At Catalog Show, Simon Says 'Don't Be a Robot'

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"Don't be a robot," Omaha Steaks senior vice president Todd Simon told audience members during the first keynote presentation at the Annual Catalog Conference yesterday.

Simon was referring to the increasing use by DMers of voicemail, e-mail and other automated tools that "move us away from our customer."

He urged attendees to eliminate tools that put a barrier between a company and its customers. Instead, Simon suggested putting more emphasis on one-to-one sales. Results will improve, if only because companies tend "to get a higher average order on the phone," Simon said.

"The more that you can insert people into the process, the more you'll see profits," Simon added.

Also, baby boomer women are looking for ways to save time. Complex technology often accomplishes the opposite, according to Simon.

"I guarantee if you steal her time, you are toast," Simon said.

This group represents an under-appreciated market, he added.

Omaha Steaks, which has annual sales in excess of $380 million, looks for ways to create free time for this consumer, Simon said.

One way the company is attempting to accomplish this goal is with its newest brand, Al A Zing. The Al A Zing Web site,, offers complete meals that are delivered to homes frozen and can be prepared in 25 minutes or less.

"Think of yourselves as solutions providers," said Simon, who added that this is something business-to-business marketers have been doing for some time.

Direct-to-consumer channels are inherently convenient, according to Simon.

"We must get the message out that shopping at major discounters doesn't provide this convenience," Simon said.

In addition to mailing catalogs as well as operating and, the company has 65 retail stores and expects to have 80 locations open by the end of the year.

Omaha Steaks also offers what Simon called "brand enhancers." They include cookbooks, sauces, pet treats and a Visa card that all bear the Omaha Steaks name.

Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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