January 05, 2012
How To

Email Marketing: How a triggered alert program maintains 40% open rate, 60% click-to-open rate for millions of subscribers

SUMMARY: While triggered email alerts can keep your brand and message in front of your email subscriber list, a poorly-designed campaign can prevent these outreach efforts from being a positive experience.

Paul Ramirez, VP Operations, Eventful, and his team produced triggered email alerts that kept click-to-open rates in the 60% range throughout 2010. Ramirez will share how his team successfully welcomed new members to their brand at our upcoming Email Summit 2012. Read on to discover how a global events website regularly reaches out to its subscribers through an alert program with consistently strong results.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter

Eventful helps its 18 million registered users answer the question: "What do you want to do tonight?" The company aggregates information about live entertainment events across the globe and features information on about four to five million events at any one time.

"We're the world's largest publisher of live entertainment events," says Paul Ramirez, VP, Operations, Eventful.

One of Eventful's email alert programs has proven to be an effective way to engage new members. The automated alerts notify subscribers when their favorite performers are coming to their areas and when tickets go on sale.

"The engagement metrics for performer alerts are extremely high," Ramirez says.

Eventful sent about 7.5 million of the triggered email alerts last year and achieved, on average:
  • Open rate in 40% range

  • Click-to-open rate in 60% range

Eventful generates revenue through advertising, promotions and sponsorships. Its alert program, however, is not a substantial revenue driver, Ramirez says. Instead, the program is a valuable, branded service that encourages consumers to invite Eventful's emails into their inboxes. The service is frequently offered to incoming members to help establish a positive relationship with the brand.

"It is my goal to be the first in an inbox to tell a consumer that [an event] they love is happening. If we can maintain our stature in the consumer's mind as the best source of entertainment information in the marketplace, then that is really good for our brand," Ramirez says.

Below are four tactics Eventful uses to add subscribers to its alerts program and how its marketers maintain high engagement rates.

Tactic #1. Customize alerts with highly relevant information

Eventful's artist alert program sends consumers an email when an artist, performer, musical act, movie or other event is coming to their areas. Consumers also receive an email when tickets go on sale, and may receive a link to buy tickets from an Eventful partner.

Subscribers can receive alerts for hundreds of performers if they choose. Here are several ways they can indicate which performers they would like to receive alerts for:

Profile and preferences

Registrants are asked to select which performers they would like receive alerts about when signing up for Eventful's free membership. After signing up, members can also visit Eventful's preference center to update their lists by clicking on a link in an alert email.

iTunes catalog

Members can invite Eventful to scan their catalogues of digital music on their iTunes media players. Eventful will then add performers from a member's catalog to their alert email list.

Behavioral data

Eventful also uses data gathered from members' interactions with its email newsletters and website to uncover other performers to add to members' alert notifications. These performers are added to the "Other popular events" section at the bottom of the alert emails.

Marketing programs

Eventful has several marketing programs to attract new visitors and encourage them to become new members (two of these programs are described below). These marketing efforts are often associated with a specific performer. New members arriving from these programs are offered to receive alerts for the performers' events.

Since these emails feature performances in which subscribers have an expressed interest, and are only sent in response to news regarding those performances, they deliver content that is highly relevant to a subscriber's interests.

Tactic #2. Offer program to new visitors

Eventful immediately offers the alerts program to people encountering the brand online for the first time. This helps consumers develop a positive association with Eventful's brand from the outset.

Two ways Eventful adds new subscribers to this program:

Natural search traffic

Eventful has a robust natural search strategy that attracts people looking for information about their favorite performers. The landing pages in this strategy immediately invite visitors to join the alerts program.

For example, a recent Google search for "Justin Bieber events" served an Eventful landing page in the number-two spot. After clicking the result, a popover ad featured:
  • A picture of the performer

  • Message: "Would you like to be notified when Justin Bieber comes to [CITY]?"

  • Button: "Yes!"

The message was customized by listing the visitor's nearest major city. By clicking the "Yes!" button, visitors arrived on a shortened registration page to sign up for the alerts program.

"Demand it!" marketing campaigns

Eventful offers a "Demand it!" program where visitors can register to vote for certain performers to come to their areas. Users are encouraged to spread the word on social networks to encourage more votes. By signing up for the "Demand it!" program, members will also receive alerts emails when these performers do visit their areas.

By encouraging new Eventful members to register for the alerts program, Eventful is able to send this audience highly relevant, triggered emails. The content in these emails aligns with the exact motivations people had when they discovered Eventful online.

Tactic #3. Avoid subscriber fatigue

With the ability to send subscribers alerts for hundreds of performers, it’s not hard to image inboxes being overloaded by the program. This, of course, would frustrate subscribers and harm performance.

Ramirez's team avoids this issue by including these features:

Consolidate multiple alerts

Subscribers scheduled to receive more than one alert on a given day will instead receive an email with the alerts consolidated into one message.

Consider total email volume

Eventful uses a distribution engine that monitors the number of Eventful emails subscribers receive through this program and others. Send times can be adjusted based on the number of emails a subscriber recently received, the company's marketing objectives, or subscribers' behavioral patterns.

This system helps balance three key goals:
  • Avoid overwhelming subscribers

  • Deliver the information they want in a timely basis

  • Achieve the company's marketing goals

Offer a preference center

As mentioned, Eventful maintains a preferences center where subscribers can change the alerts they receive. Subscribers who want to receive fewer emails can make adjustments on these pages.

Tactic #4. Maintain strong email delivery rates

Eventful strives to maintain high delivery rates to ensure its emails reach subscribers. With several high-volume email programs, maintaining deliverability is vital.

"Email is absolutely fundamental to our business," Ramirez says.

Several tactics mentioned above help Eventful maintain strong delivery rates, including its:
  • Focus on avoiding subscriber fatigue

  • Commitment to relevant content

Both of these principles help keep subscribers opening and clicking on Eventful's emails and not marking them as "spam." These are fundamental goals for maintaining a strong reputation among ISPs and webmail providers, which directly impacts email delivery rates.

Eventful has a team that focuses solely on email. The team is tasked with analyzing granular data to uncover insights and improvements for email programs, as well as for maintaining overall deliverability. Several specific deliverability tactics Ramirez said this team uses:
  • List hygiene -- monitor campaigns for bounced emails and remove addresses after they generate a number of consecutive bounces.

  • Dedicated IP addresses

ISPs and webmail providers monitor sender reputations by their IP addresses. Some companies send from IP addresses that other companies use and therefore share their reputations with those companies. Eventful sends emails from IP addresses that are used only by its marketers, called dedicated IPs. This gives the company more control over its sender reputation.

Give customers what they want (and only what they want)

Eventful avoids sending subscribers emails which they did not agree to receive. For example, third-party offers are only sent to subscribers who opted-in to receive such messages. This helps prevent subscribers from clicking "spam" buttons in their email browsers and hurting Eventful's sender reputation.

Request unsubscriber lists

Eventful asks new partners for lists of people who have opted-out of their databases. Eventful then checks the lists against their own databases. If matches are found, Eventful's marketers avoid emailing the partner's offers to these subscribers since they may be persuaded to mark the emails as "spam."

Note: This was based on an earlier article, published June 28, 2011.

Paul Ramirez, VP Operations, Eventful, will be interviewed on-stage about this case study during the Direct Sale breakout sessions at the upcoming MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2012, to be held February 7-10 at Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Useful links related to this article

  1. Alert email

  2. Alert email 2

  3. Justin Bieber search

  4. Popover ad

  5. Shortened registration page

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