Time For Questions

With just three weeks to go before our catalog seminar in Concord, NH on catalog metrics, I’m happy to announce that we have over 200 registrations, and the conference hotel is sold-out (but there are other hotels nearby).  I keep getting notes and emails from attendees expressing how much they are looking forward to Kevin Hillstrom’s business simulation.

But before Kevin presents his simulation, I’ll be presenting my annual update on the present status of the catalog industry and my take on catalog metrics. Each year, I start out by asking for a show of hands to reveal how many of the companies in attendance grew the prior year by more than 10%, then 5%, then 1%.

Last year there were only a few that had grown by more than 5%. There is growth out there, among certain retailers. People are still buying stuff. So why is there such little growth among most catalogs?

Let’s forget about the co-ops for a minute and whether they are good or bad, dying or growing. Let’s just focus on one thing – there is not much prospecting for new customers going on at most catalog companies.   Why?

Before I answer that, let me share with you a brief story.  In the early 1990s while working as the catalog marketing and circulation guy at Brookstone, the company hired a new CEO who had no catalog experience.   The company was in rough shape, but the drain on our financial success was not the catalog, it was the 200+ stores. The new CEO turned his attention on the stores because that was the biggest part (80%) of the company, and because the catalog was making plan.

Then one day, my boss, the VP of Marketing hurt his back and was out for two weeks. During those two weeks, every time someone had a question about the “financials” on the catalog, they came to me. One day the CEO called me into his office to ask why list rental income was down.

This was the income we derived from renting our list to other mailers. In the company I had worked at before Brookstone, we did not actively promote the rental of our file. We exchanged a great deal, but had limited rentals. Upper management at that company had “strategic reasons” for this. So, when I got to Brookstone, I continued this “laissez faire” approach to list rental income.

At Brookstone, it was very unusual for the CEO to be quizzing a manager on a specific line item. However, because this CEO had no mail order experience, I thought he would appreciate an explanation from me on my “strategy” towards list rental income, and the fact that I had no control over list rental income, as it depended on other companies using our list, which was dependent on their circulation plans.

Big mistake. HUGE mistake.

For a guy that knew nothing about catalogs and mail order, he started to ask some pretty probing questions. That’s why he was CEO. He knew that Millard Group, located right across the street from Brookstone in Peterborough, NH, was our list manager. “Put some pressure on those guys over at Millard to proactively sell our list. Do some promotions. Get the word out in the industry that you are ready to deal. Change the price. Do whatever you have to do, but get that income up. YOU control and YOU are responsible for this line item – don’t blame it on other mailers.”

To that CEO’s credit – whose name was Hank Kaminstein – he never raised his voice at me, never uttered a swear word, never spoke to me in a sarcastic or demeaning way. Instead, he taught me the value of taking action.

That is what we are going to focus on in three weeks at the seminar – taking action. You wanted to learn about which catalog and ecommerce metrics you need to know and use to grow your business. You wanted to know how merchandise analysis could help you grow. But in reality, you need to see that metrics really don’t help you if you are unwilling to change, and unwilling to take action.

To answer my original question – there is so little prospecting for new customers because you won’t take action and you don’t want to change the way you acquire customers. Carpet bombing with prospect catalogs with names sourced from the co-ops is not working to the degree it used to, but you are reluctant to try other options. Hopefully by the time you leave our seminar, you will have the ammunition you need to impart that sense of urgency for change at your company.

There are four parts to our seminar – my presentation, Kevin’s business simulation, Frank Oliver’s presentation on merchandise analysis (which he has been hinting will include something on “merchandise warfare”), and our closing Q&A session, which in years past could have lasted twice and long, and we still would not have gotten to all the questions.

So, if you are registered to attend, start thinking about your questions for Kevin, Frank and me. If you send them to me before the seminar, they will get priority at that session. I’ve already had a few submitted, which I will share:

One for Frank – My boss keeps telling me that our merchandise needs to be a “curated collection”.  What did catalog merchants do before they became the equivalent of a museum curator?

