Cross Country Skiing © by Jeremy Bronson


Relationships.  That’s the name of the marketing game these days.  We all know that customers are more likely to buy from suppliers with whom they have a relationship. But how do you build and nurture that relationship?


I’d like to share with you an example of REI’s email marketing strategy to build a relationship with me, their customer.


Last month, I bought a pair of cross-country skis from REI.  They’re using that opportunity to solidify our relationship and enhance their reputation as an expert authority.

If you’re not familiar with REI, they’re a retailer and established authority for outdoor recreational equipment.  They’ve got all the gear you never knew you needed for just about any outdoor sport.  And if you have a question or need advice, their store employees are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful.  REI pays attention to taking care of their customers.


Targeted Email Marketing Strategy = Relationship Builder

About three weeks after I bought my skis, I got an email autoresponder from REI.  The timing was great; I had enough time to try out my skis and play with them a little.  But that was also just about when I realized I had a few more questions about my skis.  REI took this opportunity to proactively answer all my questions…and then some.

The email was in a lovely html format, clearly organized so I could easily skim through to see if the email was relevant to me.  Good.

Right up front was a message congratulating me on my cross-country ski purchase.  I really liked this; they knew I had purchased cross-country skis, not downhill skis.  I felt like they were paying attention to me.  Good.

Next, the email gave me a link to the REI website’s Expert Advice section, which they told me had articles and videos to help me get the most out of my new equipment.  And then the message got even more targeted.

There was a section titled “DIY Ski Maintenance” (sounds like a search engine optimized title, if ever I heard one), that gave me direct links to videos that showed me how to wax my skis, how to repair my skis, and backcountry skiing basics.

There was a section titled “REI Snow Report” that included widgets I could add to my Google toolbar or Facebook page for updated snow conditions at my favorite resorts.

There was a link to find an REI Tech Service location near me, in case I was heading out for a serious trip and needed to tune up my equipment.

There were links to the REI Cross-Country Ski Shop, encouraging me to explore miles of wilderness trails.  Right from this email, I could Shop Cross-Country Ski Clothing, Shop Cross-Country Ski Accessories, Shop Ski Packs and Bags, Shop Roof Top Boxes, Shop Snow Safety.  (Again, notice how these links have been search engine optimized.)

And of course, the email had links to REI’s general website categories, including Stores & Events, REI Adventures, and the REI Guarantee.


Everything I wanted to know about my skis was all right there for me, all in one email, with just a little bit of well-chosen copy to put each link in the right context.


Takeaway Lessons

REI did a great job of thinking about things from the customer’s point of view.  To follow their example, ask yourself:

  • What advice and information are your customers looking for?
  • What will genuinely help them?
  • How can they get more out of your product or service?
  • When is the right time to share that information?

The answers to those questions will help you create the targeted content that your customers want to see.  You’ll also get a sense of the right timing for your emails.  You want to send out messages that will help them find your information most easily, at the time when they’re ready for it.

Best of luck with your targeted email marketing strategy; may you build many happy relationships!