Last November, I agreed to speak at the upcoming Spring NEMOA Conference in Boston. I’ll be speaking on “Reinventing Your Merchandise To Secure Your Survival”. It’s a 45 minute session and I’m looking forward to it.
But because I agreed to present that session, I was also invited to participate in NEMOA’s Xpress Talks, a session where NEMOA asks each of the speakers presenting a regular session if they are also interested in presenting a 10 minute talk in a format similar to TED Talks, or as the invite email stated from NEMOA “Xpress Talks are thought provoking – even provocative – presentations which challenge the NEMOA audience to think in different ways and question the status quo. In other words, no bullet-filled PowerPoints and no how-to tutorials.”
Provocative. Thought provoking. This sounded like fun. I’m in.
But then I read on “While we are always happy to entertain topic ideas, we are looking for evangelists to speak on the following:
1.Brand. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. And what do I actually DO with it anyway?
2. I make money charging the customer for shipping. There, I said it. Where do we go from here?
3. A Better Organization Structure – How tomorrow’s direct marketers should organize Web, Creative, Merchandising, Marketing and IT.
4. Creative Decision Making – How democratic or collaborative or authoritative should it be? Good creative vs. bad creative vs. integrated creative.
5. Video – it’s so expensive. Is it overrated? What’s the right investment? How do I best use it?
6. Back to Basics – In this crazy infinitely complex environment, should we just focus on intuitive marketing? Just concentrate on how we treat customers and to hell with big data?
7. What’s the right relationship with Amazon? How do you outsmart the devil?
No offense to whoever developed this list, as I’m sure a great deal of thought went into the development of the 7 topics listed above, but none of the seven strike me as burning issues that Datamann’s clients – or the catalog industry as a whole – are dealing with. These are all “safe” topics, meaning they are fun to discuss, maybe even debate.
But let’s be honest. None of these are thought provoking. None of them are provocative. None of them are going to get you to “challenge the status quo” to the point where you’re going to move the needle on your company’s survival. With all due respect to my fellow speakers, how could anyone be a provocative evangelist on whether or not you charge for shipping, or to whom IT should report? How will that help catalogs survive? Come on, get real!
Session topics like the seven above are what killed the DMA’s Catalog Conference. Catalogs are getting hammered by online competition. The USPS is going down the tubes. Retail malls are dying. We should not be discussing how democratic the creative process should be, or whether video is good or not!!
Since I don’t want to see the same fate of being irrelevant happen to NEMOA, as happened to the DMA, here was my response to the NEMOA Board :
“I’d like to propose providing the NEMOA attendees with a 10 minute ‘come to Jesus’ session, that covers the troubles that mailers are having with the co-ops, the USPS, the printers, and the cataloger’s own stupid internal barriers to change, and what it’s going to take to turn this industry around. Think of it as a NEMOA version of ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore’. This session will take no prisoners, it will be memorable, and it will have attendees talking. I recognize that my proposed topic might not fit within the bounds of what NEMOA is looking for. But I do hope that you will give it consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.”
And guess what? They accepted my proposal. I had to finish the presentation over this past weekend, and discovered how hard it is to cram all my thoughts into 10 minutes. It turned out to be a much edited “take no prisoners” exchange. Two hours would have done the topic justice. Oh, and the title is “Shepherds Change, But Sheep Remain Sheep”. If you are attending NEMOA, I promise you a memorable ten minutes. Hope to see you there.
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by Bill LaPierre
VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics
Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235