One for Kevin – A while back, you asked in your blog if it was better to have 100 potential customers that were “engaged” with the brand, but who had not ordered, or one customer that had placed an order. What is the answer for my company?

If you have not already registered for the seminar, click here to visit the VT/NH Marketing Group’s website.

Registration costs for this all day event:

  • $135 for VT/NH Marketing Group members
  • $200 for non-members
  • Registrations are accepted until March 28, 2017

If you are not already signed up for emails from this blog, click here.

by Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235

blapierre@datamann.com

 

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I Get It, They Don’t

Who in your company “gets it” and who doesn’t? More important, who in your company is never going to “get it” with regards to how their work must evolve to keep pace with the changes our industry is facing?

Years ago, I sat through a day-long meeting for a client that wanted to make a major creative overhaul to their catalog. It was a hard goods catalog (home furnishings and products for around the home), that had a fairly basic design.

The meeting was tedious for me. The “creative” staff, who were overly polite to one another and democratic, listened to everyone’s idea, and did not offer judgment (traits I have been slow to master). They discussed every little nuance of the existing catalog design.

The head of the Creative Department was doing a good job getting everyone to understand that they had become too comfortable in their work, and that change was needed. They came up with a long list of changes they were going to make, some of which the customer would never notice, some of which were a major departure from the way the book presently looked. All of these creative changes were intended to drive response.

Then it happened.

At the very end of the meeting, the Art Director, the person who would actually be making the changes in the catalog, said “Well, what about the gutter line? Is that staying?”

This catalog had an ultra-thin line that ran up either side of the gutter (the center of the spread where the two pages meet), about a 1/8th inch from the edge of the gutter. It was a design element that someone had inserted years before, for no apparent reason. It was not important.

But the fact that the Art Director still thought she needed to ask permission to do away with this trivial design element showed how little she understood of what had happened that day. It showed either how untalented she was, or how insecure she was in actually making changes.

I bring this up because last week a subscriber to this blog told me that he would not be coming to our seminar in March because he “gets it”. But, he was encouraging his boss and several other members of upper management to attend because “they need your medicine”. “I get it, they don’t”.

The medicine that I have been dispensing in this blog, and that my co-presenters – Kevin Hillstrom and Frank Oliver – will be dispensing on March 30 at Datamann’s seminar is that the catalog industry has fundamentally changed, and you have to change too.

I had another email recently from a company CEO commenting that one of his key staff people – a person that could significantly help bring some much needed change to their company – was not working out as well as they had originally hoped, and that he was a “work in progress”.

Numerous times I’ve had members of upper management at companies tell me that they plan to do some new initiative – launch a new catalog, introduce a new product category – and they tell me that their existing staff is just not up to it. “They can’t think creatively” or “they are not very strategic”. So, upper management brings in someone new, who knows nothing about the company, but who holds the promise of “thinking outside the box”.

In my 30 years of experience, I have found that the existing staff at most companies had the talent, had the initiative and had the strategic view, but those talents were hidden from upper management because management had slapped down those staff members in the past every time the staff had dared raised that hand to propose a change. We are, at times, our own worst enemies.

I will confess that earlier in my career, I was not good at “brainstorming” sessions, as I tended to be the one who would say “That’s a stupid idea”. I like to think I’ve gotten better in that area, although as a consultant, I walk a thin line between not wanting to insult a client vs. not wanting the client to go off on some wild scheme that you know will lead to disappointment and disaster.

But, if that type of “slap down” environment exists within your company – no matter how subtle and nuanced it might be – then your staff probably is NOT going to rise to the occasion and help you evolve. It isn’t that they don’t want to – they just aren’t sure that you really mean it. They suspect that deep down inside, YOU are the one that doesn’t want to change.

Going back to the Art Director with the question on the gutter line, I don’t fault her for asking that question. I knew the players in that meeting. I knew that the Creative Director that was trying so hard to appear magnanimous and open-minded in that meeting would just as quickly tell the Art Director, when everyone else was gone, to design the book the way he instructed.

