A One-Way Ticket, 5,371 Miles and Three Emails That Made a Difference

As an email marketing consultant working with clients to improve the performance of their email programs, I have spent a lot of time helping brands change the practices that negatively impact their inbox placement and response rates. While this is both challenging and interesting work, it’s also refreshing to shift focus and appreciate some great practices that marketers are using to stand out from the “grey mail” and marketing clutter, target their subscribers using accurate data and provide relevant messaging that drives engagement.

I recently had the opportunity to experience these practices first-hand as an email subscriber when I made the move from London to San Francisco. My first week in my new city was spent running around taking care of the numerous tasks that come with a move, including the essential (buying a couch) and the mundane (learning how to program my new DVR to record my favourite shows). As I simultaneously added and crossed-off items to my to-do list, I found myself appreciating any effort made on the part of the brands I was interacting with to help me stay organized, sane and appreciated as a customer.

Here are three companies that did just that:

  • Crate & Barrel – After purchasing furniture online (and visiting my local store to debate the finer points of curtain accessories with a few very patient sales people – single rods, double rods, hooks, clips, rings, anyone?) and receiving my delivery, an email arrived in my inbox a few days later asking me to rate my recent purchases and write a review of my shopping experience. The message included images of each of the items I’d purchased and a customized landing page with related items for my consideration. A few days later I received a phone call from a Crate & Barrel customer service representative asking me if I was satisfied with my recent order. I appreciated the multi-channel outreach, which came across as sincere rather than pushy, and the related product suggestions listed on the landing page enticed me to buy a discounted item that I had forgotten to order previously.
  • Verizon Wireless – When I moved to the U.K. from New York City roughly four years ago, I decided to keep my U.S. cell phone and number active for the trips I knew I’d be making back to the U.S. Lots of friends and family members didn’t have international calling plans so it made it easier for them to call me. In addition, I’d had my cell phone number since college and it was one of the few things I stubbornly refused to give up as part of my transatlantic move. When I made the move back to the US in March, I wound up using my U.S. number again constantly. As a result, I racked up some serious overages on a plan that was originally downgraded for less usage. After the increased bill was generated, I received a message from Verizon letting me know that selecting a different plan could save me money. The message listed the overage charges (divided into voice, text and data categories) with a call-to-action to view various plan options and do an account analysis to determine the best one based on my ongoing usage.  The subject line, “See how much you could have saved last month,” certainly got my attention as moving isn’t particularly bank-balance friendly. The process was simple and easy and the new plan was put into place immediately.
  • Zipcar – One of the conveniences of living in a big city is not having to rely on a car to get around. However, something inevitably comes up where one is necessary. Zipcar offers the perfect solution. It’s similar to the “Boris Bike” scheme in London, except with cars. Members pay a small annual fee and then an hourly rate to pick up one of hundreds of cars available at their nearest location, which in my case is across the street. Gas and insurance are included and members can choose from multiple models, whether it’s a hybrid, convertible, hatchback or SUV. After retaking my written driver’s test (as required by the state of California), I applied for a Zipcar membership and received a very helpful welcome message. It was personalized with my name, updated me on the status of my application, told me about the next steps in the process, and provided me with information about my local Zipcar office if I wanted to pick up my membership card in person. Once my membership was approved, I received another email letting me know I was officially a member and alerting me to the fact that my card was in the mail. The message also included instructions for activating my card and a link to view frequently asked questions about the process for reserving a car. There were also calls-to-action for a mobile app and information to contact Customer Service and follow Zipcar on Facebook and Twitter.

A large part of my job is helping brands achieve their marketing and business goals through email, while simultaneously providing value for subscribers. It was great to experience first-hand how smart marketers are using the channel to improve their customers’ lives, one relevant message at a time.

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Margaret Farmakis

About Margaret Farmakis

As the senior director for Return Path’s Response Consulting group, Margaret helps clients improve the response, revenue and ROI of their email marketing programs. She uses her knowledge of content, design, segmentation and email campaign strategy and branding to help her clients build their files with active and engaged subscribers, increase the lifetime value of their subscriber base, improve program relevancy and generate sales.
Before Return Path, she spent 10 years producing and managing multi-channel integrated direct marketing programs for Fortune 100 companies, focusing on the financial services and technology sectors.
She most recently held a senior-level marketing position with Strategic Communications, Inc., a marketing/communications agency in Boston, where she spent five years. Previous experience also includes project management and editorial roles at SchoolSports, Inc., publisher of RISE Magazine, the nation’s leading sports and active lifestyle magazine for teens (formerly SchoolSports Magazine), and SchoolSports.com.

Margaret is currently based out of Return Path’s London office.

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