Matt Griffin

Matt Griffin
Making Work Fun and Meaningful

It’s perhaps surprising to see people so attentive to their work at a company known for emptying out when there’s good surf to be found at a Southern Californian beach not five minutes away. But a walk through the Ventura, Calif.-based headquarters of Patagonia reveals a close-knit staff readily engaged in designing, testing and marketing this outdoor cataloger’s apparel and gear. Then again, perhaps it’s not all that surprising, given that the catalog’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, in his book “Let My People Go Surfing,” (The Penguin Press, 2005) wrote: “Work had to be enjoyable on a daily basis. We all had to

Three Tips from Catalog Veteran Morlee Griswold, Catalog Director, Patagonia

From starting a mail-order video company when she was in graduate school to running the catalog business for $250 million outdoor gear multichannel marketer Patagonia, Morlee Griswold has had plenty of experience selling direct. Following are her tips on how to get started, and succeed, in the catalog business: For new catalogers: Work with the best vendors available. “Network ahead of time, get good recommendations and really do your homework before you choose your vendors,” Griswold says. Since each piece of the direct marketing puzzle has become so specialized, it’s likely that a small catalog startup will need to rely heavily on vendors and/or partners. “If

Cataloger Spotlight: Lillian Vernon

Having topped out at $287 million nearly six years ago, Lillian Vernon’s sales have been falling ever since; it’s expected to finish out its fiscal year at about $170 million. But the bleeding could stop soon. A public company until 2003, the general mer-chandise cataloger was sold to investment conglomerate Direct Holdings, led by media company Zelnick Media. But despite an aggressive game plan to broaden Lillian Vernon’s reach, Direct Holdings’ initiatives largely backfired. Direct Holdings bailed out in May 2006 and sold Lillian Vernon to investment firm Sun Capital Partners, which installed former Miles Kimball CEO Mike Muoio to turn the company

Lillian Vernon: Back to the Future

Lillian Vernon’s year-plus road to recovery has seen a mix of return-to-roots and get-with-the-times changes. Many have worked, as president/CEO Mike Muoio reports. Here are three additional improvements the company has made: 1. Change the catalog size to preserve the brand. In 2004, Lillian Vernon changed the trim size of its catalog from its traditional 8-inch-by-8-inch format to an 8.5-inch-by-11-inch size. But the change had almost no impact on sales, and since the brand had been associated with 8-inch-by-8-inch books for more than 40 years, Muoio and his team reverted back to the old format last October. “People recognize 8-by-8 catalogs as Lillian Vernon books,”

Profile of Success: Sharp Management

Background: After his favorite whetstone was lost in a move from California to Arkansas in 1964, A.G. Russell struggled to find another stone like it in local hardware stores. He ended up ordering a number of the stones direct from the manufacturer. Assuming other knife enthusiasts would be interested in buying them, he sought to sell them via space ads in outdoor magazines. Soon he acquired a stock of knives and found himself in the mail order knife business, as well. Following nearly 25 years of ups and downs, Russell asked Goldie, his second wife and a former art teacher, to join the

Profile of Success: An Established Institution

BACKGROUND: Officially, Arnie Zaslow has worked for ATD-American Co. since he was 16; that’s 60 years, according to the plaque recently mounted in his office. But Zaslow is fond of saying he was born into the business, as his father founded the institutional and government supplies company right about the time his youngest son entered the world. Now Zaslow runs the business with his two older brothers. BIGGEST CAREER CHALLENGES: • Securing better margins: For about the first 25 years the company existed, it secured business through competitive bids. “Those were so competitive, the product markups were infinitesimally small,” Zaslow recalls.

E-commerce: Six Ways to Effectively Leverage Online Customer Reviews

Online product reviews can create opportunities around one of the oldest direct marketing tools: customer testimonials. Such reviews and ratings can drive conversions on your Web site. Take, for instance. Visitors that browse the top-rated product pages on convert 49 percent more often and spend 63 percent more than browsers using other categories, according to the pet supplies marketer’s vice president of e-commerce John Lazarchic. He revealed these facts and a number of tips at a session at the eTail conference, held earlier this month in Palm Desert, Calif. 1. Solicit initial reviews through promotions. “When we first launched the program, we promoted

