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Switching Target Markets Results in Increased Sales

“Switching Target Markets Results in Increased Sales”

Success begins with knowing what you don’t know and hiring a specialist.

Co-founders of the Swift Gift Card Co., Highland Park, Ill., Carol Jacobsohn and Nancy Gensburg tapped into the zeitgeist when they came up with the idea for a plastic gift certificate.

Available in $25 increments, the Swift Global Gift Card is a plastic credit-card-sized gift certificate redeemable at 15 million locations worldwide. The card carries a service fee of about $7 and a 90-day expiration date.

Swift Gift Cards first went on sale last November. Initially, the founders relied on the Internet to generate sales, which for Holiday 1998 reached $500,000. "Holiday is the best time of year for gift cards," says Jacobsohn.

Come January, sales fell off abruptly, giving the women a chance to examine the past and rethink the future. With the holiday honeymoon over, it became obvious that they were going to have to work at building sales.

Then, a financial advisor led them to consultant David Lasky. A former president of Bresler’s Ice Cream, Lasky was intrigued by the Gift Card concept and eager to be part of the emerging industry of global gift cards.

"Nancy and I had ideas and creativity, but we were not really business people, [as far as] knowing how to grow a company," says Jacobsohn.

Joining the women in January as chief operating officer, Lasky set about expanding the company’s resources.

Taking January, February and most of March to assess the business and its goals, Lasky launched the second quarter with a new pace and aggressive growth goals. The company hopes to sell $13 million worth of cards this year.

The three executives decided to focus on corporate sales rather than consumer sales, which comprised the bulk of their activity during the previous holiday season. The move proved to be a turning point.

Lasky hired an internal sales force of four full-time associates to begin targeting business accounts. And this fall, a new type of card — the personalized corporate card — will be promoted. Corporate customers can have their name and logo printed on the front of the card itself, rather than merely the accompanying literature.

Swift plans to grow quickly, adding four more salespeople by the end of the year and another four by April 2000. Additional offices are planned for New York, California, Texas, Florida and Georgia in the coming year.

A telemarketing service handles consumer calls, while field salespeople focus on corporations.

"Most of our consumer advertising during the remainder of 1999 is going to be geared towards the Internet," notes Lasky. "On the business side, we’re about to launch an advertising campaign in three business magazines."

As of July, about 80% of the company’s sales stemmed from the business-to-business side. The bulk of remaining sales comes from the World Wide Web, and about 20% from telemarketing. Overall sales for the second quarter of 1999 reached $750,000. "We expect to do more than that just on the consumer side this holiday [season]," says Lasky. "Based upon the responses and orders we have pending, we think we will come close to achieving or exceeding our numbers."

Writer: Terry Winkelmann