Email Marketing lessons from Railway TCs

Like most residents of Mumbai, I take the infamous Western Railway trains to work. The jam-packed peak hour rush in the compartments always acts as a motivator, it helps me remember that I have a long way to go to be able to travel in a plush luxurious car and avoid this daily encounter with my fellow Mumbaikars.

As I get off to reach my office, there is a very strange behavior that I have seen amongst the Ticket Collectors (TCs) that act as the sentinels of discipline when it comes to carrying a valid Railway ticket for the journey. We all know that there are First Class and General Class compartment in a railway train. And while the number of General Class compartments is much more than that of the First Class compartments, which inherently means that more number of people travel in the General Class as compared to the First Class, what surprised me is the most is most of the TCs stand outside the First Class and not the General Class.

Last weekend I happened to attend a friend’s birthday party. His uncle, who’s a TC as well, was also present at the gathering. This was my chance to know the logic behind this strange behavior of the TCs. I made sure I put forth the question in the best possible way in order not to hurt his sentiments. He gave me an amazed look when on hearing the questions.

He said, according to the new regulation all TCs get a certain incentive based on the number of trespassers they catch hold of. He told me most TCs stand near the First Class compartments not only because they can levy a heavy fine, but also because there is a higher probability of a trespasser in the First Class being able to pay a fine. Those traveling without a ticket in the General Class compartment usually crib they don’t have any money to pay the fine and many a times that is actually true.

After the party was over, I pondered upon this ideology. Many times people miss the date of their seasonal pass renewal. Recently, my colleague found himself in such a position. Only when he got into the train did he realize that his pass had expired the day before and he wasn’t able to renew it because he was stuck in a meeting. Had he been caught that day he would have surely ended up paying the fine. Similarly, there must be so many people who must have fallen prey to such situations and there is a much higher probability that they paid their fines as compared to those from the General Class.

The point that today’s marketers can take from this is that it makes more sense in monitoring the smaller percentage of your subscribers who respond to your mails than worrying about the larger inactive chunk. Those responding to your mails would be all those who have opened, clicked, landed on your website and some who have even gone to the extent of filling a shopping cart but abandoning it unpredictably. On the other hand, the inactive chuck would comprise of those who have taken to not opening your emails over a period of time.

On an average, a good performing email campaign gets around 4% Open Rate and 1% Click-through Rate. This is the cream volume which is receptive to your promotional offers. Hence, it makes more sense to cater to these people based on different attributes such as the time when they have opened the emails, their preferences, if they have purchased in the past then what type of purchases they made and what is their spending capacity, what pages have they navigated to after landing on your website, what type of products they have selected before abandoning the shopping cart, so on and so forth.

Ironically, most marketers are worried about how they can reach to even more people, expand their customer base and turn the major dormant inactive base to active. While it is important that one worries about these issues, the highest priorities should be around focusing on the active base – because you obviously have a better shot at converting these into sales figures.

Hence, dear fellow marketers, be vigilant about your First Class customers. Build a cohesive strategy to cater to these people and also focus on the inactive base in parallel. And most important of all, in case you travel by train don’t forget to renew you seasonal Railway pass 😉

Disclaimer: The analogy of First Class and General Class has been used only to distinguish between different groups of customers without any biased intentions.

Feb, 20, 2013

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