by Courtney Eckerle
, Manager of Editorial Content
Founded in 2010, legal service platform startup The Expert Institute has been growing rapidly — not just in staffing, but also in marketing tactics.
Connecting leading experts from its database with attorneys and investment firms interested in litigation support and investment research is the mission of The Expert Institute, according to Michael Morgenstern, Vice President of Marketing, The Expert Institute.
"The goal of the business is to provide our clients with the most qualified and relevant experts for their professional duties. So if you're an attorney, and you're litigating a patent infringement case against a cell phone manufacturer, we want to provide the expert witness who will help win the case," he said.
The Expert Institute is in a different position than its competitors, he added, simply because "for the most part, our competition, we feel, are older companies, older individuals at the helm of these companies. They're really not [as] light on their feet as we are."
With a startup culture combined with recent growth that Morgenstern attributed to the team's online marketing efforts, he believes they're overcoming the historical "disconnect between technology and the legal space. That's where we're looking to infiltrate to change things."
Content strategy is one of the most integral parts of online marketing for The Expert Institute, he said. The team works with clients, experts and other thought leaders to produce "insightful content for our audience, who are primarily attorneys actively hiring experts for litigation support."
The team curates an email newsletter that covers their top content, which is released on a weekly basis to subscribers.
"The reason this ancillary marketing campaign came about is because we were very interested in further capitalizing on this already profitable channel," he said.
Morgenstern's team saw examples of personalized outreach coming from other B2B companies, and recognized an opportunity for themselves.
It gave them the idea that "while we're trying to provide as much value with our email newsletter, we can also position ourselves to politely and somewhat softly engage our users, and let them know that we're more than our content, our newsletter," he said.
In this effort, The Expert Institute team implemented a one-on-one marketing campaign from Vice President of Client Relations George Cuchural. The campaign consisted of a personalized text-focused email from Cuchural introducing himself and the brand, as well as "letting subscribers know that there is actually a person ready and willing to speak with them about their legal practice and their expert witness needs," Morgenstern said.
Once a month, a personalized message from Cuchural is sent out to subscribers explaining new service features, and sharing exclusive content, such as evergreen blog posts and white papers.
Step #1. Clean the database
"We're trying to offer this unique, one-on-one experience for our subscribers. Really value them. Running these campaigns wasn't easy," Morgenstern said.
As part of making the interaction more meaningful and personal, prior to sending the first email, the team wanted to clean up the database and address all subscribers by their first name as accurately as possible.
In order to do this, they ran a check with the most common 4,000 first names, and were able to match up 95% of the first names for all subscribers. So far, they haven't received a single response regarding incorrect first names.
"The goal is obviously to generate more engagement, to generate more revenue, and to grow our business. People felt that they were connecting with a high-level member of our team and really speaking to them one-on-one," he said.
Step #2. Develop welcome email for series
The first email from Cuchural was designed to be an introduction, with him personally introducing himself and putting a name and voice to the brand. The email was plain
to ensure it kept the soft and polite touch the team was striving for, and addressed the recipient by name before introducing Cuchural as "your primary point of contact here at The Expert Institute."
It went on to say, "I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have about our company, and can help you take the first steps toward engaging our award winning referral services. In the meantime, here's a complimentary white paper that offers some insightful tips for choosing the right expert," and then linked to content titled: "10 Warning Signs When Selecting an Expert Witness."
"We have a really great writer on staff who just joined our team," Morgenstern said about the email development process, adding that, "we also all participate in a lot of the writing, and putting these messages together."
Step #3. Segment messages for varying levels of engagement
Since all of The Expert Institute's subscribers are at various parts of the sales funnel, the team decided to segment the recipients of this series.
After sending the first email, the team split the email list into three segments:
- Most engaged
- Moderately engaged
- Least engaged
Each segment received a slightly different send from Cuchural. For instance, the less engaged group received soft outreach messages that included free white papers or evergreen content with "zero marketing language" focused on providing value, Morgenstern said.
The moderately engaged group received a similar message to the least engaged group, but had links to evergreen blog posts and a call-to-action button. The most engaged group
received personalized messages that addressed the service and the potential need for expert witness services the prospect most likely had.
