Chad White of Smith-Harmon posted a report today on shutting down email marketing programs when going out of business. He looks in detail at how a number of companies handled their email marketing during the going-out-of-business process. There is a very solid mix of examples of how companies handle things. Some companies do things very badly, like never mention over email that they’re going out of business or neglect to follow CAN SPAM regulations. Others used their list as a communications tool that survived the dissolution of the parent company.
The full report is well worth a read, but the take home messages are clear.
First, your email program can play a critical role in alerting your subscribers to changes in operations, winding down operations or liquidation sales.
Oddly, bankrupt retailers usually give anonymous website visitors more information that they give to email subscribers. This is a huge missed opportunity to drive sales, and it’s also disrespectful to your brands’ most loyal customers. The time during which you’re liquidating or exploring your options is a poor time to alienate dedicated subscribers.
And second, and even more importantly, brands that appear to be headed for extinction often find a second life. Examples include the rebirth of Pets.com as a community site run by PetSmart, the takeover of CompUSA.com by TigerDirect parent Systemax, and the rescue of RedEnvelope by new owners. Because of this, maintaining email relationships with your best customers is critical to preserving the value of your brand as much as possible during a transaction.
One thing that was clear to me while I was looking at the report, is that the companies who did things badly weren’t thinking about email marketing as one of their assets during the shutdown process. In one case, the company never even mentioned they were going out of business in their email marketing, the mail just stopped one day. This same company prominently mentioned the going out of business on their website, so it was clearly a failure of the marketing department to communicate over email.
As an aside, Smith-Harmon have their own email marketing program well managed. When I downloaded the report, I agreed to receive email from them. Within 5 minutes of me signing up for the program I received a welcome message welcoming me to the program, giving me some real content and not relying on images. Kudos to them for walking the walk.