Ice Energy, a provider of ground-source heat pumps in the United Kingdom, aims to deliver its products for the best value. Still, heat pumps aren't exactly an impulse buy, ranging from the equivalent of $10,000 to $30,000 per unit. According to David Hutchinson, the firm's marketing manager, it can take up to 18 months of attention before customers--homeowners, developers, housing associations--make a purchase.
The firm's marketing efforts include Google AdWords, magazine ads, and direct mail. Email, usually the most convenient channel, turned out to be the biggest burden. In April 2006, Hutchinson began using Mailloop on his desktop to manage 6,000 subscribers. Each campaign took 10 hours--and stalled the entire office network. Worse, he adds, updates--opt-ins and opt-outs, for example--had to be handled manually. By 2007, Hutchinson says, Ice Energy realized it might be better off cutting its email efforts entirely.
Instead, Hutchinson set out to find better resources. By September 2007, Ohio-based email marketing provider JangoMail had come out the winner. "Maybe it didn't have the best graphics," he says, "but when you actually looked under the hood, the engine...was incredibly powerful."
He sent a message asking the original subscribers about their heat-pump needs and if they were still interested in receiving emails. Out of 6,000 customers, 750 said they were either interested or ready to buy immediately; only 250 requested removal. The response, he says, was "phenomenal"--enough sales within the first 24 hours to cover 10 years of JangoMail's cost.
Ice Energy's list now has more than 15,000 people, and Hutchinson says the database grows by 10 percent each month, with only 50 or 60 opt-outs. On average, 20 percent to 30 percent of recipients access the Web site; some response rates reach as high as 80 percent. Once the recipient clicks a link in the email, Ice Energy tracks her behavior through Google Analytics, incorporating that information into future, more-targeted campaigns.
The emails are simple, addressed individually, and sent personally from Hutchinson. "I go to exhibitions and people come up and shake my hand as though I'm a long-lost friend," he says. "They've been communicating with me for such a long time." Whether notifying consumers of a limited-time offer or a brochure they should have received, email has been a crucial component in developing a personal and ongoing relationship. "We take them along a journey," he says, which helps to build trust in both the product and the company. Moreover, since heat pumps are relatively new to the general market, a good portion of Ice Energy's campaigns focus on consumer education.
Hutchinson still singlehandedly manages the system. ("I get someone to check my spelling," he admits.) JangoMail automates list maintenance and sends out the emails. "It's just a click of a button," he says. "We don't worry about anything from that point onwards." Now, instead of expending time and resources on database and administrative maintenance, he can focus his attention on the creative. Even as the time spent on campaign management has decreased from four days to two, the end products have improved significantly.
The result last December was a true testament to JangoMail's effectiveness, Hutchinson says. During that time, "people are thinking about Christmas presents--not about spending $20,000 on a heating pump." In addition, Ice Energy closes for 10 days around the holidays. As a result, sales usually take a significant dip; in 2007, the company was projected to fall 50 percent behind its monthly target.
A week before closing, executives took a final stab at stimulating sales. A special promotion, sent only through JangoMail, offered a discount in addition to an upsell. Within the next week, Ice Energy scored 110 percent of its target sales goal for that month--the best outperformance ever achieved to that point. Hutchinson says email made the feat possible: "No other medium can give you that immediate action and reaction."
With JangoMail's email marketing solution, Ice Energy was able to:
g reduce the time to create more-effective campaigns from four days to two;
g increase its contact database by
10 percent each month;
g generate a 20 percent to 30 percent
average response rate per campaign; and
g hit a record-breaking 110 percent of a monthly sales target in just one week.