Mailnet Sees Wave of Boat Dealers Using Direct Mail

Mailnet Services Inc. is using its relationships with boat manufacturers to establish boat dealers as clients of its Internet direct mail design and printing service.

In August 2002, Mailnet, Nashville, TN, gained 6.5 million names of registered boat owners from its partner Info-Link. Mailnet since has formed relationships with boat manufacturers such as Cobalt Boats, Triton Boats and Cruisers Yachts, and gained more than 10 boat dealers as clients.

Mailnet's MailnetExpress service lets clients design mailers online, upload lists and ship campaigns in two to three business days. The company obtained permission from the boat manufacturers to use their logos and creative materials, and then sought to offer MailnetExpress to their authorized dealers.

MailnetExpress users get their own account and password, which gives them access to an online library of creative material including manufacturer logos. Boat dealers often represent multiple manufacturers, so their libraries might contain creative from multiple sources.

Mailnet saw opportunities for growth in the boating market because the industry has not focused on direct marketing in the past, said Tom Herrmann, vice president of marketing and business development for Mailnet. The industry typically has put most of its marketing dollars into traditional advertising, such as newspaper ads.

The boat dealers who have done mail in the past relied on the corporate marketing departments of the manufacturers for service, Herrmann said. However, as more dealers look to do mail marketing, the manufacturers have sought outside help from mail marketing firms.

One of its new clients, Lake Norman Marina in Denver, NC, saw its second-quarter revenue rise 40 percent after running two mail campaigns in March and April 2003.

Mark Kale, the marina's general manager, said he was wary of putting more marketing dollars into radio and newspaper advertising because it was difficult to prove that those media were bringing in new customers.

Boat sales is a niche business, and with any given radio ad only a few percent of the audience is interested in buying a boat, Kale said. Because the market around the marina's location outside Charlotte, NC, is expanding, targeting boat buyers through traditional advertising is getting even harder.

“It's not the most cost efficient for our type of business,” he said.

Kale heard about Mailnet through one of the marina's manufacturers, Cobalt Boats. One mailer used by Lake Norman offered savings of $1,000 to $2,000 off the price of Cobalt boats to customers who brought the postcards to a “summer-long tent sale” held by the marina for its 30th anniversary.

Lake Norman also sent mailers promoting its other manufacturers. Through MailnetExpress, the marina acquired outside data to supplement its in-house customer lists and target customers with products it previously would not have promoted, Kale said.

The marina typically mails around 5,000 customers per campaign. It currently is promoting its winterizing service through a MailnetExpress campaign and plans to start new campaigns in the spring. Lake Norman now does only limited traditional advertising, Kale said.

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