Silver for Seventh, too

The cover story in the May issue of Multichannel Merchant celebrates the “then and now” of some catalogers, while the Backword page mentions several mailers celebrating 25 years in business in 2008. I humbly submit that we at Seventh Avenue celebrate our 25th anniversary this fall. We congratulate and share our best wishes to all of these retailers, and to MCM, on reaching this great milestone in a challenging arena. Here’s to 25 more (at least)!
Erik Backhaus
brand manager, Seventh Avenue

To print or not to print

Now doesn’t sound like a good time to launch a print catalog. (Our thinking was to use the catalog primarily to find new prospects for our Website. But with printing and postage costs, spending $1 per catalog to do that is not cost-effective.) Yet with the effects of spam and the lack of good e-mail lists, e-mail doesn’t seem like a good way to prospect for new customers either.

So where does that leave small companies like ours? I receive four different catalog/DR publications, and I can’t think of any articles I’ve read that discuss alternative methods of prospecting for new Web customers:

  • Is anyone finding postcards effective at driving Web traffic?
  • Minicatalogs sent in utility bills?
  • Banner ads have never worked for me.
  • Display ads designed to direct traffic to a Website with a coupon haven’t worked for me in 11 years of trying.
  • Do other online retailers have privacy policies that allow them to sell their lists, or trade in a co-op?

Maybe this is an idea for a future piece in your magazine. Readers need to hear what’s working and what isn’t.
Marc Coan
vice president, Made In New Mexico

Editor’s Note: Two recent articles that may help: “And now for something different,” March issue, and “Going Solo: Postcards and Solo Mailings,” June 2007 issue.

Sorry, wrong e-mail

We get a lot of e-mail that’s evidently meant for other companies — namely the merchants we write about. Here’s just a sampling of the strange e-mail requests that have made their way to our inbox.

Is there any way you can e-mail me a flier from December 2007 which has the price of T-posts advertised in the Garden City, Kansas store? I just need the page where the posts are advertised.

I would very much appreciate it if you would please put a couple of family members on your mailing list. I’m sure that my young nieces would love to get it. Thank you so much.


Seeing red over green groups

A growing number of direct marketers have taken notice of the DMA’s 2007 “Resolution Asserting Environment Leadership” and other efforts to raise public awareness about stewardship of our planet’s finite and renewable resources. But some environmental groups — particularly those that love to criticize direct mail — are among the greatest offenders when it comes to “walking the green walk.”

For example, one of our nation’s leading environmental groups led the charge last year against direct marketers, decrying our industry’s “antienvironmental” practices. This same group sacrifices innumerable trees annually and spends beaucoup bucks on large-scale mailings to its members and prospective donors.

To add insult to injury, this group even has the audacity to criticize data sharing when its donor list has been on the market for years. The organization purportedly shares its names with commercial mailers, which is akin to breaking bread with the enemy. So, is it okay for it to kill trees and monetize its donor information?

Encouraging mailers to rely more on recycled paper and less on old-growth forests is a good thing for marketers and the environment. Commentators have noted that consumers will pay a premium for goods that are manufactured from recycled products, and will favor visionary companies that embrace environmental stewardship.

Direct marketing helps to reduce greenhouse gases because folks who respond to mail are not getting into their cars to shop. Paper is a renewable and recyclable resource.

Public policy should foster direct marketing rather that de-legitimize our activities. According to the DMA, direct marketers facilitate billions of dollars in commerce annually and create thousands of jobs.

At this juncture, the DMA should lobby Congress and our state legislatures for tax incentives and postal discounts so that more direct marketers will be compelled to “go green.”
David Kanter
president/CEO, AccuList

Insert complaint here

Regarding “And now for something different” in the March issue, I find it difficult to believe that you would print an article on insert media and call it alternative media.

