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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Only $200, What A Deal!

Last fall, I gave you a detailed explanation of what Kevin Hillstrom would be speaking about at the Datamann catalog seminar, which we host for the VT/NH Marketing Group, on March 30th. (Click here if you missed it – “What Is Missing Is Not Metrics, But How We React To Metrics”)

Yesterday, Kevin’s blog gave a description in his own words of what he will be presenting (VT/NH On March 30 – A New Way To Foster Growth).

There are very few seminars or conferences left that focus on catalog and merchandise issues. Our seminar is one of them, and at only $200, you won’t find a more cost effective and affordable option.

If you are debating how to spend your limited Conference T&E budget, and you are looking for the most value ($200, what a steal!) coupled with the best content and great speakers – the choice is easy….

Join Frank Oliver, Kevin Hillstrom and me on Match 30th in Concord, NH for Reacting To Catalog and Ecommerce Metrics to Change Your Business.

Our seminar last year sold out a full month before the event, so please plan on registering early. Seating will again be limited. Our host hotel, The Marriott Courtyard/Grappone Conference Center, is almost sold out. But there are plenty of other hotels in Concord.

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

Our host hotel is almost sold out! 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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A Canary In The Catalog Coal Mine

Here is a wake-up call for the new year: Catalog reporting is gone.

Have you noticed what is missing lately from your mailbox?   When was the last time you saw a magazine focused on catalogs?  Catalog Age long ago evolved into MultiChannel Merchant, but now even that title is gone. Catalog Success evolved into Total Retail, which carries virtually no news or information for catalogs. I’m not even sure whether DMNews still mails – I haven’t received one in ages, and their website only allows for email sign-ups. A quick search on their website for articles on catalogs produced a listing for a few articles on postage rates from early 2016.

I contacted a former editor from MultiChannel Merchant last week who confirmed that if that magazine publishes in the future, it will most likely only be once annually.

catalog-age-cover-1989

Sure, these former print publications still have websites and daily emails. But they only report “fluff” stories, such as these from last month:

  • Communicating with Millennials: Why Messaging Apps Matter
  • Retail Brands Use Augmented Reality to Reinvent Customer Expereince
  • Email Metrics to Watch This Holiday Season

These are the king of “fluff” stories meant to capture attention through SEO, allowing the publisher to sell online ads.

There is no longer any in-depth catalog reporting. It’s gone. It gives me the same sinking feeling I had when I was at the last DMA Catalog Conference and the exhibit hall was the size of a high school gym, and they were only using half of it. I knew we were in a different time when I realized the Quad/Graphics truck wasn’t even there.

Think about this for a minute. If there was still money to be made from publishing a print magazine on catalogs, or even reporting on catalog news and trends, someone would be doing it. Certainly, the folks behind the publications mentioned above had the expertise and the heritage of strong catalog reporting to make a go of it – if there was still a go to be made.

 

Magazines rely on advertising to survive. But there is no need for catalog vendors to advertise anymore. There are only four major printers left, and they are just stealing customers from each other, primarily based on co-mail savings. (In the old days, this was called “gaining market share”, now it’s just stealing). There are four (maybe only 3) co-ops, and they never advertised anyway. There are remnants of the list management business, but they stopped doing print advertising years ago. All the online vendors switched to advertising in publications like Internet Retailer. Since there are no catalog suppliers left to advertise, the catalog print publications disappeared.

Here is another canary in the catalog coal mine: when the industry is no longer viable enough or competitive enough to support print media because of a lack of advertisers, you should realize that the industry has fundamentally changed. Moreover, fewer viable vendors leave you with limited options.

This is also not a publishing issue as in “magazines are dead”.   I live just outside Keene, NH, population 23,000. Our county, one of 10 in NH, only has 73,000 people. Yet, the county supports its own business magazine, published bi-monthly. The states of NH and VT each have their own monthly business magazines, and the page count remains healthy in all these publications. If rural little Cheshire County, NH can support a business magazine, while the catalog industry cannot, that should tell you something.

Here is why this is such a problem. In the past, you never read the catalog magazines for the ads. You read them for insight on the catalog industry. There were columns from such industry sages as Max Sroge, Stan Fenvessey, Arthur Middleton Hughes, Katie Muldoon, Bill Dean, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Don Libey, Ernie Schell, and Curt Barry. A few of these folks are still around and still actively consulting, but with the exception of a few online articles from Curt Barry, I don’t see any of them sharing their expertise with the industry anymore. Unless they had a blog, how could they?

We are now an industry without a media voice, or at least a formal one. Those aforementioned publications have been replaced by blogs such as this one. And I certainly do not put myself in the same league as the previously mentioned authors/consultants, all of whom I had the pleasure of meeting at least once. I’m also not a reporter or journalist. So when I wrote last fall about LL Bean’s colossus catalog that mailed in the early fall, I did not have the luxury of being able to talk to anyone at Bean for their input.  I was writing strictly on my impressions of their effort, as both a catalog professional, a catalog consumer, and a longtime LL Bean customer. You, the reader, missed out on LL Bean’s side of the story. However, you did get more of an unvarnished view from me than you ordinarily would have gotten from a more formal reporter.

In theory, those magazines of yesteryear vetted their authors, and found ones that actually knew what they were talking about. Plus, for the most part, those consultants wrote some pretty insightful material – although back when most of them were writing, the catalog industry was much less complicated than today. Response rates were 4 or 5 times what they are today. You captured the specific source code on over 90% of orders, so you knew exactly which list or mailing segment prompted an order. There were no co-ops, no Amazon, no Facebook, no algorithms.  It’s a little easier to offer advice when an industry is growing. There was little need to be critical of the status quo.

Today, there is no vetting by an editorial board of blog authors. Anyone can have one. It cost Datamann less than $1,000 to have someone set up our blog six years ago. That’s a pretty low cost of entry to be a voice in the catalog industry.

I like to think Datamann’s blog offers some substance. Certainly Kevin Hillstrom’s MineThatData blog does. Yet, most of the blogs in our industry today push out a constant thread of pabulum on such topics as “how to increase response to your emails this holiday by 5%”. The authors of most of these postings like to show how smart and well-read they are by citing numerous other articles and studies. With the exception of Kevin and me, few others are willing to go out on a limb and say anything original, or offer any meaningful insight.

Of course, the reason they won’t take a stand, or say anything of any value, is because they don’t want to risk offending any existing or potential clients. What they don’t realize is something which I learned a long time ago – most mailers, certainly the ones who want to improve – don’t want sugar-coated advice. Many of Datamann’s newest clients that have contacted me as a result of this blog did so after I tore apart their catalog in a posting. It’s always refreshing to hear a reader say “Everything you speculated on was true at the time, and everything you predicted would happen, did happen. We need your help.”

Without a true “catalog press” that reports on general catalog news, there will continue to be a gap in what you know, and what is happening in the catalog industry. For example, I did not know that Taylor Gifts went out of business last year, until I was preparing the mailing for our seminar, and saw on the NCOA report that it was closed.

Yes, the catalog media canary is lying at the bottom of the cage. But keep reading this blog, Kevin’s blog, and the others that resonate with your needs, which offer true insight, and you’ll be keeping up as best as can be expected.

Welcome to 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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The Angels Will Weep For You

About 20 years ago, I was recruiting speakers for the VT/NH Marketing Group’s annual conference. I contacted a catalog consultant here in New England about being our keynote speaker. His response floored me. “You want me to come and speak for free and share the information which my clients pay me to provide them? Of course I won’t do that.” He obviously had been asked this question before and had a rehearsed response.  A simple “No, I don’t have time” would have sufficed.

But that exchange has stuck with me for years. I was accustomed to having mailers, vendors and consultants willingly and freely share their knowledge and expertise when asked to be a speaker. Fortunately, this one bad apple – to whom I never referred another client – turned out to be the one exception.

But I recognize where he was coming from. He felt he was at the top of his game, and he did not want to risk anyone else benefitting from his knowledge without paying for it. He did not feel the need to help the industry from which he made his living.

That is why I believe the catalog industry is so lucky to have Kevin Hillstrom. He is the conscience of what is left of the catalog industry. Look at what he does:

  1. He’s running his own business, which takes time and talent. Sure, a lot of you do the same thing, but look at what else he is doing:
  1. He’s doing analytical projects for clients. I’m constantly amazed at the number of mailers that I speak to that say “Oh, we just hired Kevin Hillstrom to help us with that.” And these are not simple projects – these require time and talent.
  1. Kevin’s blog MineThatData.com is a daily (DAILY!) resource read by thousands with information on what is really happening in cataloging, retailing and online. Many of his viewpoints are counter to opinions of most media “pundits” and certainly counter to the sales message of many “omnichannel” service vendors. Did I mention he does it daily? I have a hard time doing my blog weekly. And he charges you nothing for this insight.
  1. He’s always thinking four or five steps ahead of the rest of us to consider the unintended consequences of our actions. The interrelation of the internet, with retail, with catalogs and email, etc., has made sorting through mounds of data a daunting task. He is one of the few in this industry who not only can see that interrelationship, but takes the time to help you understand it.
  1. On top of all that, he is an evangelist for making changes to your business, to your catalog and the status quo in general to keep the catalog industry alive. He is not afraid to take an occasional countervailing view, especially when it runs against the grain of his blog readers’ thinking. Most important, although he’s a low-key Midwesterner, he has a real zeal and passion about his message.

