Scotts' E-Mails Grow Strong Customer Roots

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Two customized e-mail programs from lawn and garden giant The Scotts Company are retaining customers and prompting repeat sales of its products.


The company -- whose brands include Scotts, Miracle-Gro and Ortho -- delivers e-mails to 750,000 customers based on individual geographic and horticultural needs.


One program is a lawn-care reminder service, in which subscribers get e-mails when it is time for them to put down lawn applications. Reminders are sent based on where recipients live and their grass type, ensuring, for example, that customers with St. Augustine grass receive different care recommendations than those with Kentucky bluegrass.


"This program helps people so they don't have to remember exactly when they need to put down an application," said Joel Reimer, manager of interactive marketing at Scotts, Marysville, OH. "They can take the guessing out of it by signing up for the service. We'll just send you an e-mail and tell you which product to use and when is the optimal time."


These e-mails go four to six times a year depending on grass type, he said. Scotts divided the country into 18 lawn-care regions defined by conditions and the types of grass that grow in each region.


Scotts started the reminder e-mails on a shoestring budget in 2000, and they grew to about 300,000 subscribers by the end of 2002. Last year, however, Scotts reached an agreement with the Weather Channel to create "Scotts Lawn and Garden Center" on Weather.com's lawn and garden section.


"That exposure has helped us double the [reminder service] database," Reimer said. "We added 300,000 subscribers last year alone." And so far this year 65,000 subscribers have signed up, he said.


The other program is a more traditional gardening e-newsletter called Timely Gardening Tips from Miracle-Gro. This monthly publication is customized by geography, based on U.S. Agriculture Department information, and by type of gardening. For example, rose gardeners get different advice than vegetable gardeners, and Beverly Hills residents receive different newsletters than Detroit residents.


The gardening e-newsletter has 475,000 subscribers, but overlap between the two e-mail lists brings the total number of individual subscribers to 750,000.


Scotts also e-mails special alerts with treatment advice regarding pests, drought or other problems reported in a specific area.


People sign up for the e-mail programs at the company's Web site, www.scotts.com.


"When [people] come to the site and register or subscribe to any of our e-mail services, we ask them for basic information to allow us to start the conversation and allow us to tailor the information that we send to them based on their particular needs," Reimer said.


Scotts uses ExactTarget's Web-based person-to-person e-mail marketing software to dynamically generate the thousands of individualized recommendations it sends monthly from a single e-mail template. Through integration with the customer-created profiles, ExactTarget's software changes information in messages to correspond to each customer's requirements.


The software from ExactTarget, Indianapolis, also handles e-mail distribution, includes multiple features designed to improve deliverability and provides tracking metrics that let Scotts analyze whether customers read their messages.


Scotts' e-mail marketing is part of an effort to use its Web site as a lawn and garden care resource and a vehicle to build customer relationships. The site includes extensive general information on lawn and garden maintenance, seasonal tips and problem solving.


"The scotts.com Web site is not at all an e-commerce site, and so our objective with the site and our e-mail programs is really to build lasting and individual relationships with consumers," Reimer said. "When we get people to the site, it's our goal to try to create some reason to be in constant communication with them."


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