The insert media industry, at great pains and effort, extricated itself from the terminology “alternative media” five-plus years ago. To celebrate our coming of age, a number of individuals, brokers, managers, mailers and suppliers inaugurated the first Insert Media Day. Subsequently, with the assistance of the DMA, there have been four more.

In addition, all major broker/managers and most trade publications and industry sources changed the terminology to insert media to reflect the component parts, including package and catalog inserts, statement inserts, ride-alongs and related forms of distribution

There is a large market of “alternative media,” of which insert media most certainly is one of the more prominent channels. An article to this effect would be most welcome to your readers and would be an industry service.
Leon Henry
CEO, Leon Henry Inc.


Curb your enthusiasm for co-ops

The November article “Co-ops Crippling Catalog List Business” tells only half a story. Millard Group’s Bill LaPierre cites the price of a fully segmented Herrington catalog list at $232/M, while he says co-ops sell these names for just $50/M. What LaPierre fails to mention is that the shift to these $50/M co-ops from the $232/M verticals has resulted in massive attrition in list rental income. The lost revenue has had tremendous negative financial impact for these mailers on one side of the ledger, as they presumably benefit by lower co-op costs on the other side. To fully understand the true cost of co-op database names, a mailer must factor in this substantial loss in vertical list rental income. Second, given that mailers are paying for co-op to co-op multis without the benefit of de-duping, at the end of the day, these very same co-op names are likely costing mailers more in the neighborhood of $100-$125/M on this fact alone. Add in the loss of vertical list rental income, and we get a very different picture than the rosy one painted by LaPierre.
Andy Ostroy
Chairman/CEO, Belardi/Ostroy ALC


Website design is not about looking pretty

I recently was in London attending ECMOD, the U.K.’s version of the Direct Marketing Association’s Annual Conference, only smaller and friendlier. These days, I love speaking internationally — Asia, Europe, South America, and anywhere else people are really interested in improving their Websites.

It’s refreshing when you ask how long it will take to make a change and they say a few days — as opposed to months, sometimes even years. It’s also invigorating when folks want to design for the user of the site and not to appease the marketing director, the CEO, the stockholders, and so on.

During the Q&A session at my third half-day workshop, someone from the U.K.’s version of Wal-Mart raised his hand. I’ve worked with his company before, and I knew that he wasn’t crazy about the style of Websites that I recommend. “The sites you have shown examples of are…”

I cut him off, knowing full well that I was already running late and by the time he figured out how to say what he wanted to say we’d have lost three to five minutes. (They’re very polite in the UK.)

“Uglier than a dog’s breakfast?”

The audience laughed. “Um, well, um, yes,” he stammered.

He was right: The sites I think are the sites to emulate are usually not the most aesthetically pleasing. In fact, some of them are downright awful looking. But most people are in business for the money and right, wrong or indifferent, the “ugly” sites often yield the most conversion.

I don’t really care what a Website looks like. I just want it to perform — to get the biggest bang for the marketing buck. My primary goal is to entice the user to convert to an order or an inquiry.

We can contemplate our navels all we want, but the reality is that users visit Websites with specific intentions, and giving them what they want as fast and efficiently as possible is the key.

The user is the king.

It’s their experience that counts.

Not mine, not yours, but the person who is at your site doing whatever it is that they want to do.
Amy Africa
president, Eight by Eight

Finally — some fan mail

Liberty Medical is well known for having actor Wilford Brimley in our commercials and for our work in the diabetes area. I’ve read your publication for years and wanted you to know I think it’s great. It’s well shared by my colleagues, too.

