Jul 15, 2013

Goat Milk Stuff’s Email-Only Specials

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Goat Milk Stuff is a 10-person operation based out of Scottsburg, Ind. It’s there that Jim and PJ Jonas, along with their eight kids (Brett, Colter, Emery, Fletcher, Greyden, Hewitt, Indigo, and Jade), raise a small herd of Alpine goats on 36 acres of farmland. Those goats have been joined by cows, sheep, turkeys, chickens, bees, rabbits, and pigs over the years as well.

Since 2008, the Jonas crew has been selling its colorful soaps, candles, lip balms, and other Stuff made from Goat Milk. At this point, their goods are all over the world. They’ve been featured on PBS and TODAY, and have created a blog, podcast, and YouTube channel along the way. But they started small, exhibiting at local craft fairs. "This was wonderful because it provided us with instant feedback on our products and customer service," PJ says. "It quickly became obvious, though, the we didn’t want to rely on craft shows for sales. We had our website up and running, so we spent a lot of time encouraging our craft-show customers to re-order there."

One way the Jonases encouraged their customers to go online was by offering specials that could only be redeemed through the GMS site. Collecting emails at shows and setting up a MailChimp list, they started sending monthly newsletters with new products and farm happenings, including an exclusive, one-month-only special in each one.

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Specials were fine and all, but PJ thought it made sense to give GMS customers a chance to influence the process. "We sent some newsletters where we gave customers a choice of which special they wanted," she says. "Either a 20% discount or free shipping. What we discovered was that some people always choose the discount, and some always choose the shipping—it’s not necessarily which special saves them more money. So we took that information and now we alternate our specials. When we send out a campaign, first, we send a discount. A week later, we send a free shipping coupon to those who didn’t open the discount email. The next month, we reverse it."

Jonas says she initially tried following up with people who didn’t open a particular email by following up with that same email the next week. She would get around 10% to open that second email. But if she followed up the first unopened email with an email with a different offer the next week, 20% of the non-openers were converted. Changing the content, however slightly, doubled her opens. "Switching it up is important," PJ says. "Not because my customers want to see different offers, but because, depending on what’s going on in their lives, different offers resonate."

That’s the thing about humans. We’re not always the most logical creatures. We’re emotional, our moods fluctuate, things happen that change how we feel about the world around us, and sometimes that affects the way we interact with our email. By testing her content and learning from her customers, PJ discovered that "the majority of people did not choose the discount that gave them the most money off. They did not display rational behavior in that, but chose the one they liked the best."

Then again, it’s hard to act rational when you have goat videos in your inbox: