I’ve always wanted to play a joke on my small home town here in New Hampshire, testing the reaction I would get to an advertisement in the local newspaper for “organic firewood”, selling for twice the rate of a regular cord of wood. Would my “back-to-nature, buy local, grass-fed only” loving neighbors think that organic firewood was the next really cool thing to buy? I’m betting they would. (In case you don’t get the joke, all firewood is organic to begin with).
So what does this have to do with catalogs?
My wife and I recently visited the local farmer’s market in Lancaster, NH, another small town in the northern part of the state, about 40 miles from the Canadian border. As we walked among the booths, all of which were from small farms or local crafts people (meaning that Pillsbury and General Foods were not there), I noticed that almost every booth had a sign mentioning some link to “social media”.
There were QR codes to Facebook…
There were URLs…
There were requests for following on Facebook and Instagram. (And really, where else have you had the chance to tag someone on Instagram, and win a chicken?)
The promise of social media. I’m sure that each one of these booth owners thinks that the world is going to beat a path to their respective door for their brand of strawberry jam, goat milk soap, or organic wool. They will at last have “engagement” with all their customers.
But so will every other booth at every other farmer’s market and street fair, around the country. The question then becomes, how do you stand out against the sea of jam and organic soap from Ohio or Texas? Well, you may stand out with the people that live near you that want to buy your local “stuff”. But, you’ll probably be lost in a huge sea of thousands of other small local vendors nationwide. In my opinion, it’s no different than before social media.
Unless you have something really, really unique. This is the same for catalogs. If you simply have the same products that everyone else has (yet another kid’s catalog full of pink backpacks), then all the social media engagement in the world is not going help you generate sales. Participating in social media without having truly unique merchandise is like spilling coffee in your lap while wearing a dark pair of pants – it gives you a warm feeling, but no one else notices.
So, what did the organic firewood joke have to do with catalogs? I thought the idea for “organic firewood” was so absurd, that no one would ever try to sell it. But I was wrong! Not only are there at least a dozen website sites selling it, but I found hundreds of images of signs for organic firewood. This just proves my point that even those things we think are unique and/or absurd, already have a home on the web. It’s tough to be unique.
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