12degrees: Going Places With Email Marketing

Numbers, numbers.

When it comes to email marketing campaigns, it seems like we (and more importantly, the higher-ups we answer to) are always looking for numbers.

What was our CTR? How does it compare with that of the average campaign? How many recipients were converted into actual buyers? How much did we spend per new lead? And so on.

In other words, what we’re really asking is: How can we quantitatively justify a campaign?

When Numbers Don’t Tell the Whole Story

Sometimes, however, it’s difficult to measure an email marketing effort along these lines. We might have the answers to some of the above questions, but getting hard numbers won’t always be the goal. Plus, sometimes the results won’t show up for months, and we may never be able to attribute them directly to a particular campaign.

Here’s one such case. The company and I see this as a successful marketing effort even though the data is incomplete. The preliminary numbers are good, however.

First, some background. 12degrees is a custom travel site for upscale travelers. You won’t find trips and prices listed on this site. Instead, its unique approach is to match individuals with experts, either guidebook authors or “destination specialists,” who help create personalized vacations. The company makes its money off commissions. Visitors register with 12degrees and call or email the 12degrees consultants, who put them in touch with the specialists.

Registered users also receive newsletters, announcements, and other appropriate messages from the company.

You can see why it would be hard to look to immediate results to justify a campaign’s expense. In all likelihood, the average consumer (even if “average” translates to “quite wealthy,” as in this case) will not make a spur-of-the-moment decision to spend, say, $5,000 on a vacation. But it was important to 12degrees to get its name out and get consumers thinking about planning their dream vacations.

Building a Customer Base

So this past August, 12degrees set about to do just that. With the help of MetaResponse Group, which focused on list rental, and Inbox Interactive (founded by ClickZ columnist Kim MacPherson), which provided overall consulting and creative help, 12degrees launched an email marketing campaign.

The goal was to promote the brand and register new users. Now, as I noted earlier, we can’t always look to early numbers to judge a campaign’s success, but there are a few numbers that must be noted. Given the fact that the promotion was targeted at names on rented opt-in lists, Vice President of Marketing Mark Campbell says his group expected a CTR of about 4 percent, but overall the campaign generated about a 7.5-8 percent CTR. Plus, in the past four months or so, 12degrees has already sold two trips directly attributable to this campaign.

“That’s pretty significant given the small number of people we mailed to,” Campbell says. “Who knows what will happen after some time has passed… Our goal was to build a base of registered users, and absolutely it was a success.”

Here are some of the factors that contributed to the campaign’s success:

  1. List rental. Using third-party lists is always a risky proposition because you can never be completely sure how qualified the recipients are. Campbell credits MetaResponse with helping to locate the right targets among yesmail.com and DeliverE members. A total of 36,035 people were mailed, and the companies tracked short and long forms of the message. In the future, Campbell says, 12degrees will focus on its in-house file, but he says list rental was a good first step toward acquiring potential customers.

  2. The hook. When sending messages to complete strangers, it’s important to have some sort of hook. In this case, the hook was a free trip. “Here’s YOUR Chance to Win a One-of-a-Kind Dream Vacation” greeted the recipient. Campbell says he suspects the offer of a free trip was a strong lure.

  3. The creative. The email message is, simply put, attractive. Campbell said the biggest challenge was to pick appropriate images. 12degrees wanted to show people enjoying exotic places, not just gorgeous scenery, but coming up with rights-free and royalty-free images was unexpectedly difficult. Well, they did it, as you can see from the message. In my opinion, the graphic is sharp, and short really is sweet. (And in case you’re curious, 12degrees decided to go with HTML messages only, reasoning that the target audience likely would have support for that format and knowing that the graphics held strong appeal.)

  4. A clear privacy policy. Marketers pay a lot of lip service to privacy policies, but 12degrees posts that information not only on the site but also in the message itself. It clearly states at the bottom: “Our Privacy Pledge: 12Degrees will use your personal information solely for the purpose of enhancing your experience with our site. We will not sell, rent, or trade your personal information to third parties. For more information on 12degrees’ Privacy Policy, click here.” This surely contributes to customer confidence.

Although it’s difficult to quantify the campaign’s success, it’s clear that 12degrees is happy with email marketing — the company’s in the process of launching another campaign this very week.

And given the initial results 12degrees saw from this campaign, I’m betting its customers aren’t the only ones going places.

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