Handing Control to the Creative Team

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You've done your job. For several months, you've sourced and developed creative, customer-centric products that are authentic to your brand. You've assembled the products into categories and themes and pages. Now it's time for the turnover to the creative team. Here are steps to ensure that this meeting is productive for you and your creative team.


Step 1: Organize. In preparation for this meeting, you need to organize several things as part of the pagination strategy:


· Before adding a product to the line, you have asked yourself the good business reason for doing this. You can articulate that answer for every product in the turnover and defend why it is in the line.


· You have paginated the book according to historical analytical methods and present strategic goals for the mailing. You considered the need for pacing and keeping customer interest levels high throughout the catalog.


· You have ranked products in order of importance per spread so that the designers have flexibility in preparing the spreads should a product need to drop.


· You have reviewed each layout as it relates to the total mailing to achieve balance on many levels, including price points, storytelling and, most importantly, profitability. You know which products have the potential to be order drivers, revenue builders and margin maximizers.


· You have paid close attention to the products slotted for the covers, inside covers and other hot spots and ensured that these products are the best "brand ambassadors" in the product line.


Step 2: Create a sensory experience. Now that you've done your homework, it is time to plan the meeting.


Are you presenting holiday merchandise? Why not create Christmas in July (or August or whenever your turnover is) by setting the stage with holiday music, special food and a color theme that enhances the products you've sourced? If your products do not lend themselves to this type of setting, why not turn your meeting into a mini-brand experience?


In either case, by engaging all five senses, you create a background that sets the stage for the stories you are trying to create.


Step 3: Communicate an overall plan and pagination. Now it's time for the meeting. Devote the first part to outlining the merchandising strategy and planning to the creative team so that everyone is working from the same strategic framework.


Review what worked in the last mailing and what didn't. What were the best-selling products, categories, themes and spreads? The poor-performing ones? Discuss why.


Review the present strategy. Invite marketing team members to this meeting. As a merchant, you can address the big picture product strategies relevant to this upcoming mailing. Highlight the strategies in writing and distribute to all creative team members.


Step 4: Detail the products. After the strategy, it's time to showcase the attributes of every product in detail. With attention spans shrinking, it is important that the creative team conveys the essence of each product in the photo and copy blocks.


To accomplish this, the merchant should fill out a product form for every new item. Though the form should have the product specifications on it (often provided by the vendor), it also should convey the emotional element involved in this product. Ask yourself from the customer's perspective: "What's in it for me?" Also, share any other positioning notes (such as value emphasis) that would aid the copywriter.


As you discuss and detail each product, spend extra time on the "remarkables" (as Seth Godin describes buzz-worthy products). These often will be in your hot spots, but wherever they appear, be sure to tell the stories behind these products.


After all the products are presented, discuss items that would make great upsell, cross-sell and potential promotional features. Also, discuss the use of models in relation to certain products, and the use of props. Use your own products as props wherever possible. Finally, note which products merit call-outs.


Step 5: Champion the products. Lastly, along with serving as brand-builder, planner, strategist, customer advocate and communicator, the merchant is also the product enthusiast. Ask yourself, "What inspired you to add this product to the line?" Share this vision and enthusiasm with the creative team.


By following these suggestions for your turnover meeting, you will ensure that the creative team has all the tools to make the products come alive on the page.


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