Jan/san distributors are harnessing the power in the cache of client information stored on their computer systems and servers, leveraging this data to send e-mail messages and electronic newsletter distribution to a specific audience.

This form of marketing — involving automated and targeted e-mails — has begun to garner attention among distributors due to its effectiveness in helping earn market share, according to experts in the distribution and marketing fields.

“Online marketing — just in its very nature in how trackable it is, how automated it can be and how targeted it can be — really provides an opportunity that did not exist before the Web became such a commercial medium,” says Bob DeStefano, an online marketing strategist and president of SVM E-Business Solutions, Somerset, N.J. “Really, that’s one of the main benefits of online marketing in that just the very nature of how automated it is, it allows companies to be very relevant and very timely in all aspects of their marketing.”

Automated and targeted e-mail marketing allows distributors to continue communicating with the client after they purchase a product, strengthening the relationship. For instance, after a client makes a purchase on the jan/san distributor’s website, the distributor can have an e-mail sent to the client that thanks them for their loyalty while marketing complimentary products based on their purchase.

Another benefit of this form of marketing is its automation. Rather than having company employees manually send out e-mail messages after purchases have been made, software now allows distributors to send messages automatically, triggered by a purchase or some action on its website. E-mail marketing can also be beneficial because it lends itself in keeping the distributor relevant with its clients. With regular newsletter e-mails, distributors can remain on the front of clients’ minds in a gentle, yet effective, manner.

Product Pitch

One of the main ways jan/san distributors use e-mail to market products is to pitch complementary products to profiled and targeted clients. For instance, if a distributor has a list of clients that recently purchased a certain type of mop, the distributor can market replacement heads and sponges for the device through automated e-mail messages.

“You can send out triggered messages to customers based on past purchases or based on specific timing,” DeStefano says. “So you can send out automated messages that will provide a very targeted offer for a related product.”

Distributors can also use e-mail software to market products that are purchased by certain clients. For instance, if the client purchased three-months worth of product that they buy on the regular basis, then distributors can set up the software to trigger marketing e-mails to the client when it is time to purchase the product again.

“It lets distributors send customers an e-mail with the order that they placed last time and a 10 percent discount to encourage (the client) to buy from the distributor again,” DeStefano says.

In addition to promotional e-mails, distributors should send educational messages. According to DeStefano, distributors should develop an educational component to their e-mail marketing initiative. This educational component should be in the form of a newsletter that is sent on a monthly basis. This e-mail message should contain best-practice tips that focus on how the customer can be more effective in their day-to-day lives.

“That e-mail newsletter, even though its primary focus is educational, can also be somewhat promotional,” DeStefano says. “I like it to be 80 percent educational and 20 percent promotional … in the sidebar there can be a promotion for a related product, something that is related to the content of the message.”

Make It Personal

Successful e-mail marketing campaigns depend somewhat on a client base that is accustom to using e-mail to receive, at times, unsolicited content from jan/san distributors. One of the ways distributors can ease clients into interaction through e-mail is by customizing e-mail blasts in which the message appears to be coming from a specific sales representative.

“One of the best practices is to have the e-mail appear that it is coming from the person that they know as opposed to just ‘information at distributor dot com,’” says Steve Deist, a partner at the Indian River Consulting Group, a national firm based in Melbourne, Fla. “Making it personal is very important.”

Without the personalization, the e-mail message will likely be dumped into a spam folder on the customer’s e-mail application rather than their e-mail inbox.

“You can lose someone in milliseconds,” Deist says. “One of the best ways to lose someone is to have an e-mail address that they don’t recognize or the little flag on it that says the client thinks this might be spam.”

Another key to a successful e-mail blast is to have it based on the client’s timing rather than the distributor’s. For instance, if a distributor sets up an automatic marketing e-mail to be sent out twice a week, it may likely be dumped into a spam folder. Instead, Deist suggests distributors set up the e-mail targeting to be triggered by some action on the part of the client.

Brendan O’Brien is a freelancer based in Greenfield, Wis. He is a frequent contributor to Sanitary Maintenance.