Marketing the Upscale During a Downturn

CVM Scenario

Background- Traditional CRM systems have revolutionized customer service, data mining, and the ability for many organizations to be far more responsive to their customers in this age of competition and overcrowded markets. However, they are best suited for high-volume marketing and B2B service providers. CVM, however, Client Value Management, seems to work far better for professional service firms, smaller entities, and certain B2B niche markets. Some of the main approaches to CVM are to maximize the value of the client over the lifetime relationship; to specifically look for what customer want in their vendor; building a business which delivers what the customer wants, and above all — focus on those things that the client values and holds dear (Caldwell, 2008a, 2008b).

Situational Overview- CarnivorTrue, a boutique and extremely expensive and premium dog and cat food, has been using a firm to provide a CRM approach. Mr. Watts, the formulator and CEO, knows that his product is a niche product, and has priced and sourced accordingly. He is more interested in serving a few high-end customers nationally than having his product in one of the big-box stores, and indeed, his marketing strategy focuses on being the best (best ingredients, baked process, high end storage bag, live probiotics, etc.). Watts would like to move to a CVM approach and wishes a consultative recommendation.

Consultative Overview- CarnivorTrue is, by its nature, a luxury brand. Using only locally sourced USDA premium products, organic eggs, meats and fruits/vegetables, and baking rather than extruding, causes the price point to exceed even the most expensive Independent Pet Store brands by 40% or more. However, even during recessionary times, luxury brands succeed based on two criteria: customer service and ultra-quality and guarantee (Luxury Brands, 2008). Fortunately, CarnivorTrue fits both of these criteria for the following reasons:

Because of small batch production, CarnivorTrue is able to tweak formulas slightly to provide individualized and custom nutritional solutions for specific pet issues (allergies, medical conditions, etc.). For instance, if Jack, a 10-year-old Labrador, suffers from arthritis, extra Glucosamine/Chondroitin as well as herbal pain relievers are added to his custom mixed, which is shipped out regularly.

Customer Service — Products are guaranteed 100%, no questions asked, and an on-staff nutritional professional is available during business hours to consult with clients on the best formula available.

Consultative Recommendation- The company has been relatively successful in using CRM to hone its approach to the market. However, the higher end holistic veterinarians, breeders, and premium clients could benefit from a CVM approach. Suggested rollout of such an approach would be as follows:

Institute focus groups (at least 2, preferably 3-4) in major cities by inviting a section of higher end Veterinarians, Pet Nutritional Professionals, and using demographic and psychographic research, individual clients and/or breeders that earn in excess of $250,000/annum. Build an expectation model through the focus groups that will be used for Step 2 (below).

Using data from the focus groups, further hone the CVM approach to a dual qualitative and quantitative approach to very select clients (database will be purchased); send out survey with goal of at least 10% returns. Provide small incentive (cash, coupon or gift card approach to encourage participation).

Analyze data, use data to rehone the value relationship that these clients want, encouraging feedback for future strategic decisions (Farace, 2007).

Conclusions – Value means many things to many people at all income and demographic / psychographic levels. Certainly, no one wants to pay more than they have to for a particular project. However, certain items flow well into good value, CarnivorTrue, being ideal. If we use a CVM value table for the product, we find that Watts’ ideas are valid and with research focus, appropriate for future development:


Primary Attribute

Secondary Attribute

Tertiary Attribute

Cost Allocations

Product Features

Baked, provides 100% nutritional value based on breed and type (cat vs. dog)

Accuracy, bioavailability

Uses nutrients to save on vet procedures (teeth, ears, etc.)

High end operating costs

Product Quality

Organic, all natural, range fed when possible, USDA top level sourced

Verifiable sourcing

Virtual tour of farms and ranches

Operating, maintenance, marketing costs


Unique account manager per client

Phone answered 8-am to 5pm in all time zones

Empowered CSvc and consultants

Operating costs


Animal nutritionist available as consultant

Published experts aligned with top-level schools

Nutritional approach to healing; reputation for quality and service

Operating, maintenance, new client acquisition costs


Guaranteed to be in stock or a special run will be done

Limit client base so inventory is available

Manage to top clients, ensure their produce is available

Operating, maintenance, sales costs

(Hafiz and Kendricks, 2001).


Luxury Brands: Marketing the Upscale During a Downturn. (November 12, 2008). Knowledge at Wharton Marketing. Retrieved from:

Caldwell, L. (a) (September 9, 2008). Client Value Management, Customer Value Management, and What is Value? Knowing and Making. Retrieved from:

____. (b) (August 9, 2008). Business: Is CVM the new CRM? Eacademy. Retrieved from:

Farace, V. (2007). Measuring and Managing Customer Value in the Marketplace. Retrieved from:

Hafiz, K. And Hendricks, S. (2001). Customer Value Management. Houston, TX: American Productivity and Quality Center.

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