Here’s an exercise for you: how many established catalog companies, ones that have been around for more than 25 years, can you think of that have re-invented themselves, and turned their business around? It’s probably a pretty short list. It’s tough for any company – regardless of industry – to reinvent themselves.

There really is something to be said for new companies simply because they have less baggage, and new ideas flow more freely. That is just the way of it. That’s why we are not still driving Packards, Ramblers and Pontiacs. Some companies just don’t evolve.

But we can’t all work for new companies, can we? We have to make the changes needed where we are. We need to go beyond discussions about “gutter lines” and focus on the catalog growth strategies that really matter, and that will move the needle. Those are the things we will be discussing on March 30th.

So, if you “get it”, but your boss or your staff don’t, send them to our seminar on March 30.

2017-seminar-brochure-cover

Our seminar last year sold out a full month before the event, so please plan on registering early. Seating will again be limited.

To register for the seminar, click here to visit the VT/NH Marketing Group’s website.

Registration costs for this all day event:

  • $135 for VT/NH Marketing Group members
  • $200 for non-members
  • Registrations are accepted until March 28, 2017

The Marriott Courtyard/Grappone Conference Center, Concord, NH is located at 70 Constitution Ave in Concord, NH – just north of the intersection of I-89 and I-93. Special room rates of $119 are available for attendees of the seminar for the night of March 29, if you book your room with the Marriott by March 1, 2017. You must mention your attendance at the seminar to receive the special rates, or reserve your room directly at this special link: http://cwp.marriott.com/mhtcn/vtnhmarketinggroup/

If you are not already signed up for emails from this blog, click here.

by Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235

blapierre@datamann.com

 

 

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And That is The Point I Reach for my Cellphone…

Registration is well under way for Datamann’s annual catalog seminar, which we host for the VT/NH Marketing Group. This has become the largest one-day catalog event in the country. This year’s event is Thursday March 30 in Concord, NH. (There is a link to the registration at the end of this posting.)

2017-seminar-brochure-cover

At last year’s seminar, I surveyed the attendees, asking one – only one – survey question: “What topic do you most want discussed next year”? The top two topics requested were:

  • marketing analytics (how to use your data);
  • merchandise analysis.

 

As I was planning the 2017 event, I realized I was too vague in defining what I meant by “marketing analytics”. I needed to know what the attendees thought it meant.   So last summer, I contacted all of the attendees that had checked off this topic on their survey and asked for additional clarification of what they needed related to Marketing Analytics.

Almost every reply included a reference to some problem unique to that marketer such as determining the impact of seasonality, LTV by channel, or creating extended personas.

But, there was common ground too. Almost every response I received included a reference to wanting to know one of the following:

  • What are the most important metrics/cutting edge KPIs we need to be following to run our business?
  • “What metrics does everyone else look at”?

Almost everyone asked for the same thing, in one way or another – what were the metrics that everyone else was using, and what is the “best” method of calculating it?

I saw this as a problem.

Everyone is looking for a short cut. They want a list of the best “metrics” to look at (“you know, the ones that your best clients use)”. They want to reduce their business to a dashboard that refreshes in real-time, telling them exactly what the response rate is for today’s allocation of a mailing that was sent 12 weeks ago.

They want that list for one of two reasons. First, they believe there is some elusive statistic, which if they were aware of, and tracked it, they could fundamentally change their business. They just haven’t discovered it yet.

Second, they want it for that all-important weekly sales meeting where the CMO, CFO and CEO all ask “how are we doing”? They want to say “based on the most advanced, cutting-edge methods of performance measurement, we are doing fine”.  Sales and response may be 20% below plan, but they are hoping that there is some magic “metric” they can throw on the table that shows they are doing their job above average.

That is, of course, if they can get anyone’s attention long enough to make that declaration.

