Omaha Steaks is more than a meat-and-greet business

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Posted: Friday, May 24, 2013 12:00 am

If you think Omaha Steaks is just a company that sells steaks and gourmet frozen foods, you’re only half right.

While the family owned firm is indeed in the food business, it also is in the “experience business — the love business,” Todd Simon, the firm’s senior vice president said during a meeting Thursday of the Association for Corporate Growth of Nebraska.

“You’re not just buying meat in a box, but the opportunity for people — friends and family — to get together and share a meal,” Simon said.

Simon’s topic was marketing, with the major point being that while you may have a fabulous product, sales can suffer if you’re not using all the marketing channels available these days — from traditional advertising venues to new social media forms — to target new and existing customers.

And yet, marketing doesn’t have to be complicated, Simon told the more than 200 members and guests who attended the event. For example, if a customer bought steaks last year for Father’s Day, send them an email a couple of weeks before the holiday alerting them to this year’s Father’s Day selection.

Every business needs more customers. But Simon said it is important for companies to identify which customer segment they want to target and note who is competing for that particular group’s time and money. Omaha Steaks’ competitors include mail-order meat suppliers as well as supermarkets.

Omaha Steaks, which was founded in 1917, also offers customers a 100 percent money back guarantee if they “are not absolutely thrilled,” with a product. That guarantee, said Simon, “makes it easy to close a sale, makes it easy people to say, ‘yes’ to a purchase.

And once people make two purchases from Omaha Steaks, “there’s an 85 percent chance they’ll stay with us forever,” Simon said.

Another important point — “Word-of-mouth still matters.” Nearly 20 percent of consumers choose a brand solely on recommendation, said Simon, citing a recent study.

And while people still talk at the office or over the fence about likes and dislikes, they’re also “talking” about favorite brands on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. In fact, “76 percent of all Americans have at least one conversation each day about a brand,” Simon said.

Keeping on top of new marketing channels has allowed the 96-year-old company, one of the nation’s leading direct marketers of steaks and other frozen gourmet foods, to flourish.

Today, Omaha Steaks, which adopted its iconic name in 1966, operates 80 stores in 26 states and sells steaks, chicken, lamb, veal, side dishes, desserts and pet treats.

At Omaha Steaks, “we are control freaks,” Simon said. Translated: “Own all the steps in your business. If something goes wrong, you can look at it right away.”

And don’t be afraid to fail: “Eighty-four percent of everything we test fails. Keep testing new ideas.”

Finally, said Simon, don’t underestimate the power of family owned companies that he said contribute $6 trillion, 64 percent, to the nation’s GDP, employ 62 percent of the nation’s workforce and account for at least 80 percent of all U.S. businesses.

“Business owners need to be proactive and strategic — that was my take-away,” said Kraig Williams, vice president and senior lending officer, commercial real estate lending, at Bankers Trust Corp. in Omaha.

Simon’s presentation also resonated with John Winquist, an accountant and senior audit manager at the accounting firm of Hayes & Associates LLC in Omaha. “The big points I took away were businesses need to know who their target market is, focus their efforts on that target and stand by their product.”

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