Looking forward to the next issue.
Ronald C. Pruett, Jr.
executive vice president/chief marketing officer, Polymedica/Liberty Medical


E-mail: melissa.dowling@penton.com

Phone: 203-358-9900 Fax: 203-358-5823

Letter: 11 River Bend Drive South, Stamford, CT 06907 or visit us on the Web at www.MultichannelMerchant.com


Too dog-gone cute

I couldn’t help but chuckle at your editor’s column, “Gone to the dogs,” in December’s issue. I’ve been a print production manager for over 30 years and tried in vain to get my own dog in a catalog, but no….they’ve got to sell actual merchandise. Imagine. However, just to commiserate, and just for fun, I’m attaching a photo of my dog, Katie — nearly as cute as yours, and also fated never to be on a cover…
Vicki Ehrenman

Disagreeing with the master

I enjoy Herschell Gordon Lewis’s books and articles on copywriting, but something he wrote in his December column, “The best befriend benefit copy,” gave me pause. Lewis said, “I don’t know a writer who could improve on this description of the Chelsea Luster Collection dinnerware, brilliantly pictured in lush grass” about the following copy block:

Splendor in the grass! Lusterware harkens back to the lush heydays of Victorian England. Now, we revive this stunning technique using copper luster, a semi-precious metal that becomes iridescent with age. It is applied by hand and will vary in density on the rims and handles — an antique quality that contributes to its timeless beauty.

I don’t like this copy, and here’s why:

  • “Splendor in the grass!” is corny.

  • There’s no flow between the first sentence and the second sentence.

  • What are “lush heydays,” and why should the reader care that the lusterware comes from those days?

  • Lusterware is not a technique, so “we revive this stunning technique” makes no sense. Moreover, how can a technique be “stunning”? Even if a technique could be stunning, why not drop “stunning” (which is vague, stale, and debatable) and instead convince the customer through nouns and verbs that the lusterware is stunning?

  • “Timeless beauty” is a cliché.

  • Where is the customer benefit?

Perhaps I’m being harsh, but I was surprised to see Lewis praise that dinnerware copy. Just the same, I’ll keep reading and enjoying his work.
Evan Elliot
Copy director, Haggin Marketing


Props for paper piece

I finally got a chance to look at the March issue of Multichannel Merchant. I have to tell you that the article “The Paper Chase” by Jim Tierney was one of the better ones I’ve seen in regards to buying paper. I hope all of our prospects get a chance to read it, because often they are unwilling to listen to a salesperson when we are trying to communicate the value we can provide.
Michael Wade
director of sales and marketing, Wade Paper Corp.

Ticked off at tiny type

I’m considering asking you to drop my subscription. I can’t stand trying to read your articles. Who the heck are you writing for, tiny people on some other planet? From a distance the layout looks okay, but your use of leading and white space leaves no room for text. That’s right, I’m writing about the stinking tiny fonts you think everyone is attracted to.

One of the goals of communication is to make it easy for the audience to read what is put into print. Make it difficult, and you have failed. Tiny type is a turn-off. Eyestrain is annoying. Reserve the sans serif for headlines instead of so much of your body text. Content is certainly more important than style, but style that becomes a show stopper prevents acceptance of the content.

If you want Multichannel Merchant to integrate, sell, and deliver, wise up: Raise your standards by increasing the font size.
Len Rose
president, Ideas-2-go

Singing our praises

I continue to be impressed with the work that the team at Multichannel Merchant is doing. The change in focus to address the Web was timed perfectly, and the articles indicate that you know what you are talking about, or at least know how to ask the right questions.

Please keep up the good work.
Tyee Harpster
general manager, Documounts


E-mail: melissa.dowling@penton.com
Phone: 203-358-9900 Fax: 203-358-5823
Letter: 11 River Bend Drive South, Stamford, CT 06907
or visit us on the Web at www.MultichannelMerchant.com


Yay e-mail append article

I just read Mark Del Franco’s January cover article, “Risks and rewards of e-mail append,” with great interest. As a player in the e-mail appending space, I have some tips on selecting an e-mail appending vendor:

  • Get references from current clients, and call them!

  • The e-mails you pay for should be deliverable addresses and credit offered for any bouncing e-mail addresses. Cleaning out typos, errors, and known undesirable addresses should be part of the process.

  • You should receive not just “deliverable” e-mail addresses, but addresses that your customers have identified as their preferred addresses for e-mail.

