Keep in Contact-On The Cheap

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A few summers ago, my family took an RV trip to Niagara Falls. We had a blast. On the way we visited Cooperstown where we stood in line for two hours to look at Babe Ruth's jockstrap. We paid $40 per night for an asphalt parking space in an RV park with a view of the local diner. We bumped into a few parked cars in an upstate New York Wal-Mart (YOU try and steer a 30-foot truck around those corners). We even spoke to Canadians, but not too much, thank goodness. All in all, the trip was a success. The RV was fine. The place where we rented it from (I'll call them "RV-A-Go-Go") provided a great service, even answering our panicked calls one Friday night when our toilet decided to work in reverse.

But something kind of bothered me afterwards. It was that after we limped back to RV-A-Go-Go and turned in the keys, we never heard from them again. Not a phone call. Nothing in the mail or email. Not a peep.

I don't get this. Is the RV business so profitable? Is there such an endless backlog of short, bald, sunburnt dads like me who take their kids on RV trips that a business like RV-A-Go-Go doesn't feel the need to do any marketing?

Partner Insights

Good penny pinchers do whatever they can to keep their customers coming back. They use inexpensive tools to keep in touch. They know that finding new customers costs significantly more bucks than selling additional products and services to their existing customers.

One way they do this is through email. Why was I not at least invited to receive an email newsletter from RV-A-Go-Go? I wouldn't mind getting an RV or camping tip sent to me every month. I'd be interested in any special deals or offers they might have for a weekend or holiday getaway. I might even consider taking my family back to Canada again, as long as I can find a place with as few Canadians as possible.

RV-A-Go-Go could use an email marketing service like Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com). A ton of other penny pinchers have already found this service - it's ranked among the top 500 Web sites in the world.

There are other email marketing services (check out www.feelbreeze.com too) but I like Constant Contact the best because it's inexpensive, easy to use and safe.

Besides offering a free 60-day trial, the service costs $75 per month to send up to 10,000 emails. I doubt even the crack marketing team at RV-A-Go-Go is handling that many customers. There's also a bunch of ready-made templates. That means that you don't need that greasy 17-year-old Web designer wearing those stupid black rimmed rectangle glasses who's going to charge you $200 per hour just to design a slick email.

Constant Contact also monitors its customers for potential spammers. When you blast out an email using their service you'll find that most of the major Internet service providers will let your messages pass because they're originating from Constant Contact and not some unknown computer traceable somewhere in the Philippines (or perhaps, Canada?).

The service also manages people who opt out of your mailing and gives you reports to show you who actually opened or read your messages. You can keep your customer list there or upload it from a spreadsheet every month. It's pretty easy.

I get a lot of spam. I don't read those messages about print cartridges, stock tips or Viagra (well, maybe some of the Viagra ones). But a monthly newsletter of RV or camping tips would be pretty cool. I could be enticed to do another little trip.

Don't be like RV-A-Go-Go. Don't let good customers forget about you. You can keep an inexpensive relationship going by using tools like Constant Contact. And do visit Niagara Falls. Try not to feed any Canadians when you're there.

Gene Marks, CPA, is the owner of the Marks Group, which sells customer relationship, service and financial management tools to small and midsize businesses.

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