Navigating Global Waters West Marine's Spreads Its Risk by Ex
Since assuming responsibility for marketing West Marine's catalog internationally, Flannery says his biggest challenge has been"getting good quality names and having to create a prospecting model." Because West Marine sells seasonal products within a niche market, finding quality lists that pull well has been difficult. As a result, West Marine has basically had to create its own file.
West Marine's master catalog weighs in at 2.5 pounds, making it too costly to mail for prospecting efforts. Instead it uses a two-step prospecting method, mailing a double postcard to generate catalog requests. Other prospecting tools include space ads and promotions with boating organizations and trade shows. Space ads offering the catalog are placed in consumer boating publications and use a post office box address either in Europe or Canada to collect responses, which are sent in weekly batches to the Watsonville office for fulfillment. According to Flannery, the cataloger enjoys "a great conversion rate of prospects to customers."
After reading the scenario presented at the beginning of this article, it will come as no surprise that customer service is a core part of West Marine's business. Part of its creed is to give better-than-expected customer service with a "no hassle guarantee." West Marine stands by its products and will go as far as to cover a warranty if a manufacturer won't, Flannery says. While the catalog is printed in English and priced in U.S. dollars, ordering information, including its customer service guarantee, is printed in six languages—English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German and Japanese.
Multilingual customer service reps assist with translating order forms.
Because West Marine ships to more than 150 countries, it has a dedicated international team that is knowledgeable about product pricing and shipping. An international rep might, for example, tell a customer the company can deliver a product within a week but that it would be more cost efficient if the customer is able to allow a delivery time of three weeks.