  • Your vendor’s database should be 100% opt-in, and in case of dispute, your vendor should be able to provide an information source and registration date for every record. Also, your results file should be accompanied by an opt-out list.

  • Your vendor should adhere to all Can-Spam regulations and run all required suppressions, including suppressing against your own opt-out list.

E-mail appending is a frequently requested service. It is important to make sure we are moving ahead conscientiously, and that we protect our clients as well as grow their businesses.
Austin C. Bliss
President, FreshAddress

Boo e-mail append article

I must say that your article on e-mail appending was way off base. I ran the e-mail append service for Equifax and have provided clients with more than 50 million appended e-mail addresses, and the number of complaints has been less then 100.

E-mail addresses change, and that’s why I encourage my customers to immediately broadcast the appended addresses, as I guarantee them for 30 days. We send a welcome e-mail to the appended list explaining why they are being contacted and giving them the chance to opt out. Further, the welcome e-mail allows us to confirm delivery, and we do not charge or provide e-mail addresses that bounce or opt out. The gross match rate before the welcome e-mail ranges from 14%-20%, about 30% bounce, and less then 1% opt-out.

The article stated: “But if one-channel customers had wanted you to contact them via the additional channel of e-mail, argue opponents, they would already have provided you with their e-mail address. Therefore, you’re less likely to enjoy any lift in response or lifetime value from customers who are being contacted in a channel they didn’t request.” This is flat-out wrong. In my experience e-mail addresses provided by appending respond the same way as e-mail addresses acquired via other means. I had one client whose appended addresses generated the same average order as all other e-mail addresses when provided the same offer. The revenue generated by the appended addresses more than paid for the data on the first broadcast.

The current drop in the cost of appended records to as low as $0.04 per record has increased the attractiveness of the program. Further, appending e-mails that bounce helps companies keep contact with people who have changed their e-mail addresses.
Scott Shabot
Founder, Emailappend.net


No politics, please, you’re a trade magazine

I faithfully read Multichannel Merchant magazine and the editor’s page. I do want to let you know that I am disappointed in your political statements in your October editorial “Honor roll.” The beginning section of the column was quite good, mentioning the many stores and businesses that were helping with Hurricane Katrina. However, I did not think it necessary to make your very negative statements about the past president’s wife and mother of the current president. There were many statements made, by both political sides, during this very unfortunate time…some were positive, and most were pointing fingers at someone else. I don’t think your magazine or column needs to make political statements — it is not what your readership is interested in seeing.

Diane O’Connor
president, Creative Irish Gifts

Tourn on the spell check

In reviewing the November issue of Multichannel Merchant, I noticed the segment in “Backword” entitled “DeSantis says, watch this” used the phrase “more Timex than Touneau.” I’m pretty sure you meant to say “Tourneau.” They might appreciate a correction. (Unless Touneau is some swanky new watch brand with which I’ve not yet become acquainted!)

Becky Zendejas
account executive, Duggan & Brown

Editor’s note: Sorry about the typo, Tourneau, but we’re editors — what do we know from luxury brands?


Kudos for SSUTA story

Regarding the article “SSUTA: much ado about little” (August issue), I tip my hat to writer John Fischer for addressing a complex topic. The Streamlined Sales Tax Project (SSTP), which was scheduled to go into effect last month, was initiated in response to Quill v. North Dakota with the goal of making compliance more simple and straightforward.

The agencies behind the SSTP created Certified Service Providers (CSPs) — state-retained commercial companies. A handful of companies, (including my firm, Exactor) will be paid by states to provide retailers free technology that will automate the calculating sales taxes, the filing of tax returns, and the payment of tax proceeds on behalf of the retailer.

In Quill, the Supreme Court stated that it will not enforce state sales tax rules on retailers that do not have nexus. The court stated that tax systems are so complex that it would be an undue burden to require retailers to comply with all the different rules and jurisdictions. In response, state taxing agencies banded together to draft and sign the SSTP agreement. The states hope that with this process in place, Congress will pass legislation that will expand the long-arm jurisdiction capabilities of the court system, another item raised by the Quill court.

