Santa's Secrets of Marketing Success
by Dean Rieck
Who would you say is the greatest marketer in history? Some might suggest Henry Ford or Montgomery Ward. Others would point to Ray Kroc or even Bill Gates. But I would suggest another person, someone whose efforts surpass these giants.
His name is Santa Claus. And he operates the oldest and most successful toy and gift manufacturing and distribution business in the world. I'm sure you've heard of him. In fact, I'm sure that you were once a loyal customer. Virtually everyone is at one point or another, which just proves how successful he really is.
How has he done it? Not by magic, I assure you. Santa has simply applied common-sense marketing principles in order to grow and maintain his successful business.
- Niche Market Santa's customers are kids. Period. He knows that trying to expand into the adult or senior market may prove lucrative at first, but it would weaken the strength of his brand. This is not to say that Santa doesn't run other businesses. His reindeer training seminars and North Pole real estate ventures have been quite successful, though his weight-loss products haven't fared as well. The point is that Santa, Inc. consistently focuses its energies on its core market year after year. When Santa sees other business opportunities, he creates entirely different brands.
- Careful List Management Santa's customer list is second to none. He doesn't just make the list; he checks it twice. Everyone's name is spelled correctly. Addresses are correct. Duplications are eliminated. He adds value to his list with additional information related to past orders and customer behavior, such as when they're sleeping, when they're awake, when they've been bad or good, and so on. Santa knows that his list is more than delivery addresses; it's his most important business asset.
- Great Products Santa started out years ago as a one-man toy manufacturing company. And right from the beginning, he knew that quality was key. You can certainly unload shoddy merchandise and stay afloat, but you can't build a truly successful company that way. Over the years, he has expanded his product line to include the newest and best toys from factories all over the world. However, he avoids the sort of inferior merchandise so often favored by a kid's cheap relatives. When you think "quality and selection," you think Santa Claus.
- Fair Prices A glass of milk and two cookies is the going rate for most gifts. For computers and other high-priced items, you may want to add another cookie. He doesn't gouge. He doesn't hide profits in bogus shipping and handling charges. Santa knows that while it takes years to dominate a market, just a few greedy mistakes can irritate even the most loyal customers and eventually invite competition. So he keeps things affordable, consistent, and honest.
- Savvy Promotion Talk about guerrilla marketing! Songs, stories, movies, cards, poems, in-store displays, gift wraps, lawn ornaments, tree decorations, you name it. Santa keeps his promotion costs low and his return on investment high. His image and message is everywhere during the holidays. The red suit gives him a unique look. The "ho ho ho" is the world's most successful catch phrase.
- Easy Ordering Just write a letter detailing your gift selections and mail it to the North Pole. Simple as that. You can also place your order personally in many stores and malls if you don't mind waiting in line. And these days, you can even contact Santa via e-mail. Santa knows that ease of ordering is one of the keys to any successful business.
- Fast Fulfillment Move over FedEx. Santa is able to deliver billions of gifts to homes all over the world in just one night. His system is proprietary and how it works is a mystery. Suffice it to say that Santa understands how disappointed a customer would be if just one item arrived late. So he doesn't make excuses about out-of-stock merchandise or ordering snafus. He gets it right and delivers on time every time. And his customers love him for it.
- Continuous Acquisition Santa has turned customer retention into an art form. Satisfaction is so high, once you're a customer you remain a customer. And when children grow up and move out of the core age range, these adults help assure a fresh influx of new customers by encouraging their children to buy into the Santa phenomenon. Call it customer-get-a-customer or viral marketing or whatever you like, but it works.
And by the way, while Santa focuses on his core kid market, he really doesn't turn anyone away no matter how old. So if you haven't placed an order in a while, try it. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Copyright © 2001 Dean Rieck. All Rights Reserved.
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