If the last few years of technology driven and multi-channel marketing has taught us anything, the greatest lesson is, “evolve or die”. Yet still, we are amazed at the number of companies that do not coordinate their SEM efforts with their catalog circulation plans. It hurts their new customer counts, drags down their response rates and dooms them to anemic revenue growth rates. This cross-channel integration is imperative for the survival and success of all marketers. Hear us out:
There is a corner of the US economy made up of what we call the Legacy Cataloger (“LC”). The LC is a company that earns between ~$25MM & $150MM in annual revenues. They sell products expertly merchandised for niche markets. Typically, they have been in business for decades (often several). They tend to be run by an Owner/President who often is—or is related to—the founder. These leaders are usually fans (sometimes fanatically so) of the catalog. And they should be: their businesses were principally built on the shoulders of this reliable, steady marketing vehicle. The catalog helped make them who they are!
The focus and makeup of the LC’s Marketing Department will largely reflect this history. At nearly every LC we visit an experienced circulation professional can be found. Whatever their title (sometimes the Owner/President of the LC themselves holds the position) this person tends to be the keeper of history. They remember every strategic decision, discount, test, vendor configuration the LC has been involved with going back years. Under their direction, the circulation plan has been refined and enhanced: the catalog types, offers, cover-versions, page-count have all been optimized controlling for season, segmentation and source. Which catalog version is best for which list at which time of year—the experienced circulation director knows this information like the back of their hand. For an LC, the entire business is predicated on the demand the catalog generates and captures—and the focus and ethos marketing department reflects this.
This respect—reverence even—for the catalog tends to soak up much of Marketing’s bandwidth. Search, particularly PPC (heretofore representing “paid media” to encompass Display, Re-targeting, RLSA, etc.) is the primary victim. In the past ten years PPC has emerged as the second-most important channel for the LC. Driven by the explosion of ecommerce in the past two decades, the LC’s ratio of new customers acquired via online vs. offline has flipped and is not likely to slow. PPC’s profile has risen dramatically while the LC attended catalog cover meetings and produced keycode reports. It happened right under their nose!
That isn’t true, however, for all LCs. The best have the following points in common relative to integrating PPC with their circulation plans:
There is nothing more disheartening than studying an LC’s PPC spend & seeing a flat, static amount each day. Spend should ebb & flow dynamically within the month, surging around catalog in-home dates to capitalize on the search traffic that circulation pushes. When LCs fail to capture that traffic their competitors reap the rewards!
There is a wealth of knowledge waiting to be mined in every Adwords Search Term Report (this analysis is a list of terms that people have used that resulted in a marketer’s ads being shown). Catalog designers & copywriters benefit tremendously from being briefed on its contents. The layout & pagination process needs to reflect today’s buying behavior—the catalog spurs online activity. Understanding the specific terms being searched improves every element of the pagination process: product selection, layout, photography, copy, graphics—everything!
The only way to understand PPC’s true impact on overall revenues is to bite the bullet & turn it off for a period. Forward-thinking LCs have done this & know exactly how much “credit” PPC deserves by measuring revenue declines during a “go-dark” period for specific geographies. This knowledge informs cross-channel budget optimization and is a secret-weapon in revenue attribution.
Implementing these best practices will have an immediate impact on the number of new customers acquired for any business—LC or not. For more on integrating PPC into your marketing mix please visit Maria Jaime’s ideas on Visibility Beyond the Conversion and PPC.
Vice President, BI + Analytics