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Growing a B2B Business by Blending Traditional and Web Marketing Strategies (Marketing Memo, February, 2004)

Clean.com is a West Coast e-business that has figured out how to sell janitorial supplies to commercial customers via the worldwide Web. Clean.com now has 10,000+ customers, and it adds another 500-600 per month. Nearly 75% of the customers it acquired in 2001 continue to order products from the company. Revenues now increase about 30%-40% per year. The company was profitable for each of the last four months of 2003. Clean.com seems to have survived the economic downturn by making sound operational and marketing decisions.

Clean.com operates in a mature niche served for the most part by traditional channels. Competitors' salespeople call on companies much as their predecessors did 50 years ago. This traditional channel handles most of the sales of janitorial supplies to businesses. To shape its Web strategy, the company has used surveys to obtain feedback from customers. Survey findings led the company to offer more environmentally friendly cleaning agents and to bring warehousing inside to improve service. Initially, a third party handled warehousing and shipping. Clean.com has also experimented with its marketing mix since its founding in the late nineties.

A New Marketing Mix

Clean.com had been using fax broadcasts and email messages to stay in touch with customers and encourage repeat purchases. But, the company has modified its fax and email campaigns, both because of CAN-SPAM legislation and because Web marketing is more effective than sending faxes. While the company continues to use email campaigns, it has had to add more opt-in features. The company has also sought ways to prevent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from treating Clean.com's email messages as spam. Clean.com has learned through trial and error what works and what does not work in the new economy.

Clean.com's Best Practices

Clean.com's techniques may be applicable to your business:

  • Use telemarketing and email to follow up with customers, but abide by CAN-SPAM laws. Clean.com's email "click through rate" (percentage of emails opened) is above average.
  • Use Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Embed the right key words and meta-tags on your Web site to ensure that your company's links rise to the top when a prospect searches for your product- or service- category on Google, Overture, or business.com. Clean.com finds it more cost-effective to use an outside company to handle optimization than to add to head count.
  • Regularly, monitor your company's position on Google, as well as your competitors' position.
  • Measure the impact of traditional and Web marketing, and modify initiatives accordingly.

Winett Associates can help you gain valuable insight from existing customers and prospects.

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