January 04, 2011
How To

Email Marketing to Partners' Lists: Partner promotions program reaches 30% more subscribers

SUMMARY: Emailing promotions to partners' databases is a fairly common tactic. Regularly promoting to dozens of partners' lists, and sending the messages yourself? Now that's a challenge.

See how this marketing team extended its email reach by more than 30% by regularly promoting to partners' lists -- and how it managed the program. Open rates and clickthrough rates are more than 2X higher than emails sent to its house list.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter

Partnerships that enable marketers to send dedicated email to other companies' lists are commonplace. Typically, both companies agree on what will be sent and when, and the company that controls the list ultimately sends the email.

For Dave Morse, Online Marketing Strategist, Delta Faucet, this is not the case. Morse and his team at the kitchen and bath accessories brand regularly send emails to their partners' lists under a program Morse calls "On Your Behalf." Delta's team crafts the message, chooses the timing, and is in charge of sending.

"Our sales rep agencies love it because they don't have to put a lot of work into it," Morse says. "It follows all the CAN-SPAM laws and if someone hits reply, it goes to the [partner] agency, not to us. So it looks like it comes from them but they don't have to go through the trouble of building and sending it."

Morse and his team love the program. It has extended the number of people Delta reaches with its email marketing by more than 30%. Also, the emails to partners' lists perform better on average than emails to Delta's house list (see creative samples below).

Stronger performance from partner's lists

A main goal of Delta's email marketing is product awareness, Morse says. Emails are sent to partners' lists about twice a month and feature Delta's products. Getting people to visit Delta's "where to buy" section of its website is a key conversion for the team.

Here's a one-month average comparison of promotional emails sent to Delta's house list and to its partners' list:

Emails to Delta's list:
o 14% open rate
o 8% clickthrough rate
o 5% of clickthrough visitors went to the "where to buy" section on the site

Emails to partners' lists:
o 40% open rate
o 18% clickthrough rate
o 8% of clickthrough visitors went to the "where to buy" section on the site

Establishing such a partnership involves a tremendous amount of trust, reassurance and responsibility from all parties involved. Here are the key tactics Morse's team used to get this program up and running smoothly.

Tactic #1. Work with a uniform group of partners

Delta has very few sales reps on its payroll, Morse says. Instead, the company partners with 32 sales rep agencies that sell to large plumbing suppliers, builders and other companies. The partners also sell other brands' products -- but they are complementary and not in competition with Delta's.

The emails Delta sends to these partners' lists are relevant since they feature the exact Delta products the partners sell. This relevancy encourages the emails' strong performance.

If Delta had a mixed bag of relationships -- where some partners sold competitors' products and others didn't -- this program would not likely be as effective. The emails would be less relevant to some subscribers.

Also, the team does not have to create a separate strategy for different partners since they sell the same products. This simplifies the program.

"It's not like we have messages that would apply for some agencies and not others," Morse says.

Tactic #2. Provide assurances and have a proven track record

Requesting a copy of a partner's email database and the right to send it promotions will raise concerns, which is to be expected. You're essentially asking to control a part of their reputation.

This is why you must have a plan to show how you will use the addresses before you request them. Your partners will have many questions, and if too many questions go unanswered you will be fighting an uphill battle. Other tips:
o Thoroughly explain the program's intent and frequency
o Show examples of emails you will send
o Promise to send any email for review at least one week before sending
o Make your team's email expert available to answer questions

Also, use your email program as an example. Show them metrics on your deliverability rates, open rates, clickthrough rates and conversions. Show them your slick email designs. Show them that you know what you're doing. If your program's metrics are not high enough to inspire confidence, then you probably shouldn't be sending on others' behalves.

Tactic #3. Your team sends the messages

When Morse's team began this program about one year ago, it gave partners two options:
1. Delta's team could send messages directly to partners' lists
2. Delta's team could forward partners the messages and the partners could send them

The team went as far as creating accounts in its email client for those who wanted them. Partners could log in, review the email, and click to send it to their lists. This, however, did not last long.

"If we had one agency or two or three, that would be okay. But we have over 30. So it was just kind of a nightmare to manage that," Morse says.

One reason was that some partners would never send the emails. A second reason is that Morse's team found itself playing tech-support to the partners who were unfamiliar with the email client.

After a few months, Morse's team decided to end the account option and to only send on partners' behalves.

Tactic #4. Make it a requirement, but tread lightly

Morse's team made participation in its "On Your Behalf" program mandatory for its agency sales rep partners.

When Delta first started requesting its partners' subscriber lists, roughly one-third of the partners immediately complied. Another third needed more coaxing and reassurance. The final third of partners were "dragging their feet," he says.

Morse emphasizes that the program is a requirement, but he has not forced any agencies to comply. For many marketers, it might not be worth risking a good partnership over such an issue.

Tactic #5. Respect your partners at all times

A company that lends its email database is showing a significant amount of trust. Be sure not to betray that trust by carelessly emailing or ignoring your partners' concerns. This program might be a small part of a much larger, much more important business partnership.

Here are three things Morse's team does to keep its partners comfortable with the program:

- Always send previews

The team sends partners a preview of any emails it plans to send and mentions their scheduled time. This information is sent at least one week before mailing.

- Allow partners to opt-out

Delta's partners have their own email programs. Some may ask Morse's team to not send a certain email because it is too closely timed with another mailing, or because the partner already sent three promotions that month. Whatever the reasoning, Morse's team respectfully grants their requests.

- Allow partners to protect certain subscribers

Other times, Morse has received requests to not email certain subscribers in a partner's list, which his team accepted.

Useful links related to this article

1. Email to house list
2. Email to partner list

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Delta Faucet

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