Though International Wine Accessories (IWA) can say that it sells “everything for the wine lover”, except for the wine itself, that wasn’t always the case. Ben Argov’s journey from investment banker at Morgan Stanley to IWA’s president might be a unique one, but his story of rapidly growing a company making the most of its resources is familiar.

On this episode of The Commerce Marketer Podcast, IWA president Ben Argov discusses how he grew his company from the ground up, and along the way, he shares insights into how even automated messages are a source of customer service.

Argov acquired and ran a series of wine refrigeration and accessories companies.

A few years later, he purchased IWA and merged his companies. His entrepreneurial approach is based on making the most of what you have and finding opportunities to turn it into more. He applies that same measured approach to lifecycle email marketing, where IWA’s seen phenomenal success: triggered messages drove nearly 50% of their 2018 email revenue — using less than 3% of their total sends.

“It’s just not very much money to spend as it applies to the overall strategy, and email is our platform for communicating directly with our customers,” he said, describing the high return on minimal investment. “The lifecycle emails blow me away, how successful that program has been. And it requires the least amount of effort from our staff.”

The amount of effort from staff matters, because IWA has just one person managing all of their digital initiatives, including SEO, PPC, social marketing, and site design. This same, single employee manages all of the email campaigns, with a bit of outsourced design help.

“Automated emails are low-hanging fruit. They’re triggered by customer behavior and once they’re set up they require low bandwidth,” Argov said. “They’re the most powerful sets of emails because they’re customer-driven, instead of driven by us.”

The bedrock of their lifecycle messages is their post-purchase series that he describes as “a pure thank you”, a percentage off or dollar savings for next purchase. He acknowledges that there will always be customers motivated purely by price, but he also views discounts as customer service, getting even more value out of them.

“Our strategy is that we’re not trying to be promotional at all cost. We try to create value and have great products, but we’re not looking to always discount,” he said. “I think customers want to feel like they got a special deal, a good deal, or that their efforts in searching around on the web resulted in finding the best price that was out there to be had.”

In his eyes, discounts can be a way to establish a connection with a customer, to get them to remember you as the brand that cares. “And when the next purchase time comes and they don’t have time to search around fifteen places or look for places, they’re just going to that tried and true place.”

That automated emails are triggered by customer interactions isn’t lost on him. He’s even found opportunities to connect with customers through abandoned cart emails, where customers will respond to the automated messages explaining why they didn’t purchase.

“They tell us that shipping is too high, they found it cheaper somewhere else, or that they couldn’t get the cart to work,” Argov said. “Most of the time they haven’t purchased and we can solve their problem, but a third of the time they’re telling us why we lost their business.”

He takes the feedback to heart, and makes sure to respond to these emails — usually offering them an incentive to thank them for the feedback. “This is the most personal communication we have with them other than picking up the phone. This is the chance, this is where we can do it,” he said. “Where else are we going to do it if not through email?"