WageWorks tackles weak list, improves conversion rates

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WageWorks Inc. helps businesses offer their employees tax-advantaged spending accounts for such things as flexible spending, health reimbursement, COBRA and commuter ticketing. About 18 months ago, Aaron Nichols, senior manager-direct response at WageWorks, came on board to give a much-needed boost to the company's e-mail marketing program. The biggest problem: its list was meager at best. Nichols seeded the list with contacts from its sales department, but it wasn’t enough, he said.

“The salespeople had a lot of old information. We had to go into the database and pull them manually,” he said. “We got a lot of bounce-backs. Almost 50% of e-mails were never delivered. It was extremely frustrating.”

Looking to get an instant e-mail infusion, Nichols late last year rented lists from several big-name list vendors. Unfortunately, this strategy didn’t work either, he said. Bounces remained high, and there weren’t enough leads coming in.

“If you’re renting lists, the vendors control all the data as well as the time and date the e-mails go out,” he said. “And the worst part is if you get a poor response, you’re left holding nothing. Even though my strategy was never about getting everyone who got the e-mail to respond, I had hoped to get at least some qualified leads.”

The rented lists he was working with weren’t updated often enough, he said, and they didn’t contain qualifying information—how recently each list was updated, for example, or where the information originally came from.

Still, WageWorks couldn’t get around the need to purchase lists, so it decided to go with a company—Jigsaw Data Corp.—that sold access to real business cards, rather than simply names and e-mail addresses.

Jigsaw asks its users to add to its database by offering them points for adding contacts or referring other users. Users lose points for inputting bad data, and gain points for finding and correcting incorrect data. These controls were lacking in other list rental and purchase offerings, Nichols said.

Since implementing the Jigsaw service, WageWorks has seen a significant decrease in bounce rates even while growing its list to “several tens of thousands,” Nichols said. The company’s outbound e-mail marketing efforts now yield double-digit online visitor conversion rates, he said.

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