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Harbor Freight Tools Cans Spam
The retailer has seen double-digit results through better targeting its email marketing.
For the rest of the February 2005 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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As the Internet became an increasingly efficient marketing vehicle for Harbor Freight Tools, the company's email marketing campaign had become a weak spot. The 37-year-old tool-and-equipment catalog retailer was using a multichannel approach--including about 190 retail stores, a catalog business, and a Web site--to deliver more than 7,000 tool and equipment items to more than five million customers. But Harbor Freight had no means to track its outgoing email, and had no idea how effective that email marketing was. Plus, it couldn't confirm if messages were reaching intended audiences or if they were being sent into the abyss of spam filters. "We utilize a lot of email marketing to help drive traffic into our retail stores as well as to our Web site and catalogs," says Marty Vrieze, marketing manager for Harbor Freight Tools. "It's a very important component of our business." Harbor Freight runs a lean marketing department, and the few people it has were finding it increasingly difficult to get good deliverability from their email campaigns. One person was responsible for going from domain to domain to check test email broadcasts to make sure the company's marketing messages were getting through. The team discovered that spam filters would catch only parts of words. For example, when Vrieze's department tried sending an email-marketing message for paint removal tools containing the word scrap, the spam filter picked up on the word subportion rap, and Harbor Freight was getting blocked because of it. Harbor Freight turned to Pivotal Veracity to get further insight into why the company's emails were or were not making it through the various systems and into the different domains. Using Pivotal Veracity's eContent Scorer (ECS) and eDelivery Tracker (EDT), Harbor Freight began tracking email messages through domains and checking that the more "creative messages" wouldn't trigger spam filters. This allowed Harbor Freight to avoid emails being blocked by ensuring the quality of the emails before they were sent out. As a result, the marketing department saved time and money on being able to more efficiently check email deliverability. Using a test broadcast, the department can check within an hour after sending to see if all emails successfully arrived. Harbor Freight has seen a boost in inbox placement of 10 percentage points.
Vrieze also has improved his customization of emails to better target customers. Using such customer traits as preferred sales channels, customer proximity, and past purchases, Harbor Freight can now spend more time customizing and categorizing customers within different programs to allow for more personalized messages. "This has really allowed us to take a lot of the guesswork out of the deliverability issue and content issue, so that we can spend more of our time focusing on the things that are important, like subsegmenting our files and customizing our messages," Vrieze says. "These are things that multichannel marketers really strive to do in a customer relationship management environment."
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