One respondent had a very interesting comment, but for a reason different than he probably intended.  He wrote “I’d like to learn what are the best practices in data visualization.  Most marketing analysts are great at assembling piles of data, but don’t know what to do with it after that.  The problem with data visualization is the fine line between representing the data in a simple yet effective way, but making it sophisticated, inspiring and able to hold the attention of a room for more than 8 seconds before they reach for their cell phone.  I’ve sat in on some best practice presentations on data visualization in the past and am always amazed at how lacking it is in examples of best practice.  More often than not it is all gum flapping about why it is important to show context and how it is both an art and a science…and that is the point when I reach for my cell phone…”

His comment summed up another problem. Mailers want the short-cut, but they also need a way to communicate it – so that everyone understands. And they want specifics – not more generalizations about “showing content”.

Years ago, when I worked at Potpourri, it was a family-owned business. Everyone spoke the same “catalog” language, meaning everyone knew what I meant when I referred to SPB (sales per book) and CPNC (cost per new customer). Plus, everyone at Potpourri at the time was focused on one thing – the catalog.

Then I went to work at Brookstone, where I was the only cataloger, and I was competing with 200 stores for the attention of upper management. No one understood me when I referred to SPB or CPNC. Even when I explained these metrics, and showed the math, there was no inherent understanding by upper management. Additionally, since these guys all thought they were God’s gift to retailing and accounting, they assumed I must be the one who did not know what I was talking about.

Consultants know something that most mailers don’t appreciate. We realize that every client is different. The metrics that are important for one mailer may be meaningless to another, depending upon whether they are in a growth mode, they are mature, they are big or little, etc. Further, there are no “averages” for response rate or conversion rate.  Clients don’t want to hear that. They want concrete benchmark numbers and metrics to which they can compare themselves.

This is NOT what I want to present at the seminar. I could have found a dozen speakers that would stand before you and give their list of the 38 Irrefutable Most Important Catalog/Ecommerce Business Metrics to run your business. I could have found dozens of vendors that would talk to you about the importance of big data (“sign up today here at the seminar, and get 10% off your Big Data starter kit”).

I want this seminar to give you something different. I do not want you reaching for your cellphone after you get the list of 5 important metrics. I want to challenge you to think.

So, if you are signing up for our seminar because you are hoping/expecting to get a list of the five most important metrics to add to your dashboard to increase productivity by 20% as you run your company, well, you are going to be disappointed. That’s not what you’ll get.

Instead, the three speakers are providing a combination of insight, options and a mirror.  You don’t need more metrics (beyond a few basic ones I’m going to discuss).  You don’t need fancy reporting. You need to simply take an overall view of your business. You need insight into your merchandise and what your customer thinks of it – which Frank Oliver will be presenting with his merchandise analysis.

Kevin Hillstrom’s business simulation is the mirror. Kevin will not be presenting hundreds of ideas and having hundreds of people say ‘no, won’t work, next idea please’. He is flipping the script … and put accountability on you instead. His business simulation will have you making decisions, and seeing whether your decisions work or don’t work. You’ll see that you already have enough information to make good decisions; you are simply not using information with confidence.

You’ll be looking into the mirror, realizing that the fate of your company does not reside with data, or metrics, or Tableau, but with your decision to take action.

Our seminar last year sold out a full month before the event, so please plan on registering early.  Seating will again be limited.

To register for the seminar, click here to visit the VT/NH Marketing Group’s website.

Registration costs for this all day event:

  • $135 for VT/NH Marketing Group members
  • $200 for non-members
  • Registrations are accepted until March 28, 2017

The Marriott Courtyard/Grappone Conference Center, Concord, NH is located at 70 Constitution Ave in Concord, NH – just north of the intersection of I-89 and I-93. Special room rates of $119 are available for attendees of the seminar for the night of March 29, if you book your room with the Marriott by March 1, 2017. You must mention your attendance at the seminar to receive the special rates, or reserve your room directly at this special link: http://cwp.marriott.com/mhtcn/vtnhmarketinggroup/

If you are not already signed up for emails from this blog, click here.

by Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235

blapierre@datamann.com

 

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Press On – Why Coolidge Matters to Catalogs (Really!)

