January 11, 2012
Case Study

Email Marketing: Global telecom combines email and content strategy to segment database

SUMMARY: The email database should be a high-horsepower engine that powers all Marketing and Sales efforts. When this asset is unstructured and full of uncertain data, it cannot provide a peak performance.

This case study looks at how one telecom company combined an email and content marketing campaign to reach its entire subscriber list and effectively segment its email database using high-value content as an incentive for user engagement.

Renee Himelhoch Chemel, Senior Manager, Global Marketing Programs, ECI Telecom, will present an in-depth look at this case study at the upcoming MarketingSherpa Email Summit in Las Vegas, Feb. 7-10.
by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter


Without careful attention, and sometimes even with the best intentions, email databases can become very unruly places. What should be a great asset for Marketing and Sales can instead become a growing mass of lost opportunity.

Data hygiene, simply cleaning up and improving the quality of data, is a major step in giving the database a facelift. But to truly turn the email database into the engine that drives all other efforts, all those entries need to be segmented into relevant subscribers to help improve lead nurturing and other marketing activities.

ECI Telecom, a broadband, transport and data networking infrastructure company based in Israel, had an email list of 40,000 unengaged inquiries in its database that combined legacy and new data. The company’s contact with the list was multiple one-off communications rather than an ongoing dialog.

A goal for the entire effort was to understand the interest of each inquiry in the database and give those people the opportunity to subscribe by market segment so ECI Telecom could deliver more relevant content to that subscriber.

The result was a reengagement effort combined with content marketing that served to segment the database into four manageable markets in which the company operated.

Once the database was segmented, the company began a lead nurturing effort based around its revamped content strategy and engaged with those subscribers who were interested in dialog with the company.

Read on to learn how ECI Telecom combined email and content marketing to reengage with its email database and to segment those subscribers into four key market areas for the company, how it uncovered its "golden ticket" high-value content asset, and then how it applied the revamped content strategy to begin lead nurturing on the newly segmented email database.


"Our goal was both to clean the database and engage those (subscribers) who were interested in dialog," stated Chemel on what ECI Telecom hoped to achieve with the effort.

At the onset of the initiative, ECI Telecom conducted data hygiene on the database to remove company employees, competitors, bounces and unsubscribes, and reduced the email list size to 20,000.
The bulk of this data hygiene was conducted through ECI Telecom’s marketing automation solution.

Chemel said, "The system actually ‘cleanses’ the entire list for us prior to (an email) send."

Step #1. Conduct a content audit

"We began with a content audit in order to understand what materials we had, and did not have," explained Chemel. "We then split that content into four major market segments."

This process was part of ECI Telecom’s Business Process Review, and after mapping out all its solutions and products, the company ended up with four major segments:
  • Wireline

  • Wireless

  • Utilities

  • Cable

The challenge was these four segments usually represented four very different buyers. For example, ECI might send something very relevant about wireline that someone in that industry would find very valuable, but someone in the wireless industry would see as useless.

Since ECI Telecom’s database was completely unsegmented, they had no idea which segment a particular customer was in, and they could only blast out emails, knowing the content was going to be totally irrelevant to a subset, perhaps a rather large subset, of the recipients.

Chemel said, "The results of the content audit indicated that we were lacking in content relevant to the educational stage of the buying cycle, the same stage we needed to fuel for our campaign."

Step #2. Determine and find content for the initiative

ECI Telecom’s sales team reached out to its email list to ask its customers what content they believed would be valuable, and developed a content "wish list" from the responses.

The marketing team decided to use licensed external papers and market research to fill the nurturing "content bucket."

"Once we had the ‘wish list,’ we applied it toward a realistic budget and shopped for relevant content," said Chemel, "those third-party papers that discussed pertinent issues were the most respected by our community."

She added, "This was not an easy task, as distribution licenses are not accepted by every third party, and (we) had to be sure that the content wasn’t too vendor-heavy."

ECI Telecom’s goal was to find content that could be licensed for use, would be relevant for one of its four market segments, and didn’t rely too heavily on vendors.

ECI Telecom ended up licensing content from a number of major telecom industry analysts based on several criteria:
  • Could not be vendor-specific

  • Applicable to a global audience

  • Mesh with ECI Telecom’s vision regarding industry outlook and solutions

The team wasn’t able to license all the content it needed for lead nurturing, so in some cases, they worked with analysts to create original content for the effort and they also cosponsored some papers.

The content broke down to two-thirds licensed and one-third created for ECI Telecom.

"It is important to note that the topics chosen for content creation were the brainchild of our products and solutions marketing teams, and (were) based on customer and Sales input as being relevant topics," stated Chemel.

Step #3. Use very high valued assets to segment the database

The next stage was segmenting the database before beginning the lead nurturing campaigns and sending relevant information to each subscriber. ECI Telecom went to a content tactic to achieve this segmentation.

