Life IS! a Bowl of Colorful Beads
Herbert Budwig was born and raised in Colombia, South America. When he was age 12, his family moved to England.
Life has not always been a bowl of cherries for Herbert. Early on he could not pass his Spanish exam (even though he spoke, wrote, and read better than the teacher -- having been brought up in Colombia). Why the exam problem? He could not understand the English questions!
This is a story about Herbert and Stephanie Budwig, currently of Scottsdale, Arizona, in the United States, and their international mail-order bead company, BEADBOX.
Herbert did not attend university and does not have a degree. Instead, he is "street smart". What he can do is he can sell. Boy, can he sell. And ... he knows how to run a business, too.
Mastering sales basics by selling
He sold knitting machines. He sold musical instruments in a marketplace where others had been unsuccessful. He sold power tools, using direct mail and the printed page. He did not know it, but these experiences were his first direct marketing experiences.
He saw an open door in the lighting fixture business. And walked in. Well, Herbert rarely just walks -- he is a big man, with huge steps. He probably bolted in. What he did is create a new company and made the industry sit up and take notice.
Success was earned -- he sold when at the top...and sat back. Not so much to relax...more to look around.
What he found was brother Robert working with "the" lady of the bead world -- Janet Cole. Headquartered in the U.K., Janet had established a worldwide mail-order bead craft business. Robert created her catalog each year and brother Herbert got interested.
Herbert, and his creative wife Stephanie, decided to bring Janet Cole to the United States. Yes, the catalog was already selling some product to the colonies...everyone agreed an on-site presence could do wonders.
So, they came. On an early trip Herbert (without Stephanie) bought a house in Scottsdale, Arizona. Stephanie did not know it...did not see it until it was too late. Herbert does things like that.
One BIG catalog
They started quickly. Knowing a catalog was needed, it was decided to "adapt" from the successful U.K. version. The process of "Americanizing" the catalog from British English to something those across the pond would recognize took some time. The effort was progressing well when the phone rang.
Stephanie and Herbert were taking a mini-holiday on the beach in Israel. The phone call told them their catalog -- well on the way to final make-ready for printing -- would break every trade, advertising, and marketing standard for language. And was probably so illegal they could end up in jail for some of the "claims".
A total re-do was in order. Time and money lost.
If Herbert is anything -, after being a most successful salesman -, he is persistent. He will NOT let go. He will find a way if there is a way ... otherwise there is NOT a way. If Herbert can't do it, it can't be done. And he believes every word in this thought.
The catalog was "fixed".
Lead Generation ads were run in a wide variety of craft oriented magazines. Anything "craft" produced results. Publications such as Threads, Vogue Patterns, Crafts, and a score more.
An early lesson: Almost any craft-oriented pub worked. What did not work was anything that was NOT craft specific.
BEADBOX was also introduced to the craft marketplace in the States through a couple of catalog collection publications. Specifically "The Best Catalogs of the World" and "Shop at Home".
Timing was perfect. An upsurge in crafts generally and beads particularly was happening in the early '90s. That was the good news.
More good news was the offer "package". It included the 100+ page catalog, a "how to..." jewelry booklet FREE, an earring kit valued at $3US FREE, and a limited time offer coupon worth $5 off the first order of $50 or more. This package BEADBOX sold to a prospective customer for $8.
And it worked! The bad news was Herbert and Stephanie were not ready for the rush of orders. They did not have the systems in place for fulfillment.
Yes, there was a computer. One. Beads come in a range of colors and sizes as well styles, and prices are everywhere. Quantity discounts multiply the options. One computer was not going to cut it.
Bead fulfillment is very much a "hand" business. Sure, "packages" help. Still, there is considerable hand work. Which means paper to support is mandatory. Fulfillment for BEADBOX the first couple of years was something close to a nightmare.
Yet -- as mentioned -- Herbert is persistent. And the business grows.
By the mid 1990's the "trend" for beads has slowed. The catalog is still working -- the business is not growing. The direction is flat.
