…but lots of interest in e-mail

E-mail marketing among business-to-business catalogers appears to be gaining momentum. Half of the b-to-b catalogers surveyed in the 4th Annual Electronic Marketing survey (see i.merchant, June 2000) say they promote their online catalogs via e-mail. And some b-to-b catalogers have fully developed e-mail programs

Among the old hands at e-mail, $2.56 billion computer supplies cataloger CDW has been e-mailing customers since April 1997, and today has two different types of opt-in e-mail programs. One focuses primarily on promoting specific products to customers who have opted in from CDW’s Website. The other is a company newsletter that goes to CDW’s entire e-mail database. “We have built up greater frequency with our e-mails over the years, and now send out two a week,” says product developer Anne Vargo. “We want to point people to specific products on our site.”

Response from e-mails promoting CDW products “is somewhat higher than what we normally get from other media,” Vargo says. “That’s why e-mail is such a hot topic. The key is making sure our e-mail marketing is integrated with all our other marketing efforts.” For instance, if CDW promotes a particular product in an e-mail, the company tries to make the same item easy to find on the Website and in its print catalogs.

Building their lists

Some of the b-to-b mailers just getting started with e-mail include $56 million b-to-b electronics cataloger DBL Distributing and the nearly $100 million packaging supplies mailer Associated Bag Co. – both of which were planning to launch e-mail programs as this issue went to press.

Scottsdale, AZ-based DBL recently finished building a database of customers who have placed orders through its Website, says vice president of marketing David Kline. “Until now, our software didn’t allow us to capture names electronically and automatically place them into our database; it required a manual procedure.” With its database about to be fully integrated companywide, DBL will select software that enables it to more easily capture e-mail names from those who opt in from its Website. “It’s a matter of integrating our company’s main operating system with the Website and the software package,” Kline says. “In addition to e-mail, the new software we end up using will allow us to have separate programs for sale items, closeout specials, and other groupings that we can switch on with the click of a button and send out to customers.”

Associated Bag plans to launch an outbound e-mail marketing program this summer. “So far, we’ve acquired about 10,000 names internally of customers who have voluntarily contacted us,” says director of sales, marketing, and purchasing Scott Pietila. E-mails will offer product specials and other product announcements, with hyperlinks to the company’s Website, he says.

Associated Bag also has been renting some e-mail lists and plans to do some cold e-mail prospecting – something some other catalogers find difficult, due to the lack of good names on the market. “We select names based on the business type and number of employees, and pare a list down to what we feel would be a good fit,” Pietila says.

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