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FreightCenter Uses Email to Build b2b Customer Base

Published in BtoB Magazine - September 2, 2010

Last year freight logistics company FreightCenter.com catered to both b2b and b-to-c customers. However, the customer split was uneven: 70% of its clients were consumers and only 30% were businesses. This was a problem, said Sylvia Pankiewicz, marketing manager for FreightCenter.com, because consumers aren't usually repeat customers.

"With consumers, you're probably dealing with someone who is a one-time shipper moving furniture from an estate sale or doing a small corporate relocation," she said. "Commercial customers are taking multiple shipments many times each week or month."

Hoping to nurture the commercial customers it did have and gain new ones, FreightCenter.com—along with email service provider Delivra—launched its first email marketing campaign in January 2009.

The first order of business, Pankiewicz said, was segmenting the company's list. It had about 395,000 customers in the database, but they weren't arranged in any special order. Pankiewicz knew that the ideal FreightCenter.com customer was an engine or large automotive shipper, so the company began by sorting through the database to find customers that fit into that category so it could remarket to them. But even that would be tricky, she said.

"Shipping an engine is difficult because [it is] a heavy, bulky item, and someone is rarely sending it to the same place twice. They need to ship one to Alaska and one to Alabama," she said.

This meant FreightCenter.com couldn't target emails using location or weight mentions. The focus of the emails had to be specific to the industry without being too specific. Personalization also helped, Pankiewicz said.

FreightCenter.com chose to highlight its ability to compare carriers. When shipping engines, Pankiewicz said, the locations always change, so the customer can't assume they will always get the best deal from the last carrier they used. The emails focused on that point and explained how the prospect could always find the cheapest option with the best service at FreightCenter.com.

"We referred to past shipping in the emails, and started giving [prospects and customers] details about how we could better help them to ship similar items," she said.

In addition, campaigns provided information about things that might interest a potential shipper—such as whether or not a carrier could handle hazardous materials—along with links to pertinent areas of the site. Almost immediately, site traffic for those areas tripled, Pankiewicz said.

Today, the company is seeing a 26% increase in engine and automotive shipping customers since the campaign began in 2009.

The more-focused, better-segmented emails have helped FreightCenter.com exceed its original goal of a 50/50 split between b2b and b-to-c customers in only 18 months. Today, the customer split is 55/45 in favor of b2b clients, Pankiewicz said, and a large portion of those are engine shippers.

"Sending emails that are highly targeted and fine-tuned to what that type of customers were looking for really helps drive conversion," she said. "By pointing out the specific details that they are looking for, we appealed to them and drove the action that we were looking for: repeat business."