Outsource to Streamline Your Campaign

Writing for such a diverse group as ClickZ readers presents special challenges. Yes, you’re all bound by a common interest in email marketing, but you come from extremely different backgrounds. For instance, after my recent column on fonts, I received plenty of mail, some thanking me for the helpful info and some chastising me (nicely, yes, but nonetheless…) for covering a topic that’s old hat.

Which is a rather long-winded way of saying that this week’s column may not apply to the vast majority of you. But if you’re growing your business, you may wish to bookmark it for future reference.

iMotors is an online direct seller of used cars in the United States. Consumers tell iMotors the details about the one- to five-year-old vehicle they want, either via phone or the Web site, and iMotors can track down the vehicle and have it reconditioned and shipped.

To handle all the incoming inquiries, iMotors built a couple of databases. On the customer call-center side, it set up an interface that would track all the telephone inquiries. On the Web-site side, a database was set up to log all the traffic, visitor information, customer page views, registration details, and more. (iMotors also has a third database — for inventory management.) That’s a lot of information, stored in several places.

So what does all this have to do with email marketing? Well, a couple of things.

Database Consolidation

First, suppose you’re iMotors and that you now want to send out communications to your customers via email. There’s bound to be some overlap in the call center and Web site databases. You don’t want to miss communicating with your customers; but considering sensitivity to commercial email and spam, you don’t want to bombard them with multiple copies, either. Perhaps a consumer called the company first, then registered at the Web site, and then the spouse registered as well — that’s potentially three copies of the same mailing going to the same account.

So iMotors worked with Takira.com, a marketing technology solutions firm, to consolidate its databases. Takira built a centralized database of the iMotors demographic and behavioral information. The solutions firm receives the data in real time from the Web site, call center, and occasionally a third-party promotional offer and manages this continuous loop of data. It performs such tasks as checking for duplicate entries. iMotors management can now tell Takira it wants to send out a one-off mailing, making the process much simpler than before.

There’s another important aspect here as well.

Referral Program Tie-In

“Early on, iMotors figured out we must generate evangelism with private referrals,” says Greg di Cristina, iMotors’ relationship marketing manager. “We set out to build a powerful referral program.”

So the company did that by giving customers information via email that they could forward along to their friends and family. As an incentive, users would receive $75 for every referral submitting an order.

The program was directed toward the 80 percent of the customers who start the iMotors process online. Driving this program (sorry! couldn’t help it) was an email message sent to current customers. Users would click on a link in the email message to receive referral credit.

But iMotors soon found out that there was a large “water cooler” component — consumers who would mention the program while chatting at the water cooler, dinner table, or other offline location. And those who did refer the program but weren’t online or didn’t go to the proper URL weren’t getting credit. These customers would then typically dial in to the call center, asking where their rewards were.

So Takira designed another tool that plugged this data from the call center into the main database. It would tie all this information together and send the reward to the consumer.

iMotors and Takira are working on other enhancements. To me, this collaboration demonstrates well the benefits a business may find when teaming up with the right partner to perform email marketing. Takira takes care of the database management, and iMotors can concentrate on its auto services.

And no, this isn’t always the most desirable approach. If you’re running your own email marketing campaign, I’d love to hear about it and feature you in this space. Please email me.

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