In my mind, this was a huge win. The side of me that enjoys a little embellishment with my achievements would say that I “saved the business.” Of course, some may call that a slight exaggeration. Realistically speaking, my efforts drove additional revenue and customer loyalty, which ushered in months of profitability. So, who’s to say I didn’t “save” the business? We were, after all, suffering through an unusually rough patch for quite some time.
Seeing Our Sales Slump
I started realizing a problem last winter. It seemed that the cold winds and early storms of the northeast had also frozen shut the wallets of our customers. Sales were in a slump. More specifically, repeat sales were drastically down. As easy as it was to drive new customers to our website through the usual search and social channels, it was not the most cost effective route. We paid a steep price to get those first-time buyers, and the repeat business was the key to finding a return on our initial investment. However, that repeat business had gone cold.
“Why aren’t they buying more?” I remember my boss asking me on a particularly cold day. “Even our repeat visitors are down. Where are they?”
I hate not having an answer to those types of questions. I’ve always prided myself on understanding the trends in data and being the marketing superstar at my company. But that day I could only shrug and muster the painful words, “I don’t know.”
That answer wasn’t good enough. Not for him and especially not for me. So, I set out to fix the problem.
Discovering Email Marketing
I started with the source of our web traffic. As I stated before, new visitors came easy. We had a decent advertising budget which I split between our pay-per-click (PPC) efforts on Google Adwords and some Facebook advertising directed at our target personas. Being in a competitive space, the costs for each click did not come cheap. This led to an even higher cost per conversion which did not scale very well. We needed to figure out a way to get more money out of each customer.
The next step in my plan was to begin researching customer loyalty strategies. That is when something caught my eye: an article about the most cost effective ways to increase customer retention. And at the top of the list was email marketing. This scratched at my curiosity and I decided to dive head first into that rabbit hole.
In the past, I had always believed that email marketing involved buying email lists and spamming people. Personally, I hate spam, so I had always avoided it. Turns out that I could not have been more wrong. In fact, proper email marketing involves growing your own lists with permission marketing techniques. I realize this sounds difficult, but it’s surprisingly easy.
Remember all those new customers I mentioned from PPC and social channels? Well that is where I started. I just needed the proper incentive to get each one of them to opt-in to our email list. Per best practices, this can be achieved by giving them something of value. Some examples were whitepapers that taught customers important information, product buying guides, and the mother of all incentives: deals and coupons.
Proving the Value of Email Marketing
Well that seemed easy enough. So, I went to work with my web developer to set up a subscription widget on our site, accompanied by the promise of a money-off coupon with purchase. It worked. Soon we were building an impressive email list from our own website visitors, which I then used in my email marketing campaigns. I was sending product announcement emails, special offers and promos, and even seasonal buying guides scheduled throughout the year.
Our repeat business was growing so fast that I needed to hire a new person just to handle the complexity of our email campaigns. Luckily, my boss did not argue with the request. The business was profitable once more and I had more than proven the value of email marketing.
Now, with the extra help, we are taking our email program to the next level. Cart abandonment emails are returning great results, especially when combined with a special offer. And I’m excited to launch our first drip campaign based on which product segments our customers are viewing on the website. This has opened a whole new world of marketing for me.
So, did I “save” our business? I’m not sure how others may answer that question, but I’d like to think I did. And I know my boss thinks I did a great job. It turns out that not all heroes wear capes, some just wear brand new Louis Vuitton’s and send email.