IER Partners

Develop a Brand Centric Product Development Process
September 19, 2006

How do you know if your product development process is broken? One good way to assess it is to see if you are getting lots of “no” answers from your team when you suggest new products. As in “No, we can’t do that,” “No, we’ve never done that before,” “No, a custom version will take too long” or “No, we don’t have a vendor for that.” These could be signs and patterns that your process and/or people are stuck. An ideal process is full of yes answers; that is, the right kind of yes answers. Below you’ll find the steps to get your process

Got Purpose?
June 1, 2006

Five customer-oriented merchandising tips. When it comes to merchandising, many companies have forgotten that it's not about them. They've forgotten why customers came to them in the first place, and their catalogs have simply become containers of items for sale. In essence, they're desperately in need of a revival and don't even realize it. I've been noticing this trend in my strategic consultation with companies across the country. Products are presented in a mishmash array — without emotional connections — and essentially are pushed onto customers. They're not created by and for customers, and they lack sensory appeal. "Me-too" imitation products.

Creative: Part 2. Put Your Best Foot Forward with Catalog Hotspots
October 18, 2005

“Hotspots are the store windows of your catalog,” says Andrea Syverson, a creative marketing strategist and president of IER Partners, a Black Forest, Colo.-based catalog consultancy. These spots are where customers will stop when browsing through your catalog, and it’s at these locations you want to push your catalog’s main message. Every catalog has five hotspots, notes Syverson, and in descending order of significance, they are: the front cover, back cover, inside front cover, inside back cover and center spread. Be intentional about the story your catalog tells in these spots, she says. Does that story convey your brand? Your best products should be on

Creative: Develop Solid Catalog Creative Through Open Communication
October 4, 2005

As the saying goes, it’s not good creative if it doesn’t sell product. But from the very start of your catalog creative process, how can you be sure you’re developing creative that will sell well? Andrea Syverson, a creative marketing strategist and president of IER Partners, a Black Forest, Colo.-based catalog consultancy, offers the following tips on building stellar catalog creative. ¥ Establish a solid relationship between your merchandising and creative teams. Your creative staff needs to know as much as your merchants do about what creative has worked in the past, says Syverson. She recommends establishing regular meetings at the start of each catalog

Merchandising: To Theme or Not to Theme?
August 2, 2005

If done properly, themes on catalog spreads engage your customers, enhance your brand and differentiate you from competitors. Just look at Coldwater Creek and how it treats color as its signature thematic tool. No one pulls off strong color as a product categorizer like this company. Color beautifally anchors its apparel, accessories and home decor offerings. When thinking about devising themes for your catalog spreads, consider all the things that come readily to mind: color, price points, style, customers’ needs, practicality, seasonality and sheer creativity. But then what? Themes Don’t Just Happen Catalogers who successfully use themes don’t just stumble on them. Rather, they create them intentionally.

Merchandising: The Merchandising School of O; or What I learned from observing Oprah Winfrey in action
June 21, 2005

When one of my clients, Lollia, a merchant of luxury bath products, was featured on both Oprah Winfrey’s “O List” (a monthly magazine column of her favorite products) and on her Christmas Special show, I got an inside glimpse of what can happen when the media mogul waves her magic merchandising wand and endorses someone’s products. Winfrey made Christmas come early and extravagantly for Lollia. Lately I’ve been mindfully observing how Winfrey operates. And I’ve discovered some merchandising lessons that catalogers could borrow from her. 1. Winfrey has Passion with a capital “P.” Winfrey’s life is a dream come true story, and she looks to make

What’s Your Merchandising Vision
May 1, 2004

What do companies like L.L. Bean, Coldwater Creek, Lands’ End, J. Jill, Victoria’s Secret, Williams-Sonoma, Ross-Simons, Pottery Barn, The Sharper Image, Cabela’s and Frontgate have in common? They all have a clear merchandise vision, says Chuck Howard, president of Howard Consulting, a Rockville, MD-based catalog consulting firm. “A merchandising vision is simply an understanding of the customer and his or her lifestyle,” he explains. But, according to Howard, it is one of the most difficult topics for catalogers to grasp. Most don’t truly understand the importance of merchandising, he laments. While numbers are the foundation of good merchandise planning, a lot of people

Levenger Rare and Well Done
May 1, 2004

By Andrea Syverson Levenger, the "Tools For Serious Readers" catalog, never ceases to make me smile. As a professional reader and someone who treats books as friends, I'd love nothing more than to win a "Levenger Lotto" and get every nifty item this catalog offers. I'm 100 percent confident that Levenger "gets me" and knows my needs as a reader. I'm a raving fan of this catalog. As a marketing strategist specializing in creative merchandising approaches, I'm impressed with Levenger's ability to develop a delight factor in all it does, season after season. Somehow, Co-founders Steve and Lori Leveen, as well as

Do Something Positively Deviant in 2004
January 1, 2004

Are any of these titles on your business card: deviant, contrarian, barbarian, agent provocateur or radical boat-rocker? If not, perhaps they should be. You could be playing it a bit too safe, and that could be the biggest risk you take. You risk boring your customers, losing their attention and ultimately, their admiration and loyalty. In their book, “The Deviant’s Advantage” (Crown Publishers, 2002), authors Ryan Mathews and Watts Wacker sing the praises of getting out of your comfort zone by being “positively deviant.” They define “positive deviance” as “a force for transformation — an inexhaustible font of new ideas, products

How to Generate Product Concepts That Sell
June 1, 2003

Think about the last time you were excited by a product you saw in a catalog, store or online. What was it that made you take notice? What prompted you to buy it? For product developers, getting to the heart of these questions provides the insights that can help turn ho-hum product concepts into winning sales successes. In Willard Zangwill’s book, “Lightning Strategies for Innovation,” he references the Kano Model as a way to think through product development. From a customer’s viewpoint, a product has three types of features: • Presumed. These are the ones the customer assumes the product will