July 06, 2022
Case Study

Customer Experience and Marketing: 3 quick case studies to help you think like your customers


Ever see the movie “Being John Malkovich?” People can climb through a small hidden door to get inside the mind of actor John Malkovich.

It is a very visual representation for what us marketers and entrepreneurs should strive do to with our customers.

To help you find your own small hidden door, in this article we bring you examples from a bakery chain, cloud storage company, and content website.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Customer Experience and Marketing: 3 quick case studies to help you think like your customers

This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

“The world does not need ‘expert’ marketers; the world needs marketers who are expert at thinking like consumers,” Flint McGlaughlin taught in Value Proposition Credibility: 3 ways to help people instantly believe your message.

To help you get into a customer-focused mindset so you can communicate a believable value proposition, we bring you three stories in this article.

First, a bakery chain that used A/B testing to better understand its customers. Then, a cloud storage company that tried to channel its customers’ pain points through humorous music videos. And finally, a content website’s SEO approach that pleases Google’s algorithm presumably because it creates a better customer experience – internal linking.

Quick Case Study #1: Bakery chain increases email conversion rate 39% with A/B testing

Magnolia Bakery is a globally recognized brand with 10 brick-and-mortar locations in the U.S., a rapidly growing direct to consumer (DTC) business, as well as international franchises. The bakery chain has gained worldwide fame and loyal fans thanks to scenes in Sex and the City and Saturday Night Live.

Having outgrown its “batch-and-blast” approach to email marketing, the team wanted to focus on personalized approaches and test-and-learn strategies using A/B testing.

For example, the team builds automated series of messages for different audiences, including a welcome series for new customers as well as offers for existing customers based on past purchase behavior, abandoned carts, or product preferences.

And now it conducts A/B testing to gain a stronger understanding of customers and their purchasing habits.

“There are limitless ways to test and learn, to the point where you should never feel comfortable as a marketer. With each placement we put out into the world, we try to tweak something within the tactic or strategy to uncover a new learning about our audience, and 99% of the time, we do, which makes the next thing even more effective,” said Adam Davis, Media & Marketing Manager, Magnolia Bakery.

Here is a look at two of the bakery chain’s email subject line tests.

For Valentine’s Day, the team conducted subject line testing for the below email.

Creative Sample #1: Bakery chain’s Valentine’s Day email

Creative Sample #1: Bakery chain’s Valentine’s Day email
  • One treatment focused on gifting – “Gift them a special Valentine’s Day dessert.”
  • The other treatment focused on the general collection of products offered – “Enjoy our limited-time Valentine’s Day desserts!”
  • Both subject lines had a heart emoji at the end.

The open rate for both subject lines was the same – 39%. But the general subject line drove $1,900 in sales while the gifting subject line drove $1,100.

Here’s another test the team ran. They launched one of the chain’s best sellers – Banana Pudding Variety Pack – in January, and wanted to tease the product to people who have purchased pudding through the direct-to-consumer channel in the past.

Creative Sample #2: Bakery chain’s teaser email

Creative Sample #2: Bakery chain’s teaser email

The execution was similar to the Valentine’s Day email test. The team tested two subject lines:

  • Direct response – “Open for VIP(udding) access to our most exciting pack yet” and included the side eyes emoji.
  • Callback to previous purchasers – “We heard you like Banana Pudding and we just dropped a NEW pack!” with the fire emoji.

The latter drove a higher open rate (58% versus 51%), but the former drove higher revenue ($800 versus $680). The total audience for these was a lot smaller (~8,700) than Valentine's Day (~160,000).

Thanks to its email personalization and testing efforts, average time spent on-site for Magnolia’s email subscribers has increased 35% and the average open rate has increased by 36%. Conversion rates have increased by 39%. On the days the team sends email they see a six to eight percent revenue lift.

Recently the brand tested a paid social media campaign for its prospecting strategy. New customers were invited to register to receive welcome offers like 10% off and discounts on the shopper’s birthday.

“If you uncover something that works on one channel, apply the same strategy elsewhere, even if it doesn't feel natural. When you start thinking about your audience in the lens of who they are vs. where they are, you'll learn more things about those audiences than you would if you tested different things in different places,” Davis said.

They have begun to engage in SMS messaging experimentation as well.

“Relationship marketing really works to sustain brand loyalty. Email and SMS together are what most of my customers see as the next step,” said Paige DiGregorio, Customer Success Manager, Sailthru (Magnolia Bakery’s marketing automation provider).

Quick Case Study #2: Cloud storage company generates 100K+ video views by tapping into its ideal prospects’ pain points

Wasabi Technologies’ main target audience is IT leaders and decision-makers. The marketing team typically reached this audience by advertising the company’s services and products via technical papers, solution briefs, and banner ads. In order to really break through the clutter, they realized they would have had to spend a lot of money on advertising… or shift their strategy and mindset to think outside of the box of what B2B companies typically do.

