OK – summer is almost over. There’s one more holiday weekend coming up before we get down to the serious business of Fall and Holiday sales, and the Presidential election. Oh, what a fun 12 weeks lay ahead.
So indulge me this chance to go off track a little.
This week marks my five year anniversary with Datamann and I have to say the time has flown by. I love my job. After having been a client of Datamann for nearly 10 years, and having referred clients here for 15 more years, it was a great move for me to join Datamann in 2011.
I commented to one of our clients the other day that I’d been here 5 years, and his response surprised me. “One of the things that has amazed me about Datamann is that we still have all the same people on our account – including you. At our last vendor, our account team changed weekly.” This is one of those things that matters.
Datamann is not the biggest service bureau in the world. But we do have incredible client loyalty – some clients have been with us for almost 40 years. The same goes for our employees. When I first brought Brookstone to Datamann back in 1989, my two account managers were John Nadeau and Bill Mann, both of whom are still here. Though their roles are different today, both of them still work with clients daily.
We have hardly any overhead. All our staff perform hands-on work for clients. We have a simple philosophy of providing the latest technologies in a way that is best for our clients. And I owe all of my success at Datamann to the incredible team of people we have working here.
Much has changed in these past five years, within the industry and at Datamann. Here are some of the significant highlights:
- Of course I’m going to tell you that Datamann has continued to grow, adding new clients and new staff. What else would you expect me to say? We’ve added new services and new technologies. But, we’ve lost some clients too – either because they have gone out of business, ceased mailing a catalog, were purchased by some new corporate giant, etc. The industry has consolidated – you’ve all seen it, you’ve felt the impact and it is no different for us.
- We’ve also lost one or two clients because they wanted to do the one thing all sports team do when they think they need greener pastures – they changed the coach/manager. Sales were down, response was trending down, so they did the one thing that they could actually control – they changed vendors because someone else promised they had the “secret sauce”. Then they discovered that the other guy did not have anything any different. The secret sauce of social media, or sales attribution, or leveraged synergy was all an illusion, and top of all that – their service stinks. Those are the clients we always gladly welcome back.
- Datamann now sponsors and hosts, for the VT/NH Marketing Group, the largest single-day seminar for catalogs in the country. March 2017 will be our 5th year hosting this event, which continues to grow each year. Yes, it is an event for our clients, but is also open to all mailers, with the proceeds of registration going to the VT/NH Marketing Group. We expect over 300 mailers in 2017. This is one of those things that matters to the industry, because no other company or organization is filling this need.
- In five years, I’ve built hundreds of catalog circulation plans, executed an equal number of merges, conducted numerous merchandise analyses and provided a ton of catalog critiques. And along the way, I’ve reminded myself what every consultant already knows, but no mailer wants to believe – almost all catalogs are the same. Yes, response rates are different, the dynamics of merchandise performance are different, but in general, the problems and opportunities are the same for all catalogers. And this goes for our UK and US clients alike.
- This blog has become the biggest single source of new clients for Datamann. Think about that. We don’t advertise in any of what is left of the trade publications. We don’t exhibit anymore at the Catalog Conference because…well, it disappeared. We don’t have a dedicated sales staff. Instead, new clients find us through the postings I provide each week on what I see happening – both good and bad – in the catalog industry. And if you have been reading this blog a while, you know I can be critical – especially of myself when I make a mistake. I strive to be truthful and that is what catalogers want.
- And here is a further incentive to become a Datamann client – I don’t usually write brutal assessments in the blog of our clients’ catalogs. I will give those assessments directly to the client – even when they don’t ask for one, but they don’t get broadcast to my thousands of readers.
- Our industry is not doing well. You know it, and you know the reasons why, so let’s not dwell on the fact. But, man, let’s also not ignore it either. I’m always amused when some pure play or retailer decides to mail a catalog, and the catalog vendor community starts broadcasting the news, underscored with a steady drumbeat of “catalogs are not dead”. They are not dead yet, and the end may not yet be in sight, but you can see the trends, and you know you do have to change.
- I’m going to close with a comment on change. Much of what I have written about and spoken about publically in my speeches and privately with my clients over the past 5 years is the need to change. You get it. But you want painless solutions on how to suddenly make that change happen. You argue about trivial things that have no impact on your long-term survival. You loved my series of postings earlier this year on the dangers of the co-ops, but how many of you specifically took money out of your co-op prospecting budget and put it into a completely different method of customer acquisition? How many of you instead joined yet another co-op, which is only going to hasten your demise?
I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago called “How Do You Change Old School Thinking?” I had three unsubscribes that day – and they were all CEOs. I didn’t name any names in that posting; I didn’t even have any of these three people in mind when I wrote it. But, evidently, they saw me criticizing the way they run their businesses, and their lack of change and decided to take action. They unsubscribed! Good for them. But, I would much rather have had them send me an email or call me and say “Bill, you are wrong, wrong, wrong and here’s why…”. I answer all emails, and if I feel you have proven me wrong, which does happen, I will gladly publish a mea culpa. This blog is not intended to make Datamann or Bill LaPierre look like we have all the answers. It is meant to further a discussion on the things that matter in this industry.
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by Bill LaPierre
VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics
Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235