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Oct 12, 2006
Case Study

How to Keep Your Colleagues *and* Subscribers Happy With Your Emails

SUMMARY: If everyone in your organization wants a piece of the email marketing pie, list fatigue can set in quickly. How do you let your colleagues use the house list without overdoing it on frequency?

Here's a Case Study that shows how one large organization solved the problem by turning account emails into cross-promotional messages. Plus, screenshots, results data and some interesting test numbers on sidebar ads in HTML emails:
CoreNet Global's email list faces many demands. For a worldwide association for corporate real estate professionals, email is ideal for updating members, sharing knowledge and driving opt-ins to event, certification and research programs.

But that's a lot of potential email. Too much, says Richard Kadzis, Director Special Projects & Media Relations, who worried that association members and other subscribers would lose interest through email overload.

Kadzis needed to keep colleagues happy by giving them access to the email list but keep subscribers responsive by capping frequency and ensuring relevancy.

So how do you solve that email marketing conundrum? Here's what he and his team did.

Step #1. Centralize broadcast email and set up internal rules for accessing the list

Working with CoreNet Global's former CFO Sherri Parman (who now oversees membership), Kadzis set up an outsourced email coordination center responsible for managing a global email calendar. With the exception of some specialist email newsletters, all broadcast email goes through this calendar.

To send an email to the house list, CoreNet's departments must submit their requirements to the calendar team at least 72 hours in advance of the desired send time and using a standard email send request form. The latter includes:

* staff member name
* department
* goals of the email
* date/time requested for deployment
* subject line
* from line
* initial email content

After setup, a department can edit their content twice. Any more edits and they're penalized with higher internal fees for the send. (Kadzis notes that this editing rule has nearly eliminated those never-ending edits that can sometimes plague email campaigns.)

Step #2. Define a universal template and style guide

Kadzis’ team decided on a branded HTML template (with a multipart plain-text alternative) for all emails, consolidating account update type emails and promotional emails in one format (see screenshots below).

Each email contains one main message -- whether promotional or informational -- accompanied by a right-hand sidebar featuring three "ads," themselves either promotional (e.g. for an event) or informational (e.g. linking to a news item). The team also tested HTML image box ads vs straightforward text ads for the sidebar (results below).

Kadzis wanted to get the best of both worlds. Informational elements sweeten promotional emails, while branding images and promotional sidebars enhance the value of otherwise bland text-based account messaging. "It creates a very cross-promotional platform that reduces the hard sell and injects more value add for the members and non-members."

The calendar team manage (and often write) the content and cross-promotional ads, and also ensure each email complies with an email style guide. This global guide covers color palettes, logo treatments and typeface selections, ensuring all CoreNet's outgoing emails present a consistent brand and image.

Each email uses a common "from" email address to help with deliverability, but the "from" name changes to fit the audience and message. "The name used is the one most likely recognized and relevant,” Kadzis says.

Step #3. Enforce a frequency cap and relevancy through segmentation

With the sidebar ads relieving some of the messaging pressure, they imposed a limit of 40 emails per month on the email calendar.

But that's not the real frequency cap. Segmentation rules ensure that individuals get no more than two or three messages per week. Typical segmentation criteria include membership status (member/non-member/chapter leader etc.), location and prior clickthrough behavior. "We know who's clicking and who's not, so we tailor messages around that," Kadzis says.

This segmentation applies to both the main message and the sidebar ads. So a European-based non-member might get a main message promoting a local meeting, plus a sidebar featuring:

-> A "join-in" ad leading to a membership signup landing page (with prices in Euros)
-> An ad for the European executive development program
-> A "latest news" ad linking to details from London of a recent commercial real estate development

Step #4. Communicate and feedback to internal clients

Once the system was in place, Kadzis made sure all departments were familiar with the above rules and guidelines. This communication continues, with senders receiving regular updates on their email costs and performance metrics.

"We share the campaign summaries for the email's deployment with internal clients every week or two,” he says. “The email calendar is also shared regularly internally. That kind of feedback and the billing provide the data that keep us on track and productive."


Kadzis is very happy with the outcome of the changes. And so are his colleagues. "Internal client satisfaction has improved substantially."

As for the emails themselves, success metrics are "repeatedly ahead of aggregate industry benchmarks," suggesting that recipients are happy, too. Open rates are bucking industry trends by not declining, and email frequency has dropped from six or seven a week to less than half that.

Since the type of messaging (promotional, informational etc.) varies so much, average metrics are not a useful measure of success, but Kadzis offers some highlights:

* Typical measured open rates are around 30% and may be anywhere up to 46%.
* Promotional campaigns usually earn a 5%-10% clickthrough rate, though some have gone as high as 37%. (Here, clickthrough rate is measured as a percentage of emails sent.)
* Tests revealed that HTML image-based sidebar ads achieved a clickthrough rate 20% higher than equivalent text ads.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from CoreNet’s emails:

BrightWave Marketing - the email marketing vendor responsible for guiding and managing CoreNet's overall email program:

Imre Communications - the vendor responsible for coordinating the email calendar:

CoreNet Global
See Also:

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