How auto parts manufacturer Dorman Products revved up its e-mail list

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Dorman Products sells automotive aftermarket parts to customers that include retailers, jobbers and other aftermarket suppliers. “These are formerly dealer-only parts,” said Gerard Yanuzzi, the company's VP-marketing. “When service technicians can't get a part, their customers' cars are going to be up on the lift or in the shop longer than they would like them to be. Our company finds the parts that are failing [at] a regular rate and makes them for [the] market.”

Since 2009, Dorman has been sending e-mail marketing to its customers as well as the products' end-users—service technicians and auto repair shops. Back then, the company had about 2,000 e-mail addresses in its database. Hoping to expand its list and reach repair shops around the nation—estimated at between 80,000 and 200,000—Dorman put several key strategies into place.

The first was a branded program called Be the First to Know, a once-a-month e-mail campaign that outlines all of the company's newest products. “We wanted to make those service technicians aware of the products since they would prefer to go to an auto supplier [over] having to go back to a dealer,” Yanuzzi said.

Dorman encouraged signups in a number of ways. Every single piece of marketing or promotional collateral highlighted the program. For example, Yanuzzi added an executable logo on the top banner of Dorman's website. Meanwhile, all of its social networking elements, including videos posted to YouTube and its Facebook page, have links to the signup with details about why the e-mail is beneficial. Even the company's press releases and virtual trade shows promote the program. Dorman also uses giveaways to promote signups. “The most recent one was on the back of a stocking guide,” Yanuzzi said. “It said, "Do you want a free wheel nut torque poster? If so, come to this URL and sign up to receive it.' That helped us net about 7,000 addresses.”

In fact, Dorman's list grew to 25,000 addresses by October 2010, Yanuzzi said. The best part, he said, is that the majority of people who sign up are actually engaged with the messaging. Today, the newsletter averages about a 42% open rate, Yanuzzi said.

The key is the visibility of the message and the tagline itself, which creates urgency, he said. “People want to know what [parts are] failing,” Yanuzzi said.

Not content to sit back and wait for more people to sign up, in December of 2010, Dorman in conjunction with its e-mail service provider iPost expanded its e-mail acquisition strategy by creating a second program, First to Stock.

The program asks Dorman customers to provide the e-mail addresses of their customers—the service stations and automotive technicians who buy parts. The new e-mail newsletter comes directly from Dorman via iPost but looks like it's coming from Dorman's customers, the auto parts dealers, retailers and jobbers, and includes logos and personalized messaging. In this case, the Dorman customer always maintains its own list, to “keep the one-to-one marketing experience in place,” Yanuzzi said. In addition to the e-mail, those Dorman customers get a badge that shows they are among the first to stock the new parts. While the program is still in its infancy, Yanuzzi said it is working out well. “We've increased our reach to the service technician market by 10,000 addresses,” he said.

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