Courtney Eckerle

Customer-First Marketing: The argument for sending your customers non-transactional emails in two case studies

March 3rd, 2017

In a 2016 MarketingSherpa study, we split 2,400 consumers into two groups. We asked half of the respondents to name a company they were satisfied with, and we asked the other 1,200 to name a company they were unsatisfied with.

The most popular response from satisfied customers — 42% of respondents — said that their chosen company’s marketing puts their needs before its business goals.

For unsatisfied customers, the most popular responses — 30% of respondents in each case — were that the company they were unsatisfied with “sometimes” or “seldom” puts their needs before its business goals.

How does this translate into email marketing? Examining the ratio of company-first emails (heavily transactional) to customer-first emails.

We’ll do this by reviewing two case studies featuring marketers who decided to dedicate significant time and effort into producing an email send where the goal wasn’t to drive revenue.

Case study #1: Marriott International

“It felt like we had the opportunity to really do something that was much more member-centric, and really use all the data that we’ve got on our members and present it to them in an interesting, fun way that they might not expect from us,” Clark Cummings, Senior Manager of Member Marketing, Marriott International.

Clark said that in the interview for his published case study for MarketingSherpa, where he was describing Marriott’s Year in Review campaign.

That send — which was non-transactional in nature — helped triple the December average of revenue per message delivered and contributed to making Marriott’s Q4 of 2014 the most successful fourth quarter in three years.

The Year in Review campaign led with a video that summarized several of the Marriott-specific highlights of 2014. This video was customized to each Rewards member.

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The next aspect of the email send involved an infographic that focused on the specific Marriott member as well as Marriott International’s growth as a whole.

“We wanted to start with the member, so start with you, and then talk about us and then finish with the ‘we,'” Clark said.

The “you” portion of the infographic contained six individual data points that were specific to each member. These points were:

  • Number of nights stayed
  • Number of cities the member stayed in
  • Number of nights the member redeemed (if the member redeemed any nights)
  • Number of properties the member visited
  • Number of points the member earned
  • Number of Marriott brands the member stayed in

Clark spoke about this campaign at MarketingSherpa Summit 2016, and he spoke with me about it briefly in the event Media Center.

Case Study #2. Ferguson

Mary Abrahamson, Email Marketing, Manager, Ferguson, was in the audience during Clark’s presentation, and she thought a focus on producing some non-transactional emails could be a good idea for her customers — Ferguson primarily serves professional contractors.

Her team kept that idea “in our back pocket for a while,” Mary said, and they believed it would apply well to PRO Plus™ Loyalty customers, a loyalty group that exists solely online.

On Jan. 5, the team created their own version of a “Year in Review” email that went out to the Loyalty customers. The email showed how many points they were awarded, how many they redeemed, and how many they donated.


Beyond just producing this Year in Review email, she and her team decided to think outside of traditional holidays — while still participating in them — focusing instead on developing holidays that might appeal exclusively to their customers.

With such a wide swath of customers, speaking to those groups individually and with personalized messaging is vital, she said. They decided to focus around holidays like “National Bathtub Day” and the Fourth of July where they could provide quality content and stand out.

“The WATERQUIRKS: Independence Day Edition gives the history and the background of their trade, their business. So, it’s fun. It’s interesting. But it’s actually information that [customers] care about,” Mary said.

It was important not to just participate in these holidays, like National Safety Month or National Water Quality Month, she said, but to be “more content-driven about it — so weighing content a little more heavily than pure play product and providing information for the customer that would be a value add.”

WATERQUIRKS Independence Day EditionThe team saw a 34% effective rate from the Year in Review send, and because of the results they have seen with this campaign, “We’re trying to think of out-of-the-box ways to expand our email content beyond product-specific promotions. We’re trying to expand our wheelhouse,” she said.

Getting customers to engage with your message, Mary added, “regardless of whether or not they convert at that moment, is important for not only your long-term email program goals, but it can help foster a favorable brand experience and extend the lifetime value of the customer as a whole.”

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See campaigns like these at MarketingSherpa Summit 2017

B2B Email Marketing: How Ferguson created valuable, personalized content through industry-specific holiday sends

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Courtney Eckerle

About Courtney Eckerle

With a focus on aspirational, customer-first marketing, Courtney’s goal has been to produce clear, interesting and actionable external content for MarketingSherpa readers. This has included writing over 300 case studies, moderating live event interviews, and producing video content. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, Mass Communications and Film Studies from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., and was a correspondent for USA Today College prior to joining MECLABS Institute.

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