Profile of Success: Not All Fun and Games, (But it Comes Close)
WHAT GOT YOU HERE: A background in strategy and contacts. As a direct marketing veteran, Smith got his start in the catalog/multichannel business in 1984 with Avon Products (now Newport News) where he spent nearly 20 years before joining MindWare as CEO in October 2003.
Before joining Avon Products, Smith worked at General Electric in an internal strategy consulting role. While there, Smith recalls, “a former senior GE executive, who was the CEO at Avon Products, wanted to recruit people with a GE strategic-planning background. I was interested, and a job came up. That job happened to be in the direct response division. I started as a planner in Avon’s direct response division.”
BIGGEST CHALLENGE THIS YEAR: Product development and positioning for the products MindWare develops on its own, as well as those sourced from third-party vendors. MindWare develops products that are true to its mission and market position, which is to be educational while appealing to customers.
WHAT HE ENJOYS MOST ABOUT THE CATALOG/MULTICHANNEL BUSINESS: “The challenge and the excitement,” Smith says. “We continually seek ways to present the product in an efficient way to the customer, so we can show our products to the best advantage through a combination of catalog, e-mail and our Web site. We consistently communicate through those and other less obvious ways, such as the manner in which we talk to our customer in phone contacts or customer-service contacts.”
WHAT MINDWARE HAS DONE TO OFFSET THE RISING COSTS (POSTAGE, PAPER, PRINTING) OF MAILING A CATALOG: Last year, MindWare reduced the trim size of its catalogs, cut circulation by 5 percent to 10 percent and took advantage of co-mailing opportunities whenever possible. This year, MindWare may actually increase circ slightly based on a strong holiday 2007.
“I don’t think we’re doing anything unique in this area, but we did in ’07, because of the postal increase, reduce our trim size,” Smith says. “I don’t know to what degree our customers noted a change in trim size (approximately a half-inch slice off the side, so the pages are slightly narrower), but we did it for cost savings. We’ve also been pushing hard to develop co-mailing opportunities.”
ON KEEPING FUN IN THE WORKPLACE: The products themselves ensure a light-hearted and enjoyable environment for MindWare employees, Smith says, noting they get firsthand experience with all the toys and games that come through MindWare. Smith believes this helps his employees become more engaged with the products, and thus market them more effectively.
“We’re a bunch of grown-up kids,” he says. “We don’t sit around and play with toys 40 hours a week, but they’re a large part of our life and provide a healthy level of amusement.”
For the full interview, visit CatalogSuccess.com and find Profile of Success (Complete Interview): A Chat with Martin Smith.