Segmentation sets GuideStar apart

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HOW INFORMATION SERVICES COMPANY REVAMPED ITS EMAIL MARKETING PROGRAM Objective: Gain better email reporting and analytics, and update GuideStar's platform. Strategy: Consolidate disparate databases, segment the list and deploy automated triggers to encourage website visits, content downloads and cross-selling opportunities. Results: Increased prospect and customer database by fourfold, improved open rates by 38% and boosted cross-selling revenue by 86%. Information services company Guide-Star USA gathers data on more than 1.8 million nonprofit organizations. It sells that information to nonprofits as well as to companies that want to do business with nonprofits, and has relied on email as its primary marketing tool. Prior to 2010, however, the Washington, D.C.-based company faced growing pains with an email marketing solution that lacked adequate reporting and analytics. And its lack of a centralized database meant subscriber and customer information was broken up among multiple databases, with multiple spreadsheets containing registration data, white paper downloads and webinar attendance records. As a result, GuideStar suffered from an inability to segment email subscriber lists adequately and to send better targeted messages. If GuideStar wanted to segment users based on a combination of database information, it had to run multiple separate lists against each other—a time-consuming process that drained internal resources. “Without a central location for all our email addresses to live, we'd have to request data from our data guy and maybe get it two days later,” said Nida Chughtai, senior email marketing manager at GuideStar. “And we didn't know how large our universe really was or who the contacts really were. We had no way of identifying the buckets.” GuideStar migrated its email marketing platform in 2010 to Lyris Inc.'s Lyris HQ online product. Chughtai's first step was to consolidate the company's various in-house lists into the Lyris database, which helped identify many more appropriate newsletter and white paper subscribers for email messaging. As a result, GuideStar went from sending about 535,000 emails a month to 2.8 million a month by the end of the first year. The company currently sends more than 4 million emails monthly. With a consolidated database in place, the company set about segmenting its contacts, collecting and tracking rich behavioral data automatically tied to each customer. For example, when a customer downloaded a white paper or viewed a webinar, the associated information would be tied to the contact along with their existing demographics. The company also created personas based on vertical industry groups and targeted them with industry-specific products. “With the explosion of data, segmentation today must extend beyond simple demographics and preference information,” said Alex Lustberg, VP-marketing at Lyris. “You want to extend that into behavioral data, such as what action people take when they receive your email, where they go online and what content they look at on your website. And beyond that, you want to consider how email ties into other interactive channels such as social media. Lustberg said the resultant segmentation offers the opportunity for automation, with different triggered emails to different segments. Segmentation also led GuideStar to identify and group vendors or professionals seeking to work with nonprofits. With these newly identified vendors in hand, the company last year launched a new email newsletter geared to their needs. Targeting this group with a better-attuned newsletter helped increased open rates by 38%. With its newly consolidated database and targeted demographic information, GuideStar created a “write a review” email campaign, encouraging nonprofits to “engage their stakeholders” to create positive content. Once prospects registered to receive a GuideStar newsletter, recipients from nonprofits received triggered welcome emails containing a “review tool kit,” and professionals and other vendors would receive instructions on how to write a review of a nonprofit. This targeted effort enjoyed a viral effect. White paper downloads increased by 700%, and the effort drove white paper downloads from 100 to 10,000. Chughtai is now involved in several new initiatives, such as cross-selling opportunities among current customers that take advantage of GuideStar's new email processes. “That's a big, key initiative for us,” she said, referring to cross-selling. “Now we have the data on who's buying from us. When one person buys a product, there probably is something similar they could also buy—so that can trigger a personalized email. We're now testing this, but already we've seen revenue attributable to cross-selling increase by 86%,” she said. “That's just from within our existing customer base.”
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