Just in case you missed it, the Washington, DC area has been hit by numerous snow storms this year. Some smart businesses used e-mail to communicate with customers and prospects, build goodwill and, in some cases, drive sales. Did you do anything special for the blizzard of 2010? If not, here's some food for thought.
My favorite example comes from a restaurant in my neighborhood, Mie n Yu (see the e-mail below). It offered a 2 percent discount off your bill for every inch of snow. There are many restaurants in my neighborhood, so the big question is usually "what's open" - not only did this e-mail let us know the restaurant would be there, it offered us an incentive for making the trek. Added bonus - this e-mail had viral appeal. A friend forwarded it to me, and although I was not able to join them, they got a group together, had a great time - and got 14 percent off their tab.
Surprisingly, this was the only e-mail I received from a restaurant in my neighborhood - a real miss for the places my friends and I usually go to eat.
The Shakespeare Theatre also offered a discount to drive sales via e-mail - twice (see both e-mail messages below). The first time was during a big storm - all tickets that night were just $10. This one must have been successful, as the theater sent another e-mail the following week, during another storm, offering tickets at $25 each. Both are a significant savings off the usual price. Since the show was going on, Shakespeare Theatre wanted to have as many seats filled as possible. This was a really smart use of e-mail.
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Zipcar also gets a shout-out from me. It understood the situation and put in place policies to help customers save on late fees and ensure that cars were available when someone had reserved one. Zipcar also waived its usual cancellation policy, to encourage people to continue to reserve cars even if the weather could jeopardize their ability to travel. And it offered some safe driving tips for snow. More goodwill for this company.
The e-mail I received from Road Runner Sports (below) was plain text, not very pretty but it apologized for its local stores being closed and offered a discount on my next purchase. Great way to try to drive traffic to its brick-and-mortar locations, and online - and make up for lost sales during the blizzard.
The Washington Post (e-mail below) used the opportunity to let us know about gadgets that helped people weather the storm - and drive readers to its Web site. I wonder how many people went out and bought a UPS after reading this.
Kudos to my local animal hospital (e-mail below) that stayed open 24/7 during the storm and let us know how dedicated their staff was. They already have a lot of goodwill in the community; this just adds to it.
My local sports radio station stayed on, but cancelled some programming (e-mail below). The station alerted listeners via e-mail and let us know when things were back to normal.
Even businesses that were closed used e-mail to let customers know, like Bethesda List Service. It knew that not being available could inconvenience customers and it handled it proactively.
Geico created goodwill by offering tips for digging out and making your car road worthy after the storm.
Another e-mail message I received during the blizzard also struck me. It was from Victoria's Secret, with a focus on bathing suits (below). I order from Victoria's Secret; it has my Zip code and theoretically should have known what was going on here. Maybe it's just me, but a bathing suit was the last thing I was thinking of purchasing during the storm. More ice melt, a better shovel, another pair of snow boots, wool sweaters - yes. But bathing suits? No. But maybe that's just me.
So, how did you use e-mail during the blizzard of 2010 to drive traffic to your Web site and/or brick-and-mortar locations, generate sales, or create goodwill? If you didn't, print this column and file it so you can reference it before the next big snow storm.
Until next time,
Jeanne Jennings is a leading authority and independent consultant with over 15 years of experience in the e-mail and online realm. She specializes in all aspects of e-mail marketing and publishing, from strategy through design and metrics analysis. Jeanne works with medium- to enterprise-sized organizations and is expert at helping her clients become more effective and more profitable online. She is the author of "The Email Marketing Kit: The Ultimate Email Marketer’s Bible" (SitePoint, 2007) and publisher of "The Jennings Report," a free e-mail newsletter for online marketing professionals. Visit her online at JeanneJennings.com.
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