Building Strong Customer Relationships

Email marketers have learned a lot about making individuals feel valued by a company. Long gone (thank goodness) are the days when greeting a recipient by name in an email message was considered cutting edge. But the industry still has quite a way to go when it comes to establishing and maintaining customer relationships.

So that’s why I was especially interested when I heard about a recent campaign from Yankelovich Partners, the marketing consultancy firm. Yankelovich worked with Outrider, a company that bills itself as “specializing in building successful online businesses,” by applying a range of end-to-end services; these services, of course, include email marketing (or you wouldn’t be reading about them in this column).

During late July and early August, Yankelovich sent out a plea to some of its current clients asking for input on its trial partnership program, called decisionDOMAIN, a comprehensive ASP designed exclusively for marketers.

Thanks to a variety of reasons, which I will detail in a moment, the campaign was able to generate some impressive results. These included a 37 percent click-through rate and quality leads that helped close 30 percent of trial partnership sales within the first two days.

Here are some of the factors that contributed to those numbers, in no particular order. The first four revolve around sending out the message itself, and the final two have to do with completing the sale.

  • List composition. Because this campaign was designed to poll those close to Yankelovich, the company decided to communicate with those who already had a strong business relationship with the company. Rather than sending the message out to a large general audience, the company delivered it to nearly 600 members of the Yankelovich eVision opt-in newsletter. Not only do these individuals clearly have an interest in the company, but analysis of the list done by Outrider showed a large number of high-level executives; in other words, the mailing targeted decision makers.

  • Plea for help. The subject line of the newsletter, “We need your help,” grabbed the attention of its recipients. I’m no psychologist, but I agree with Outrider Vice President and Director of Marketing Eric Knight when he says this makes people feel important and that asking them for help is a powerful motivator. “What happens with a lot of companies is they position themselves as experts,” adds his colleague Mike Melone. “For a large, powerful company such as Yankelovich to ask for help, we thought it would be compelling.”

  • Design of the message. The message was eye catching in that it was designed as a memo from Yankelovich Senior Vice President Mike Phillips. It also was sent out as HTML email. When I asked Knight and Melone whether they thought that had an impact on click-through rates, they said, of course, that HTML mail performs better than plain text. (As an aside, I know this is accepted as common knowledge, but I’m still searching for a case study that clearly demonstrates this. I’ve asked this before, but, again, in my own “I need your help” plea, if you know of any, please send them my way!)

  • Free offer. Along with the knowledge that recipients could benefit themselves by helping Yankelovich design a better, more useful service, recipients could also win a free Palm VII handheld computer. Other case studies have shown that when you give something away, you’re likely to get something back.

  • Ease of use. List members who decided to answer the call were taken to a web page that took just seconds to fill out. It had a prepopulated form, so individuals didn’t have to spend precious energy typing in such data as email addresses, and the four screener questions were presented in drop-down fields that took just seconds to answer.

  • Completing the sale. Those who took the time to respond to Yankelovich knew their input was valued. Within five days, they received a call (assuming they had given permission for such contact) from either Mike Phillips himself or Senior Sales Executive Adam Godwin.

Granted, not every email marketer will be able to or necessarily want to treat all its customers this way. But if you’re looking for a way to build strong relationships with some of your customer base, this could be just the ticket.

Calling All Marketers: Do you have an email marketing case study that might be featured on ClickZ? If so, please contact me at

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