When Email and Print Work Together

“Email inboxes are full, mailboxes are empty.” Here’s how Hamburg-based agency Finc3 helped a client launch an email-and-print campaign.

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If the rose is the queen of flowers, in 1923, Gustav Schlüter had a kingdom of kingdoms. When the master gardener first founded his German nursery Garten Schlüter, roses were his first love, and the company’s logo continues to be a familiar red swirl to this day. His motto, Unser Garten, Unser Stolz, translates to, “Our garden, our pride.”

By the end of the decade, the garden’s proud assortment expanded to include all sorts of decadent plants. As the nursery’s popularity boomed, Garten Schlüter decided to release their very first brochure highlighting their lush offerings in 1937. Just a few years later, they launched a mail-order service.

 

Since the late ‘60s, Gustav’s son, Jürgen, has continued his father’s legacy, and the nursery is now available online for delivery. The market flourishes most during the spring and autumn, especially with a free catalog, 24-hour delivery in Germany, and seasonal discounts.

Garten Schlüter’s richly illustrated print catalog brims with up to 2,500 products. But the century-old garden shop ran into a couple of problems. Offering a free print directory meant the nursery was bleeding production costs as well as money for postage with little guarantee that the recipient would look at it. Plus, the time-sensitive nature of their products meant they weren’t connecting to customers until after their catalogs had arrived—which was after their gardens had already bloomed. That lack of valuable content meant less engagement with the brand both on- and offline.

To tackle the first problem of drawing attention to the catalog’s appearance, Finc3, a Hamburg, Germany-based marketing agency, dove into its think tank and came up with an idea: Design a simple email-and-print campaign alerting readers of the catalogs’ mailbox arrival. And deliver it complete with discount codes to incentivize and track money-saving purchases.

A digital-and-analog sandwich

“In Germany we see more and more that direct mail is increasing in [business-to-consumer] efficiency again,” says Bjoern Sjut, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Finc3. “The main reason: email inboxes are full, mailboxes are empty.”

 

And so to supplement the spring and autumn print releases, Finc3 first set up an email that had the look and feel of a personal message. Using a simple, text-only design, the note from CEO Marcus Lehmann is a gentle reminder that the catalog will arrive soon. Within the text, Marcus encourages readers to visit the site with a 25%-off discount code for, let’s say, flower bulbs.

After some buffer time to allow the catalogs to arrive, Garten Schlüter moves on to the meat of the digital-and-analog sandwich: a postcard with a better incentive, this time offering something like 10% off on an order totaling 10€ or more. “The direct mail offers a higher discount in case the first incentive fails to trigger a purchase,” says Janine Hummel, CRM Manager for Finc3.

“Direct mail is, in our opinion, a great way to reach and reactivate customers that are not responding to email anymore,” she continues. “While inboxes are often full of sales messages and people have trouble identifying relevant offers, the physical mailbox is empty (except for regular invoices). We basically send an incentive through a channel that we have no competition on.”

The third stage of the series is another email, this time a snappier, more colorful HTML version, to keep the print edition top of mind and to ask if it had made it to its destination. For this incentive reminder email, the second, meatier incentive code is reused from the postcard.

The result: The agency increased the average order value upwards of 40% (compared to the annual average), lifting the return on investment from the print catalog.

“People were less likely to throw it away without noticing it,” Bjoern says.

Next, Finc3 had to think about engaging customers in the off-season, and they saw an opportunity: If they could harness enthusiastic gardeners’ interest in the interim periods between blooms, they could also harness more business—and plant some loyalty.

Flashy sales

To get customers back into the shop after the year’s first planting season, which ended in April, Finc3 searched for the most popular product categories from the last year’s summer and did a limited-time flash sale series. Through a pop-up on their web shop, Finc3 compiled a list of recipients who got one email per week for one product category, and each person was allowed to make the purchase within a certain period of time.

“People signed up!” Janine says. “They loved the idea of having these time-sensitive product category sales, and it was among the most successful campaigns the shop ever had.”

But Finc3 had one more trick up its sleeves: one that would seed even more customer allegiance.

 

“You need to have something to talk about beyond just discounts,” Bjoern says. “Discounts always work well, but at the same time it’s a huge challenge for e-commerce companies to move beyond them.”

To keep green-thumbed people hooked to everything else Garten Schlüter has to offer, they would have to bring Gustav’s past into the present.

The green thumb

Aside from running a successful nursery, in 1952, Gustav developed his first gardening calendar, which included his personal tips about growing stuff. The calendar was a hit, and several thousand copies were sold in the following years.

Production stopped at some point, leaving customers without Gustav’s timeless wisdom until 2016. But the Garten Schlüter team had a few physical copies left in their archive, which the Finc3 team dusted off and looked over. To their delight, the calendar was ripe with shareable advice—a perfect opportunity to let the master gardener’s voice live on.

“Since the calendar contains awesome content for the Garten Schlüter clients, we decided to reanimate the product and transferred the calendar content from print to email,” Janine says.

To collect these subscribers, the agency established overlays and an Unbounce landing page that is connected to Mailchimp. Today, Finc3 sends 2 free emails per month using the original content. This is so the nursery can stay in touch with their customers during planting season and beyond. “And the Garten Schlüter clients love the service: The subscriber database is near twice the size of the newsletter database by now and still growing organically.”

In fact, the digitized calendar has become so popular, people started to ask for the original physical copy of it. So the Finc3 team redesigned the ‘50s version and started printing the product again, which is available through the nursery shop and Amazon.

3 ways to increase client loyalty during seasonal ebbs

Not all businesses are evergreen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stay top of mind all year long. Here, Janine shares some tips about how to keep customers engaged during your peak seasons (and beyond):

Constantly surprise your clients.

You don’t need constant sales specials to get people to interact with your shop or brand to stay fresh in people’s minds, Janine says. “Think about a small game, a funny story, or a limited special to keep the communication new and interesting.”

Use the off-season to plan ahead with your clients.

“People might not need your products or services at exactly this moment, but the off-season is a great chance to educate your clients—and build a strong relationship for the month ahead.”

Collect feedback and implement it.

Talk to your clients and ask for their feedback. “What features and services are they happy with? What do they miss? Collect ideas and—more importantly—use the off time to implement them and inform your clients about the changes. Proof that you’re the real deal, not only talk.”

Try out your own email and print recipe

At Mailchimp, we’ve made it easy to combine your print and digital channels, so your customers will see your message in more places. Design and send beautiful postcards to people around the world for as little as 75 cents a card—no mailing addresses or minimum orders needed. We’ll even help you find new customers who are a lot like the ones you already have.

Ready to send a postcard through Mailchimp? We’ve got you covered.

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