Most of the catalogers that are readers of this blog reported that they had soft sales this past holiday season.   There are many reasons, some of which I have previously reported.

I think Amazon took a far bigger chunk of business from each of you than you probably are willing to acknowledge. Few of you had “remarkable” catalogs – you just keep boring your customers with the same old look.  The catalog co-op databases, your major source of prospect names, are dying.

But what really bothers me, and where I see the biggest problem, is that most of you have given up on new products. You are making no effort to develop, source, find or promote new products. I’m talking truly new products – not just a new color or a new version of an old product.

I don’t get it. You know that introduction of new product is the number one thing that will drive sales from both existing and new customers. But you are not taking an aggressive stance to get new products, especially products exclusive to you.  It’s almost like you have given up.

This brings us to Calvin Coolidge (30th President of the United Sates, 1923 to 1929), who was born and raised about 20 miles away from Datamann’s offices here in Vermont. He was even inaugurated President by his father, in his childhood home, by the light of a kerosene lamp, in 1923 when President Harding died.

As a history buff, a presidential inauguration like the one later this week – regardless of incoming party – is like ten Super Bowls to me. So I’m going to tie a catalog lesson to one of Vermont’s native sons – Calvin Coolidge

I’m going to bet that 99% of you know nothing about Coolidge, other than he was quiet, and not a very remarkable president. Much to the relief of many of you, I’m not going to take the time to provide you with an education on his contributions to history – minimal as they were.

Coolidge was a conservative, taciturn Yankee, who prized hard work and independence. One of his few lasting contributions to American history and culture was something he wrote just after he left the White House. When asked what was the most important character trait for success, Coolidge replied:

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and Determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.”

Persistence and Determination.  Do you have those two qualities? In my opinion, they alone are the two qualities you need to survive. Short cuts are not going to get you there. Cataloging is no longer for the faint of heart – it can’t be. Going forward, the key to having a successful catalog will be the persistent application of aggressive tactics for basic survival. It has no other direction to go. You have to be willing to gird your loins and ‘Press On’. The place this most applies to catalogs is the development and testing of new products – you must get aggressive at introducing new products. And when they fail, “press on” and bring in more new ones.

Some of you will think my comments are overly dramatic. You have not yet been tested the way many other catalogs have been, especially this past year. But that time is coming for all of you. Maybe not 2017. But it is coming sooner than you think.

Here is the important thing to remember – your fight must be to find new product and new customers. Your fight is not just with Amazon, the post office, the printers, the co-ops, or even me. Don’t waste your bullets on imaginary foes. Your fight is against yourself, and your ability to shake off your old habits and try some new things.

There are no short cuts.

press-on-coolidge-quote-cro

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by Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235

blapierre@datamann.com

 

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Henry’s Many Options

Everyone always asks for specifics on how to grow their catalog business. So, let’s use Henry Repeating Rifles as an example.

Let’s get my gun credentials out of the way. I own two shotguns which belonged to my grandfather, and a .22 single-shot Ithaca rifle which my father bought for me 50 years ago, and which was at least 25 years old at the time. I fire the rifle about once a year, and don’t recall the last time I used either shotgun. Guns do not fascinate me the same way they do for others, but I appreciate how they can be very meaningful to some people.

This past fall, my wife, son and I hosted a high-school exchange student for two weeks from Austria. (My son will be making a reciprocal stay in Austria this spring). Prior to arriving in New Hampshire where we live, the one thing the Austrian student asked to do was visit a shooting range. There are plenty of shooting clubs and outdoor shooting ranges in our area, so we knew we could make arrangements to visit one once the student arrived. We wanted to know specifically what type of experience he was seeking.

It turned out that he had never fired a gun before. He had never even held one. In Austria, the only way to do that – after apparently a lengthy registration process – is to visit a shooting range. So, on his second day with us, I took him out in the backyard, set up some empty cans on a board, and we shot away for an hour with my old .22 rifle. He said later it was one of the highlights of his stay. (Note: one of the advantages of living in rural NH is that no one thinks it odd to hear gun fire coming from their neighbor’s yard).

His interest in my old rifle made me want to investigate a new option. I saw an ad somewhere (I don’t recall where, but it was in one of the magazines to which I subscribe) for a catalog from Henry Rifles, and requested one. They have a beautiful catalog (108 pages), which tells the history of the company (begun in 1860) and shows every rifle they make. But you cannot order from the catalog or online.  You must visit a local dealer, and the catalog I requested came with a list of all the local gun shops in our area that sold Henry rifles.

henry-rifle-cover

Now, they could just leave it there – that the only way you can purchase one of their rifles is through a local retailer. They could rely on those local dealers – most of whom are small mom & pop shops – to be their sales force. But, Henry wants to build demand. They want to drive response. So they have an elaborate consumer catalog that drives sales to those retailers, probably because many of these local retailers cannot afford to advertise on their own. But, there’s more.

Here are the other things that Henry is doing to drive response:

  • They have a half hour infomercial on TV (click here), one of which I landed on one night during the holidays while channel surfing, which prompted me to write this posting. It features the company President, and was actually very entertaining. I’m not sure I’d watch it again, but it was very well done, without looking like an over-the-top Hollywood production.
  • They appear at gun and sportsman shows (their show booth appears in the infomercial), giving their products wide exposure to different markets.
  • They send out great emails – but only about once a month. What makes them great is that they don’t sell. The rest of you send me 2 or 3 emails a day, which I delete. Yet, when I see one from them, I take the time to read it – and I’m not that interested in guns! I am interested in history, and most of their emails have a historical focus. They made it relevant for me.
  • They host numerous gun “events” around the nation, and they get a ton of PR as a result.
  • They have corporate sales, and special commemorative rifles for community organizations like the Masons, Eagles, VFW, and Boy Scouts. (Yes, these organizations still exist, and their members spend money.)
  • They keep creating new commemorative rifles for upcoming anniversaries of other historic events. (Note: these are NEW products).
  • Most important, they have several different lines of rifles – some for target shooting, big game, little game, etc. (Remember, it always comes down to product).

Here’s my point. They could just manufacture their rifles and sell them in retail outlets, like other gun manufactures. They could rely on the retailers to advertise their rifles in newspapers and FSIs.  But they have created a marketing machine to drive attention to their product, and to tell their story. They are doing a bunch of things to drive sales to those retailers, and gain consumer awareness. You know – “branding”.

What are you doing to drive sales for your products beyond having a catalog and a website?

I know what you are going to say – you are going to tell me there is no comparison between a manufacturer and what you do. You are going to tell me they have better margins that allow them to spend money on PR events and TV infomercials.

All of that may be true – but you could be doing so much more than you are. That’s the point. You think of your business only in terms of paper, postage, a website site, with a few emails thrown in. Your job is to sell whatever it is you sell, and make a profit. Don’t limit yourself to think it can only be done by catalogs and a website.

Did it make sense to stick to just a catalog ten years ago? Probably. But those days are gone. You have to look for new options and alternative options, or you will be swept away.  Don’t wait for the customer to come to you. Go to them with some relevant marketing beyond a torrent of daily emails and monthly catalogs. This is the new age of catalog survival. Do some selling!

If you are not already signed up for emails from this blog, click here.

by Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235

blapierre@datamann.com

 

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Play Like You Have Nothing To Lose

Athleta is playing to win, playing like they have nothing to lose. They are taking risks, not playing it safe. See if you agree.

athleta-jan-2017-cover-edit

Since the NFL playoffs begin this weekend, I’m going to give you a football analogy with application to catalogs, and specifically to this Athleta cover.  (My apologies to my many UK subscribers who will have little appreciation for the American football terminology.).

