Personalized e-mails bring in
classified renewals with great ROI

     In these days of downsized staffs and “too much to do, no time to do it,” one of the things that often falls by the wayside – especially when the phones are ringing and the ACD shows a long queue of advertisers on hold – is the outbound call for classifieds renewals.
     Technology to the rescue, with a solid return on investment.
     Treasure Coast Newspapers, a cluster of seven Scripps newspapers on the east coast of Florida from Stuart to Vero Beach, has teamed with Mass2One to make those “call-backs” through e-mail. They’re pleased with the results. More important, the return on investment on the project has been notable.
   “Newspapers aren’t reaching everyone whose ad comes up for renewal,” said Scott Stines, president of Mass2One. “The call staff is available during the day when people work and bringing in a night crew increases expenses. But people (at) work will access personal e-mail.”
     So Treasure Coast, with help from Mass2One, sends out a personalized e-mail to the person who placed the ad. Sent in the name of the sales representative who took the ad, complete with a photo to personalize it, the e-mail includes the ad as it ran in the paper, a hyperlink to renew the ad, and the ad ID number.
     The e-mails, which were sent to private parties only, were sent three days before the ad expired, with e-mails being sent Wednesday for ads expiring Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
     Eleanor Cippel, one of the project leaders at Treasure Coast, said the project has worked.
     In a one-month period, 870 e-mails were sent. Almost 10 percent of those who received the e-mails clicked through the link – and 8 percent, or 69 advertisers, renewed their ads for a gross renewal value of $4,479 and an average renewal of $64.47. Twenty percent of the ad renewals were done outside the normal 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. business day. Ads were renewed for 15 different sales reps, with renewals in 31 ad categories, including vehicle sales (56 percent of renewals), real estate (23 percent) and employment (7 percent).
  Two-thirds of the cust
omers clicked on the e-mail link the day the e-mail was sent, and 79 percent renewed two days before the original expiration date or more.
     Not all of the renewals came through the link; some of the advertisers called the paper directly to renew. When an advertiser submitted an e-mail renewal, it went directly to the assigned ad rep with information on the advertiser and ad for follow-up.
     “It did what we hoped it would do,” Cippel said. “It generated enthusiasm.”
     Implementing the project took about 45 days. Rick Baxter, market research manager for the papers, said it might take longer at other papers if a database were not in place already.
     Costs are tough to define because the ad rene
wal program was wrapped in with two other e-mail programs. The group paid Mass2One a $2,000 monthly fee, plus 10 cents per outgoing e-mail, for the three programs, which included a Treasure Guide prospecting project and a Locations magazine e-mail campaign.
      Three executives trained for a few hours a day for several weeks to be able to manage the database, extract response data and learn what kind of files to send, Baxter said. However, much of the administrative work was left to mass2one. Setup was “very detail oriented,” Baxter said. “It’s never quite as turn-key as anyone would like it to be.”
     Ad reps, who were trained during quarterly
meetings, had to learn specific tactics so the required information would parse correctly into the database. For example, they had to enter data in a specific order so e-mails would be properly addressed. Enter an e-address wrong, and an e-mail that should have said “Dear Eleanor” would come out instead “Dear Cippel.”
     “We believe personalizing the e-mail from the ad rep to the customer improved response rates and reduced the number of customers unsubscribing,” Stines said. Only 3 people opted out after receiving the e-mail, for an unsubscribe rate of less than one-half of 1 percent.
     Procedures were established to ensure that pe
rsonal responses were handled when a rep was out sick or on vacation.
     Baxter said it is very important to make sure the sales staff is up to par. When they are pressed for time, they’re less likely to take the extra few seconds to ask for an e-address.
     “We had a staffing shortage,” he said. “It kept the volume of captured e-mails low.”
     One way to capture more e-addresses, he suggested, would be to offer sales reps an incentive for each one received. Another might be to offer a bonus to the rep
with the highest e-mail address percentage.
     The participating newspapers included The Vero Press Journal, The Fort Pierce Tribune, The Stuart News and The Sebastian Sun.

Michelle L. Start

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2875 Mt. Vernon Road SE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52403
Phone: (319) 247-7296 or (800) 499-6780
Fax: (319) 365-8807
Cost: $2,000 a month fee, which covered three projects. An additional charge of 10 cents per outgoing e-mail applied; that fee varies based on volume. One-time set-up and creative fees may be additional.

Other vendors:, Inc.
222 South Riverside Plaza
Chicago, Ill. 60606
Phone: (312) 423-5000
The New York Times Co. uses this service to manage e-mail newsletters, but according to Stines it does not focus specifically on ad renewal e-mails.

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