Ricochet’s on Target With Locally Focused Campaign

When you’re operating a high-speed, wire-free Internet access service such as Ricochet, email marketing is clearly the way to go. The question is, where should you begin?

Here’s how Ricochet works: Subscribers buy the Ricochet modem and sign up for service. The Ricochet service provides rapid Internet connections via the user’s desktop PC, laptop, or PDA. A wholly owned subsidiary of Aerie Networks Inc., Ricochet needed an effective way to introduce its service when it was ready to roll out its offerings.

You can see where this is going. A service such as Ricochet is ideally suited for Internet users who want to upgrade their systems. Internet users who, in all likelihood, have email accounts. So, Ricochet decided to build an email database of potential customers.

The problem, of course, in this day of spam and overloaded email accounts, is consumers have just about had it up to here with email that isn’t relevant. On top of all this, Ricochet was rolling out nationwide, but in one city at a time. It couldn’t just send one email to everyone and be done with it. Ricochet needed to let consumers know not only about the service but also whether it was already available in their area and, if not, when it would be.

Those of you familiar with this service may know that it was initially launched nationally in 21 markets. But when the original company, Metricom, went bankrupt, Ricochet acquired many of its assets. Unfortunately for the marketing folks, the former customer database was not one of those assets. (When former Metricom customers contacted Ricochet, they were added to the database, but Ricochet execs knew many more potential customers were out there.)

So, Ricochet launched a grass-roots effort to build a database of email addresses from scratch over a period of about eight months. It then carefully delivered messages to various segments of the database.

Because the company was launching the service in Denver, Ricochet first focused primarily on consumers in that geographical market. As you might expect, the company rented lists. It selected two different lists to test and segmented the lists by Zip Code and income (those with a household income of $100,000 or higher).

But Ricochet also collected email addresses in other ways. The company sponsored some high-profile events in the Denver area, including the Grand Prix of Denver and the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, an upscale arts festival that is well known in the area. Both events have the demographics Ricochet was looking for. In fact, more than a quarter of the Cherry Creeks Arts Festival attendees have a household income of $90,000 or above, and the festival publishes that information on its Web site. Ricochet not only sponsored the events, but it also had a booth where those interested in the service could sign up to receive updates and other information by email.

The company also sponsored third-party lists. It placed blurbs in the online newsletters of popular radio stations. Some of the radio stations sent out standalone email messages notifying users about Ricochet, and the radio stations placed information about Ricochet on their Web sites. In addition, Ricochet used some offline programs, placing inserts into the local Sunday paper and running ads on a variety of radio stations.

After the summer blitz, Ricochet’s database had 13,500 email addresses. Now the company was ready to see how receptive those subscribers really were.

Ricochet worked with Blue Ink Solutions, an email marketing consulting firm, to create three versions of the email message. The first, the “Live in Denver” message, focused on the launch of the service and asked people to click through to the site to receive more information. The second, the “Coming Soon” message, started off:

As someone who has been patiently waiting for news about when Ricochet High-Speed Wire-Free Internet will be available, we’re pleased to inform you that we have just reached a major milestone. On August 15th, Ricochet launches live service in Denver, Colorado.

The message went on to say Ricochet was close to having service in the recipient’s area. The third message let recipients know that though Ricochet wasn’t live yet in their coverage area, the company was going strong and would keep the recipients posted.

The preliminary results are as follows:

“Ready Now” Email “Coming Soon” Email “Saying Hello” Email Total
Sent 291 429 12,849 13,569
Received 262 (90%) 386 (90%) 11,656 (91%) 12,304 (91%)
Opened 150 (51%) 250 (58%) 6,512 (51%) 6,912 (51%)
Total clicks 115 (39%) 172 (40%) 2,349 (18%) 2,636 (19%)
Unsubscribe 1 (0.3%) 2 (0.4%) 44 (0.3%) 47 (0.4%)

At this point, we don’t have any conversion data to look at, but this chart gives us plenty to think about. The first two things that jumped out at me were the overall received rate and the overall unsubscribe rate. Over a period of months, inevitably people change email addresses as they change jobs or residences or otherwise move around, so, to me, reaching nearly 91 percent of the database is a fairly acceptable percentage. Also, I find the unsubscribe rate more than acceptable when you consider the message was sent not to current but to potential customers. Ricochet has continued to send out segmented email messages to other markets, the most recent mailing being to San Diego just a week or so ago.

The takeaway here is this campaign was successful because the audience was targeted and receptive to email and the messages they received were relevant. (Not to mention all the standard “good practices” stuff, such as clear subject lines, easy-to-read copy, etc., which could be a whole ’nother case study…) Whether customers actually convert is going to depend, in my mind, in large part upon the service Ricochet offers. If the service itself is anything like Ricochet’s email marketing, the company should do well, indeed.

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