At the DMA Annual: Circ Strategies to Test–and Test Again

Chicago–“Fifty Circulation Ideas in 50 Minutes” was the name of the session at the DMA Annual Conference’s Catalog Weekend on Saturday here–but speaker Gina Valentino improved upon that, offering 65 ideas in just over an hour. Valentino, Spiegel’s customer development director, filled in for scheduled speaker Michael I. Grant.

Not surprisingly, the importance of testing, testing, and testing again underscored many of Valentino’s key points. Among her circulation suggestions:

* Over the course of a year, consumer catalogers should take a group of customers and expose them to what you might think is too many catalogs, then compare that test group with the control group. Valentino insisted that mailers would be pleasantly surprised at the increased response and average order size of the “overmailed” group.

* Test “last chance” messages on reactivation catalogs, rather than or in addition to on prospecting books–the messages are bound to provide great lift.

* Consider seasonality when renting selects. While conventional wisdom holds that the most recent buyers are the most responsive, for merchandise that is typically bought yearly, such as swimsuits or outdoor furniture, renting 9- to 12-month buyers may be more effective.

* Business-to-business marketers should take the planning process of buyers into consideration when creating their circulation plan. This is something that consumer catalogers branching out into b-to-b often overlook, Valentino noted. If, for instance, you sell seasonal gift merchandise and would normally mail a catalog of St. Valentine’s Day items to consumers in January, you would need to mail the b-to-b version of your book to resellers in November, which is when retailers and other resellers start ordering their St. Valentine’s Day merchandise.

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