Harbor Sweets is a Massachusetts-based gourmet chocolate company that offers a variety of premium sweets. In 1973, the company emerged from humble beginnings when Ben Strohecker set out to create the "best piece of candy in the world.” The result was Sweet Sloops, a sailboat shaped piece of almond butter crunch, covered in white chocolate dipped in dark chocolate and crushed pecans. Over the years, the company grew to feature additional candy lines and retail outlets across the U.S. Harbor Sweets also added a significant mail-order catalog division.


Their catalog program was successful in delivering sales during key holiday buying seasons, but the company also wanted to ensure that holiday campaign mailings - the main driver of catalog business - were maximizing sales. At the same time, Harbor Sweets lacked the resources to review customer data internally and sought a solution that would allow them to expand mailings without increasing the marketing budget. The company hoped to assess how effective the campaign was in order to look for opportunities to mail fewer catalogs while continuing to maximize sales.


Harbor Sweets needed a solution that would efficiently turn existing customer data into actionable next steps. Essentially, Harbor Sweets wanted to find out if removing a single mailing to “active customers” from the holiday mail schedule - which included mailings every month from September through December - would conserve marketing resources, while refraining from negatively impacting revenue or overall response rates.


After reviewing numerous solutions available on the market, Harbor Sweets chose Longbow, a Web-based direct marketing system that predicts the future buying behaviors of existing customers. It allows a marketer to manage a full range of direct marketing tasks without IT assistance. Before Longbow, marketers’ only option for analyzing already-existing customer data was to employ expensive and time-consuming enterprise-level software to gather information about their customer behavior. For Harbor Sweets, this was not a feasible option, because it required spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and weeks of time.


Using Longbow, Harbor Sweets conducted a suppression test, assessing how effective the holiday campaign mailings had been at driving sales. Harbor Sweets mailed the catalog to everyone in December and ran a suppression test for September, October and November. The results were surprising. Longbow results revealed that Harbor Sweets was self-hindering. Harbor Sweets was actually hurting sales by mailing too many catalogs to customers during the holiday season. The results also found that the cadence for the catalogs could be reduced to three, while still achieving similar results.


Longbow was successful in verifying that one less catalog mailing would result in similar, if not higher, overall sales. In addition, Longbow’s documentation was detailed, complete and easy to understand for those unfamiliar with technical jargon, and the interface was user-friendly. Harbor Sweets initially used Longbow for a one-time project to determine how suppressing a mailing could improve ROI. The results allowed Harbor Sweet to develop a long-term marketing process for the future. The revenue saved by removing one mailing is now applied to another mailing during non-peak times to provide customers with a more effectively targeted, timely catalog.


Harbor Sweets found that, with the simple customer information kept in an existing database, Longbow was able to glean important and relevant data about likely patterns in customer behavior. The more information available on existing customers, the more effective the software is in its results, whether it is predicting customer’s next steps or customers at risk of defection. Additionally, Harbor Sweets learned firsthand that it is imperative to be open to analyzing data and customer behavior in new ways. Through the continuous support of Longbow and Loyalty Builders, Harbor Sweets’ once-limited view of customer behavior was broadened in ways that transformed Harbor Sweet’s catalog campaign dynamics and shed light on which campaigns were most beneficial.


Harbor Sweets remains a Longbow customer and utilizes the software to continually analyze response rates, identify potential defectors and implement marketing campaign management techniques to measure sales success and marketing ROI. And as autumn is upon us, Harbor Sweets is once again ramping up for this year’s holiday campaign mailings.

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