Today businesses can easily make the mistake of changing how they use their mailing list in direct mail marketing because of the increasing trend in online marketing.

After the catalog giant, J.C. Penney decided to stop publishing their semi-annual “Big Book” catalog, sales suffered more than expected in the second quarter of 2010.

Mailing Lists Direct recommends that mailing list managers continue to use direct mail in their overall marketing plans despite the increasing trend of online marketing and apparent downward trend of older, more traditional marketing.

Direct Marketing Consultant Analyzes Situation

Neil Stern, a retail analyst and senior partner for retail consultancy McMillan Doolittle, was quoted in a recent article published at Multi Channel Merchant. Regarding the recent move by J.C. Penney to stop publication of their Big Book catalog, Stern said, “The economics of the catalog need to be re-evaluated to understand the impact on the whole business, not just on the ability to independently drive sales.”

Despite J.C. Penney’s decision to get out of the catalog business, they did not abandon direct mail altogether. Instead, they decided to distribute “look books” that resemble catalogs. But the look books that replaced their previous 800 page semi-annual catalog had less merchandise, no catalog item numbers and referred customers to J.C Penney’s website for information about styles, sizes and colors.

It is our opinion that was a big mistake because they were making customers work to find what they were looking for. This is tantamount to erecting obstacles to the sale. We realize that there is a trend toward online retail marketing and away from older more traditional forms of promotion, but don’t force the customer to your website. An effective direct mail piece always has all the information the customer needs to make a decision, along with a call to action and a toll free number where a friendly sales person can take the order and answer questions.

Today’s Marketing Environment

In today’s marketing environment there is an inevitable progression toward web driven commerce and away from more traditional forms like print and direct mail. Mailing list managers can easily get blind-sided if they try to track sales on a one-to-one relationship and not see how catalog marketing and direct mail contribute to a business’s overall bottom line.

In the Multi Channel Merchant article, Lois Brayfield, president of J. Schmid & Associates, a catalog consultancy firm, made an astute observation regarding the recent move by J.C. Penney. “The assumption that their customers are more web savvy is a big risk,” says Brayfield. By not including the item numbers in the look books, she points out, “Savvy or not, they are still making customers work to find the item they want.”

Businesses usually have a marketing budget from which all spending for advertising must be allocated and it is in the planning stage where budget managers can go off the rails. If the whole direct mail campaign is judged on direct sales, the business can seriously miscalculate the effect it can have on revenue.

Direct mail will affect a business’s overall bottom line because it will drive traffic to websites as well as into brick and mortar stores. A mailing list manager must know that direct mail will have an impact on the overall bottom line, not just on direct sales.