"These emails need to keep in touch while not pushing prospects before they're ready to move ahead," he said.
Track engagement metrics
A majority of the engagement was measured through subscriber engagement with the newsletter, such as open rates, clickthrough rates, and the team also collects browsing data.
"If the subscriber is opening our emails 30% of the time over a six-month period, then they're falling into our higher engaged group," Morgenstern said.
All of the emails contained tracking links so the team can look at on-site browsing behavior and tie that back to the subscriber's email address.
For instance, the team looked at users who had heavy browsing activity and page views on specific pages that the team deemed highly valuable, such as viewing the "About Us" page or "How It Works" page, or even viewing a page called "Find an Expert," which Morgenstern classified as "the hottest page for a user to click on if they have a very ready need for engaging with our service."
Test subject lines
Subject line testing is a big part of this effort, Morgenstern said. At the beginning of this effort, the newsletter was achieving open rates of about 30% on average.
With enough subject line testing, he added, "we were able to push our open rates up near 60% for these personalized messages."
The team also tested the cadence of the emails in terms of how often they were being sent out. Initially, they were sending a message once every two weeks, then a three-week period, and finally to once a week.
They weren't seeing any increases in conversions, but the unsubscribe rate was higher.
"We brought it down to about one message a month, where we felt like we had reached a good equilibrium between conversions and lowered our unsubscribe rate quite considerably," he said.
Subscribers were also receiving a weekly newsletter from The Expert Institute as well, so slowing down the frequency was important to find a "really good balance for ourselves and the subscribers," he said.
Step #4. Build a post-email lead process
The emails allowed people to go through to the website and convert through a form submission, but, at the same time, "George [Cuchural] was getting direct replies from all of these emails from our subscribers," Morgenstern said.
Subscribers were writing back with notes such as "I appreciate the outreach, I don't happen to need it at this time," or "Yes, I have a direct need at the moment, let's set up a call to speak further about it," he said.
This type of personal response email is not the traditional way of converting prospects, Morgenstern said, and the process involved "tracking replies and conversations a little bit differently than what we're used to," with a Google Docs spreadsheet to organize all of the replies.
"If they're really in direct need and George has any availability, he'll get on the phone and call them right back," he said.
Otherwise, he said, a member of the sales team will access the Google Doc and contact the person directly, and provide information about the service, and respond to the person's need if they can.
"We were thrilled with the rates and the growth we experienced. And as a result, we just had our biggest quarter ever this past quarter, and our biggest month ever was June," Morgenstern said.
The results they were able to garner include:
- 200% increase in conversions
- 60% open rate
- 20% clickthrough rate
- 3% conversion rate
The team was able to drive the unsubscribe rate down 48% from the regular newsletter. The average open rate for The Expert Institute's email program also saw a 100% improvement upon introducing these personalized emails.
The conversion rate at 3% was much higher than the 1% rate from the regular newsletter, which Morgenstern attributes to the "soft language" of the personalized emails.
This effort was groundbreaking for the team, and "really got the gears turning for us," he said, adding that they have also now implemented a series of personalized outreach to active clients.
"We had lots of personalized emails that were triggered automatically from our database to clients who had active opportunities with us. So they were getting automatic updates based on various stages of their opportunities," he said.
These status updates were seeing encouraging engagement, he added, but after this campaign, they integrated a cross-selling campaign to active clients.
"For each engagement, there's a specific need for a specific kind of expert, and while they might need one particular expert on engagement, the need also arises many times where they might need two to three to four different experts for one engagement," he said.
So the team has automated the process of sending out periodic emails letting clients know that if "you're working on a products liability case, well, we also have a really great expert who … [is] a warning labels expert."
"We're doing a lot more cross-selling that's automated and personalized from our sales team, and we're getting great results. We're seeing an increase in business based on these cross-selling email campaigns," Morgenstern concluded.
- Welcome email
- Reduced rate email
Campaign TeamThe Expert Institute
Michael Morgenstern, Vice President of Marketing
Joseph O'Neill, Marketing Communications Manager
Related ResourcesEmail Summit 2015 Call for Speakers
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