It's fairly easy to get the message out about something that's totally brand new -- but how do you market yet another grand opening when you've already done a chain of them in the same area?
Matt Raymond, Assistant VP of Marketing & Advertising for DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit), has been marketing new stations and line extensions for more than a decade. He says, "When you're marketing transportation, you want to establish usage patterns early on. The best way is to get them to try your service, get them comfortable." And the best way to do that is to offer free ride days when you first open a new transit line.
Back when DART launched its first line in 1996, getting Dallas-area residents to turn out for a free ride day was pretty easy, because the idea was new and exciting. But as time wore on, just another station launch became, well, just another station launch.
At the same time, Raymond's marketing costs to promote free ride days were growing higher, especially for direct mail. CAMPAIGN
Raymond had been hoping to test email marketing for several years. In preparation, he included questions about email usage on all of his marketing surveys, and tracked Dallas-area print newspaper readership vs. electronic version readership. He also started gathering email addresses by asking for them (and permission to use them) on all DART forms, such as surveys and sweepstakes entries.
This fall he decided that he had enough critical mass to take the plunge and act.
Over the years Raymond had kept his offline campaigns in TV, radio, billboards, busboards and direct mail fresh by running an ongoing campaign based on the movies. "Station openings were like movie openings. We had a Western, a 'Rail to White Rock', and TV ads with actors auditioning for parts…." So, he and his email marketing agency Pugh and Company, decided to extend the theme online by creating a rich media email the mimicked the look, feel and theme of the movie campaigns.
The email (link to sample below) subject line read: An Invitation from DART. Ken Pugh, owner Pugh and Company explains, "We didn't want to be a commercial-sounding message." When recipients opened it, a train flitted across their screen hooting. Then they saw a formal invitation reading:
You are invited to
a premiere event of
The Trinity Railway Express
will connect Dallas & Ft Worth
for the first time in 60 years.
you and your friends
can ride free
Next their screen was filled by an old-fashioned movie-style poster with a couple clasping each other while gazing on the train in wonderment, "Darling, we can ride free!"
Then the screen resolved itself into an opt-in form to sign up to learn about future free ride events, and finally, the last screen showed the movie couple again, this time saying, "We'll send this to our friends so they can join us."
Just before the campaign was broadcast on November 28, 2001, Ken Pugh offhandedly said to Matt Raymond that it would probably get a 25% response rate. Raymond said, "Well if you get 25%, we're gonna do a whole lot of business together in the future!"
A stunning 83% of emails delivered were opened by recipients. (To put this in perspective, most emailers consider themselves very fortunate if 50% of their delivered email is opened.)
Then of those 83%:
o 77% watched the entire creative presentation
o 28.5% entered their names to receive future email campaigns.
o 35% clicked through to the DART Web site at the very end
o 3% asked to be removed from the list, however several of these voluntarily contacted DART immediately afterwards asking to be put back on the list because they had clicked on the opt-out by mistake.
DART sent a second broadcast to the same list three days later, which featured nearly identical creative with a different subject line -- this time reading "A reminder from DART". Although this campaign did very nearly as well as the first, both Raymond and Pugh agree in hindsight that they don't think it's a good idea to send two similar campaigns so close to each other. Pugh says, "You don't want to irritate people by sending too many." Raymond adds, "You have a wear-down factor."
More than 11,000 people showed up on the actual free ride day, which is almost double the average for these types of DART events. Raymond can't say exactly how much of this was due to the email campaign, because he had billboards, bus boards and media coverage promoting the event in conjunction with email. However he's confident enough in email's effectiveness to say, "We're actually switching around our budget for 2002, diverting more funds into emarketing." Useful links related to this article:
Sample of campaign
Pugh and Company