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Carus Publishing Co. on E-mail Address Collection

October 2006 By Hallie Mummert
Carus Publishing Co. has been publishing award-winning children’s magazines and books for more than 30 years. Some of its more popular magazines are Cricket and Ladybug. Carus is a true multichannel marketer with an active Web site, a recent but growing catalog, and a highly successful e-mail program. We asked the folks at Carus about their experiences with e-mail address collection, and here’s what these executives had to say on the subject of what’s working and what is not.

Target Marketing: Through which touchpoints does Carus collect customer e-mail addresses?
Jason Patenaude, acting president and COO: We at Carus have many opportunities for customers to give us their e-mail addresses, but we want to give them reasons why they should [via] extra services, such as newsletters and offers, or the option to renew online and/or receive birthday reminders. Every mailing piece, as well as the Web site, has a place for customers to give e-mail addresses.
Amy Reisinger, marketing director, Internet and institutional: We really rely on our customer service people to get e-mail addresses from customers because a lot of our business comes in on the telephone.

TM: What types of communications do you then send to these customer e-mail addresses?
Mandy Sano, marketing assistant: Carus started with two e-mails a month: (1) e-Cricket, a soft sell e-mail, which features a different magazine every month and a few products; and (2) e-Activities, which is a value-added service with no selling at all. Through lots of testing, we have developed a full schedule of one-time, event-driven e-mails and reoccurring e-mails, like welcomes and thank-yous. Another very effective use of e-mail has been to pretest new products for the catalog. By offering new products to customers, we can quickly see, at a low cost, which ones might sell better.
Reisinger: I would characterize e-Cricket as a branding e-mail. The e-mails I do to the institutional market (schools and libraries) also are heavily involved with brand building. For example, they provide links to teacher guides and other add-ons to our magazines.

TM: Do you collect prospects’ e-mail addresses, and how do you follow up with them for conversion?
Patenaude: We have not considered e-mail prospecting because Carus feels e-mail prospecting is not ready to be as cost effective as e-mail to customers. As a magazine company, we feel e-mail has the potential to be very powerful for customers. For example, we want to customize the renewal experience for each customer, and e-mail is the simplest way. Some customers are early birds and want a renewal six months in advance; others are last minute and want a renewal after the subscription has expired. And, of course, many subscribers fall in between these two extremes. E-mail would let the customer not only opt in to receive e-mail renewals, but the customer could opt in to the timing of the renewals.

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