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What is Victoria’s Secret?

August 19, 2009

For years and years I received a VSC (a Victoria’s Secret Catalog) in the mail on a weekly basis. Often I would get them twice or more a week. I imagined this required some hefty lifting on the mail carrier’s part as I couldn’t be the only person on their route that was on the company’s distribution list.

Of course, the majority of the time the VSC went straight into the trash once it got in my door. After all, I already had another catalog from what? two days ago! But there you go—one sign of complete marketing success: I knew how recently I’d received a catalog and whether or not it had been looked through or saved for a later date.

Their branding was top notch: I was always aware of the company and its products because they inundated me with offers all the time. They made it clear with each and every catalog that they wanted more of my business simply by mailing me stuff. So, in answer to last week’s blog entry about When Is Enough Too Much?, the answer is clearly NEVER! Reinforcing the brand is the whole enchilada.

Was I peeved at VSC for the overkill in delivery? No. Maybe for a couple of seconds. But the catalog cover art was always different. The incentive offer was always different. They made the attempt to juggle the page order inside and the photography so it didn’t look exactly like the catalog I got a few days ago.

What was a full page feature in last week’s catalog was reduced to a small photo in this week’s issue and visa versa. Maybe a blouse would look more interesting or draw my attention in a different display than it had before. They had it down to a science. They kept my interest, albeit sometimes my interest was on a backburner waiting for the semi-annual sale before I’d take the bait. But they maintained customer contact quite well long before Social Media tools became available to the masses. At the time, their strategy was simple: constant mailing to maintain contact with their customers. What can you do to achieve the same effect?

Size matters. Huge conglomerates have the budgets to run enormous marketing campaigns. Small companies can’t afford the endless assault on the consumers’ senses. If I didn’t know better I would assume that Victoria’s Secret provided most of the postal service’s funding. And Pottery Barn. Both catalog ventures publish enormous catalogs of substantial weight and ship it to their enormous mailing lists on a fairly regular basis. That’s a lot of postage.

Small companies can’t afford to blow that much cash. Furthermore, they can’t afford to blow a wad of cash on a campaign that goes nowhere. This is where Guerrilla Marketing tactics come into play. The small company can’t afford to print hundreds of thousands of catalogs – or mail them – to get a known return of half to one percent of recipients to buy. The math simply isn’t the same for the small business owner. For example, the big company sends out 100,000 catalogs and gets 500 to 1,000 buys. Not bad for their one percent, right? But you’re a small business owner. Let’s say you can only afford to send out 100 mailings to prospective customers. Now the same proportionate good results for you would be half a person to one person. What good is half a person? Or no person? Now you’ve spent your budget on a mailing and gotten virtually no viable results. And this is omitting the standard rule that you have to do your mailing at least seven times to get a first response.

The rules are different for the small business owner. You can’t afford to get it wrong. You can’t afford a big campaign. You can’t afford to shoot in the dark. You can afford to take the time to build the right mailing list (snail mail, email or social media addresses). Know your target market…in detail. Where do they shop? How much money do they make? Where do they live? What kind of car do they drive? Where do they work? Create a profile of your ideal customer. Find more of them. Target them specifically.

The snazzy lingerie of the 21st century is in the new branding tools: Facebook, twitter and many others. In the era of lightning speed social media, many companies have developed sophisticated communication strategies with their client bases through heavy tweeting and lots of Facebook posting. And they’re working. You no longer have to wait for Vicky’s catalog to go out in the mail and wait for worldwide delivery in a few weeks, and wait longer for folks to actually open it up and call you. Now Vicky, and others, can get immediate feedback from online tools to learn what her customers are thinking about her products, her company and the competition. And many of these tools are free! Victoria’s secret is that she’s keeping up with new world media to learn right away which teddy, corset or underwire undergarments really resonate with her customers. Shhhhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone, but there are tools out there for the small business owner to conquer branding and marketing obstacles. You just have to take advantage of them.

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