Friday 02 Nov 2007
Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!
I ask pardon for the sarcasm contained in the following post, but I feel the need to let out a little roar. Chances are, you’ve heard of the Vermont Country Store, that popular old-timey business that sells everything from Habitant Pea Soup to retro candy to alarming implements designed for trimming one’s nose hair. They’ve positioned themselves as America’s best-known general store, and they’ve won me as a repeat customer because they are literally the last place I can find in the wide world selling cotton knee highs, but – OH MY STARS – they are driving me bananas with their marketing efforts.
Over the past six weeks, I have received not one, not two, but FIVE catalogs from these folks. And, these are not five different catalogs, though each one has a different cover. The interior contents are about 98% identical, across the board. Perhaps each one has a couple of new items, such as their New Sweet Potato Casserole (friends and family will never know you just opened a can), but overall, the items in all the catalogs are identical. Having been the bewildered recipient of, perhaps, ten catalogs this year from this company, I am left wondering what their marketers are telling them.
Do they think I immediately threw out catalog #6, so they’d better send me #7 three days later? Do they think I’m careless, and have misplaced the last four catalogs that are sitting in a stack on my windowsill for Fall, Hallowe’en, Thanksgiving, All Saints Day, National Telephone Repairman’s Day, or whatever else it is that these catalogs are meant to pertain to? Last week, because I ordered those knee highs I mentioned, my mailbox contained not only the package of socks with catalog included, but also a second catalog, sitting right on top!
Sure, it’s important to remind your customers that you exist and that you’ve got inventory. But annoying your clientele is hardly what I’d call a clever marketing plan. I think it’s the unwarranted republication of the same contents with different, cheery covers that bugs me the most about what The Vermont Country store is doing. The moment anyone gets past the cover art, they will be met with those same tablecloths, that same electric typewriter, that same picture of the woman holding all those pieces of toast. I just saw all of these offers 3 days ago. My head still works pretty good, ya know…I haven’t forgotten the products. SEOs can easily relate to my sentiments here when I say that this is a little bit like seeing those Meta Keywords discussions crop up once a week on your favorite forums. Do you dive right in, eager to discuss, or do you pass right over those threads, yawning, “old hat.”
The Vermont Country Store’s catalog marketing plan is making me think of their inventory as old hat. The first time I flipped through their publication, I was entertained and interested by all the queer and quaint little goodies they stock – 3 years and dozens of catalogs later, I feel bored.
Add to this that they seem to be unconcerned about the number of trees they must be cutting down to produce THIS MANY catalogs and there arises a potential to alienate customers who have come to feel duped by the changing cover art ploy, bored by repetition, and unimpressed by anything resembling environmental sensitivity in this company’s policies.
I’m not looking at their bottom line, of course, trying to figure out how to sell more bottles of Bay Rum Aftershave (refreshing and invigorating), yet I can’t help but wonder if the Vermont Country Store shouldn’t start making more use of the fact that they’ve got a website. Sure, there may still be some Internet-deprived folks living up in the mountains, trotting out to the mailbox every day with fingers crossed that they’ll get yet another print catalog, but times, they are a-changing. To the folks at Vermont Country Store: would you guys really go belly-up if you cut down to a 4-season plan, and focused more on keeping your website updated with those couple of new products you add a year? How about going the SM route and developing profiles on Facebook and such as my friendly general store owner? Offer old-time wisdom about dealing with bunions, unsightly toenails, sour milk or blocked storm drains? Sell-sell-sell is getting tiresome.
The thing is…I still like this company’s inventory. I’d be happy to hear from them once in awhile. If they sent me a catalog each season, I’d likely look through it with pleasure. But now, my only option is to pick up the phone and cut ties with these folks altogether, because I’ve determined I have enough advertising from them sitting on my windowsill to last a lifetime. I tried giving them a call today, but no one answered. No doubt, they are all in the shipping department, feverishly stapling new covers onto last week’s catalogs, getting ready to send me another fine surprise.