In my last post I shared some insights into how to generate a great response from email marketing.
I also told you I was going to share with you how I achieved a 98% response rate on one of my campaigns. And I am going to share that.
But not yet.
First, I want to tell you about the very first email program I ever ran because it was, in a large part, responsible for me seeing my way to the 98% campaign.
What was really crazy about this particular email program was it was a “make work” project. It was supposed to be a token marketing effort to show good will towards one of our partners.
Nobody expected any results and nobody really cared. We just needed to do “something”.
And with that, we managed to get a 47% response rate and had our phones ringing off the hook with orders.
So, how did that happen and why?
This is a great example of how, with a little bit of effort, a few good customer insights, and a desire to achieve you can bring the house down with just one email.
Polyair, my employer at the time and a manufacturer of protective packaging materials, relied almost exclusively on its sales force to generate leads. They did not advertise, issue product press releases or purchase any online media.
They did have a pretty decent website (not the one you see now, that came later) – but it was essentially an online brochure.
One of their strategic partners overseas had developed a new piece of equipment that manufactured bubble pouches. It was a bulky and rather expensive item, and one that Polyair would not normally carry. However, in a gesture of good faith Polyair offered to support the new product, called the “Kangaroo”, with some marketing support.
Objective – theirs….and mine!
Find a low cost, low effort way to show some good faith support for a strategic partner and see if we couldn’t drum up some sales for them in the process.
I added that last part about drumming up sales to cause trouble and because, really, what’s the point if you can’t aim to really kill it.
What We Did
Polyair had never done any sort of email marketing before so we decided that this would be the perfect scenario to test it out. The costs were negligible and the learning would be fantastic.
We built the campaign on two key insights. First, customers were always interested in new products – so this was a natural. Second, the protective packaging industry, while competitive, was quite dry. Most of Polyair’s customers worked inside all day in warehouses. They could use a little excitement in their lives.
With that in mind we quickly collected about 800 emails over the next two weeks and put together a fun little flash commercial for the Kangaroo that would run on a nice big screen the home page of the Polyair website.
We also included three easy next step options after the commercial:
1. Download the brochure
2. View an online video of the Kangaroo in action
3. Request a demo CD of the Kangaroo.
To drive folks to the site we developed a fun little graphic based email seen below that would encourage our customers to check out the new Kangaroo and to “see the Kangaroo in action”. After all, who couldn’t use a little excitement in this category during their busy day. There was no content…just that image.
Here is that image – click on the image to play the flash demo that ran on our site (keep in mind that this was a whole bunch of years ago folks.)
Click on image to play the flash demo
Several weeks earlier the full training package on the Kangaroo had been sent out to the Polyair sales group.
Results were staggering! Within 48 hrs of sending the email we had a whopping 47% of the targeted customers respond to the email. We were right – they needed a little excitement in their lives!
50% of the customers viewed the online video and 50% of those requested a copy of the CD.
Please note there was no discounting or pricing incentives…only the opportunity to get more information. That was our “offer”.
In an interesting twist, we dynamically inserted the phone number of each prospect’s Polyair sales rep into the email so they could follow up directly with their rep for more information – rather than get routed through the Toronto office.
Well boy did the head office phone ring off the hook with sales rep requests to resend the Kangaroo training materials because their customers were requesting appointments to find out more.
Polyair ended up selling about 7 units at about $19,000 a pop over the course of the next 6 months – that’s about 7 more than we expected. Plus we ended up selling a lot more other stuff from the appointments that were made as a result.
What We Learned
We learned a whole heck of a lot. We learned:
1. Anything worth doing is worth doing right – and with a vengeance.
We could have just done a lame email and been done with it. But this was our first ever email and we wanted to make the most of it..and learn the most from it. So, be sure to take every opportunity to market to your customers as one to really make an impact.
2. Understanding your audience, their environment and their interests is the best way to drive communications.
This should drive everything from the content to the delivery of the message.
3. “More information” was a great offer.
There were no “dollars off” or “percent discounts” or “limited time” offers, just the introduction of something that they might be able to use and the opportunity to learn more.
4. Presenting very clear and easy follow up actions for our email list works.
First, it worked because more than half of the respondents jumped on one of those actions. Second, it worked because we were able to measure the pick-up of those actions to see which ones were most appealing.
5. Personalizing the email made taking action easier.
The simple task of embedding their personal Polyair sales rep in the email made it super easy for them to take action. They speak to this person every week so the relationship was already there.
6. Sometimes what customers buy is not what you are selling, and that simply creating a new conversation with them creates new opportunities.
Let’s face it, most of our customers could not use a Kangaroo, but they were still interested in learning more and called their sales rep to learn more. We sold 7 Kangaroos for sure, but sold a heck of a lot more of other products as a result of the email. New meetings were set up, new conversations were had and new opportunities were found.
7. Our customers liked to hear from us.
We had not communicated to our customers via email before this. And they were likely not getting emails from our competition because there was very little online activity at the time. So, we were there first and delivered something of value.
8. We learned that we had done such a good job at appealing to their interests that, if we kept doing this, they would almost always open our emails.
And this was the key point of my first post.
What Next – We Thought We Hit the Jackpot..But..
Achieving a 47% response rate was simply unheard of so we did not imagine we could do any better. But it didn’t stop us from trying and actually blowing that result out of the water with a 98% response on our next campaign. I’ll be sure to tell you about that next…promise.