Editorial: Cutting Costs

Though the pundits have yet to say how good (or bad) the holiday season will be, list brokers have already indicated that the number of orders is consistent with 2001 but that order sizes are smaller. That’s what companies are telling the Direct Marketing Association — and it’s sure to get discussed at this week’s List Vision conference in New York. Panelists gave DM News a preview of what’s on their minds. Meanwhile, the U.S. Postal Service is preparing for its usual bump in business, but officials aren’t cheery these days. Standard Mail volume declined by 738 million pieces in the third quarter, and it’s down 5 percent for the year.

Several media outlets have commented on catalogers making cutbacks on mailings or shrinking page counts to deal with the latest postal rate increase. Spiegel is reducing circulation as much as 20 percent, the Washington Post reported last week. One company bucking the trend is Hartford-York, which has aggressively increased circulation for its Hats catalog. Since buying the company last year, president Steve Singer has done other things — including changing the paper stock and reducing the page size — to cut costs. Revamps like this can pay off. Singer’s cost per book has declined from $1.50 to 60 cents.

RE: This

Those misleading “RE:” e-mails are on the upswing. Maybe it’s because I’m getting more e-mail by the day, but who isn’t? While they may increase the open rate, they don’t help responses. So let’s see here: I don’t want a free consultation to negotiate my bills (RE: What’s Up?). Nor do I want to talk to Jennifer live even though it is an emergency (RE: Emergency). And I don’t really care that Mike had great results with his, umm, sexual enhancers (RE: Is This the Place?). One company asked how much my call center is spending to answer simple consumer questions (RE: Order Status). Another included a link to opt out of future e-mails (RE: Winning Confirmation 444), but I doubt that I will. I get enough e-mail the way it is, thank you. And what e-mail story would be complete without a Nigerian scam? Sorry, but I don’t want to help Gen. Sani Abacha’s family figure out what to do with his $700 million (RE: Assistance). The subject line is the most important aspect of your e-mail effort. Don’t waste it.

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