February 07, 2012
Case Study

Post-sale Nurturing: Nonprofit's email welcome series beats newsletter open rate 47%, marketing emails 257%

SUMMARY: Getting a new customer is just half the battle. You have to convince people it's worthwhile to buy additional products, renew a membership, and become a repeat customer. The organization featured in this post-sale nurturing case study starts remarketing to current members on day one.

See how a nonprofit organization built a five-part email series of automated emails to welcome new members and further explain the benefits they receive. The emails have 257% higher open rates than the organization's other marketing emails, and 47% higher open rates than its newsletters.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter

ASM International is a nonprofit organization that serves the materials science and engineering professions. Its members receive access to a host of online resources when they join. The problem, says Mark Barton, Marketing Manager, ASM International, is that too few members realize they have these resources.

"In the old days, we used to send out a welcome packet with tons of literature and a little membership card. It was all the information about the benefits of membership. All of that has gone by the wayside in this era," Barton says.

In response, Barton's team sent emails to new members each quarter to remind them of the benefits. But, the team was never sure the messages engaged the newest members fast enough, and the lists had to be created manually for each campaign.

"I don't even want to think about how much time we were wasting," he says.

ASM eventually connected its email platform to its membership database, giving the marketers better access to membership data. It was time to act. The team needed to prove that it could use this data to power marketing campaigns, schedule triggered emails, and increase open and clickthrough rates.


ASM International established a five-part series of automated emails to welcome new members and explain the many resources they could access. By reaching this targeted audience with relevant content, the team hoped to earn strong open rates and get members to use ASM's resources.

The team took these three steps:

Step #1. Gain insight into membership data

The team already sent emails to emphasize member benefits, but the lists had to be manually created. Each time, the team had to:
  • Access its membership database

  • See who recently registered

  • Ensure each member had not previously received a similar email

  • Bring that list into the email platform

After ASM integrated its member database, the team could easily see which members signed up within 24 hours, 7 days, 30 days, or another time period. It could also schedule triggered emails to reach new members as they passed these milestones.

In a first test of this system, the team sent triggered confirmation emails to people who registered for an online course. The system checked for new registrations every hour and sent emails to anyone who signed up. These automated messages served as a proof-of-concept that encouraged the team to push forward.

Step #2. Outline key benefits of membership

ASM International gives paying members a long list of resources that are specific to materials science and engineering. The team wanted to make sure its welcome campaign emphasized the most popular membership features without overwhelming the audience with options.

The team grouped features into the following categories to simplify its messaging:
  • Premium content

  • Professional network

  • Career assistance

  • Special discounts

Step #3. Create and schedule emails

The team wanted to remind new members about their benefits throughout the first six months of membership. Pulling from its membership database, the team programmed a daily query to automatically send emails to members who passed the following milestones:
  • 24 hours

  • 30 days

  • 60 days

  • 90 days

  • 180 days

Each email included a "Member Services" banner with the ASM logo, as well as several navigation links and a link to contact the Member Service Center with questions. Below, we describe the key differences between each email.

Email #1. Welcome - 24 Hours

Subject Line: "Explore the many benefits of your ASM Membership"

This email is delivered in a letter-like format and welcomes the person into the organization. This email is the only one in the series to take a broad approach, providing links to a variety of member benefits including:
  • Membership directory

  • Forum

  • Discounts

  • Journals

  • And more

Email #2. Premium content - 30 Days

Subject Line: "ASM has one of the world's largest collections of technical information and you have access"

This email serves as the first true reminder that members have benefits to explore. The email mentions "thousands of technical articles," journal articles, online "Desk Editions," and other premium content. Links point members to the Desk Editions and to the Member Services center.

Email #3. Professional networking - 60 Days

Subject Line: "Thousands of the best materials science minds are here. Start making connections."

This email reminds members that they are now part of a network of thousands of similar professionals. The email mentions the organization's conferences, training seminars, local chapter meetings and online forums. A link is provided to the organization's Membership Directory.

Email #4. Career center - 90 Days

Subject Line: "Take your career to the next level with ASM Member Career Center."

This email points members to the organization's career center through several links and lists features of the career center, such as the job listings and resume assistance.

Email #5. Special discounts - 180 Days

This final email reaches members three months into their membership and reminds them that ASM helps provide special discounts on banking products, health insurance, car rentals and other products. A link is provided to ASM's Discounts page.


The automated email series outperforms ASM's email newsletter and marketing emails in terms of average engagement. Automating the sending process also saved the team significant time, Barton says.

"They are going to the right people at the right time as we intend, and they're not requiring human intervention to pull lists, transfer lists, and deploy emails manually," Barton says.

Over the course of several months in 2011, the emails received the following average engagement metrics:

Email #1: Open rate: 31%; CTR: 24%
Email #2: Open rate: 25%; CTR: 12%
Email #3. Open rate: 27%; CTR: 7%
Email #4. Open rate: 26%; CTR: 13%
Email #5. Open rate: 29%; CTR: 10%

Over the same period, the team's email newsletter received a 17% average open rate, and its marketing emails received a 7% average open rate. Even the worst performing email from the five-message series had a 47% higher open rate than the team's average newsletter and a 257% higher open rate than its average marketing emails.

"People just inherently want to know that they made a good decision. [These emails] validate that they made a good decision in joining, and I think these open rates demonstrate that," Barton says.

Saved hours of time

The team hopes the emails will encourage renewals among new members, and Barton estimates that renewals will be more than 50% higher than before the email series was launched.

"In a membership organization, the renewal period starts the day after the person joins. We want to start showing benefit as soon as possible … We are hoping that by showing benefit quickly and early in the membership, it will be easier to recover and renew those members at the end of the cycle," Barton says.

These results will take at least several more months to appear. In the meantime, the team is happy to have established its first automated email series, increased engagement with new members, and saved countless hours.

"There are five [emails] going out every morning, and no human intervention is required to send. It's fantastic," Barton says.

Useful links related to this article

  1. Email #1 – Welcome

  2. Email #2 - Content

  3. Email #3 - Networking

  4. Email #4 - Careers

  5. Email #5 - Discounts

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Social Media Case Study: Facebook plus integrated marketing helps raise $950,000

Informz - platform used to integrate the team's database and schedule emails

ASM International

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