’ll bet that if you are honest, it’s been quite a while since you received either one of those types of comments. That what being predictable will get you.

The second reason that the quest is gone is that most catalog companies rely upon one thing for their continued survival – efficiency. Catalog production follows a very rigid, tight schedule which pervades almost everything a catalog does. Can’t miss a deadline at the printer, can’t risk having the books go out late. Can’t try anything new, can’t risk not making the budgeted goal for the year (even if the goal is 5% less than last year).

The big catalog conglomerates (BluStem/Orchard Brands, Potpourri Group, Cornerstone) keep acquiring more catalog titles because it makes their investment in efficiency even more profitable. But, you never see other catalog companies purchase online-only companies because those types of companies would not fit into their efficiency model – there is no synergy, no gains in productivity. “If their customers are online only, I can’t mail them a catalog, which is not going to help my co-mail pool savings, so why would I want to acquire a company like that?”

That line of thinking makes Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods all the more intriguing. There are multiple dragons in this deal for Jeff Bezos to slay. His quest is just beginning, while many of you feel your quest is nearing twilight.

Can you learn to love selling without a catalog, by using all the tools of ecommerce?  Can you get the passion back? The first thing to do is to stop being so predictable. Then stop worrying about being so efficient.

“You knew once… but that was a long time ago. And the strange thing…is that you don’t even remember. If you did…how could you do what you are doing now?”

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by Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235

blapierre@datamann.com

 

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Spring 2017 Catalog Observations

Don’t Assume:

One of Datamann’s clients did a “free shipping” test this spring. We split their circulation on one mailing down the middle – half received a free shipping offer on the catalog cover, half received no message. The results? NO DIFFERENCE in response.

You can speculate on all kinds of conclusions from these results. But here is what I want you to focus on: I often hear from readers telling me that something I wrote about in this space was just plain wrong, based on that reader’s experience. That’s fine – I don’t mind being challenged, and certainly appreciate being told when I’m wrong. But bear in mind, except in those instances when I offer my opinion, and I always label it as such, I’m citing fact, usually based on something which has happened to at least one or more of our clients.

Two years ago, if someone had told me that a free shipping offer would have zero impact on response on a mid-ticket offer, I probably would have said that couldn’t be. But, as we have seen this spring with all of the store closing announcements, consumer shopping habits are changing. Preconceived notions and long-held beliefs of what works and doesn’t work in cataloging are often no longer valid. Don’t assume you have all the answers, based on your experience. What may seem like an ironclad rule, because it still applies to your customer’s behavior, may not be true elsewhere. Keep an open mind.

Better Paper:

Back in March, I provided my thoughts (click here) on how the USPS’s change in the piece-rate weight threshold from 3.3 to 4.0 ounces may not be as great for catalogers as others thought it was. One outcome I predicted was that mailers would succumb to the siren call of using better paper – and they have!

I don’t maintain a database of which catalogs are mailing on what paper, or even whether their page counts are going up or down. But, as a more than casual observer of the catalogs I receive as a consumer, I have noticed a “significant” number of catalogs switching to higher grade and textured paper.

That doesn’t mean that you should. Maybe you can get a discount on that other cataloger’s old paper that he isn’t using, because he went to a higher grade. But, as evidenced by the shipping test I mentioned above, don’t assume that better paper is indicative of providing you a better response. That’s why we test.

Adding Editorial Pages, B&H

I was a “digital camera” hold out. I had a Canon AE-1 film camera which I bought in 1978 that lasted right up until about 5 years ago, when I switched to using an $80 digital camera from Wal-Mart. But I longed for a digital, full-frame Nikon.  Last year, when I sold my backhoe to my nephew, I used the proceeds to get my dream camera from B&H Photo. If you are unfamiliar with B&H, they are reportedly the largest camera and photographic equipment dealer in the country – and they have a catalog.

The catalog which I receive from them is 330 pages. I noticed a callout on this month’s cover stating “Expanded with Articles”.  They have always had a few pages dedicated to “information” on products, such as how to pick the right lighting, but they expanded that concept this issue with many more pages.

This is NOT a magalog. This is a product dense catalog, with about a dozen spreads offering technical explanations and advice on some of the major product lines. Professional photographers would already know this stuff, but it is great for a novice like me. My only concern is that the information provided is often only cursory in nature, and still not detailed enough to help determine specifically what I need. But this is OK, as it at least gives me an idea of the questions to ask when I go to their website, or when I call their customer service.

This is what sets B&H apart. Sure, you could use their catalog to find products on Amazon. However, B&H customer service staff are waaaaay beyond being order takers – they are technical experts in photography. I know this reads like a commercial for them, but I AM a satisfied customer, and they have provided me detailed and accurate advice each time I have called them, far beyond anything I can get at the local Peterborough Camera store, or in any product description on Amazon.

In a 330-page catalog, it can only help to provide some product information, which helps sell. It helps differentiate them from the rabble on the web that does not have their expertise. This is another of those things you must do to set your catalog apart. Don’t assume that your customer knows what to do – you have to sell them.

Uline – Keeping the Catalog Industry Alive One Forest at A Time

I received an email in early March from a reader of this blog asking “What’s up with Uline?” He was questioning why he, a consumer, had received a 700-page catalog from them.

I can do better. This past week, I received THREE 730-page catalogs from Uline, addressed to my home address. If you don’t know Uline, it is a catalog of some general office supplies, but mostly every shipping supply product you could imagine.

They mailed all 3 catalogs to one of my decoy names. They are not names on which I have ever made an order, only catalog requests. Uline’s list broker must scour the universe trying to find obscure mailing lists which no one else has used, because I know these particular seed names I have only used in a few places. Plus, there is no way that these would have been caught as duplicates, because of nuances in each address.

I don’t know if they were doing cover tests, although it sure looks that way. But, what bothers me is that Uline mailed 2,190 pages of B2B catalogs to a residential address. Sure, lots of small companies are run from home, but Uline should have used a filter in their merge logic that would only send one catalog to a residential location. If you are a B2B mailer, have you tested this? Do you know the value/ cost of mailing additional catalogs a residential address?

More observations to follow….

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by Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235

blapierre@datamann.com

 

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