Having attended more than 15 catalog/multichannel conferences (ACCM) over the past two decades, I can easily report that this one will stand out for its low attendance and "doom-and-gloom" conversations.
Yes, these aren't good economic times, but being the forever optimist, I wanted to point out several things that we should all be thinking about.
- Adversity is the mother of invention. Throughout the years, great companies have been born. Others have transformed themselves in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. It'll happen this time again.
- When the going gets tough … you know. A new generation of crisis, problem-solving managers is being born right now. Can you see it?
- By all reports, mail prospecting is down considerably. But catalogers and other direct marketers are testing, very prudently, new media in many different ways. Those tests will bear fruit.
- It's time for many direct marketers to realize they can't be experts at all things. Now, more than ever, is the time to consider what your core competencies are, and outsource the rest. At ACCM, I heard many conversations about outsourcing e-commerce marketing, call center, fulfillment, HR and a host of other noncritical functions. This is especially true for smaller — less than $50 million in sales — companies.
- While times are tough for direct marketers, they're worse for retailers. At least direct marketers have flexibility. Most retailers have much greater fixed costs to be paid on sales volumes that are down 10 percent, 20 percent or even up to 30 percent. They're shuttering stores, reducing inventory (consumer selection) and laying off service staff. All of this presents an opportunity for the shrewd direct marketer.
- This too shall pass. Sometimes when you're up to your neck in alligators, it's hard to remember that your original goal was to drain the swamp! We forget that recessionary cycles happen, and that they don't last forever. While car sales are down now, for example, the cars on the road today are wearing out at exactly the same rate as they were last year. The consumer can, will and must eventually return.
- Down market cycles "cleanse" weak players. You may have an opportunity to pick up the remaining assets of your weak competitors — plan for it.
I predict that a year from today our collective mood as direct marketers will be very different. Mark your calendars.
Terence Jukes is president of B2B Direct Marketing Intelligence LLC, a strategic B2B direct marketing consultancy based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that services clients in the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K. and Germany. You can reach him at email@example.com or (954) 383-5221 (direct line).
Comments or questions are welcome.