The tension between inbound marketing and outbound direct marketing can be a good thing when they work together. Axicom Inc., a Westlake Village, Calif.-based technology consultancy focusing on networking, backup solutions and training, is doing just that with an aggressive email program in support of educational content.
“Our services are based on providing infrastructure and general tech support,” said Marketing Director Christa Nonnemaker. “We do a lot of managed services, remotely [making] sure servers and computers are running. What differentiates us from others is that we provide education on the technology we know our customers are using.”
This year Nonnemaker has leveraged the company's use of Constant Contact—an email service provider catering to small-to-midsize companies—to publicize a series of webinars on the use of Microsoft Office modules such as PowerPoint and Excel. It's this kind of basic education that's complementary to the company's overall tech support services by helping cement customer loyalty and encourage prospect interest, she said.
“We sent out email blasts about the webinars, and used the Constant Contact event marketing module to have people register for it,” Nonnemaker said. “That, in turn, produced an auto response via email.”
Registrant emails were captured, and those were sent eight regularly scheduled tips on the use of the Microsoft Office product being highlighted in that time frame. “We contacted [people] nine times for a month and a half,” said Nonnemaker.
Axicom also sends out regular e-newsletters and focuses on strong subject lines.
“The more provocative the subject line, the better response we get,” she said. “In the computer business, unfortunately, there are built-in opportunities for that, such as [circulating] virus scares. With subject lines that warn about possible significant problems, the open rates are incredibly high.”
Nonnemaker is exploring combining social media with email to drive prospects back to the archived newsletters. Like many ESPs, Constant Contact offers the ability to embed popular sharing icons, like Facebook and LinkedIn, in outbound emails.
Kelly Flint, regional development director with Constant Contact, feels that Axicom is doing a good job combining inbound and outbound marketing with informative content.
“They've done something smart [with] the use of 'help tickets,' ” she said. “When customers have questions, they share them with all their other customers. For example, it might take the form of 'Top Five Questions That Are Asked About Your Business.' That can be great content for email marketing and social together.”
Nonnemaker feels she can do more with social media in support of her other channels.
“I'm still grappling with the efficacy of social media as compared to email,” she said. ”I reported in our September e-newsletter that while social media usage is up to 65%, it's actually a young demographic who uses it. Our clients are in a different demographic entirely, with mostly men over age 45 as our primary clients. So while I use social media, I'm not ready to give up email. I still feel it's very effective for us.”
The ROI of Axicom's content-supported email campaign is still a work in progress, but Nonnemaker is encouraged.
“I wouldn't say it's been incredibly influential on the bottom line, but it's been good in branding, in how people regard us,” she said. “Now, there's an impression that we are a leader. We're not just a bunch of computer guys who amble in and out. Our customers are strong local businesses and our credibility is important.”