I had the great fortune of being invited to the 9th annual Merit Direct B2B conference in Westchester, NY last week. I got to leave the office and spend a couple of days thinking about how one should be running a business during times that are really not very good for the US economy. Just to rub it in, while I was there, the RI Public Utilities Commission raised electricity rates 21.4%. Ugh.
There were about 175 people there representing all sizes of B2B companies, all involved in direct mail. Many of the subjects were similar to the topics that we discuss at NEMOA, but given the B2B focus of everyone in the room, the focus was a little different – and there were all kinds of new companies to meet.
Don Libey gave a great speech on day 2, focusing on the view from 35,000′ – or where he sees the catalog industry heading. He was clear to point out that he sees no fall off in globalization. Companies will get better at shipping internationally (because they have to) and trade will increasingly bypass the middle man. As if to make the point, we lost an order for drug free ribbons to China today (our first ever), but we have a european supplier who wants us to ship ribbons directly to Finland – bypassing his warehouse in Sweden.
One observation I made is that there were few (if any) manufacturers in the room and that vertical markets are the exception rather than the rule. Most companies were making less than 5% of what they sell. Also most catalogs were broad shot amalgamations of products. Carefully calculated to get the most shopping bang for the buck. Does this work? We tried it once and it didn’t work well at all. All that means is that it doesn’t work for us.
A number of pleas were heard for catalogers to join the ACMA (American Catalog Mailer’s Association). This little group has already saved the cataloging industry over $150,000,000 (that’s 150 million dollars folks) on postage through their lobbying efforts. Please pay your share, and pony up some money to help with the lobbying efforts. We did.