Steve Reitter, manager of the rental and service divisions for Robinsons Ace Hardware and Rental, Hudson, Mass., and the American Rental Association (ARA) Region One director, has found success by switching from a postcard mailer to e-mail marketing by using Constant Contact, an Internet-based customer contact system.
“In the spring and fall, I typically send out a mailer to one of our customer databases promoting servicing power equipment before the season begins. In mid-March, we are slow because snowblower season is over and mower season has not begun. The postcard mailer includes a free pick-up offer if they schedule their service before a certain date. The typical mailing cost is about 40 to 50 cents per card including printing and postage,” he says.
“I just changed to Constant Contact. It cost me $480 for a year and is far less expensive than using post cards. In addition, I get definitive information back as to how many of my e-mail addresses were bad, how many people read my e-mail, who does not want further e-mails and if people followed the links in my e-mail,” he says.
“My first e-mail went to 1,436 customers. Roughly 10 percent of the e-mails were invalid, likely due to improper entry by my counter people, while three people reported it as spam, 17 people asked to receive further e-mails, 574 (43 percent) opened the e-mail and 3 percent followed the links. I am able to track that I serviced 39 machines directly because of this e-mail. In addition to all of this, at least a dozen of our customers e-mailed us to tell us they enjoyed the newsletter,” he says.
“The potential for Constant Contact or a similar program is huge, provided it is managed properly. I do not want to send the newsletter out too often, which will dilute its value. However, in the event of a major incident — like a major snow storm or flooding — I can send an e-mail out in minutes to let people know we have what they need. This presents us with a huge savings not only in production and mailing costs, but labor costs as well. There are tremendous benefits beyond the savings,” he says.
“To make a similar program work, it’s key to accumulate e-mail addresses from your customers. We already get them for service customers and we put clipboards with sign-up sheets at every place people congregate in the store. My rental counter has an e-mail sign-up sheet at each terminal and we are getting people to sign up daily. When it is offered to the customer — for example, asking them, ‘Have you signed up for our e-newsletter?’ — it has far better results than just letting the clipboard sit there,” he says.
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