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Case study: How ClearBrick built its e-mail list

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Software provider ClearBrick offers its customer experience planning software to small companies across the world. Until April 2007, it got the word out using pay-per-click ads and direct marketing campaigns, but it had no e-mail marketing program to speak of, said Robert G. Howard, ClearBrick CEO. This limited the company’s ability to create and build ongoing personal relationships with prospects, he said. Because the company had no e-mail lists, it would be slow going, he thought, to get one started.

Still, ClearBrick, working with e-mail service provider Vertical Response, introduced its first e-mail newsletter at the end of 2007, sending it out to 640 customers. At the same time, Howard decided to use his company’s ongoing pay-per-click ads to build a strong list. He did so by designing ads that offered prospects who clicked through materials that weren’t available online for free, he said. In addition, when people signed up for the free materials, they were also subscribed to the e-mail newsletter’s list. “We pull people to a landing page where we offer them a free guide or report in exchange for an e-mail address,” Howard said.

But this wasn’t always Howard’s strategy. In the beginning, ClearBrick did a hard sell on its landing pages, but conversion rates were low. So this past spring ClearBrick decided to go with a softer sell, simply giving people access to the special content on the landing pages. This increased conversion rates—the number of people who provided their e-mail addresses—by 50%, and helped build the company’s e-mail marketing list. Today, conversions from the PPC campaigns have ranged from 9% to 15%. “Now, we never try and sell them the software on the landing page,” he said.

While this is an impressive statistic, it wouldn’t mean anything if Howard wasn’t able to keep prospects on the e-newsletter list, which is close to topping 3,000 names. And he has, he says—the unsubscribe rate averages less than 0.6%—because the newsletter’s content is both relevant and entertaining.

“We’re giving people insight into customer experience management trends, things that can help businesses,” Howard said. “We also make it a fun read. We make the newsletter entertaining by publishing our own business cartoon called ‘Inside Jobs.’ The newsletter is informational and fun, and all the selling is done secondarily.”

The integrated e-email and PPC campaigns maximize the company’s marketing budget by helping the two build off of each other. Howard can select PPC keywords based on which items are best received in the newsletter, and the PPC campaigns help to build the company’s e-mail marketing list. It’s a strategy that he intends to continue, he said.

“The combination is critical in maintaining brand image and maintaining a dialog with customers and prospects,” he said. “It really creates credibility.”

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