From file "072_pss" entitled "PS84PROF.qxd" page 01
From file "072_pss" entitled "PS84PROF.qxd" page 01

Late last year, select customers of ORCO Construction Supply received a surprise in the mail that would make any baseball fan wish he were in the construction business. The Livermore, Calif.–based distributor of tools and hardware, and winner of a 2004 PROSALES Excellence Award for marketing (November, page 56), continued its impressive branding campaign by sending top customers a one-of-a-kind baseball collection designed to say thank you, and also as a creative way to kick off the New Year with face-to-face meetings between ORCO salespeople and leading customers.

Mailed out in early December, the “Legends of the Game” gift package is a sports-enthusiasts dream: Each kit contained a wood plaque with display ledges for three baseballs. Included was one baseball—autographed by Brooks Robinson, a former Baltimore Orioles player considered one of the best third basemen of all time. Each box was packaged with bags of peanuts and included a signed thank you letter from ORCO president and CEO Bill Kern.

The two remaining ledges on the plaque wouldn't sit empty for long. In January, ORCO salespeople hand-delivered two additional balls to each customer, one signed by three-time MVP Stan Musial and another signed by famed pitcher Nolan Ryan. The limited edition collection includes certificates of authenticity; an accompanying brochure details the careers of all three players.

“It's one thing to say you appreciate a customer's business; it's another to send them a gift like this that shows them just how much they're appreciated,” says Director of Marketing Kathleen Roulet, who helped create the program along with Marketing Communications Manager Rob Lewczyk and Arlington, Va.–based consultant Pete Hanley.

ORCO's “Legends of the Game” gift included baseballs signed by Major League Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Nolan Ryan, and Brooks Robinson. The first baseball and a display plaque (right) were sent in a specially designed box packaged with peanuts, a CEO letter, and a brochure detailing the players' careers. “I've never seen anything like it before,” says ORCO customer Dan Schaldach, owner of D and S Construction in Escondido, Calif. “This gave me a good feeling that they would go through all the expense and then include me in the giveaway. It made me feel good that I was considered one of their better customers.”

But the customers aren't the only ones being rewarded. By delivering the second two baseballs in person, ORCO sales reps—many of whom deal daily with jobsite superintendents and foremen—had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with top executives and unveil ORCO's customer service plans for 2005. Plans will build upon an award-winning branding campaign, launched last year, that centered around a new bulldog logo and “Bring It On” slogan fronting a company-wide can-do customer service mind-set. Since then, the distributor is maintaining what it calls a “drumbeat” of marketing efforts designed to reward customers and employees while reinforcing a tenacious company image.

“[It's] a great opportunity to launch our program early in the year directly to our top customers,” says Hanley. “This is our chance to say, ‘You ain't seen nothing yet.'”

Though the company is mum about the financial details, Hanley admits that the program wasn't simple to pull off. The marketing team worked with Alliance Marketing Partners of Conshohocken, Pa., an entrepreneurial marketing firm with experience in sports marketing.

The efforts, however, are quickly hitting home with customers. “It's something they didn't have to do and that's why I appreciate it even more,” says Richard Martinez, owner of Four Star Rebar in Redlands, Calif.

But both Martinez and Schaldach agree that the gift isn't necessarily a deal sealer, but rather just one more thing to appreciate about a supplier they've been loyal to for years. “The bottom line is that they're there for me,” Martinez says. “They go above and beyond my expectations.”

Vital Statistics

Company: ORCO Construction Supply

Year founded: 1957

Headquarters: Livermore, Calif.

Number of locations: 21

Number of employees: 575

2004 gross sales: $282 million

Pro sales percentage: 100 percent

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