This week, ABA announced a new partnership with Constant Contact, a leading company that provides services to manage e-mail marketing campaigns. Through this partnership, all ABA member bookstores will have access to Constant Contact's suite of tools -- making it easier to create and send compelling e-mail newsletters -- and will earn annual rebates for participating. "Permission-based, e-mail communication is fast becoming a vital component of any successful marketing campaign," said Len Vlahos, director for BookSense.com. "It's efficient and can save enormous expenses normally associated with print newsletters."
Constant Contact would allow a bookseller to not only create professional looking e-mail newsletters but also to: collect site visitor e-mail addresses and interests; import in-house permission-based e-mail addresses; target e-mails to specific audiences; manage lists and track results; and more. The program is also CAN-SPAM compliant.
At present, Constant Contact reports that more than 25,000 small businesses and associations use its services. Some of those customers are independent booksellers, such as Bob Sommer of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona, who said the bookstore began using Constant Contact to create the store's HTML-based e-mail newsletter in October 2004. "We decided we wanted a more professional looking newsletter," he told BTW. Before trying Constant Contact, "I tried doing it myself ... but it was always very frustrating." (To view Changing Hands e-mail newsletter created through Constant Contact's suite of tools, click here.)
Sommer said that, in its suite of tools, Constant Contact has more than 85 ready-to-use e-mail newsletter templates. There is also a "Wizard" to guide customers through creating an e-mail campaign. He added that, by using Constant Contact, he can provide links in the newsletter, such as for spotlighted books, which can drive customers to the store's website. "It's very flexible," Sommer said. "[The program] produces the newsletter and manages the mailing list. It's easy to add names and customers can unsubscribe or subscribe [on their own]."
At A Great Good Place for Books a 1,000-square-foot bookstore in Oakland, California, owner Debi Echlin reported that when she hired employee Kathleen Caldwell she gave Caldwell the responsibility of creating the store's e-mail newsletter because she had experience setting up e-mail newsletters for other bookstores in the area. And Caldwell preferred to use Constant Contact, Echlin said.
"I'm very happy with it," Echlin told BTW. "It is an incredible tool for us, not only its ease of use in creating the e-mail newsletter, but also because [it's easy] to go in and see who's looked at the e-mail newsletter and how often." Importantly, if the store has partnered with another business and the newsletter provides a link to that company's website, "our being able to go in and tell our partner that 50 percent of the list clicked through to your website is very valuable information to give them -- it encourages them to continue to work with us."
Echlin also noted that the e-mail newsletter brings customers into the store. The last e-mailing the store did "had a 54 percent open rate" that very night, and the next day three people came to the store specifically to check out the new "staff picks" table that had been promoted in the e-mail newsletter and bought books.
ABA member bookstores that sign up through the ABA reseller program will earn rebates for their participation and will earn an annual rebate equal to the average of one month's Constant Contact fees. (For example, if over a 12 month period you pay an average of $30/month to Constant Contact, you'll get a $30 rebate from ABA.) And BookSense.com participants will earn an annual rebate equal to two months' Constant Contact fees.
For more information on Constant Contact, click here.