By Carol Krol
Challenge: Kimberly-Clark Professional, the b-to-b unit of the consumer products giant, wanted to update both its Web site and "The Link," its e-mail newsletter.
When Kristin Miller, e-business manager at KCP, came on board in February 2004, the company was in the middle of a Web site redesign. The new site was launched in June 2004, but there were vestiges of the old brand. "Our e-newsletter looked like our old site," she said, "so it did not tie well together with the new design."
KCP had also gone from producing one e-newsletter for customers to producing five e-newsletters targeting vertical segments such as health care and manufacturing. However, those versions were lacking strong identities. "We shared a lot of content among the five of them, so they all shared the same look," Miller said.
The company transmitted all newsletters the same day, so subscribers who had requested more than one were getting bombarded with content and getting some duplicate content. "People thought they were getting the e-mail multiple times because the identity [of each publication] was not very strong," Miller said.
Solution: KCP turned to e-mail marketing provider Return Path, which consulted on ways to increase open rates, drive subscriptions and shore up the newsletter.
The first goal, according to KCP, was to change the newsletters’ look to match the redesigned site. The company also strengthened each newsletter visually, giving each different color schemes and imagery, while continuing to follow a consistent design format.
The company conducted research and discovered that more than half of its subscribers read more than one of its newsletters. As a result, KCP decided to spread out the publishing schedule. "We staggered our publication dates to about one newsletter a week," Miller said. "We were trying to increase our visibility and our touches to people who subscribed to more than one newsletter."
Finally, KCP produced original content for each newsletter rather than repurposing the same editorial across more than one. It also cut back to three stories per newsletter from four. "We really try to have custom content for every issue," Miller said.
The company also shortened story lengths and ran only headlines in the newsletters that linked to the article on the site rather than running a summary of the story along with headlines on the initial e-mail page. "There was so much information in the text to explain what the article was about, and people ended up not clicking," Miller said.
Finally, KCP added an advertising area to the e-mail message to feature company marketing.
Results: Readership has increased steadily, along with open and click-through rates, since last June. For example, the manufacturing newsletter went from a 40% click-through rate in June to 80% in July. Open rates shot up dramatically as well. "We’re seeing a much higher click-through to both the stories and to our Web site," Miller said.
And the effect of spreading out the newsletter publication dates enabled KCP to reach its customers more often without spending more. "It didn’t increase our budgets, but the overall effect was that by splitting that out, those people would get multiple touches from us in any given month," Miller said.