Revamped email helps WebAssign's sales, customer support efforts

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WebAssign is an online educational portal providing instructional tools for faculty and students. Teachers can use the service to assign homework or projects to an entire class. Assignments are graded by the service, and students get instant feedback on their completed work. It also provides secure online testing. The company's sales cycle follows the school year's calendar, so August and September are two of its busiest months for sales and customer service, said Annie McQuaid, WebAssign's marketing communications manager, who is also in charge of its outbound marketing, including email. "We have a great customer support team, but they get swamped at this time of the year. Customers might have to wait, and hours often have to be extended," she said. This year, the sales team, customer support and marketing departments set out to determine what the focus of their email marketing efforts should be. WebAssign's email marketing lists consisted of about 15,000 active users and 35,000 people who had opted in to the company's monthly newsletters but were not current customers. Customer support said it got a lot of emails from educators who had forgotten their user names and passwords. Meanwhile, the sales team wanted to disseminate information about product offerings as well as get more face time and name recognition from clients. Marketing, with help from the other departments, decided it would create an email campaign that would give educators a one-stop resource for all the information they might need to use the WebAssign service. It had a series of links that gave clients a way to retrieve user names and passwords, view interactive video tutorials, read a list of best practices and create course instructions. In addition, every email had a list of salespeople and a link to reach out to them. "The salespeople wanted their names on it, so we segmented our list by region so we could customize it for them so every customer was directed to his or her sales representatives," McQuaid said. To date, the email seems to be a success, she said. Generally, the company's open rates range from 17% to 20%, and click-through rates are 10% to 12%. For the updated campaign, open rates were 25% and click-through rates 21%. Most important, the email effort is hitting its goal: Reducing the need for email or telephone support. "One of our links [in the email was designed] to push people to the training webinars, and the number of people using the webinars has doubled as a result of the email," McQuaid said. In addition, click-through data is giving salespeople more insight into what they may need to discuss with prospects or current clients. "From the click rates, we were able to determine what areas each sales region may need to focus on a bit more to get the instructors the proper help at the start of a new school year."
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