Audience Development: High Value Target
When I arrived at the Chronicle of Higher Education last year, we were in the middle of an extensive e-mail marketing conversion—a switch to a new e-mail service provider. Never an easy or straightforward project, it was nonetheless necessary for us to take our marketing efforts to the next step and move from our e-mail marketing knowledge to more effective e-mail marketing tactics.
With two different marketing departments and at least two different e-mail marketing tools, we had become unorganized and inefficient. While our advertising marketers were using e-mail for PR, communications and lead generation for their respective sales teams, audience development was using e-mail as a primary channel for new subscription acquisition and webinar attendance.
We had basic metrics and reporting—we could see orders and leads from campaigns—but that was pretty much it. There were no metrics on e-mail performance (open rates, click rates, and so on). Because the primary system we were using was a third-party and not a self-service tool, we were subject to getting stuck in a queue with their other clients and we often had to wait days to get the results of our efforts. There was no way to segment the audiences; the campaigns were very primitive. We affectionately referred to this as “batch and blast” e-mail marketing. Nothing was integrated with our CRM and there was no central database. With so many challenges, you may wonder what took us so long to finally make a switch. It wasn’t complacency; we just didn’t realize how much better it could be. Triggered and behavioral e-mail marketing wasn’t even in our vocabulary yet.
The Chronicle realized it had to centralize its e-mail marketing efforts across the organization and combine the databases and processes under one system. Demonstrating increased return on investment (ROI) was key to getting buy-in from the organization—after all, we were doing relatively well with the status quo. Not only would a new system potentially cost more, there would be a lot of work from several stakeholders to convert, learn and optimize the new system. We had to change the culture of how we thought of e-mail marketing. We vetted several partners; many were good, but none perfect. (Tip: Find what you can live with and without. One might be strong in reporting, another in user-friendliness. For us, we also needed a system that could handle lead scoring and lead nurturing.)