But compliance with sales and use-tax rules does not begin and end with the SSTP. Contrary to popular belief, sales and use taxes do apply to online transactions. With looming compliance requirements (e.g., Sarbanes-Oxley) and personal liability, management needs to pay more attention to this topic and assure compliance.

Borrowing from the old adage, “Seller beware.”
Jonathan Barsade
CEO, Exactor

Paid-search article clicks

I read Tim Daly’s article on fee structures for SEM agencies (“Paying for clicks,” September) with great interest. Daly points out the limitations of cost-per-action (CPA) compensation. We’ve seen this method take the form of a “revenue share,” which sounds appealing to retailers but has unintended effects: The agency has no incentive to let its client know the margin it’s earning per click, so it becomes a competitor.

Daly is on target that percent of ad spend is the most retailer-friendly method for SEM agency compensation. But we suggest a maximum cap on the monthly fee, so that when a retailer’s ad spend doubles at the holidays, its payment to the agency doesn’t double as well. Compensation should reflect the agency’s effort and resulting value, not external phenomena such as Christmas or a peak season.
Lawrence Becker
vice president, marketing and business development
The Rimm-Kaufman Group


E-mail: mdowling@primediabusiness.com

Phone: 203-358-9900 Fax: 203-358-5823

Letter: 11 River Bend Drive South, Stamford, CT 06907
or visit us on the Web at www.MultichannelMerchant.com


Lo siento, amigos

I enjoyed your Multichannel Merchant article “Speaking to the Hispanic market” (August issue) and your sidebar about the potential pitfalls awaiting those who do so. Unfortunately, you fell into one of those pitfalls.

Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s independence day; it commemorates Mexico’s victory over a French army at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

Outside of Puebla, it’s a relatively obscure holiday in most of Mexico but an increasingly popular excuse for gringos in the U.S. to consume tequila and guacamole.

Mexico’s real independence day is Sept. 16, commemorating the start of a decade-long fight for independence from Spain that began on Sept. 16, 1810.

George Leposky, senior manager-marketing communications, American Welding Society (AWS)


Change is good

Changing the name of a magazine is often a risky venture. An editor certainly doesn’t want to alienate his or her core readership and early supporters. But you guys have nothing to worry about with the metamorphosis of Catalog Age into Multichannel Merchant. The content reflects the realities of the marketplace, the new design is appealing, and the marketing effort behind the transformation was done with class. Congratulations on the new publication, and may you serve our industry for many more years to come.
Jack Schember,
marketing manager, Melissa Data

After years of reading Catalog Age, I finished reading your renamed Multichannel Merchant publication and believe you have hit the proverbial nail on the head with your name change and content enhancement. It’s just what our industry needs! Continued success…
Irv Brechner
chief marketing officer, SendTec

I just finished reading my first issue of Multichannel Merchant and I’m willing to bet a pint of Oreo ice cream that the magazine will enjoy great success. I’m already looking forward to the next issue, as it presents a unique holistic view of the industry.
Lawrence Dean Shemesh
president, OPSdesign Consulting


E-mail: mweinstein@primediabusiness.com

Phone: 203-358-9900

Fax: 203-358-5823

Letter: 11 River Bend Drive South, Stamford, CT 06907 or visit us on the Web at www.MultichannelMerchant.com


Multichannel makeover a hit

As an avid marketing publications reader, I wanted to tell you how much I like your new format.

I read two or three business and marketing publications a week and use the table of contents to decide what articles are relevant for my position and my career. I haven’t even read past the midpoint of this publication and I already have two pages of notes from your first issue!

