Stop mailing to your imaginary friend
I am constantly entertained and amused by catalogers that are
unwilling to explore new methods of contacting their own customers
because it does not meet with their "customer's expectations of the
Whether it's appending e-mail addresses to their existing customer
file, becoming more aggressive with their catalog's promotional
efforts, or simply deciding what product should be on the front cover
of the catalog, many decisions that affect response rates are made on
a gut feeling about the customer's expectation, rather than any hard
Senior management at many catalogs think their customers are unique,
that their customers are wholly unaware of any of that catalog's
competitors, and that there will be a revolt among those customers if
the catalog tries anything new to elicit a stronger response. They
have no facts to substantiate any of these claims, but still they
insist they "know what their customer wants."
Catalog circulation and marketing professionals - and most list
brokers - want to believe that a detailed circulation plan will
determine the success of their catalog's mailings. Would that it was
so. Instead, it is the catalog's merchandise - and how well that
merchandise matches the catalog's customer's needs - that determines
more than 60 percent of that catalog's success.
The problem is that very few catalog professionals truly know their
customers, and thus do a lousy job of matching the catalog's
merchandise mix to what the customer truly wants. They talk in great
detail about how their customers want this or that, where they live,
how they dress, even what they name their children.
But most catalogers' perception of their customer is no different
than having an imaginary friend. The meager response rates those
catalogs receive are evidence that little effort is made to determine
what the customer truly wants.
Knowing as much as you can about your customers aids everyone
involved with your effort to acquire new customers. Merchants can
pick product aimed at benefits the customer seeks, circulation staff
can identify new sources of customers based on customer demographics,
and the creative team can alter the look of the book to meet the
customer's expectations of that customer's profile.
But you have to talk with your customers to get that information; it
does not come through osmosis. Contract with a research company that
can either survey your customers on the telephone, on the Web, or
better yet, conduct focus groups with your customers to learn what
products they want.
Ask them what they like and don't like about your Web site and your
catalog. Then make the appropriate changes to truly meet your
customer's "expectation about the brand."