Eight Ways to Rev Up Your Catalog and E-mail Response

Want to get the most out of your mail plan? Below, Sante Fe, NM-based consultant Jim Coogan shares eight surefire ways to stand out in the mailbox and the e-mail in-box.

1) Don’t end your promotions early. If you end your promotion before your natural sales curve has reached 75%-85% of your normal sales, you will lose revenue, Coogan says. Don’t hope that you’ll get customers to buy early because a promotion is ending When a promotion ends before the end of a catalog’s historical sales curve, the net effect is typically a loss.

2) Don’t mail special offers of a product that might be sold out before some customers even get a catalog. Buyers get really upset if they call you the day they receive a catalog only to learn that the item they want has been sold out for a week. Never mind the vagaries of mail drops and delivery: To the customer it feels like bait-and switch.

3) Don’t mailing Web buyers too early in the holiday season. Web buyers order later in the holiday season than traditional buyers. Don’t think you can change their behavior by mailing to them early in the holiday season.

4) Don’t mail late in December hoping you’ll get enough selling days before Christmas. In-home dates in December are risky. Always scrub Alaska, Hawaii, and APO/FPO addresses out of late-season mailings.

5) Don’t forecast too aggressively. Look at the previous year’s sales per book for buyers and for prospects, and then ask yourself if the planned sales-per-book increases are achievable. To get a better gauge of the likelihood, look at the mix of buyers by channel, comparing this year’s segments to last year’s.

6) Don’t confuse your customer with too many promotions. By offering one promotion after one, department stores inadvertently trained consumers to wait for the big sale rather than to pay full price. Learn from their mistake.

7) If your creative or merchandising hit a home run in the previous year, make sure you plan your circulation based on the correct assumptions. In other words, if you benefited from a major trend last year but don’t feel that you have a similar blockbuster item among this year’s merchandising mix, don’t commit to an aggressive sales forecast. (Which, of course, is not to say that you shouldn’t work with the creative and merchandising teams to repeat the previous year’s success story.)

8) Assume that even the smallest changes in your contact strategy could affect response. Any change in your plan–drop dates, number of pages, mix of buyers and prospects, promotions, number of mailings in the same time period, frequency of buyer contacts– can increase or decrease sales. Look at best-case and worst-case scenarios before implementing changes.

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