The power of interruption

CATALOGERS HAVE HAD GOOD REASONS lately to rein in their prospecting and cut back on mailings. You have to hold the line on costs when sales aren’t coming in — everybody’s been doing this one way or another.

But it’s time to get back in the mail. You need to grow your business by acquiring new customers. You need to reactivate former buyers who may have taken a break from you. You need to remind people you’re still here.

The Web is a wonderful thing — we’d be lost today without search, e-mail and general e-commerce capabilities. But as industry veteran Terry Jukes said at the NEMOA conference in September, a catalog — or any mail piece — has the power to interrupt that the Web does not.

You need to show customers what you have to sell, which can help you land an order or drive buyers to your Website or your stores. (For more of Jukes’ words of wisdom.)

Yes, controlling costs remains a huge concern. But print catalogers have caught a few breaks this year. For one, paper prices are relatively low. That’s inspired a few mailers to up their quantities.

And catalog postal rates, which increased on average 2.3% this past May, are not going up in 2010. What’s more, through initiatives such as the summer “mail sale,” the USPS is actually showing a willingness to work with the catalog community. There’s even talk of a winter 2010 mail sale for catalogers.

This is not to say you should be mailing like it’s 1999. That would not be smart, and it’s not necessary — the world has changed. As Bill LaPierre, senior vice president of the list firm Direct Media Millard, says in our cover story “Signs of Life”, too many catalogers act like customers still shop the way they did in the ’80s.

Make sure you understand how your channels work together and how your customers prefer to shop and be contacted.

But if you’ve been out of touch for a while, perhaps it’s time to tap your customers on the shoulder with a catalog, a postcard or even a solo mailer if that makes sense for your company. (Although I myself would prefer a catalog if I’m on your list.)

Don’t be afraid to interrupt them.

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