Panel Q&A: How to Fund Online Customer Experience Initiatives

Without a clear indication of how a better customer experience will increase the bottom line, how do you prove the worth of such projects to your top bean-counters? E-commerce executives at several multichannel merchants and one service provider addressed this topic in a panel discussion at the recent eTail conference in Palm Desert, Calif. Question: How do you show the value of a user experience project and get it funded? It doesn’t need to be more difficult to apply an ROI on the user experience; you can monetize it. You can improve the look of your shopping cart and see higher conversion. We’ve done

Search Engine Optimization: Four Tips for Higher Search Rankings

An effective search engine optimization strategy isn’t just about having the right products in the right place when customers are looking for them. Site content and the way in which you present and link to products on your site all contribute to higher rankings in search engine results. In a whitepaper, “20 Organic Search Marketing Tips,” distributed at the eTail conference held earlier this month in Palm Desert, Calif., search marketing services and content provider LifeTips offered the following tips on providing better content and increasing the popularity of your site. 1. Don’t provide content, provide solutions. More than just information relevant to your brand,

E-commerce: How Interactive Additions to Increased Sales, Reduced Exit Rates

As evidenced by the proliferation of shows like eTail, nearly every cataloger and brick-and-mortar retailer has its own Web site. But what does that Web site do for your brand? Is your business on the Web to sell, build the brand or just keep up with the competition? Prior to a recent redesign of, Hewlett-Packard defined its online priorities and took steps to address them with Web 2.0 features, such as blogs, podcasts and interactive content, said Stephanie Acker-Moy, vice president of customer experience at, in a keynote session at last week’s eTail conference in Palm Desert, Calif. Below are her top three

E-commerce: Three Personalization Strategies and Requirements

One of the great advantages of Internet marketing is the ability to personalize the user experience, provided you have the data, expertise and technology to do so. E-commerce executives from three multichannel merchants shared their assorted experiences, strategies and failures with personalization during a session at last week’s eTail conference in Palm Desert, Calif. 1. Personalization is just a fancy name for segmentation, according to Andrew Knight, manager of online user experience at big-box hardware retailer The Home Depot. “Personalization starts with customer registration; that’s where we get a lot of the segmentation data for personalization efforts,” he said. Personalization then can address anything

Multichannel Integration: Three Tactics to Achieve Channel, Brand and Market Segment Profitability

As evidenced by recent surveys, including one in this issue’s By the Stats column, multichannel integration and customer acquisition across channels are both issues of increasing importance to catalogers, online merchants and brick-and-mortar retailers. Executives from several multichannel merchants gave their strategies for achieving success across multiple channels, brands and market segments in a panel session at last week’s eTail conference in Palm Desert, Calif. 1. On getting Internet marketing funds from reluctant executives: “One of the ways we raised awareness for e-marketing was to break out the sales that were attributed to Internet marketing on the formal P&L,” said Maureen Daney, vice president and

E-commerce: Three Next-generation Strategies to Increase Revenue

The Internet constantly is shifting and revealing new opportunities to engage and reel in new customers to your brand. Web. 2.0 technologies such as blogs and podcasts have allowed merchants to communicate with their customers in unique ways. But beyond Web 2.0 are strategies and technologies that will allow you to create an even more interactive dialog with your customers. Doug Mack, president and co-founder of online rich media provider Scene 7 offers a few of these emerging strategies in his recent whitepaper “E-commerce 3.0: How E-commerce Becomes a Uniquely Great Experience.” * Market to broadband consumers. Web site designers traditionally have had to

Merchandising: Four Pricing Strategies and When to Use Them

Although factors such as margin and competition within a vertical market can make product pricing difficult to manage, pricing is one of the key components of a merchant’s offering. If for no other reason, it helps customers determine the value of that offering. Many pricing models exist, and in their book “Marketing in a Nutshell: Key Concepts for Non-specialists” (Butterworth-Heinemann, $32.95), authors Mike Meldrum and Malcolm McDonald offer the following four strategies and when to use each. * Market skimming: Used when you find yourself targeting a niche for which the benefits of a product have a high value, market skimming prices a product at

E-mail Marketing: Three Tips to Improve Opt-in E-mail Results

No doubt you collect e-mail addresses and other consumer information on your Web site. Perhaps you have a box on your homepage offering a free newsletter, or a special page that offers discounts if shoppers supply personal data. Regardless of the method you use to collect this information, you should send an immediate welcome message to these new names, note officials at Internet marketing firm Topica in a recent whitepaper. Following are Topica’s tips for maximizing the effectiveness of these Web prospects: 1. Gather the correct information up front. In an effort to acquire as many prospects as possible, many online merchants ask only