Consumer Mail With a B2B Back End

Summer’s finally here in the Northeast. To tell you the truth, business-to-business (B2B) email is not always top of mind. This time of year, more frivolous thoughts flit in during the workday, such as, “Can a halter top work as business casual?” and “Hmm, wonder how to fit a pedicure in between meetings?”

Here in New York, we tune into DailyCandy for our once-a-day fashion fix. Down in Raleigh, NC, fashionistas tune into she she me for all things “girly.”

Guys, don’t abandon this column just yet. The she she me case study is a good story about how a creative yet disciplined approach to email can drive profitability.

First, take a look at the site to get the general flavor. Now, read on for the whole story (and some very attractive metrics).

A Little Background

The e-zine chronicles the life of she she me, an online celebrity women turn to for fashion and relationship advice. It includes indexed links to the season’s trendy apparel and gift ideas. The company generates revenue through a mixture of advertising sponsorships, affiliate relationships, and an online store.

Having built up a nice subscriber base, she she me founder Katie Coleman Koon looked for ways to accelerate and drive more ad sponsorships and merchandise sales. The company decided to subscribe to BrontoMail’s email marketing service to automate many list management requirements, deliver Web-page emails to increase retention, and, most important, utilize tracking information to drive revenue growth.

Key components to the strategy include:

  • Web-page emails. Instead of sending a simple text message linking to the site, she she me now provides readers with the column embedded in the email itself. The approach was taken to improve open and forward rates and to provide valuable tracking information for advertisers and online merchandise sales.

  • Message tracking reports. To negotiate favorable sponsorship arrangements, she she me needed a way to gauge the effectiveness of its advertising spots. With the new Web page columns, it’s easy to see how many readers click through to the sponsor’s site. This provides hard data the company can use when brokering new sponsorships.

The company also realizes affiliate revenues for readers who click through and purchase items from certain merchants, such as Banana Republic. Although this provides a nice revenue stream for the company, margins on affiliate sales are considerably lower than those earned by directly selling merchandise.

she she me therefore established its own online store. Using tracking reports, the company can quickly ascertain which items are most popular and which were purchased as a result of weekly columns.

The Results

Since automating its email, she she me’s list has grown 30 percent, to almost 10,000 subscribers. Some 100 to 200 women sign up for new subscriptions each week, solely from word of mouth. Forward rates average 5-10 percent for each email message.

With open rates of 45 to 50 percent and CTRs consistently topping 150 to 200 percent, it’s easy to see the approach is paying dividends. It also enables the company to drive advertising and merchandise sales. These metrics dwarf the industry averages of 39 percent for opens and 9 percent for click-throughs (Double Click, 2003). Since February, the company has landed new advertising sponsors and grown online merchandise sales.

Ideas for B2B

OK, so most B2B emails wouldn’t make it with a pink graphic border. Perhaps self-tanning is not uppermost in every CEO’s mind. But let’s brainstorm to see how she she me’s story might translate into B2B success for others:

  • Online celebrity. Business folk are not immune to celebrity. Look at the cult followings of gurus such as Tom Peters, Jack Welch, and Anthony Robbins. If your company has thought leaders, such as top analysts, editors, or recognizable C-Level execs, consider including them in your email. Not just their pictures but also pithy quotes to spur interest. Consider creating your own fictional character like she she me. Perhaps he’s a swashbuckling business road warrior who uses all the latest tech tools. The idea is to make your email personal and (dare we say it?) interesting to read.

  • The next level of email. B2B email is still pretty much in the dark ages of creative development and tracking. It’s time to look at ramping up graphics and tracking to take advantage of the tremendous potential of the medium. If you’re doing pretty well with text email and very simple templates, chances are you’ll do even better when your email is visually appealing and more interactive.
  • A little diversion. E-mail is a “legal” way to take a break at work (without leaving the desk). A little entertainment goes a long way. A leading conference company we work with found its CTRs rising when it highlighted a keynote speaker who’s a famous comedian.

Summertime is a great time to celebrate your successes. Got a case study to share? Send it to Karen.

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