I read an article last week in the Wall Street Journal on Why NFL Coaches Take No Chances. It cited Buffalo Bill’s coach Rex Ryan’s decision in a game on Christmas Eve, to punt on a fourth and 2 on their own 41 with 4 minutes left in overtime. Buffalo never got the ball back, lost the game, and lost their chance at the playoffs. Ryan was fired two days later. Most Buffalo fans, and apparently team management, thought he should not have punted (play it safe) and should have gone for a first down (take a chance). It was, after all, overtime in the game that would decide their season.

The article cited a detailed analysis of NFL coaches that found that the most aggressive coaches in the NFL this year were still in playoff contention, while the most risk-adverse coaches will be watching the playoffs from home. This analysis was based largely on what teams did when faced with scoring options such as kick a safe field goal, or go for a touchdown on 4th down, when the team was inside the 5 yard line. Or, is the coach willing to go for a two-point conversion or will he go for a more conservative one-point kick after a touchdown.

The article cited a number of statistics that supported its conclusion that riskier choices resulted in more wins, and hence, made the team a playoff contender.

In my opinion, the same is true in cataloging today.  You are getting hammered from every direction. If you keep doing business as usual, and play it safe, you will soon disappear. It is that simple. The forces of ecommerce and mobile competition will simply push you aside. You have choices, and you have to start taking some risks to change and survive.

Most of you will not take those risks. When I ask you the question “What have you got to lose?”, you think in terms of making a risky move that turns out poorly, resulting in the immediate collapse of your company. You think in terms of “all or nothing”. But risky does not have to mean stupid.

Malcom Butler is a hero in New England. In case you don’t remember, he was the New England Patriot that intercepted the pass on the goal line in Super Bowl XIX (2015), giving the Patriots the win over Seattle. (Click here if you enjoy watching it again as much as I do). Pat Carroll, coach of Seattle in that game, made a risky – and most would say stupid – decision to throw for a touchdown on that pivotal play, with just 25 seconds left in the game.

Cataloging is not football. The success of your “season” does not hinge on one play. But, your continued survival does depend on taking your game up about ten notches, and recognizing that you must take a series of risks, to become overall more aggressive, in order to survive.

We are in overtime, and the clock is ticking down.

Which brings me back to Athleta’s cover at the beginning of this posting. Their cover features a photo of 98 year-old yoga instructor Tao Porchon-Lynch. Their target customer is probably a 35 to 45 year old woman, who works out/exercises. If that was your target customer, how many of you would be willing to feature a 98 year-old woman on the cover of your catalog?

I love it. To me, their cover is bold, and risky. The fact that it is black and white adds to its power to get you inside the book. I said in a posting last week that having a great cover is not going to solve all your problems. But this is an example of taking a series of risks, to move the needle. I hope this cover generates a ton of social buzz and accolades for them. This is what happens when you play to win, when you play like you have nothing to lose.

Over the next few weeks, as we lead up to the Datamann catalog seminar (click here for more information and to register) I’m going to provide you a series of alternate looks at cataloging today. Some postings will illustrate the current state of catalogs, which in my opinion is not healthy. I know some of you are tired of me beating this drum – but sadly, most of you still do not see the handwriting on the wall. Other postings will provide you insight into your salvation – examples of aggressive marketing and merchandising that are helping some companies grow.

One final thought – for 16 years, the combination of Tom Brady, Bill Belicheck, Robert Craft, and a revolving door of talented players that spend a few years in Foxborough, Massachusetts, have made the New England Patriots the dominant team in the NFL. It is all too easy for New England fans to forget the pre-Brady era, which never produced a Super Bowl championship and actually produced some pretty dismal teams along the lines of the 2016 Cleveland Browns.

Patriots fans know the meaning of “What Have You Got To Lose?” because Tom Brady has lost two Super Bowls, while winning four. There is risk in trying to win. Sometimes it does not turn out the way you want. But don’t stop trying.

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by Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235

blapierre@datamann.com

 

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