LexJet fosters relationships with digital dialogue

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LexJet Corp., Sarasota, Fla., is a supplier of color digital imaging materials to professional printers. In business since 1994, the company has traditionally sold photographic paper to commercial photo labs, plastics and banners to trade show exhibit producers, and laminates and other materials to graphic arts companies.

With advances in digital technology, LexJet saw the potential for a huge new base of customers—roughly 30,000 professional digital photographers. LexJet also saw opportunities to upsell its existing base of customers who were using digital photography in new ways.

"We were tapping into a new market that was totally unfamiliar to us," said Steve O’Dea, manager of Web development at LexJet.

In order to develop a relationship with these new customers, LexJet wanted a product that would allow it to have an interactive, immediate dialogue with prospects. It started evaluating e-mail providers but, O’Dea said, "Most of the companies I looked at were batch-and-blast e-mail, with a one-time offer. We wanted to create a two-way flow of information with our prospects and customers."

Then O’Dea heard of Revenio Inc., a Burlington, Mass.-based company that develops Revenio Dialog software for customer relationship marketing. The service is based on e-mail "dialogues," but Revenio also provides integrated CRM services by means of Web sites, direct mail, call centers and fax. The software can be installed at a client’s site for a licensing fee starting at $295,000 or hosted by Revenio for monthly fees starting at $25,000.

"We want to script out a long-running interaction with customers and prospects," said Chuck Ott, director of professional services at Revenio.

LexJet opted for the hosted solution and dropped its first e-mail batch in September. The campaign targeted a list of more than 30,000 digital photographers, which LexJet had purchased from various photography trade publications.

The purpose of the first unsolicited e-mail was to find out which photographers used ink jet printers. As an incentive to answer the question, Revenio offered a chance to win an Epson Stylus Pro 5500 Ink Jet Printer from Epson America Inc., worth about $3,500.

The response rate on the first e-mail was about 25%, O’Dea said. Then LexJet sent out another e-mail to all those respondents who used ink jet printers. This time they were asked what kind of printer they used, how they used digital photography and what they printed on. The response rate on the second batch was about 17%, giving LexJet a list of about 2,000 highly qualified prospects to start calling.

Lead generation time reduced

O’Dea said the company was able to cut its lead generation time from eight months to about six weeks. "We went from knowing nothing about the customer to having a highly qualified group we could start selling to," he said.

O’Dea said it’s still too early to disclose the conversion rate from these leads. But on the customer retention side, LexJet is already seeing an improvement that’s having a direct impact on sales.

In November, the company sent out an e-mail to existing and former customers, asking how it could help their businesses, from managing cash flow to selling into new markets. As an incentive to answer the e-mail, it offered a chance to win $250 in materials.

LexJet also asked what type of offers customers would like to have, such as discounts on products or shipping. For those who wanted product discounts, LexJet sent an e-mail back the following day with a 10% product discount offer. For those who wanted shipping discounts, LexJet responded with free UPS ground shipping on their next order.

Since then, LexJet’s customer retention rate has risen from 69% to 71%, resulting in approximately $150,000 in additional sales. It also has won back about 100 customers, representing about $110,000 in potential revenue over the next year, O’Dea said.

"It’s helped dramatically cut down the sales cycle and the prospecting cycle, and it’s helped us know what is important to our current customers," he said.

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