How e-mail redesign, content syndication helped Volvo Construction

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Volvo Construction Equipment N.A. Inc. sells a variety of new and used heavy machinery via its 70 North American dealers. These dealers sell things such as scraper haulers, pipelayers and pavers to companies in the construction, forestry and waste management industries. The dealers also take trade-in equipment that is refurbished and re-sold to other customers.

For the past five years, Volvo Construction Equipment has supported its dealers' new and used sales funnels with e-mail marketing. The company has three e-mail lists: a weekly remarketing newsletter for used equipment that goes out to “thousands” of end users, a weekly dealer e-mail that is sent to more than 5,000 dealer and Volvo employees, and a monthly newsletter that is sent to dealers and end users and has reached “hundreds of thousands,” according to John Johnston, the company's e-business marketing manager.

Like other companies in its industry, Volvo over the past year started to see sales slowing due to the recession. The company decided to assess its e-mail marketing program using focus groups and surveys, and by carefully studying industry best practices and the latest research.

“We needed to find better methods,” Johnston said. “We studied how we built our messages and determined our approach was wrong--from the design to how we wrote the copy to the links to the times the e-mails were sent. The past nine months have been all about revision.”

Volvo Construction Equipment tapped e-mail service provider ExactTarget, who helped educate the company about best practices and redesigned the e-mail templates associated with each of the newsletters. In addition, Volvo also signed up for ExactTarget's content syndication program in a bid to send out better used equipment updates, Johnston said.

The design changes were significant. For example, the company added a table of contents to its e-newsletter. “Previously, we wrote long e-mails that had 7 or 8 different articles,” Johnston said.

Having a table of contents increased click-throughs on the two bottom articles by 15%, he said. “We don't want to make the e-mails too long, and that's really changing how people read them.” Just as important, open rates went up by 6%, Johnston said.

Switching to the content syndication service has provided huge gains for the dealers who resell equipment, he said. Previously, the company would send out an Excel spreadsheet that included details and specs for available used equipment. Today, however, the used equipment is posted on a Web site, and the content syndication tool automatically picks up the machines Volvo wants to highlight so photos as well as descriptions appear as soon as someone opens the e-mail. Equipment can be changed out and updated without having to completely redesign the newsletter from scratch. “The e-mails and Web sites have aided our dealers in selling millions of dollars in sales of used equipment,” Johnston said. “We've had great feedback, and a lot of dealers are asking us to feature their machines.”

The company has also cut down on the amount of time it spends each month on building its e-mails. Actual design work on the remarketing newsletter went from 3½ or 4 hours to 90 minutes or less, he said. This frees up the marketing staff to do other things.

“One of our biggest challenges is how do you do a justification on your [marketing] activities. Building an ROI on your activities takes a lot of time,” he said. “Now we have more time to focus on developing new marketing programs.”

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