Great job, and I look forward to upcoming issues.
Brett Silver
Owner, Social Philly

Steamed at Staples story

Kudos to Staples for putting up with a problem that shouldn’t have happened in the first place. I thought your magazine was a support structure for catalog/Internet marketing businesses, yet you proved me wrong with your recent “Tales from the Front” article (“Staples throws us a bone,” May 1 issue). Did you save about $2.50 by canceling your Staples order and going elsewhere? What kind of cost did you force Staples to incur in order to cover a small savings for you? I am glad to see you recognize the need to “owe” Staples one, but I doubt you would let Staples collect, since you would probably always find an item cheaper elsewhere. You provide many articles regarding customer acquisition and retention, but it is a two-edged sword — the customer is also a responsible party. There should be such a topic as responsible shopping, where the customer takes on responsibility for his actions. I find it unacceptable that in one instance, a company ends up paying a price for their speedy response and yet could also be criticized for a slow response to an order.
John Sangster
Sales manager, Miners

Top 10 gifts and home items searches

What’s new in the gift and home market? Wouldn’t you like to know. Well, McLean, VA-based sales and marketing solutions provider Whereoware DOES know — at least, it knows what marketers are searching for on its site. Here’s the top 10 keyword searches on www.whereoware.com for May:

  1. Stamp
  2. Scrapbook
  3. Angel
  4. Candle
  5. Furniture
  6. Betty Boop
  7. Lamp
  8. Bee
  9. Nautical
  10. Elvis


E-mail: mweinstein@primediabusiness.com
Phone: 203-358-9900 Fax: 203-358-5823
Letter: 11 River Bend Drive South, Stamford, CT 06907
or visit us on the Web at www.MultichannelMerchant.com


Searching for credit

In your “On-target onsite search” article in the March 2005 issue, you reference “The State of Retailing Online 7.0,” a Shop.org study produced in partnership with Forrester Research. Your article, however, mentions only Forrester Research.
Scott Silverman,
executive director
, Shop.org


Apple or orange?

We at NexTag, one of the firms included in your January article about online comparison shopping (“Shopping around”), wanted to clarify a common point of confusion illustrated in the chart that accompanied the article.

In the first row of that chart, which detailed each comparison shopping site’s “size of audience,” many of the numbers listed were based on differing criteria in such a way that your readers may misinterpret the relative sizes of the leading players in the comparison shopping market. Verifiable and nonverifiable numbers were mixed, as were the number of unique visitors vs. the number of overall site visits. The most accurate way to compare the players in a given market is to use verifiable “unique visitor” numbers from either Nielsen/NetRatings or ComScore.

Based on Nielsen/NetRatings, NexTag garnered 12 million unique visitors in December — making us one of the larger comparison shopping companies. It appears that many of the other companies included in the chart provided their own numbers and didn’t necessarily proffer unique visitor numbers but instead listed total visits per day or month. This leads to an “apples to oranges” comparison, since many people return to comparison shopping sites multiple times per month.

Thank you for the opportunity to set the record straight on a subject that continues to confuse and confound people more than 10 years after the advent of the Web.
Garth Chouteau
PR director, NexTag


Fan of fed article

The lead article in the November issue, “Fed spending shift” by Mark Del Franco, is outstanding. I have been in the catalog business since 1975 and never knew about government SmartPay credit cards. Mark deserves credit for seeking and writing about new markets and media for the hard-pressed catalog industry. Keep up the great work!
David Savitch, president/CEO Publisher Inquiry Services

Ops exec objects

The cover article in your December issue titled “Making the rounds with a DC supervisor” stated that Brady is not using the volumes of packages it ships as leverage in the negotiation process with carriers. In fact, we do this all the time. This is how we have been able to negotiate favorable rates over the years with our carriers as a corporation.
Richard Mini distribution manager Seton


E-mail: mweinstein@primediabusiness.com

Phone: 203-358-9900

Fax: 203-358-5823

Letter: 11 River Bend Drive South, Stamford, CT 06907 or visit us on the Web at www.CatalogAgemag.com