Blog Post – Wednesday, October 20, 2021
Posted by Denny Hatch
Venture Capitalists Turn A Great
Direct Marketer into a Spammer
My last blog post described how I have shrunk over the years. My wardrobe looked like hell on me, so we bought a couple of handsome jackets and slacks—summer & winter.
For many years—back when I was editor and publisher of Target Marketing magazine—I dressed up for meetings, conventions, calls on advertisers and grand three-martini lunches at upmarket ginmills.
My shirt vendor of choice was the Paul Frederick catalog that delivered good quality non-iron utilitarian shirts off-the-rack in my precise size (17” neck, 33” sleeves). I was a customer for many years. Every couple of years shirts would wear thin and I would replace them.
In the 2004 I called Paul Fredrick Sacher, told him I was a customer and would like to do a cover story for Target Marketing magazine. He called back and we spent a good hour on the phone.
My cover profile of Paul Fredrick ran in the May 2004 Target Marketing. I recently re-read my piece and discovered the fascinating story of a very bright, hard-working young guy who stumbled into the shirt business and learned direct mail to build a thriving menswear catalog business à la Lillian Vernon, John Peterman, Richard (Sharper Image) Thalheimer and Patricia and Mel (Banana Republic) Ziegler.
The candid information he shared with me — about direct marketing… about being an entrepreneur… about launching and growing a business… was priceless!
Seventeen years later I was absolutely comfortable going back to Paul Fredrick and ordering his shirts.
When I googled www.PaulFredrick.com, his selection of shirts looked as good as ever, albeit pricier than the $39 I paid years ago. I ordered a non-iron white dress shirt and a handsome checked casual one. Order confirmed.
These are the two shirts I selected—
A modest, conservative test order.
A Litany of Greed
The very next day, I started getting a series junk emails from Paul Fredrick.com.
This from my Yahoo inbox that first 2-1/2 days:
Paul Fredrick was blitzing my life with junk emails starting at zero hour+20 minutes of his receiving my order—throwing shit against my wall hoping some of it will stick
What arrived in my in-box were e-offers for yes, more white and light blue dress shirts, but also garish, gawdawful polka-dot and flowered short-and-long-sleeved shirts plus suits, jackets, trousers, shoes, belts, cuff links and ties—hundreds of items!
How dare they start glutting my inbox with e-junk a full 8 days before my shirts were delivered, so I had the courtesy of evaluating the merchandise I ordered!
Could these emails really be coming from the elegant Paul Fredrick Sacher I knew?
I went back to my 17-year-old story to see Paul’s philosophy.
From my copy:
Paul Fredrick Sacher Offers the
Following Tips for Catalog Success:
• Advertise in the same media as your competitors. Many fledgling entrepreneurs believe the best place to advertise is where the competition isn’t. When he first started out, Sacher put his offer in publications that have off-the-page advertising and where his competitors were cashing in. Such a practice has paid off handsomely for his catalog.
• Be careful with whom you partner. Says Sacher: “Thankfully I didn’t take on any venture capital deals that required unrealistically rapid growth.”
• Expand your scope. Originally, Paul Fredrick MenStyle sold just three products: shirts, ties and cuff links. But changing lifestyles and work dress codes forced the company to expand its product scope. The company now offers a full line of casual shirts, trousers, sports coats, suits and shoes. Also, it recently launched a custom shirt business.
• Invest in e-commerce. Allen Abbott, vice president of marketing, says, “It’s difficult to survive today without a sophisticated presence on the Web.”
• When in doubt, do the obvious. When asked who designed the highly professional and complete catalog order form, Sacher said that he did. “I studied what everybody else was doing and did what they did,” he notes.
My conclusion these mailings did not come from the Paul Sacher I knew. The guy knew too much about direct mail… and the fact that it is what Stan Rapp calls “intimate advertising.” I envisioned two scenarios:
1. Sacher had hired an ignorant millennial digital marketing kid looking to score points with the boss (and maybe commissions for himself) by generating instant add-on business.
2. Sacher was bought out by a VC desperate to get some instant maximum ROI.
ClearLight Partners Invests in Paul Fredrick
January 02, 2018 12:00 PM Eastern Standard Time
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Private equity firm ClearLight Partners announced today that it has made a majority investment in Paul Fredrick, a leading designer and direct-to-consumer retailer of men's apparel and related accessories. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Paul Fredrick was advised by KSCA | Investment Banking (www.ksca.com). ClearLight was advised by DANU Capital Group (www.danucapital.com).
ClearLight Partners' Portfolio
Clearly I was dealing with a venture capitalist running the following businesses: fitness centers, ice cream makers, automotive leather, landscaping, tactical systems and—TAH-DAH—the one business that’s in the same ballpark as direct marketer Paul Fredrick Sacher:
Clearly ClearLight Partners have no other direct marketing properties and don’t know squat about how to treat direct marketing customers. Instead, the word went out to the Paul Fredrick team to generate a lot of add-on business orders quick to maximize their ROI.
Paul Fredrick joined the ranks of the great catalogers that sold out to venture capitalist vultures: Lillian Vernon (Ripplewood Holdings, Sun Capital Partners, Taylor Corporation), Sharper Image (Camelot Venture Group), Brooks Brothers (Authentic Brands Group and SPARC Group LLC), Brookstone (Chinese-owned Sailing Capital and Sanpower), Talbots (Sycamore Partners).
The ClearLight Partners’ shirts finally arrived; they are glorious—the best shirts by far that I have ever owned. They fit beautifully and make me look like a classy dude for the first time in years. I'm 86. I don't wear dress shirts often. These two shirts will last me for the rest of my life.
What I don't need for the rest of my life are two (or more) emails a day from shirt importer Paul Fredrick. What was once valuable information has become common spam that irritates the hell out of me and reminds me of my mortality.
I told the Paul Fredrick stooges to take my name off their lists and never contact me again. By return email (on a Sunday morning) I received the following:
Takeaways to Consider
marketing is intimate advertising.”
• "Direct marketing is not advertising in an envelope."
• “To be
successful in direct marketing you have to get inside the heads and under the
skin of the person you are contacting: think how he thinks, feel what she feels
and become that person, just like a Method Actor becomes the
character being portrayed.”
• Just because e-marketing and e-mail are essentially free, it’s imperative to treat customers and prospects with respect.
• “The consumer
isn’t a moron. She is your wife.
• “I eat three meals a day. I can't eat four."
• “Do unto
others as you would have them do unto you.”
—Jesus of Nazareth, Sermon on the Mount, AD 30
Word Count: 1296
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