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Case study: How IT company increased response on U.K. e-mail campaign

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NIIT is a global talent management company. Its U.S. unit, the Enterprise Learning Solutions business, created its first e-mail marketing campaign in January 2008. The company began by using e-mail marketing software but, looking to expand its lead-generation capability, thought leadership and brand awareness in a more automated manner, it switched to marketing automation provider Eloqua a few months later. Soon after that, NIIT's ELS marketing department, which supports four different brands, expanded its reach into international markets.

For example, in January of last year, NIIT, in support of one of its lesser known brands, sent out an e-mail campaign in the U.K. The results, said Kimberley Kelly, the company's director of marketing, were not what the company had hoped. The lead-generation campaign was sent out with a call to action asking recipients to click through and request a demo, but it got about a 6% response rate, Kelly said. With help from Eloqua, NIIT tried to figure out what went wrong. Although it knew that particular brand wasn't well known in the U.K., similar U.S.-based campaigns had had better response rates, she said.

Kelly and her team examined the campaign design, message and call to action, and came away with several lessons.

For one, because the brand was not known well, NIIT needed to build trust before it could get people to engage. After examining e-mails that came from its own U.K.-based work force, the company realized that the design and tone it had used in its e-mail campaign did not match what the market was used to seeing. For example, from a language perspective, U.K. readers prefer a more gentle, relaxed tone, Kelly said. “Read this!” and “Click here” were turn-offs, she said. “We found that ‘Kindly respond' worked way better than ‘Call today,' ” she said. “We started writing content like [our audience in the U.K.] spoke.”

Hoping to create more of a dialogue, NIIT switched gears, sending out a campaign with a completely different call to action—one that asked people to read and comment on the company's blog—instead of asking them to sign up for a demonstration. The company also became extremely mindful of frequency. Eloqua sent out three messages over eight weeks based on what it defined as “digital body language.” If someone didn't open an e-mail, they received that same e-mail with a different subject line a week later.

“As the adage goes, often out of failure comes success,” Kelly said. “This is the case with our language evolution. It happened as the result of scraping our knees with two campaigns prior to the ‘Blog With Us' campaign. It took about four months to get it right.”

NIIT saw an increase in open and response rates—specifically, an increase of 429 people engaging with this campaign over previous attempts. Delivering messages in this manner helped the company achieve open and response rates of more than 20% throughout the campaign, Kelly said.

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