Ringing in with resolutions

After the last champagne cork has been popped, the final chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” has trailed off, and the horns and noisemakers have fallen silent, the new year becomes less about the celebration and more about the resolution. Most people this year will once again vow to lose weight and get into shape; some may resolve that 2005 will be the year to finally finish the complete works of Charles Dickens, and others may have home improvement projects they plan to tackle. But what about at work, especially in the fast-paced, ever-changing world of multichannel marketing? We asked several industry executives what resolutions they had in mind for their companies in 2005; here’s what they had to say.

Lillian Vernon, founding chairman, Rye, NY-based gifts cataloger Lillian Vernon Corp.

“To fully develop and roll out our new channel of distribution, Celebrations by Lillian Vernon, a direct selling business, by doubling the number of sales consultants who recruit the party hosts.”

Peter Rice, president of Madisonville, VA-based gifts and home goods merchant Plow & Hearth

“To become the best multi-channel marketer in our product category.” As part of the plan, Plow & Hearth plans to double its retail base by opening stores in Richmond and Fairfax, VA, right after the holidays. Plow & Hearth already has two Virginia stores, in Charlottesville and Madisonville.

Dave Vander Zanden, president/CEO of Greenville, WI-based education market supplier School Specialty

“To transform School Specialty from a distribution company to an education company.” Through its many acquisitions over the years, Vander Zanden says, School Specialty has acquired a number of content developers of education materials. So in 2005, School Specialty will develop more proprietary products, such as student workbooks and teacher materials.

Will Raap, founder/chairman of Burlington, VT-based cataloger Gardener’s Supply Co.

“The best defense against threats to our food security is that we all need to start growing our own food. This is welcome news for a gardening company, as we resolve to grow our business by expanding opportunities on our Website that provide inspiration and instruction to consumers who want to grow their own food, whether they live in an urban apartment or on an acre in suburbia.”

Joe Voellinger, Internet marketing manager of Rhinelander, WI-based pet products merchant Doctors Foster & Smith.

“Top of the list for the Internet department has got to be to build a useful Web analytics and reporting program that is integrated with our catalog data to help us make sound marketing decisions.”

Tom Rosenbauer, marketing director of rod and tackle at Manchester, VT-based apparel, gifts, and outdoor gear cataloger/ retailer The Orvis Co.

“To focus on customer acquisition through Web affiliates and product feeds, and developing programs to drive consumers to our Website on an almost daily basis.” Rosenbauer says he also plans on increasing the emphasis on promoting products based on their own merits and not through discounts.

Daniel James, vice president of Burlington, NC-based science-education products merchant Carolina Biological Supply Co.

“Improving internal policy put in place without the customer in mind. The 2005 resolution for my group of customer advocates is to study each department’s service level to our customer and begin to fix those [policies] in each department that inhibit improving levels of service to the customer.”

Tom Tweedie, director of catalog and Web marketing at East Texas, PA-based diary and planners marketer Day-Timers

“To mine customer information more effectively to marketing campaigns, and optimize our Website for organic search rankings.” Tweedie also aims to get back to direct marketing basics, paying more attention to test structure, earnings, and rollouts.

Will Keller, owner of Cleveland Heights, OH-based Monastery Greetings, a mailer of products from monasteries, hermitages, and other religious communities

“To focus on improving budgeting projections. When you’re a small, growing company, it’s hard to get a handle on budget projections.” Monastery Greetings also aims to expand its third-party fulfillment business, which handles distribution for monasteries, this year. Monastery Greetings currently fulfills for several nonaffiliated monasteries.

Wendy Lazar, president of Northvale, NJ-based military parade decoration products catalog Glendale

“To better manage backorders and figure out how best to support U.S.-based businesses. The biggest problem we have — and I’m sure it’s not unique to Glendale — is the issue of American-made vs. Asian-made products. Since we basically sell patriotism, we want to sell American-made products, but we are also losing sales to competitors who manufacture items in Taiwan, China, India, and Sri Lanka.”

Peggy Glen, owner of Huntington Beach, CA-based Firefighters Bookstore, which sells books for firefighters and emergency services professionals

“A few key initiatives are the launching of our redesigned Website, vendor participation in our promotional e-mails, and peer-to-peer employee training.”

Heather Sutton, marketing manager of Winona, MN-based St. Mary’s Press, a cataloger of Catholic books and religious education materials.

“Hiring well — recognizing the time and sacrifice needed to match the company with the employee, and giving excellent employees the room to do their jobs well.” In addition, St. Mary’s will fine-tune its marketing strategy “to recognize our customers as people, not prospects, and to recognize that they appreciate being communicated with as people.”

Alison May, president/CEO of San Francisco-based gifts marketer Red Envelope

“To make the Red Envelope Website a destination for fast and easy personalization” by offering more products available for monogramming.

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