Small List, Big Stakes: An Aussie Case Study

Earlier this year, I sent out a call for email marketing case studies from other countries. I’m curious about what the industry is like elsewhere. Given the Internet’s global reach, I hoped to entice a few readers into sending some leads. You did! Here’s the first of several non-U.S. case studies.

Vehicle Development Corporation (VDC) is a niche vehicle importer in Melbourne, Australia. The company imports a range of Ford trucks from the United States and then sells them, either from its main dealership or in partnership with other dealers. Because of long delivery lead times, local compliance issues and other factors, there’s little margin for purchasing decisions that are based on inadequate data.

Until recently, VDC didn’t have much of an online presence, although the benefits of having one were clear. VDC’s customers, typically farmers, horse owners, boat owners and the like, are dispersed across Australia, so traditional advertising methods such as newspaper or radio ads are neither practical nor cost-effective. Recently, VDC worked with eXtra Dimensions Design Group to create an effective online marketing strategy.

VDC’s customers were asking more questions than the company could field with phone calls and email, so the initial effort was put into establishing a Web site. The site helped the company answer questions visually, particularly regarding vehicle looks and performance capabilities. Pictures, and a little copy, were worth not only a thousand words to VDC, but lots of saved employee time, as well. The site includes a tool for capturing visitor data, including (of course) email addresses.

To grow site traffic and the database, VDC sent an announcement message to the handful of customers and prospects whose email addresses it had already obtained. A few days after launch, the company had registered 167 members. Now, if this number seems small to you, as it may to marketers here in the United States, bear in mind these are high-end luxury vehicles that sell for c. AUS $90,000. Selling just 10 more vehicles in a year is a dramatic change to the dynamics of the company.

VDC then sent its first email marketing campaign. As you can see, the HTML piece features a prominent logo at the top, short descriptive text in the middle, and thumbnails of eight products for sale. Visitors could click the links and be transported to information on specific models, or they could access more general information, such as the site’s home page, a photo gallery or feedback form.

Initial results were as follows:

  • Of the 151 recipients of the HTML piece, 112 opened the message, for an approximately 74 percent unique open rate. Most readers would agree this is a more-than-satisfactory statistic. One thing I found interesting: if an email was opened for less than 10 seconds, it wasn’t counted in the statistics.

  • Those who opened the message viewed it an average of four times per person, also a fine result.

  • The average view time per open was about 2.5 minutes, and total view time was 275 minutes. (This excludes the 35 recipients who use Web mail, as those stats could not be tracked.) Not only did the recipients open the messages, they were intrigued enough to spend time with them. Another note on stats: if an email had been opened for over 10 minutes, the company stopped recording the time-per-open statistics, assuming the message had likely been left open and forgotten.

  • The email generated 305 click-throughs to the Web site. That equates a CTR of 138 percent. These aren’t unique click-throughs. The average would be about 2.2 click-throughs per opened message, but they’re still very encouraging results for VDC.

  • Most important of all, VDC sold a new F150 Harley truck as a result of this first campaign.

In the meantime, VDC and eXtra Dimensions Design Group have continued to work on driving visitors to the site via search engine optimization, word-of-mouth, and other methods. About six weeks after launch, VDC had an additional 249 addresses in the database, and it sent the mailing to these new subscribers. This occurred so recently that I don’t yet have results to share with you. The database now has about 675 members, and is still growing.

I asked Nina Meiers of eXtra Dimensions Design Group if she had any observations on how email marketing differs in Australia from the United States. Her response, in part, was, “I believe email marketing is perhaps a bit slower in its uptake than in the US, in my opinion only and not based on anything except for what I’ve seen online and my relationship with clients. There is a long education process… as people have questions about privacy, spam, what they can and can’t do, etc.” She adds, “People are the same everywhere in the world.” And those words apply to more than just email marketing.

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