Why Panties.com loves ActiveCampaign!

Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Lila from panties.com a few questions about her experience with email marketing, while being a customer of ActiveCampaign. She provided incredibly insightful answers, and more than obliged us to give many tips and tricks she has learned while developing their email marketing.

1. What provided the inspiration to create panties.com?

We had been in business since 1985 when internet domain names became available to civilians. We purchased panties.com in 1994, and created our first website a couple months later. We chose panties.com because lingerie was already taken. In retrospect, it was a much better choice. It is shorter and no one can even spell lingerie.

2. Is your business 100% online or do you also have retail? What is the benefit of having your specific business model?

We have always been mail order type business model and we have never had a store front. The down side of not having a store front is that many lingerie businesses will not sell to web based businesses. Mail order has always been the dark sheep of retail lingerie. The upside to is that a web based business can be less costly to create. Some of them actually carry next to no inventory. I believe this is why there is such distrust of web-based businesses.

3. What types of advice can  you give any readers who might just be getting started in a web based business?

We specialize in gifts that men order for their sweethearts for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Anniversary, and Birthday. Unlike many of our competitors, we still do print ads. Google Ad words has become so expensive with such a low conversion rate, that it has simply become a Google cash register. We’d make more money going to the casino.

Our email campaigns have become an unanticipated revenue producer. It has only been as the years have gone by that the the value of our list is has become so evident.

We first started with Vertical Response – a service that emails on the client’s our behalf. But it ended up costing us a minimum of $70 for each campaign – even years ago when our list was smaller. Plus there was a delay because they had to verify each and every campaign we sent. I think they were afraid we were going to start sending pornography, or do some type of bait and switch. They’d ask us to retouch photos and change our landing pages, the demands were unending. It was exhausting and frustrating. We dumped them in favor of an email program developed by the shopping cart company we used, DigiShop.

The danger of going in that direction is that if a company’s forte is a shopping cart software, chances are the mass email program they develop will never have their full attention. And that is exactly what happened. DigiShop stopped developing their mass email program, Fireblast, it fell behind the times, and eventually they stopped providing any support. The moral of the story is: purchase software that is the company’s main focus, not their secondary.
We then hired a web developer to create a new website for us. He came highly recommended. But we only took the word of the recommending party and did no research – another mistake. The website eventually turned out OK after thousands of dollars of additional custom programming from our side. One of the only good things this guy did right, was introduce us to ActiveCampaign. He claimed he had developed over 100 websites. He had a lot of experience in attaching email programs to the sites he developed and said that ActiveCampaign was the easiest and the best. He recommended ActiveCampaign over Constant Contact, Vertical Response, MailChimp and all others. He said it was usable by business owners such as myself, and did not require extensive technical knowledge to operate.   
By the time it came to go live, we had spent so much money developing the new website site and getting rid of the bugs ourselves (in spite of having paid the guy upfront) that there was nothing left in the budget to buy the ActiveCampaign software – I believe it was $500 at the time. So we purchased a monthly package. The website developer criticized us for doing this, saying that in a year we’d have paid for the entire software twice.
This turned out to be fortuitous, because we never would have had the automatic ActiveCampaign updates if we had simply purchased the software and installed it on our own servers. Plus I can call whenever there is a problem or I can’t figure something out. For my business, and my limited technical knowledge, this has been a godsend.

4. With a niche product like yours, is the demographic limited, or are you able to successfully reach people of all ages and genders? Do you have any different approaches to sales and marketing based on demographics?

Our customers are surprisingly mature. Our medium customer is a male in his 50’s. Our list is not big enough to segment according to area of the country, nor would it be useful. But if we sold plants and trees, it might.  

5. In regards to your email marketing. Have you found a frequency of sending (i.e. everyday, once a week, etc) that works well for you?

I researched this question extensively because I had the same question myself. Turns out that about three times a week is good for our product. Morning usually get more response than evenings. Friday and Saturday nights get the least response.

6. What type of tools do you use with your email marketing and how do they help your business.

We use the segmentation extensively and find it very useful. I encourage everyone else to do the same. I’ll give a few examples:
  1. Let’s say you have a product that has sold very well, but seasons change and it is now time to close it out. How do you offer it at a discount without pissing off the customers who paid full price in the past three months? What we do is make a list of all customers who have purchased said product, then upload their email addresses into ActiveCampaign and create a special list. Then we segment the Campaign to not send to anyone on that special list. We can then send out a 50% off offer knowing that those who have already purchased the product will not get the email.
  2. You can also use the same segmentation to avoid sending emails to people who have already purchased a product.  No sense in sending advertisements to those who already have the product. The less email, the better.
  3. You can can use segmentation to send emails to people who may want to buy the next in a series of products. If product A is followed by product B, you can create a list from your database of all people who have purchased product A (and therefore may want product B), and send them personalized email using the ActiveCampaign token system that will personalize the correspondence.  Use the segmentation tool to exclude anyone who has already purchased product B. That way you can email customers who have purchased product A but not product B. And best of all, if you can’t figure it out, ActiveCampaign will walk you though it on the phone.
Other things we do with email marketing:
  1. Prune your list. Sometimes smaller is better. We routinely clean our list for non-responders. If someone has not opened an email from your company in six months, then delete the address. People do not want emails they don’t read. If you are paying according to your list size, this can keep your cost down. We all want to boast how large our email lists are, but non-responders do no one any good. You do not want your company to build up residual resentment from people by sending our unwanted emails, anyway.
  2. I find one offer per email helps conversions. A lot of the email I receive from companies look just like their home page and have so many offers and so much to look at that one is confused about the call to action. Our emails are very simple. One photo, one offer – Free shipping or 33% off, etc.
  3. Always check your email offer before it goes out. Make sure that every hyper link connects to the page you intend.  You’d be surprised how many large companies do not do this. I receive so many emails that do not connect to the offer sent. When the link does not work, you receive no revenue from it. Plus you irritate the customer for having wasted their time.  I actually received an email from a well known lingerie supplier offering us 30% off “stalkings”. It did not  make them seem terribly intelligent. The one time you decide not to check your email thoroughly will be the one time that it does not work.
  4. Make it very easy to unsubscribe. You don’t need to be emailing people who don’t like you. And your reputation will be better. One of my friends decided to sign me up with Match.com. It took me years to figure out how to off their list and several angry emails before I finally stopped receiving photos of ugly dudes holding photos of taxidermied animals they’d shot.  I resent Match.com so much, so much I’ll never go near them again, even if I do decide to date.
  5. Send out really good offers! We never shy away from 50% off a special item, free shipping on a popular item, even at Christmas. We even do free giveaways – no minimum order – using some product that is useable and saleable but we simply bought too much of. Make your customer look forward to hearing from you!
  6. Invest in beautiful graphics. We had a graphic artist create a drop dead gorgeous template for our emails and upload it to ActiveCampaign.  It isn’t cookie cutter and gives a special signature to our emails.
  7. If you need help, call ActiveCampaign. You’d be surprised how people don’t call for help when they need it and just try to figure it out themselves, but never do.

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