Bluestreak e-mail trumps mail for California auto club

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Auto club California State Automobile Association, the AAA chapter that represents Utah, Nevada and Northern California, found that e-mail beats mail when it comes to communicating with its members.

To promote its new Magellan GPS system - the first retail product available on its Web site at www.csaa.com - CSAA sent out 2,700 e-mails with the help of e-mail marketing firm Bluestreak, Providence, RI, and 40,000 mail pieces. The e-mail directed members to the e-commerce site and the direct mail led recipients to a call center. After both mailings, 69 orders were placed through e-mail and 48 sales came through direct mail.

"The reason why it was successful is that these 2,700 members came to our site and signed up to hear specific information about this product," said Bao Pham, senior e-mail marketing manager at the CSAA, San Francisco. "We are trying to send more segmenting in our list by sending e-mails about subjects that members have expressed interest in."

The GPS promotion is part of a push that CSAA is doing to drive more traffic to its site and to get more members to use e-mail as a means of communication with the club. The effort includes encouraging members to pay bills online and to receive the club's monthly communications via e-mail rather than mail.

The auto club sends travel newsletters called "The Travel Insider" once a month to members to promote its products and services. These e-mails and mailings include travel tips of the month like information about where to buy the cheapest gas and mapping tools on how to plan a trip.

The e-mail newsletter is aimed at drawing members back to the site, which offers a number of additional services that can be purchased by members. These include auto insurance, hotel bookings and flight discounts. In addition to the monthly mailings, segmented e-mails are sent to members who have opted in to receiving information on these specific topics.

The e-mails are intended to educate consumers on the benefits of being a member and to market new products and services.

CSAA members can also use member services on the site, including the classic TripTik Travel Planner, a trip planning mapping service that has its roots in the pre-Internet days.

"We are not just for tow trucks," Mr. Pham said. "We offer a number of products and services like travel advice, insurance and membership products that we would like to make our members aware of."

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