Who Is Going to Invest Here?

by Bill LaPierre on May 22, 2016

Here are three examples of investments in the future.

  • I want to tip my hat to Orvis for being a corporate sponsor of the VT/NH Marketing Group. Although the two state area is home to many catalogs, Orvis is one of the largest, and feels that it is part of their responsibility to the future of the industry to support the VT/NH Marketing Group. They also feel it is important to be “putting something back into the community”. They could leave it up to the printers, co-ops and companies like Datamann to support the group. But Orvis – a mailer and not a vendor – recognizes that they need to ensure there will be future marketers, with new and different skills from today’s “catalogers”.
  • Simon Property Group, the nation’s largest mall developer, is investing venture funding into new retail concepts. Simon, which owns and operates 200 malls, had sales last year of almost $5 billion. In the past 15 months, they have funded 18 new start-up retailers, ranging from $250,000 to $5 million. The reason they are doing so is obvious – they are looking for future tenets in their malls, and are looking for new and innovative concepts. They are investing in their future.
  • The little town of Groveton NH (population 1,100) has been suffering with chronic unemployment since their main employer – a paper mill – closed in 2007. This past March, residents voted at the their annual town meeting to borrow $400,000 to install public sewage and water lines in the hope that new businesses will locate there – and bring tax money and jobs. The $400,000 sum may not seem like much to some of you, but that is a huge sum, and a huge risk, for a tiny town only an hour’s drive from the Quebec border.

These are three examples of investments in the future – two by companies, one by a municipality – that we seldom encounter in the catalog arena. And I’m not talking about a printer or a co-op database investing in some new catalog start-up (which never happens anyway). I’m talking about your own internal investment, seeking new ways of operating your own business.

As you finalize your plans for Fall/Holiday 2016, what percentage of your marketing budget did you allocate to “new concept testing”? This doesn’t mean testing down to segment 12 of your favorite co-ops’ synergy model, or adding Facebook to your retargeting ads.  This means testing the acquisition of new customers in an entirely new media, without aid of your catalog, such as putting a video link on your home page.

Here is an even better investment – have you done a holdout test yet on your house file to determine what percent of your customers order without aid of the catalog?  Do you realize the potential profits that would fall to your bottom line if you could eliminate 25% of your catalog circulation, with a 5% loss in sales? Oh, I know, you don’t want to risk running that test because you need every dollar of sales you can get this year. But, holdout tests are the best investment in your future you can make.

I’m not looking for you to commit much to new concept testing. But would 10% be a reasonable amount to allocate to securing your future? Come on – test something new this year. You know there is no dearth of companies willing to take your money to test their new concept. Good luck.

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by Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235



The Election and Distractions

by Bill LaPierre on May 15, 2016

“Bill – what should we do about planning our mailings around the election”?

This posting is not about politics. It is about the election, and what impact it will have on your catalog sales this fall.

This is a hot topic right now among many mailers (the printers must be asking everyone to finalize their drop dates), as I keep getting asked by clients and non-clients alike what advice I have as they finalize their circulation plans.

This is the perennial question asked every four years, and if you’ve been doing this for a while, you know that everyone has a different opinion, and a different recollection of what happened four years ago.   And no one ever really has good advice on what to do.

I do not profess to be a marketing savant, so I can’t give you a simple answer that says “mail on this day and you’ll be OK.” But I do want to share some concerns, and give you something to think about:

  • The peak three days of catalog delivery at my house last year were November 2, 3, and 4. Granted – that is a sample size of one out of 120 million households in the US, but I know many mailers aim to have a book in-home around then. Many of those same mailers are now automatically (blindly) saying that they are going to wait and be in-home after the Nov. 8 election.  And there are co-mail pools that would be hitting home Nov. 9 and 10.   My concern is that everyone is going to do that, and those co-mail pools will be huge. If you felt that your catalog was going to be ignored the week before the election, will it be better off after the election when it arrives with a ton of other catalogs?
  • Last August, 24 million people tuned into to the first Republican debate on FOX, setting an all-time record for that network. That was more than a year before the general election. Let’s assume that the two party nominees are Hillary and Donald. Can you imagine what the ratings will be for their first debate? Can you imagine the hype that will lead up to it? Can you imagine what a distraction that will be? This is not going to be genial Bob Dole vs. genial Bill Clinton. This is going to be AN EVENT. I think the debates will actually be more of a distraction to your customers than the election itself, and will make it tough to get much attention for your catalog until mid-November.
  • Should you mail move dates in October? Since the schedule for the presidential debates has yet to be determined, there is no safe way to know which mail dates to move, and when to move them to. So, I’d say no.

So, what advice do I have? I’d avoid the in-home period right after the election, only because I expect that is when most catalogs will be in-home (not every cataloger has the foresight to read this blog and know the best advice!).  I’d also plan the response to October mailings conservatively, as I expect there will be considerable distractions for your customer’s attention.

Every four years, the media and politicians alike say that “this presidential election is like no other – it is a once in a generation event, etc.” As a history buff, I always look to the past, and disregard such comments about “epic” elections as being hype. Most elections are amazingly similar. But, removing political overtones, and simply viewing the 2016 presidential election as a “consumer event”, I think this year will be very different from anything we’ve seen in the past.

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by Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235



Get Out From Under Your Brand

May 8, 2016

Your “brand” is weighing you down. It is holding you back, suffocating you. It’s time to get out from under your brand. Here’s an example – whenever Datamann takes on a new client, I do a simple review of the website to make sure it has all the basic components. I always look to see […]

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A Mepps #3 – Do You Really Have To Show It?

May 1, 2016

Rodale announced recently that they were going to be doing away with advertising in their flagship magazine, Prevention. Adverting has been dropping over the years, and even though they sold 700 pages of advertising in 2015 (about 60 pages per issue), the magazine has been unprofitable for several years. Maria Rodale, the publisher’s CEO stated […]

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How Far Back Should I Mail?

April 28, 2016

This may come as a surprise to anyone that has heard me give a speech, but the very first time I had to speak in public, I passed out at the podium mid-speech. Dropped to the floor like a rock.  I won’t go into the sordid details, but it was my first “real” job out […]

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This is Why The Aliens Fly Right Past Us

April 24, 2016

Shortly after his death, a biography was written on Calvin Coolidge (30th President of the United States) titled A Puritan in Babylon. That title aptly describes my vacation to Las Vegas last week with my wife and teenage son. The taxi driver bringing us back to the airport early Thursday morning was stunned to learn […]

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A Personal Acquisition Approach with Southern Charm

April 17, 2016

One of the questions that came up at our recent seminar on Customer Acquisition was “Facebook advertising has suddenly become a huge new channel for us. What’s the next scalable ‘Facebook’ opportunity online?” I’m not going to answer that question directly, because it is the underlying question about “what can scale quickly” that is important […]

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Changing Your Thinking About Merchandise to Acquire New Customers

April 10, 2016

This may not seem as obvious as it is, but most of you think in terms of what you want your customer to buy. You don’t think in terms of what the customer wants to buy.  That prevents you from maximizing your efforts to acquire new customers.  Here is an example I presented at our […]

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Everyone in the Room Is Feeling the Same Pain

April 3, 2016

I spent most of last Friday answering emails like this one: “Nice job yesterday at your seminar – lots of thought provoking stuff, and it was like you, Amy and Kevin were speaking directly to our company – obviously everyone in the room is feeling the same pain.”  The pain this person refers to is […]

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We Want You To Think About Your Future

March 27, 2016

Oh, what a difference a year makes.  Last year, the week of Datamann’s seminar for the VT/NH Marketing Group, the temperature went down below 0°F several times, we received almost two feet of snow, and there were 10 foot (literally) snow drifts in the parking lot of the conference center.   This year, Concord NH (where […]

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