The team chose the latter approach. They identified a pain point felt by the IT leaders and decision-makers that are its main target audience – it is difficult for the IT team to get its ideas across to the C-suite management team.

Inspired by this insight, they created the IT Hero Nate Campaign to empower the IT community and connect on an emotional level. “To do this we tapped into our CEO and co-founder, David Friend’s background in music,” said Julie Barry, Vice President of Global Brand & Communications, Wasabi Technologies.

“Dave is a six-time tech CEO who happened to have also studied composition at Yale with a double degree in Music and Engineering and started a company, ARP Instruments, whose synthesizers powered famous tracks from beloved artists such as Stevie Wonder, The Who, George Harrison and Led Zeppelin,” she said.

The campaign consists of a series of three-minute music videos featuring Nate, the every-person IT pro, who shares a critical message directed at businesses through the lyrics of a power ballad. “I had worked with viral content creator Penn Holderness of The Holderness Family in the past, so I connected him with Dave to co-compose the power ballad for Nate’s music videos,” Barry said.

The videos serve as public service announcements to educate the enterprise audience and beyond about IT topics that are close to their day-to-day, while also telling IT professionals’ stories and their struggles.

Creative Sample #3: Comedic music video for information technology company

Creative Sample #3: Comedic music video for information technology company

The first video, #MigratewithNate, came out in 2020 and was aimed at elevating the profile of IT professionals while educating enterprises about the benefits of cloud storage. There was also a Migrate with Nate 2.0 in 2021. The two videos have generated 21,322 views on YouTube.

“The #ThinkBeforeYouClick music video and ballad, the third installment in Wasabi’s ‘Nate’ series, was launched during a time when ransomware was on the rise and businesses’ data and operations were at risk,” Barry said. The video featured Nate warning about the dangers of ransomware and how to find more effective models for communicating cybersecurity awareness/ransomware education. Now, less than two months after the launch in May 2022, the YouTube video has reached 95,888 views.

“We didn’t start out seeking a completely new medium for our campaigns, but we are fortunate enough to have found a clear blank space in the industry. This use case isn’t unique to cloud storage but it could easily be played out elsewhere in enterprise tech. For example, Nate could be the overworked developer seeking a more user-friendly DevOps environment or a security professional who isn’t equipped with the right tools to keep a company’s network safe. As the enterprise tech space continues to heat up amidst rapid digital transformation efforts, marketing teams need new approaches to reach B2B audiences,” Barry advised.

Quick Case Study #3: Content website gets #4 SERP ranking from internal linking

On September 8, 2021, the team at Smallbiz Tools posted a blog article titled “Top 10 Lifelock Alternatives for Identity Theft Protection in 2022.” The post had no external or internal links pointing to it. It had no ranking.

Creative Sample #4: Blog article on content website

Creative Sample #4: Blog article on content website

The team added nine internal links and waited one week. The article ranked #4 for “Lifelock alternatives.”

Here are the blog posts they added the internal links from, along with the anchor text they used:

  • Top 8 Ad Tracking Software Tools for 2021: Tried Tested & Rated – anchor text: security
  • ZZ Freshbooks Introduces ACH Payments – anchor text: secure
  • Top 30 Sales Productivity Tools for 2021: Tried Tested & Rated – anchor text: secure
  • 8 Types of Collaboration Tools (w/ Top Tools To Use in 2021) – anchor text: secure
  • 12 Crucial Tools To Get Instagram Likes On Your Posts – anchor text: secure platform protects
  • 5 Reasons QuickBooks Is The Best Accounting Tool for Small Businesses – anchor text: securely
  • How to Create an Effective Email Marketing Strategy for Your Business – anchor text: security
  • Nusii vs Proposify – A Brief Comparison of 10 Key Features – anchor text: security
  • Inventory Management: What You Need to Know Before Opening a Business – anchor text: security

They then added three external links to it and now it ranks #1 for this term.

The team has since tried a similar approach with subsequent articles.

They wrote and published an article called, “9 Best Calendly Alternatives In 2022 [Tested, Ranked & Rated]” and it had no ranking. They added six internal links and waited two weeks. The article ranked #11 for “Calendly alternatives.” They added five external links and now rank #5 for “Calendly alternatives.”

They wrote and published an article called “10 Help Scout Alternatives You Should Consider in 2022” and it had no ranking. They added six internal links and waited two weeks. It ranked #13 for “Help Scout alternatives.” They are now adding external links to try to get it to jump to the first page of the Google search engine results page.

“Internal linking may have more impact on your ranking than getting other blogs and publications to link to you. Focus on internally linking to articles you want to rank on your own blog,” advised Dmitry Dragilev, Founder, Smallbiz Tools.

Related resources

Marketing Chart: How a customer experience #fail affects brands

Marketing Budget Charts: B2B customer experience investments (plus 4 budgeting tips)

World-Class Consumer & Retail Brands: What right do we have as a brand to be in that business? (Podcast Episode #15)

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