Live from MeritDirect: Now’s the Time to Focus on Growth

White Plains, NY—”Innovate, create, and take market share!” exhorted Don Libey, cofounder of investment bank Libey-Concordia, at the Fourth Annual MeritDirect business Mailer’s Co-op and E-mail Marketing Conference. What with strengthening economic fundamentals and a freeze on postal rates, he said, there’s no time like the present to grow your business.

Libey addressed more than 200 b-to-b marketers during his Thursday morning keynote speech at the Westchester Renaissance Hotel and Conference Center.

Low interest rates, price and wage stability, and an optimistic economic outlook for the rest of the year means “it’s ok to switch from a passive to an aggressive mode,” Libey said.

Part of working to grow the business entails determining which of the “six penetrations” to focus on:

* customer penetration—in other words, improving house file performance;

* prospect penetration;

* market penetration—a logical expansion of the business into a somewhat related realm;

* product penetration—this would entail product development and improved sourcing with an eye on expanding the breadth or depth of the company’s merchandise offering;

* acquisition penetration—Libey said his company was receiving more calls on behalf of investors interesting in purchasing catalog companies than it had for at least three years; and

* international penetration.

Don’t try to grow via all of these methods, Libey warned. Instead, pick one and invest in it fully. “If you don’t do one,” he added, “you are dead.”

In keeping with the title of his presentation, “What You Can Do Now to Prosper in the Last Half of 2003 and Beyond,” Libey stressed the importance of increasing mailings. Because postage rates will never be cheaper, he advised testing new lists and new markets.

He also said that now was as safe a time as any to implement price increases—but on a category-by-category, product-by-product basis, rather than simply hiking prices a flat percentage across the board. “Approximately 20% of products can probably take a significant price increase and make it stick,” Libey said. He suggested reexamining “sweet spot” discounts as well.

In fact, “this may be the time you can wean yourself of some of your pricy incentives,” Libey said—so long as your service, value, and other basics are strong.