SkinMedica’s E-Mail Program Gets a Facelift

Cosmetic and pharmaceutical manufacturer SkinMedica has grown significantly since mid-2002, when the company won its first round of funding and announced a major marketing investment. More important, for ClickZ readers anyway, its sophistication in regard to online marketing has kept pace with that growth.

It took a while. When funding came in, the company had only a crude Internet presence, according to Reid Carr, president and strategy director for Red Door Interactive, which later became SkinMedica’s agency.

“I went to their Web site, and oh my god, it was in bad shape,” Carr said.

Through a mutual contact, Carr met with SkinMedica’s marketing team and successfully pitched a new site design. Two years later, largely due to the efforts of Red Door, the company looks to the Web as a hub for its sales and communications efforts. Not for its Web property alone, but for email and e-learning as well.

“The Web has been the ultimate means for SkinMedica to capture leads,” said Carr. “They all come from fairly traditional backgrounds over there; they’re used to pounding the pavement. Now we’ve shown them how the Web can sell for them while they sleep.”

E-Mail Success

SkinMedica’s online successes are exemplified in the achievements of an email program it has been conducting over the past four months. It’s had humble goals, but results have been extraordinary.

First, a little background: While SkinMedica’s flagship TNS product line doesn’t require a prescription, the company made a strategic decision to distribute only through physicians. Because the products are sold at premium prices and contain high-quality ingredients, they wouldn’t stand up well to budget skin products on pharmacy shelves. Since dermatologists endorse the products anyway, it’s a simple (and smart) step for SkinMedica to help them grow revenue by selling directly to patients.

Of course, this model makes email marketing somewhat complicated. SkinMedica therefore uses a two-pronged email marketing model, sending regular blasts to both physicians and consumers.

The physician-targeted email program uses a very light sales touch. Doctors on the list have already agreed to sell the products. The mailings usually offer relatively raw product information and marketing materials they can use in their practice.

More prodding is necessary on the consumer side, but the program still uses a relatively low-pressure approach. Red Door sends email blasts to an in-house list approximately twice a month, offering information on products and “Find a physician” links. Because the list is completely homegrown, building it has been a gradual process.

When Oprah Mentions Your Product

Well, it was gradual, until SkinMedica was featured on “Oprah,” and later “The View.”

The folks at Red Door learned only the night before that the TNS line would be tested on “Oprah.” The agency scrambled to prepare its client’s Web site for the anticipated influx of traffic. The product line was highlighted on the homepage, with clear links to “Find a physician” and product info.

SkinMedica was only mentioned in passing on the show, without further product information or a Web address provided. Nevertheless, traffic shot up that day and the next.

“The show just mentioned the SkinMedica product as part of a regimen,” said Carr. “That alone generated huge traffic.”

While Carr declined to say how much traffic, he did share that the client saw a big uptick in subscriptions that day, and 8,000 individuals clicked through to a doctor referral. The really interesting part of the Oprah traffic phenomenon came with the segmenting and reporting Red Door was able to perform later, using WebSideStory’s HitBox analysis product.

“Ten percent of click-throughs [in a recent blast” came from “The View”; 40 percent came from the ’Oprah’ segment,” said Carr. “We’re not sure what we’re going to do with that, but since you can track it, we figured we might as well.”

Cathy Nerenberg, marketing communications manager for SkinMedica, was a little more certain of the value of segmenting: “Knowing where they’re coming from is not overly important to us. Knowing in particular what they’re interested in is huge.”

In other words, SkinMedica can serve up information on its TNS product line to subscribers who originated from “Oprah,” where those products appeared, and deliver different product information to “The View” subscribers, who seem less interested in TNS.

Results

Open rates on the campaigns have been stellar, a little over 50 percent for physicians and between 60 and 70 percent for the consumer list. The latter’s “Find a physician” click-through rate is an astonishing 30 to 40 percent, and the forward rate is one percent. SkinMedica has no way to know how many conversions followed these excellent interaction stats, as there’s no online ordering mechanism.

“I can’t tell you how many purchases resulted, but I can tell you our messages are getting across in a way we want them to,” said Nerenberg. “The results have been fantastic.”

To what does SkinMedica attribute its stellar results? Carr believes list quality and selective mailing are the big factors. Red Door is constantly cleaning its client’s list, and never sends more than two blasts a month.

SkinMedica’s Nerenberg meanwhile says it all comes back to creative: “I’d like to think it’s good design; the unique message,” said Nerenberg. “We try to incorporate vivid color, quality product shots. We’re always asking, ’Is it eye catching?’ Does it say, ’Open me?’”

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