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E-Mail for an Integrated World

Marketing tactics set offline often place limits on e-mail campaign tactics. Though e-mail marketing is mostly about direct response, many brand-oriented companies like to maintain consistency from medium to medium. And can you blame them?

We have all seen successful e-mail campaigns that have absolutely no offline counterparts and/or those where the companies behind them choose to keep integration to a minimum, for whatever reason.

But what if you want or need to merge the two to create both a brand- and a direct response-oriented promotion to knock the socks off prospects, customers or leads?

Can that additional consistency result in a better response? Possibly.

Though even if it does not, and you manage to create a campaign that takes advantage of the best of both worlds, chances are good that you can maintain the integrity of the offline effort while at the same time building a solid and measurable response.There are many ways to do this. And since most marketers can appreciate a good case study, I will go through one example from the trenches — one of Inbox Interactive’s clients, Charter Oak Partners. This example demonstrates just one way to turn a successful offline branding campaign into a tremendously successful e-mail campaign.

Charter Oak Partners, an affiliate of Rothschild Realty Inc., New York, is the largest independent factory outlet center developer in the country, with 11 centers and nearly 4 million square feet of retail space nationwide. Like many major outlets, many of its centers are in resort communities such as Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach, SC, and Rehoboth Beach, DE.

The goal of Charter Oak’s first e-mail campaign was to drive traffic to the centers. Its existing outbound marketing program included primarily billboards (placed in prime spots en route to the centers) and print advertising with some broadcast media thrown in. Lynn Blacker, vice president of marketing, and Laurie Risch, director of marketing, wanted to integrate the theme and look of the offline advertisements into the new e-mail marketing efforts.

The billboard was more awareness-oriented than direct response-oriented, as were the series of print ads. The challenge was to convert these non-direct marketing ads into a compelling e-mail campaign.

We focused on nine of Charter Oak’s outlet centers. The offline ads were built around a summer theme and the idea that shopping at the outlets can keep you out of the sun. And because one of the great things about these outlets (and most, in general) is the number of stores in each of them — some with more than 100 — the billboards and print ads showcased the headline, “SPF 120 [where the number represents the number of stores for that particular center] … Over 120 Alternatives to Sunburn.”

Charter Oak Partners thought this was an integral message within its campaign, so we retained that headline and introduction for the e-mail promotion and developed the rest of the copy (including the direct response element) around one of the other benefits of outlet shopping — the savings. It was also created and sent in full-color HTML.

Because of the nature of the offer and the medium, we kept the text to a minimum. Previous like-minded campaigns with similar audiences — wherein no money was required on the part of recipients in order to complete the ultimate call to action — told us this was the most likely avenue to glean a successful first-time e-mail campaign. After all, we had no previous results to build upon.

Charter Oak’s house list consisted of almost 14,000 people across nine of its centers. We created one template. Each center’s logo, address, color scheme and unique “best of” stores were customized. Recipients/subscribers of the Riviera Centre list would receive the version for that center, complete with Riviera logo, location and favorite stores along with the rest of the copy and design, which remained consistent from center to center.

The main call to action was for recipients to “click here” to pick up online store coupons for the outlet based on merchant specials for that month. Once they clicked, they were driven to a custom-tailored page showcasing all of the coupons for that particular center. All they had to do was print and hopefully take them on their next shopping trip.

Each center’s e-mail list ranged in quantity from 400 to 3,000 — not large, but extremely qualified. These folks were previous customers of the outlet or were interested in receiving updates and special savings announcements via e-mail.

Of 13,494 messages sent, 2,487 unique responders clicked through to the coupons page (and there were 4,613 overall click-throughs, so some recipients clicked multiple times). Unique click-throughs per center ranged from 16 percent to almost 47 percent while the overall was as high as 59 percent for one center. Redeemed coupons at the locations are being collected and tracked, so we do not have final results. However, the campaign has been deemed a success.

So if you are about to switch gears and begin an integrated campaign, be sure to plan every detail, customize when necessary and ensure that the timing of deployment is right. With Charter Oak Partners, we avoided sending this series from Friday through Sunday for obvious reasons — given that many of the centers were at weekend resorts.

So what is the bottom line?

Go back to basics.

If your marketing efforts have been successful in the mass media arena, take a hard look at your product’s best benefits and/or unique selling proposition and build the direct response part of your campaign around that. In this case, the coupons (and the outlet savings) were the focus, and it was developed around the awareness part of the message.

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