February 01, 2012
Case Study

Digital Marketing: Taking incentive from in-person to online boosts sales $105,000

SUMMARY: To employ a more organized digital marketing strategy, take advantage of the interconnection of each channel. Digital marketing can make your message more consistent, and possibly reach more of your target audience.

In this case study, a company earned $105,000 in new sales after moving from its client services personnel delivering incentive fliers for ancillary sales, to delivering that message through a revamped and organized email campaign.

Find out the changes the company made to its overall marketing strategy, how it implemented the new email effort, and how it embraced social media to improve its connection to clients and prospects.
by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter


There are situations where simply creating a more organized and integrated marketing strategy is the most important element to tackle. A cohesive approach is particularly important with digital marketing because multiple channels -- such as email, the website and social media -- are so effectively intertwined.

Even when organizing the entire strategy is the key to improving marketing efforts, very often one tactic within the revamped strategy can put the entire effort over the top, as you will read in this case study.

Gourmet Coffee Service is a Los Angeles-based coffee provider with a B2B business model. Founded in 1995, the company has grown to around 2,400 clients. Gourmet Coffee Service’s drivers provide about 3,000 products such as coffee, brewing equipment, hot chocolate, teas, roll towels and cleaning supplies to office environments with everything for the office pantry.

The drivers make monthly rounds, do the restocking, and provide each client with an inventory. The business has a very service-intensive approach.

An important aspect of Gourmet Coffee Service’s business is adding new items to its existing client base’s monthly inventory, and like many B2B companies, it utilized its service force, drivers in this case, to conduct much of its market messaging to existing clients.

"We would have the driver come in and drop off a flier, and if the client was interested in adding that to their product list, they would fill it out and fax that in," explained Bob Tullio, co-founder and Director of Business Development, Gourmet Coffee Service.

He continued, "That was the way we generated that type of business, and it was moderately successful. But, then we were dependent on the salesmanship of the route driver, and the route driver is a busy guy when he is out there."

Adding to the difficulty, the driver legally had to be paid hourly and not on a commission basis for these ancillary sales, and was conducting normal aspects of the job such as cleaning the brewer, restocking inventory, and organizing the pantries when visiting each client.

Find out how Gourmet Coffee Service revamped its marketing to add an organized digital element to the effort that helped the company gain more control over its marketing message. Also, learn how taking a customer incentive tied to the ancillary sales from a face-to-face promotion to consistent digital channels helped drive $105,000 in new sales over the first year.


Before reorganizing its marketing strategy, Gourmet Coffee Service utilized the fliers handed out by its route drivers, faxed fliers sent by the company, and random emails about new deals. In 2011, the company created a more organized send, added social media to its messaging, and made a significant change to its customer incentive for ancillary sales.

About the importance of ancillary sales to the company, Tullio said, "When you have in excess of 2,000 clients, if you are able to add product to a small percentage of those accounts every month, it can translate to some big dollars."

Step #1. Determine an effective, consistent channel

Although Gourmet Coffee Service continued to use its drivers to deliver fliers, the company knew it was missing out on providing a more consistent marketing message with email.

The company had a solid database of around 3,000 email addresses, with the list grown mostly through appointments with prospective clients and Internet inquiries. Tullio added the company conducted regular data hygiene on the list.

Instead of sending random email to the database, the team decided to begin sending regular one-off emails every six weeks. While the emails promoted different aspects of the business, such as its eco-friendly offerings or new seasonal products, each email had a focal point of free product samples.

Step #2. Use the customer incentive to drive email engagement

The free sample incentive wasn’t new to the revamped email campaign. Previously, it had been mostly handled offline by the drivers delivering fliers and samples. The problem was the program was not very effective and suffered from a low response rate.

With the new email program, the team repurposed an opinion poll function within the email platform to give customers the option to check boxes for four or five different samples in the body of each email send.

Recipients of the mail now had an incentive to open, and interact with, Gourmet Coffee Service’s email.

Tullio said recipients could check off all five samples if they wished, but added he has seen in the B2B channel that recipients weren’t "ridiculous about what they select."

He added the team has noticed that it’s about 50/50 where a client orders the free sample, and continues to keep that item in their regular inventory.

The new email program, with emails acquired through prospective client appointments and Internet inquiries, has even brought new customers to Gourmet Coffee Service.

By staying in front of these prospects who were part of the database every six weeks with a consistent marketing message and a new free sample incentive with each send, the email effort gave Gourmet Coffee Service the chance to obtain another appointment and ultimately get the new business.

Step #3. Add social media to the digital marketing effort

With a more organized digital marketing strategy in place in the email channel, Gourmet Coffee Service also began concentrating on social media through a blog on the website, and more importantly to the company for customer interaction, through a Facebook page.

This effort began mid-2011, and was largely driven by a weekly prize contest conducted each Friday and promoted by its route drivers handing out fliers to encourage "likes" on the Facebook page.

Gourmet Coffee Service committed $10,000 to the contest giveaway with prizes such as a Bose music system, Apple TVs, a Wolfgang Puck wine opening set, and high-end headphones.

Contest winners are chosen by random drawing of Gourmet Coffee Service’s Facebook "likes."

The company currently has 373 likes for the Facebook page, including more than 300 existing client decision makers.

Tullio said he has noticed a specific demographic is most drawn to the Facebook page. He said, "The vast majority are between the age of 25 and 35. It is like the mountain on the chart hits at 25, and the valley begins again at 35."

He added, "(With Facebook) we have a nice way to connect with a small percentage of our clients that are in a certain demographic."

Tullio said the current goal is to reach 1,000 "likes," and he believes that goal is realistic with 2,400 clients.

Along with the weekly contest, the company is using Facebook in a number of other ways:
  • New product introductions to complement the email campaign

  • Posting links to coffee-related third-party content

  • Introduce Gourmet Coffee Service employees (particularly client-services people) to its clients

  • Posting the copy of each email send

"It is all about connectivity, and anything we can do to connect to our client base is a very, very positive thing," said Tullio.

He added, "It will translate ultimately in referrals. We are going to solicit referrals through the Facebook page, offering free spa treatments or free gift certificates for someone who gives us a referral and (it) turns into business."


Just one year after a total revamp of its digital strategy involving email and social media to complement the existing face-to-face interaction from its drivers, Gourmet Coffee Service has seen some impressive results:
  • $105,000 in new sales

  • Website traffic increased 25%

  • Email open rate of 35%

  • 55% conversion rate of free sample order to monthly inventory item in 2011

Because the free sample incentive in the new email program is designed to drive ongoing monthly revenue, the best month for the program was January 2011 when the first email of the new program drove consistent, repeat replenishment sales.

Tullio said there are also seasonal fluctuations, such as late spring when higher-priced summer beverages are added to the product mix.

About digital marketing, Tullio stated, "When it was old school, if you wanted to generate sales, you had to go out there and connect with your prospects and your clients. Nothing has changed except that we have a lot of very, very innovative, creative and much easier opportunities to connect with people."

Useful links related to this article

  1. Holiday email

  2. Blog

  3. Facebook page

Gourmet Coffee Service

Gourmet Coffee Service’s Facebook page

Constant Contact -- Gourmet Coffee Service’s email marketing vendor

Improve Revenue Attribution: 5 Insights to Recognize the Impact of Contributing Channels

New Chart: Perceptions of Email Marketing ROI at Budget Time

Email Marketing: How your peers create an effective email message

Email Research: Top 3 tactics to grow your list

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