Customers in the Spotlight
What a treat it must be for customers of Cushman's, a family-run business that markets premium fruit and gift foods, to receive mailings from a company that puts the spotlight on fellow customers. In January, the Archive received Cushman's Winter Harvest catalog, which came in a colorful, 6" x 9" outer envelope (355CUSHMA0102). Besides the images of juicy Honeybells--a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit, and the company's signature product--the front of the outer envelope is dominated by the photo of a young girl holding a Honeybell and a home-made sign in a winter locale.
No, it's not a Cushman family member. It's a loyal customer displaying her love for the fruit that's so juicy that Cushman's includes a pack of plastic bibs in every box of fruit. From the very beginning, people would send the company testimonials about the Honeybells, including photos of themselves wearing the bibs. Cushman's decided to welcome this interaction on a full-blown scale and incorporate the photos into its mailings and retail locations.
On the back of the order form, customers are invited to send in photos of themselves wearing the bibs. If Cushman's uses a photo in its mailings, the customer wins a $100 gift certificate good toward future purchases from any of Cushman's selling channels.
"We get tons of pictures--from the very young to the elderly, from nursing homes to convents," says Eileen Schlagenhaft, Cushman's marketing manager. She explains that the pictures help the company convey the concept that fruit is universal in its appeal as a gift.
There are hundreds of fruit shippers in Florida, she adds, so it's challenging to separate your company from the rest. Since the customer may not know the fruit is different from company to company, how Cushman's represents itself is key to its success.
Since Cushman's sells fruit and not fashion, Schlagenhaft finds that it's important to add a human element to the company's mailings. The customer photos bring people into the focus, and "that's what we're about--gifts for friends," she says.
The pictures and letters also have helped Cushman's get a strong sense of who its customers are and how they use the products. For example, the company gets lots of pictures of people with their pets--dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and even llamas. When Cushman's saw that people fed the Honeybells to their pets, it realized it could create a separate product for dogs, so it found a company that could incorporate the juice from the fruit into biscuits and bones.
But there's more. According to Schlagenhaft, "Last year Mother Nature gave us a second bloom," where the rain produced a second crop of fruit in the growing season--a big deal for any grower.
As mentioned earlier, the company has designed plastic bibs for years. The problem was, Cushman's didn't have any bibs left. The company was able to get blank bibs quickly, so it put them in the shipments with a note that customers could enter a bib design contest. The winner got a $100 gift certificate and his or her design would be used for the bibs in the next shipping season.
Cushman's was so pleased with the outcome of the first contest that it continued it this year with an announcement of bib design kits that customers could send for. The most amazing design so far has been a bib with a working light-up lighthouse, but Schlagenhaft says there's no way the company could replicate such a masterpiece.