Own Your Own Market
For The Sharper Image's founder/chairman/CEO Richard Thalheimer, Target Marketing's 2003 Direct Marketer of the Year, it's shaping up to be a remarkable year. Through August 31, his company generated $279 million in sales, a 24-percent increase over the same period last year. If this trend continues, 2003 will bring record sales for this multichannel marketer.
The term "recession-proof" comes to mind.
What's the secret of The Sharper Image's success, especially in a year that's been tough on many other companies? Paul Wang, Ph.D., can tell you. Wang is an associate professor of marketing at Northwestern University who spoke at this year's infoUSA/Donnelley Privacy Conference. Famous Last Words columnist Denny Hatch loved Wang's speech so much, he shared the highlights in this month's column (see page 202). Wang's insights define The Sharper Image's game plan:
1. Own your business category. Because The Sharper Image designs most of its products, it can make its offerings distinct from the competition's.
2. Take price competition out of the equation. The proprietary product angle means The Sharper Image's products can't easily be price-shopped.
3. Commit to ROI over the long haul. Thalheimer does not believe in shrinking to greatness. He is dedicated to identifying the marketing activities that show the best promise for highest ROI.
What's great about these principles is they don't revolve around company size or outlandish marketing budgets. Success relies greatly upon inspiration and perspiration. You'll find this age-old sentiment echoed in many of the articles in this issue. In "Customer Testimonials," (see page 139) consultant Pat Friesen shows how any marketer can use positive customer comments to plump up its direct response campaigns, and the Fulfillment Special Report kicks off with a roundup of benchmarks and best practices to fit any organization's operation level (see page 153).
With budgets and planning for next year under way, now is the time to put away the reasons you cite for not being able to advance your company's direct marketing to the next level. Who knows, your efforts could land you on the cover as Target Marketing's 2004 Direct Marketer of the Year!