And ... the USA marketplace is going in a different direction than Europe. Much of what is "in" in the U.K. is not selling in North America. The audiences are thinking different ways -- doing different things -- needing a different array of product.
A change is in order. It is time for BEADBOX to cut the string to "Mother England" and go it alone. They do.
To start, a strategy was developed. The focus was to be on the core craft bead oriented marketplace. No more "education" of the person casually interested. No more teaching the newcomer.
Beaders may be serious or occasional; they may sell wholesale, through the craft shows, or a retail store; they may be a jewelry manufacturer using the product in their product. Whatever, they are the true center of the bead pie. This is the BEADBOX target.
The U.K. catalog was over 100 pages. The new catalog -- named BEADlovers Collection -- came out as a 32 pager. It was full of the "right" product for the targeted USA marketplace. Many pages were changed -- or dropped -- from the U.K. version. As many as 56 different beads were jammed on a single page.
Changing with the times
The order form was trimmed to fit -- and to keep the postage costs at the lowest level. Design, layout and look were all different. The photography was good as ever. As Herbert got brother Robert to be part of the creative team. In fact, all the work on the first BEAD lovers Collection was done in England ... as that is where the contacts were.
New products -- such as watches and watch bands, "Y" necklaces (popular with many lady television newscasters) -- lead the way. A different layout of Rocailles (small accent beads that fill the gaps and add color) was tried. Inside front cover, the facing page and outside back cover all became product areas.
The BEADlovers Collection was distinctly different. The first issue was dropped to selected names from the house list. A total of 50,000.
One great concern was what the customers would do when they saw that 100+ pages was reduced to 32. What would they think? How would they respond? Well, sure, there were some who wanted the annual "coffee table" catalog -- and Stephanie and Herbert heard about it.
Yet, the results prove the gutsy move was the right move. The average ordered increased by $10US over the larger version.
The second BEADlovers Collection was out in June -- just 6 months later. 55,000 off the house list got this 32 page edition.
In September the next in the series hit. The banner sub-head on the cover announced "479 New Products in this catalog!" The page size jumped to 40 -- the circulation to 100,000. Obviously, it is working!
What is working? Well, many things. One is the Collection is direction aimed at the audience. Herbert and Stephanie literally travel the world finding beads and accessories. Milan, Italy has a big show. Stephanie goes. The largest bead show in the world every year is in Tucson, Arizona -- down the road a couple of hours. Convenient. Big! It lasts for 3 weeks. Herbert and Stephanie go for 3 or 4 days at a time.
A useful product to beaders is a "beadbox". A container that holds your beads while you're creating a new piece. BEADBOX introduces a new product -- "BeadBuddy" with a solo insert. It worked so well "BeadBuddy" has become a staple in the catalog. This is the type of searching and merchandising that has accelerated growth.
And frequency is another factor in growth and success. Sure, in between the previous annual catalogue small mailings were sent. To build traffic at the retail store -- to get more mail order sales. Yet, nothing like a catalog a quarter.
And of course experience. The systems are in place. A move to larger quarters helped. As Stephanie says, "Flow is here every day." There is a system -- and it is working.
The next January a 48 page version of BEADlovers goes to 250,000 customers, leads, and prospects. This version is greatly revised from that of just a year earlier.
Perfecting the product mix
Products that sell get moved forward and increased page space. Herbert has done what all successful catalogers do: Every page is related to money. When something doesn't pay, it gets dumped. Period! Herbert and Stephanie do not get attached to their products. They are attached to accountability.
Next in the series is an increase to a 125,000 mid-year mailing, and 400,000 for fall, leading into the holiday season.
What's next? Well, international. Franchise inquiries are being welcomed. And why not! They have the system. They know what works.
If you'd like a copy of the BEADlovers current edition visit, call, write, fax, or e-mail:
Herbert & Stephanie Budwig
by ROCKINGHAM*JUTKINS*marketing, all rights reserved.