Live From ACCM: Spofford Shares Appleseeds’ Core Values

New Orleans – Words like focus and discipline are always important to a multichannel marketer, but they loom much larger in the current economic abyss.

Claire Spofford, president of Appleseed’s Holdings, stressed those themes during her Tuesday keynote session, “Profitability in Times of Turmoil: Appleseed’s and Orchard Brands’ Measure for Success.” The session tagline was: “How to weather the storm?” – a question on the minds of all attendees.

“Keeping your focus and discipline in good times and bad are a foundation for success,” Spofford said.

Spofford discussed eight keys that Appleseed’s follows: know your core customer; brand clarity and consistency; multichannel approach; leverage available data; process discipline; cost savings and fiscal conservatism; scale; and learning organization.

Appleseed’s Holdings is a portfolio company of Beverly, MA-based Orchard Brands. Most Orchard Brands titles target consumers over age 55. Its catalogs include Appleseed’s, Bedford Fair Lifestyles, Blair, Brownstone Studio, Coward, Draper’s & Damon’s, Gold Violin, Haband, Intimate Appeal, Lew Magram, Monterey Bay, Norm Thompson, Old Pueblo Traders, Sahalie, Solutions, The Tog Shop, Willow Ridge and WinterSilks. Appleseed’s has eight retail locations and three outlet stores, Spofford said.

Orchard Brands, Spofford explained, operates as a single entity powered by aggregate customer data and a corporate culture of openness to leverage scale and purchasing power across all brands. Appleseed’s winning 360 degree approach begins with brand clarity and consistency, which ultimately builds sales and a powerful, coordinated product marketing plan.

What’s more, Appleseed’s sets yearly goals for cost savings, resulting in annual savings of at least $2 million. “Cost savings is a part of the culture,” Spofford said.

Spofford and Appleseed’s Holdings adhere to a simple, but profitable theme: Know your core customer. You have to know what’s inside your customers’ hearts and minds, Spofford said, which includes demographic data as well as style and shopping profiles.

How do you achieve that? Spofford showed video taken of loyal Appleseed’s customers at a retail store, finding out their likes and dislikes about merchandise, customer assistance, among other things.

“Stay focused on the customer in the marketplace as a whole, who she is and what she’s looking for. Sometimes, we lose sight of that,” Spofford said.

“You need to be honest about who your customers are and who your competitors are,” Spofford said. “Create a dialogue with your customers, and they’ll be more likely to be loyal. Our 12-month buyers are the ones who have been paying the bills for us. Prospecting hasn’t been good for anyone.”

When you can establish a dialogue with customers, Spofford explained, “That is gold for a marketer. They’ll tell you what they want and who they are and what they’re looking for.”

Besides the video, Spofford said Appleseed’s conducted a phone survey of more than 800 customers to find out their thoughts on apparel and channel shopping. That allowed the company to segment its 50-plus women’s apparel market.

Brand clarity and consistency needs to be an ongoing theme through all customer touch points, Spofford said.”It’s not easy,” she noted. “It can get disjointed easily. Your catalog, retail, and Website need to send consistent offers. Be true to who you are and add a little freshness and newness. If you listen to your customers, they will tell you. You need to be aspirational, but meet the rational needs of the customer.”

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