"We licensed a very high value piece of content and gave recipients a complimentary copy if they updated their contact information," said Chemel. "This asset was our ‘golden ticket.’"

She continued, "It was critical that the asset be engaging or there would be no way to segment, and ultimately nurture, those in our database who were interested in engagement."

One challenge in the process of determining the "golden ticket" content asset was it had to appeal to a global audience.

To find the "golden ticket" piece of content, Marketing conducted internal reviews with the AR/PR ream and product marketing to review lists of all potential content from the existing content suppliers.

Chemel said, "We chose a report that discussed issues in 2011 that every telecom operator could face -- very generic, global and very appealing."

Step #4. Test the subject line of the reengagement email send

"Knowing that the subject line was the door opener to our engagement, we tested them extensively," explained Chemel. "We came up with four different subject lines and ran them through a small segment -- 5% for each subject line -- of our database."

Each of these testing email sends went to about 1,000 people with these subject lines (email body the same in each):
  • "Get Valuable Information for 2011 From ECI Telecom"

  • "Complimentary Yankee Group 2011 Predictions white paper"

  • "Unwrap your ECI gift early"

  • "Download Yankee Group’s 4G Fuels the Decade of Disruption white paper"

"Get Valuable Information for 2011 From ECI Telecom" was the clear winner with an open rate of 8.1%. The other three subject lines were all around 4% open rate.

With the "golden ticket" chosen and potential subject lines tested, the actual reengagement effort involved four parts:

Step #5. Prepare and execute the nurturing effort

After segmenting the database through the "golden ticket" content, and assembling additional high-level assets in the form of third-party content, ECI Telecom’s marketing team created a six-part email nurturing campaign based on the four major market segments previously identified.

These nurturing campaigns were created in advance of the segmentation stage so they could be implemented immediately as results from the database segmentation effort become available.

The entire lead nurturing effort involved six separate email sends that each included three elements:
  • One email, sent with two different subject lines. If the first email was not opened, the second was sent with the new subject line

  • Dedicated landing page for the email with relevant content for the recipient to download

  • "Thank you for your download" email including an ECI Telecom-related asset or URL

Chemel said the program was set up as a typical automated nurturing campaign where each subscriber in a particular market segment would receive the first email, and only those who did not open the first email would receive the second send with a new subject line.

"We chose six levels/stages as our buying cycle is very long -- anywhere between 12 to 18 months," explained Chemel. "We therefore thought we would nurture our inquiries for about six months, which is an average amount of time for the education stage of the buying cycle."

She explained the different subject lines for the each email stage were used to create engagement.

"Subject ‘A’ may not have resonated," Chemel said, "But subject ‘B’ may have. Our goal was to engage our audience, (and) the subject line is the first door opener. If it does not resonate, then we have a missed opportunity."

She added, "If they don’t open the mail, we have no chance at a dialog.

"The big picture was, and always is, to create compelling engagement and start talking to our audience," said Chemel.

Once Marketing created that digital dialog, the team used lead scoring to track recipients’ behavior. Chemel said constant analysis and tweaking was part of the team’s day-to-day work.


Chemel said a key finding from this effort was ECI Telecom’s database was interested in engagement, but the company needed to provide those subscribers with something of high value -- the "golden ticket" content in this case -- to get them to respond to the outreach effort.

She added, "White papers are a great way to engage the database. This ‘golden ticket’ was just the right motivator, and we will continue to use (it) every time we want to reengage our inactive inquiries."

Chemel said actually finding the "golden ticket" content piece was the most difficult part of the entire campaign. The challenge was finding content that would engage and resonate with the database enough to get them to provide the crucial additional data needed for segmentation while fitting into the effort’s budget.

Here are the metrics of the reengagement "golden ticket" content piece segmentation email send:
  • 19,674 emails sent

  • 2,496 opens

  • 975 clickthroughs

  • 12.68% open rate

  • 39.06% visitor clickthrough rate

  • 37.95% email to form conversion rate

After conducting the initial step in the campaign of defining four market segments, ECI Telecom also mapped its website with the same segmentation, and its global campaigns now touch on each of the segments within different regions.

Chemel said achieving reengagement with 975 contacts was very significant. ECI Telecom’s sale is very complex, takes up to 18 months on average and the average sale is $1.5 million.

She added, "Using the demand waterfall metrics -- 975 engaged inquiries effort would result in two to three deals within 12 to 18 months."

Renee Himelhoch Chemel will present an in-depth look at this case study at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2012 in Las Vegas, Feb. 7-10.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples:
  1. Segmentation email

  2. Segmentation landing page

  3. Segmentation confirmation screen

  4. Segmentation “Thank you” email

  5. Nurturing email (email three in wireless campaign)

ECI Telecom

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