Thomas Jefferson wrote of Merriweather Lewis (of Lewis & Clark), that he was “honest, disinterested, of sound understanding, and a fidelity to truth so scrupulous that whatever he should report would be as certain as if seen by ourselves”. Those words describe Kevin as well. I have no problem with being so effusive with my praise of Kevin because he is one of the few consultants within this industry to whom I refer Datamann’s clients. He’s smart – wicked smart. He’s incredibly open and sharing. Moreover, he helps mailers without needlessly saddling them with expensive projects.

And let me be clear on one other thing. Datamann has no relationship with Kevin. We don’t pay him any commission if he sends a client our way, nor does he pay Datamann when we refer a client to him. We do it because it is the best thing for our clients – not for him, and not for us. I also know that Kevin would not hesitate for a moment to point out to one of his clients a flaw in Datamann’s work or advice, if he found one.  “A fidelity to truth so scrupulous…”

Datamann and the VT/NH Marketing Group are lucky to have Kevin joining us again in March for our 2017 seminar. Let me give you some perspective on how lucky. Kevin recently shared with me this great story.

He spoke at a conference in the Czech Republic in October. There were 1,550 seats, and the event sold out in 8 minutes. Eight minutes.

It was held in Ostrava, a rusted-out city with few hotels and minimal transportation (sounds a little like Concord, NH). It took him almost four hours to get to Ostrava from Prague by train. But they had great food, a space age auditorium and they had crazy evening parties with strobe lights and DJs and loud music – the attendees loved that. The audience was mostly age 25-44. $500 per seat. No discounting. The guy running the conference flew to Seattle (from Prague) to interview Kevin and spend time with him prior to the conference.

Kevin asked me a rhetorical question “When was the last time anybody from a US conference so much as had a conversation with me via email, much less flew to Seattle to see what life on the other side of the Rocky Mountains is like?”

That question reminded me of a dinner 10 years ago, when I was working at Millard Group. Lisa Williams (another Millard alumna) and I were in Seattle to meet with several of our west coast clients. We had an evening free, and I contacted Kevin to see if he could join us for dinner, just to talk about catalogs. Kevin and I had never met, nor worked together. We had never even talked with each other on the phone. But we shared some joint contacts (Lisa and I had worked on the Lands’ End account for years, and knew many of the people Kevin worked with in his years in Dodgeville).

He graciously agreed to meet us in downtown Seattle. We had a wonderful dinner and discussion on catalogs.  About five years ago, I saw that Kevin was speaking at the Mail Order Gardening Association meeting in Burlington, VT, which is a two hour drive from the Datamann office. Again, I made arrangements to meet him for dinner while he was there, and again Kevin was a fount of ideas on the catalog industry.

Take advantage of Kevin being on the east coast in March (he does not come this way often). The angels will weep for you if you miss this chance to hear him. I have benefited immensely, as have Datamann’s clients, from Kevin’s devotion to sharing his knowledge on the industry. He is the answer to catalog survival.

He has prepared a special business simulation just for our seminar. The entire audience will be broken up into ten teams. “Each team is required to build a business in five years – the team that generates the most profit dollars in year five is deemed the winner. The teams will determine the price of three product lines, and will determine how much they want to spend in offline marketing, online marketing, and mobile/social development. After determining pricing and investment strategy, the spreadsheet will spit out a profit and loss statement for the business. Everybody in the room will get to see how everybody else chose to price items and will get to see each other’s investment strategy. The process repeats for Year 2, Year 3, Year 4, and Year 5.”

Kevin’s goal is to show you that your existing business knowledge, your reaction to the profit and loss statement, along with your reaction to change drives your business in unique and unanticipated directions … “and that is what is missing, not metrics … but how we react to metrics.”

2017-seminar-brochure-cover

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/

See you in March.

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By Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235

blapierre@datamann.com

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