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Hire the right email service provider for great results

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In 2008, leasing and finance company First National Capital Corp. decided to employ an email service provider to help with its marketing program. Unfortunately, the company, which offers funding and debt syndication services to a variety of industries (including aviation, construction, manufacturing, retail, and energy) found its provider to be “expensive and difficult to use,” according to Mike Curtis, First National Capital's VP-marketing and sales operations. “We spent about $69,000 during the first year,” he said. “While I was impressed with the benefits, I felt for that kind of spend there had to be other solutions out there. I wanted to do what we were doing more effectively and spend less money.” In the second quarter of 2009, Curtis decided to hire ESP Pinpointe—mostly, he said, because of reduced costs. But he quickly discovered Pinpointe provided more flexibility than his old system. For instance, since First National Capital has many different customer segments, Curtis wanted a way to segment the company's contact database so targeted emails could be sent. Using Pinpointe, he's been able to create segments of several hundred people just as easily as several thousand, and he can create one-time segments without having to do too much leg work. The switch also allowed First National Capital to be more “hands-on,” something that's important since the company's marketing department is Curtis himself. “I can concentrate on hyper-hyper-personalization and be very targeted and very specific,” he said. “I'm not stuck using templates or sending to specific, preformatted segments. The email program touches customers on average three to four times per quarter, including a quarterly email newsletter and other segment-specific offers and messages. Content is designed to build the company's reputation as a thought leader and raise overall brand awareness, Curtis said. All emails are personalized and come from individual sales representatives as well as the corporate office. For example, a recent email went out to 11,000 people who own airplanes. “I pulled an article out of an aviation magazine about the fact that the federal government wants to eliminate the tax break and depreciation [related to owning a private jet]. We got a lot of emails back thanking us for educating [our customers.]” The segmentation also lets Curtis send out email to clients based on past behavior. “We sent a message out this week to people who bought planes three years ago,” he said. “The message was very targeted—"Regarding your Learjet 450 three-year anniversary.' That went to 400 people. I sent out the email this morning, and we're averaging a 21%-to-24% open rate so far on that one little campaign.” Curtis doesn't rely exclusively on templates, sometimes opting for plain text messages. Another email, sent right before the July 4 holiday, was extremely simple; it contained clip art of a flag and text wishing recipients a “great Fourth of July.” That email generated five leads sent directly to sales reps, Curtis said. Since moving from its old marketing automation system to Pinpointe, Curtis has saved a lot of money, but the real benefits are the business results, he said. The company grew 40% during 2009 while the rest of its industry was flat or losing revenue. “While it was more than just email, of course, it's made me say, "Wow, that's the real power of email marketing.' I can finally be more hands-on and communicate effectively the way my customers want to hear from us, and it shows in our sales.”
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