Gorton's Casts a Smaller Net to Yield a Bigger Catch

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How do you catch more fish with a smaller net? Just ask multichannel seafood marketer Gorton's, which for its second holiday catalog reduced circulation 66 percent yet raised the number of orders 10 percent.


Gorton's, Gloucester, MA, launched the catalog in October 2004 as a companion to its Web site, gortonsfreshseafood.com. Both channels market premium seafood and specialize in lobsters that are shipped overnight to customers' homes. The frozen fish sticks that the brand is perhaps best known for still require a trip to the grocery store to buy.


The results of the 2004 holiday direct mail effort "were encouraging enough for us to say that this is something we want to continue to do," said Nancy Peterson, Gorton's senior marketing manager.


Many lessons from that first mailing were put to use in Gorton's holiday 2005 catalog. For example, the company chose a slim jim design for its original catalog to save on postal costs. But the results of that mailing indicated that a bigger format might be worth the investment, Peterson said, letting Gorton's "better merchandise the food, do more products and add more gift packs."


The 16-page catalog mailed during the recent holiday season measured 8 1/2 by 11 inches and featured 42 items including additions such as steaks, desserts and appetizers. Prices ranged from $19.99 for a 20-ounce tub of clam chowder to $319.98 for a clambake for four.


The larger product selection let Gorton's offer new gift packs such as surf-and-turf combinations. The gift packs did well in November and December, especially the surf-and-turf options, Peterson said. Gift certificates were another big seller for the holidays.


The format change proved to be the correct move.


"In the end, the results showed clearly we were better going with a bigger format," she said. Not only did the number of orders increase, the catalog's average order size gained 6 percent.


Gorton's also adjusted its circulation strategy. Because Peterson's budget for the book was reduced, she had to cut circulation 66 percent. However, Gorton's marketing department picked up important list strategies from the 2004 mailing that helped it get the most bang for its buck.


First, because Gorton's had results from its original mailing, it did more of its prospecting this time using co-op lists, which are usually less expensive than rental lists. In addition, Gorton's knew to avoid several types of lists it had invested in originally that didn't produce strong results, such as entertaining catalogs and lower-end food catalogs.


The company also mailed the catalog last year to its house file around St. Valentine's Day and Father's Day, a strategy it plans to repeat this year. Prospecting, however, will remain a fourth-quarter investment only.


"For us, the best investment is during the holidays," Peterson said.


Peterson attributed some of the success of the latest catalog to the new design and consulting team -- Creative Design Studios and Peg Ware -- she brought in last year after meeting them at the New England Mail Order Association's spring conference.


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


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