Making Customers Care

We marketers talk a lot about using email marketing to inform our customers and build community. As with many goals, it can be easier to talk than act. We sometimes get bogged down and don’t know where to start. This case study may be able to provide you with some inspiration.

Horizon Organic sells certified organic milk, along with other dairy, egg, and juice products. It owns and operates organic farms and purchases organic products from organic farmers across the nation. The company also has partnerships in the United Kingdom. Horizon Organic prides itself on a loyal base of customers who are also fans.

Horizon Organic should also pride itself on its use of the Internet. Its Web site is friendly, cheerful, and informative. Check out the Healthy Living section. It includes a bit about the site researcher, links to useful tools, and content written specifically for the site, both from and for site visitors. And, of course, the home page includes a sign-up form for an email newsletter.

Taking a Stand

In February 2003, Congress added a provision to the $397 billion federal spending bill that would’ve permitted, in some cases, livestock producers to label meat as organic even if the animals’ diets were composed of conventional grains. Obviously, if the bill were enacted, it would have had a large and potentially negative effect on Horizon Organic’s customer base. What was the company’s response? It launched a grass-roots email marketing effort.

Shortly after the news broke, Horizon Organic, with the help of its email marketing partner Customer Paradigm, created a one-time mailing called Take A Stand For Organic. By using their existing newsletter template, the creators were able to quickly put together a mailing with Horizon Organic’s familiar look and feel. The message included a logo at the top followed by this copy:

The founders of Horizon Organic started work on the organic standards over twelve years ago, well before the word organic was ever discussed or defined in political circles. Now the same freshly implemented government standards we fought so hard for may be compromised and rendered essentially useless.

The message went on to briefly describe the federal spending bill, followed by a call to action: Take Action Now — Send An E-mail Or Call Your Representatives. E-mail recipients could click a link and Horizon Organic would walk them through most of this process. The message ended with a forward-to-a-friend feature and a thank-you from the company. Within a few days of the spending bill, the mailing went to an opt-in list of over 14,000 members.

Results? Horizon Organic couldn’t track telephone calls or email messages sent, but it could track actions directly related to the mailing. The open rate was 74 percent, about double that of other Horizon Organic campaigns. The unique CTR was 16 percent, and the pass-along rate was 42 percent.

Let’s look first at the open rate. A high open rate owes a great deal to the sender and subject lines. Both of these were clear and enticing to the database. The subject line was “Moos Alert — Take A Stand For Organic.” The sender was clearly identified as Horizon Organic.

As for CTR, it’s difficult to persuade people to “take a stand.” We all have busy lives. Even when we care strongly about something, we don’t always take the time to do something about it. This CTR indicates how many people were influenced enough to begin the process of contacting their congressional representative. If you combine the CTR with the pass-along rate, it indicates this message really struck a chord.

Clearly, good marketers know what their customers care about. As this case study shows, customers care about keeping informed. In some cases, they’re even inspired enough to act.

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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