We see the articles popping up everywhere: “why print is still alive.”  We’re all guilty of it.  From our website, check out Don’t Kill The King: How To Target Your Audience and Save Money.  The article addresses how so many catalogers have decided to decrease their circulation or downsize their direct mail programs altogether.  The problem herein is not with the effectiveness of direct mail catalogs, but rather with the data (or in many cases the lack of data).  Let’s say a catalog is like a taxi cab.  It commutes from point A to point B and picks people up and brings them to point C (which we’ll call the sale).  If this is true, then the data would be like the roads by which the catalogs (taxicabs) travel.  If you drive with a faulty GPS, you will never get to where you want to be.  Our cab will never make it to destination B and customers will never make it to destination C.  It’s important to realize how harmful bad data (or no data) is to your direct mail program.  It’s like bad directions for your catalogs and that’s a big deal.  That said here are some tips to help you supercharge your data to result in a more successful catalog campaign.


Understand what data is important

There was an article that appeared on called Data Driven Marketing Is more Important Than Ever whereby a panel of marketers from the largest retailers were interviewed on the subject.  In the article, Grazia Ochoa, Director Global Digital Marketing, with Starwood Hotels and Resorts explains: “There has been an explosion of data, so our biggest challenge now is to get to the data that counts.”   This is true of many companies today.  There is just so much data; it is difficult to know what data is important to the success of your program.  The first tip to help you supercharge your data is to understand what data is relevant to your campaign.


You might wonder, what is relevant data? Relevant data is any piece of information that will help you get a full profile view of your customer in order to allow you to have more meaningful interactions with them as a result.  Here are four pieces of data that you should pay attention to in order to achieve this:

  • Buying behavior
  • Transaction history
  • Demographics (age/gender/annual income, etc).
  • Use of statistics as relates to demographics of your customers (cell phone use of X amount of people in the brackets of X).


Create a data plan

Now that you have decided what data is most relevant to your catalog campaign you can begin the next stage of supercharging your data—creating a data plan.  Moving forward you will want to always collect new data from each campaign.  In order to do so, you must plan a tactical strategy and decide how you will measure the success of your catalog.  In addition, you will want to use the data that has already been collected in order to have a meaningful connection with your customers.  Whether it is by use of promo codes, personalized webpages, or unique landing pages, etc., it is important to create a plan that will record the traffic generated by your catalog while at the same time generating the sales that you desire.  Here are some steps to get you started on your data plan.

  • Have defined objectives
  • Identify your target audience
  • Consult the cooperative database
  • Create a call to action
  • Include Digital Integration
  • Personalize
  • Pick a practice to measure your ROI

Clean out old data

You may have seen our recent post Ready to Spring Clean? 4 Easy Steps to Clean Up Your Mail List. If not, I urge you to check it out at the end of this article.  When you bond with a customer in a significant way the effects of that can make for a long-term customer whereby you begin to develop a long term relationship.  As is the case with any relationship, we learn in due time that people change. Their preferences change, their life changes.  They grow up, they have children, they retire, take on new hobbies, secure more money, loose jobs, etc.  While your long term customer changes organically, unfortunately the previously collected data does not, so we must make the effort to clean it up and update it.  There is nothing more harmful to your campaign than faulty data.  If my cat dies, I don’t want to receive mail next year saying to “buy Fluffy a new scratch post.”  When the data is updated, there is little more powerful than a personalized catalog campaign. But when the information is outdated, it can be hurtful to your company.  Here are some tips to help you ensure clear data:

  • Make sure you mail list is cleaned up by eliminating duplicate and faulty addresses
  • Watch for names that appear multiple times on your mail list. If it is a different last name at the address or the same name at different address, make sure the data you have it the correct data
  • Keep up to date on your customers buying behaviors through the use of cooperative databases
  • Survey your customers often and reward them for it
  • Be careful not to over generalize based on demographics. If a woman is married in her thirty’s, it doesn’t mean she is going to (or can) have children.  So be clear in your knowledge before personalizing
  • Do all these things often before and after each campaign


Test and Document Your Success

In school we determine a student’s retention based on tests because it’s the best method to date.  Catalogs are the much the same.  If you do not test, how are you able to measure how effective your program is? Here are some ideas of how to document fresh data that will surely supercharge your program.  It’s a good idea to do this with a few smaller mailings before your larger one.  Lett Direct has fantastic article that will walk you through the stages of testing your program called Test. Test. Test!!! This is a great resource for anyone who is thinking about running tests before a mailing.  Here are a few ways to create new data through testing.

  • Send out tests to determine how effective your catalogs are with a particular sect
  • Split your list into two segments and mail a catalog to one and not the other and see the difference in buying behavior between the two segments
  • Split your list and send two different catalog designs to each segment and see which yields the greater ROI
  • Test multiple promotions prior to large mailings to see which will have a greater impact on your customer base

When you understand what data is relevant to your campaign and are able to accurately reach out to your customers in an updated fashion, the power of catalogs in your marketing strategy is unstoppable.  If your catalog program is not as successful as you feel it should be, then perhaps it’s time to look at the data and supercharge it!  I think you will be surprised at the result.  Good luck and happy printing!!