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Oct 05, 2010
Case Study

Email Marketing with Custom Brochures: How Continuous Improvement Led to an 11% Conversion Rate

SUMMARY: A solid marketing campaign is hard to argue with. Many teams instinctively let successful campaigns run untouched and let the results roll in. But sometimes a tweak here and there can add up over the years.

We followed up on a classic Sherpa case study to show how a team of university marketers added a three-part email series to a build-your-own-brochure program and increased its application rate 22%.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter

Jeff Berggren, VP, Enrollment Management and Marketing, Huntington University, and his team launched their build-a-brochure program around 2002.

Through an online form, prospective students supplied their academic interests and contact information to receive a customized brochure both via email and standard mail. The personalized document included:
o Studentís name
o Photos and body copy based on their interests
o Relevant alumni profile
o Contact information for an admissions counselor

The program was a great success. Approximately 9% of prospects who request a personalized brochure applied to attend Huntington, as we reported in 2004.

But the program had room for improvement. Spam filters and email service providers often rejected the emailed PDF attachment due to its size, Berggren says, and the team was not making the most of the opportunity to engage with students.

"Itís tempting when things are working well to let things ride...But itís always good to go back and double check to see if what youíre doing is still relevant," Berggren says.


The team added additional automated email messages to follow-up with students, and also several other updates to its build-a-brochure program over several years. Here are the most significant changes they made and the results the team achieved.

Update #1. Drive all Web inquiries to build-a-brochure

Realizing the programís great results, the team drove all online name capturing efforts through the build-a-brochure program.

The team originally included several forms on its website for students to fill out to request more information. These lead-capture forms were later consolidated into the brochure-request form, Berggren says.

Links and URLs for the build-a-brochure can be found in the following areas:
o Two links in the consistent left-hand navigation bar
o Links on several pages on the site
o Letters sent to prospective students
o PPC advertising in search engines

- Tied directly to database

When the team used several information-request forms, prospective students often filled out more than one, which entered them multiple times into the teamís database. Consolidating the forms has increased efficiency, Berggren says.

Update #2. Lose the PDF attachment

After 2004, the team soon realized that emailed PDF attachments were not the best way to consistently send brochures.

"We were getting bounced all over the place," Berggren says. "The PDFís file size was too big for what a lot of carriers were allowing."

The team still uses PDFs, but instead provides a link to download them from the universityís website. This link is sent to students via email within 24 hours of the request.

Update #3. Add a three-email series

Huntington and the team wanted to make the most of the opportunity to engage with students. They decided to launch an automated three-email series sent to every student who requested a brochure.

The emails delivered a personalized PDF, introduced students to school faculty, and reminded students about Huntington as they continued their research.

The messages were as follows (also seen in the creative samples at the bottom of this page):

Message #1: Confirmation

The team then sent an email from the universityís president. The email included:
o Subject line: "Thank you for visiting Huntington University"
o First name greeting
o Mention of student-specified major
o Mention of schoolís 100-year tradition and spiritual focus
o Informal invitation to visit campus
o Contact email and name for the admissions counselor who received the studentís info
o Signature of the university president

Message #2: Brochure delivery

About 24 hours after the request, students received an email from an admissions counselor. This email included:
o Subject line: "Thank you for visiting Huntington University"
o First name greeting
o Mention of student-specified major
o Link to download brochure PDF
o Mention that a print brochure is in the mail
o Email address and phone number for admissions counselor
o Picture and signature of admissions counselor

Message #3: Additional "thank you" from the president

The final email was very similar to the first, and served as a reminder that the student recently contacted the school. The message was sent 48-hours after the second, and included:
o Subject line: "Thank You Message from Dr. G. Blair Dowden, President, Huntington University"
o First name greeting
o Mention of student-specified major
o Mention of schoolís 100-year tradition and spiritual focus
o Informal invitation to visit campus
o Picture and signature of the university president

Update #4. Update brochure and content

On-demand printing technology has changed since the years when Berggrenís team started the build-a-brochure program, he says. The teamís older brochures were prone to scuffing and smudging in the mail. Also, the team avoided certain colors because the printing process did not render them well.

All that changed, Berggren says. The team later sent higher-quality glossy brochures and freely used any color (see samples below).

- No envelope

The team did not put mailed brochures in envelopes. This was so parents -- who were key influencers -- would not feel sneaky by taking a look at brochures when they arrived, Berggren says.

"We donít do anything intentionally for the parent, but we know that they are an important secondary audience. We think we reach both [the students and the parents] in a subtle way by sending the brochure to the house thatís very observable."

Update #5. Coordinate landing page with microsite

As mentioned, the team consolidated the siteís information-request forms into the single build-a-brochure form. The form then served two primary goals:
o Enable students to request custom brochures
o Add student information to the teamís database

As the main lead-generation form for the universityís online efforts, the team coordinated the formís landing page to match the style of its student-life microsite. This graphical mini-site described studentsí on-campus life, and also linked to the build-a-brochure form. The team annually updates the microsite and build-a-brochure page designs.

- Three additional fields

The team also added three additional fields of information to the request form:
o Cell phone number (textbox)
o Secondary major of interest (drop menu)
o Athletic program of interest (drop menu)

Adding these fields was necessary to capture the required information for the Huntingtonís database. The team did not notice a drop in form-completions after adding the fields, Berggren says.


"Compared to the other ways we get peopleís names, those who go to the build-a-brochure page are a relatively high-yield group," Berggren says.

The following stats compare the teamís leads from the build-a-brochure program to leads from a third-party lead gen service, and leads from the state of Indiana (from students who sign up in high school to receive info from Huntington). The stats are from this fallís campaign.

o 9.9% of total leads
o 11.1 % applied to Huntington
o 2.4% attended Huntington

Third-party lead gen service:
o 17.7% of total leads
o 2.4% applied
o .05% attended

State-provided names:
o 9.6% of total leads
o 8.5 % applied
o 2.8% attended

The build-a-brochure program is the number two lead generator for Berggrenís team by volume, and the number two lead generator by quality.

"The only thing that would be more efficient would be the names we get from the state of Indiana, and itís really, really close. And those names are almost a little predisposed [by their location]," Berggren says.
Due to the schoolís net profit on tuition, "it really doesnít take a lot of students to pay for [the program]."

Averaging metrics across the three-email series for the fall campaign, the team saw the following results:

Delivery rate: 97.9%
Open rate: 38.9%
Clickthrough rate: 15.58%

Useful links related to this article

Creative Samples from Huntington University's Email Campaign

1. First email
2. Second email
3. Third email
4a. Finished customized brochure Page 1
4b. Finished customized brochure Page 2
4c. Finished customized brochure Page 3
4d. Finished customized brochure Page 4

Members Library: Create-Your-Own-Brochure Program Lures High-Quality Leads

Scope1: Built and deployed the teamís custom brochures, microsite and emails

Christian Connector: Lead gen services the team uses

Huntington University

See Also:

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