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Mar 08, 2011
Case Study

Email Marketing Basics: 29% sales lift from simple landing page

SUMMARY: A less-than-stellar email marketing program might seem like a big mess but it's really a big opportunity. Adding a few best practices can yield huge improvements.

See how a food redistributor changed its helter-skelter email promotions into a simple ordering process, added some basic customization and increased sales. Now, more internal resources are flowing to the marketing team's projects, as well.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter


Poor execution can hobble a good campaign. Each week, food redistributor Dot Foods sent a promotional email to its list of distributors, but its ordering process was a little archaic.

To order, customers had to write a response email describing their order and delivery needs. This was a huge barrier to conversion. Also, the emails were not well-targeted.

"Everyone received the same email, regardless of their size, purchase history or their buyer's role," says Bri Shaw, eBusiness Project Manager, Dot Foods.

Furthermore, Dot Foods had a team member dedicated to receiving customers' order emails. The person tracked sales, forwarded orders to customer service, and sent them to another department to control inventory.

Shaw and her team knew there was low-hanging fruit to be plucked from this process. A few changes could really improve sales.


Dot Foods established a basic landing page to receive orders from its email promotions and started segmenting its audience and customizing emails. At face value, the approach might seem simple. But without back-end architecture to support the changes, there was plenty of work to do.

Here are the steps the team followed:

Step #1. Build a better database

Dot Foods had a customer relationship management (CRM) database, but its information was not always up-to-date, Shaw says.

"A lot of the information was in the salesperson's head, or the customer service person's head, as opposed to being in the database for people to utilize."

This posed a challenge to areas well beyond email marketing. Dot Foods' transportation department, for example, needed better information to control shipping. In response, the company launched a six-month plan to contact every customer, gather their information and put it into the database.

Afterward, Shaw's team and others had easy access to customer information, such as:

o Contact information
o Role at the company
o Company size
o Order history

Step #2. Build a landing page

The weekly email promotion, The Commodity & Pallets Promo, did not have a landing page order form. Instead, customers had to write response emails, as mentioned above.

Increasing conversion rates is often a matter of simplifying processes and eliminating steps. Requiring customers to draft an email is a huge step that Shaw's team wanted to eliminate.

In its place, it built a landing page (see creative samples below) which included:

o Company header
o Basic order form
o Simple instructions
o Contact info for customer service
o List of available products and prices

Step #3. Automated sales notices

The team had to replace its manual system for processing orders. An automated system could be more easily tracked and would free up time for everyone involved.

Under the new system, an automated order-confirmation email was sent to customers immediately after a purchase. Copies of the email were sent to Dot Food's customer service and other departments for processing.

This eliminated the need for a dedicated team member to receive and forward customers' purchase orders.

Step #4. Customize and target email

The improvement in Dot Food's database helped many areas, including email marketing. Shaw's team could now segment its audience based on company size and location, and show subscribers only relevant products.

The new emails included (see creative samples below):

o Same company header as the landing page
o Personalized greeting
o Ordering instructions
o Button to order (linked to landing page)
o List of available products and prices

Previously, every subscriber received the same huge list of products and many were irrelevant, Shaw says. Now subscribers received ten to 30 items based on their attributes and the needs of Dot Foods' business development manager, Shaw says.

Step #5. Tweak timing and messaging

Shaw's team previously sent the promotional email on Tuesdays, but later realized that did not work well for West Coast customers' deadlines. They tested sending on Friday afternoons, which worked well for the team's production, but not subscribers' needs.

"Our open rates went down. I got caught in the weekend spam, so to speak," Shaw says.

Taking into account the different buying cycles of each of their regions, Shaw's team tested sending on Mondays at 10 a.m. CST, which worked best.

- Add relevance to subject lines

Previously, all subscribers received the same subject line each week: "C&P Promos."

Since commodity prices fluctuate, the team tested sending part of its audience subject lines that mentioned low prices on certain products. This would increase the subject line's relevance and feature available deals.

The tactic worked and consistently beat the old subject line. Examples of recent subject lines:

o Look at Pinto Pricing on C&P Promos!
o Jalapeno Deals on C&P Promos!
o Check out the Peanut Oil Pricing on C&P Promos!


"We have really come a long way," Shaw says. "This is just a launching pad for what we want to do. I am excited about what is to come. We have good momentum going into 2011 and beyond."

After overhauling its email promotions, the team realized:

o 29% increase in pounds sold (the team measures sales in pounds, not dollars)
o 32% increase in open rate

"We are averaging about 50 more orders per month than we were previously. So, with this new landing page, we are averaging higher orders," Shaw says.

- Projects are prioritized

The overhaul's success has helped illustrate the value of email marketing to other parts of the company, and has helped Shaw's team get more internal resources for projects. For example, her team wanted to set up a stock-request system so customers could see how much of a certain product Dot Foods had available.

"It was something our customers had been asking about for a while," Shaw says. "We got bumped up on the priority list just because we saw the value in it and we could get some data around what it would take to do and how customers would react."

Useful links related to this article

1. Promotional email
2. Email landing page

New Chart: What it takes to personalize email

Email Marketing: Triggered email nets 75% of referral program signups

Email Marketing: How your peers create an effective email message

New Chart: Top tactics organizations use to improve email relevancy

ExactTarget - provided team's email service and strategy support

Dot Foods
See Also:

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