Baby Cataloger Asks, 'Where Do Customers Come From?'

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A new customer acquisition promotion by Babyshoe.com, Hendersonville, NC, got off to a stunted start because the company underestimated the market for its promotion -- birth announcements.


The baby shoe and merchandise cataloger offered new parents six free baby announcements in exchange for the names and addresses of six of the customers' friends or relatives. Babyshoe.com, formerly the Livonia Catalog, then mailed and paid postage for the six announcement cards.


"We didn't realize that the baby announcement market is so big, and people assumed that, once they saw baby announcements, they thought that we were a catalog of baby announcements. So there was a little confusion with some consumers, but it's going pretty well," said Michael Schwartz, third-generation owner of the company, who said it was too early to know how many new customers the promotion has generated for the online and offline marketer.


"I did a little kind of nonscientific market research by just asking some moms what they did, and I was surprised at the numbers. Some people will mail out 200 cards - baby announcements," Schwartz continued, adding that he had never intended to get into the baby announcement market.


The 50-year-old company's most significant means of customer acquisition to this point has been word-of-mouth, according to Schwartz, who said that Babyshoe hasn't really experimented with list rental in the last five years.


The catalog, newly designed by Applied Catalog Solutions, Enfield, NH, features the company's signature NameDate baby shoes -- keepsakes with a newborn's name and date of birth printed on them inhouse by the company -- and products ranging from piggy banks to a rubber ducky lamp. Spencer Press Inc., Wells, ME, handles printing for the catalog.


Babyshoe began mailing the 24-page catalog to its house file of 70,000 names and is now testing rental lists. Mokrynski & Associates Inc., Hackensack, NJ, is the list broker for the company.


Babyshoe plans to continue to prospect with the current 5.5-by-8.5-inch book to 10 or 15 more rented lists, said Schwartz, who was unsure if the company would produce a new holiday catalog this fall to send to its house list.


The cataloger experienced its best month in terms of sales in March due to the redesigned catalog, said Schwartz, who declined to release the figures.


The marketer, which generated less than $1 million in sales last year, also has a business-to-business component. The company provides baby gifts to more than 200 companies. Approximately 10 percent of the specialty cataloger's sales are generated from its business-to-business initiative, said Schwartz, adding that some companies have used Babyshoe's products for more than 30 years. Corporate customers include Acxiom Corp., Kimball Electronics Inc., Rand McNally and Co., and Tyson Foods Inc.


The same firm that refashioned the company's print book is redesigning the company's Web site, www.babyshoe.com, with new features, including a shopping cart. The new site is expected to be completed within the next couple of weeks, according to Schwartz.
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