We've been around over 70 years and people inside of financial services and investment management definitely understand the value of the CFA program. We went down that route via a b-to-b approach trying to drive top-of-mind awareness, unaided awareness and likelihood to recommend. As we got into the end of 2020 and early 2021, we started to turn our attention back to driving a robust demand generation machine to consumers, which is a much more costly and complicated approach.
How did you narrow the target?
We're big proponents of test and learn, so we piloted things in a big way. We study the things that don't work as much as we celebrate the things that are working. What we set out to do with a modest budget was to target half a dozen U.S. cities and several markets outside the US like Singapore and South Africa. We selected those for a number of reasons based on the pool of potential candidates in those markets and markets that have been robust for us in the past that might have experienced the steepest decline. We worked with the WPP's Ogilvy and Neo and really focused on a very targeted audience set in those markets.
Where did you start with this process?
We started at ground zero. We have all the tech stack tricks and tools—Salesforce, Marketo, Sitecore, NetSuite, etc.—but it's ensuring that you wire all those together in the right way to achieve what you're trying to do. Our CIO and I are joined at the hip, so that certainly helps, and I brought our CFO and her team into the mix right at the very beginning so we could build a platform together that would allow us to attribute every dollar we spent to either building a robust opt-in database and/or then conversion.
There's just any number of things you have to do to ensure that you're connecting all the dots so that you can actually view them all the way through the cart. Where you can count more traditional B2B six-month, year-long sales cycles by hand, you can't do that when you're looking at hundreds of thousands of people, so the biggest thing that we did was revisit exactly how we needed to have the systems stitched together.
What are the most valuable metrics?
Besides the velocity of how fast we're growing the pool, we keep a close eye on cost per opt-in. Then we also look at opt-in quality. We look at how fast those opt-ins close because you're going to age them out over time. We look at how long we want to be investing and retargeting and email marketing and reaching people via social channels practically. It doesn't mean we give up on it, but you want to know when you probably should stop investing in those. Of course, we look at cost per registration or how much is every dollar of revenue costing us.
When I talk about opt-ins, I like to say we're building a high-quality pool of opted-in candidates. We don’t ask for a lot of data, but we ask for enough that then we can use other third-party data sources to start to learn more about you. I wouldn't say that it's anything groundbreaking, but they are the things that have really allowed us to break through and to drive some phenomenal metrics.
How long did it take to set everything up?
Eight months. That was with the three phases of expanding and evolving tests-and-learns. You're not going to have every single thing hooked up all the way through the shopping cart, so that's why you have to be great partners with your technology team, your CIO, and your CFO, and have the support of the CEO and your leadership team. Of course, whenever there’s revenue attached to something, it's a little easier to get people lined up behind it. Nevertheless, you need to make sure that you've sold this in as a multi-step effort and not a one-and-done. We didn't try to bite off the whole thing at once.
How would you describe CFA Institute’s brand?
Especially for CFA Institute, our charter holders are the brand. Our people wear our brand every day on their business cards. They wear it on their resume. They wear it on LinkedIn. Charter holders are the manifestation of the brand, of CFA, those three letters. They stand for leading the profession, for shaping the industry and holding up the highest level of standards in investment management. For us, the brand is the product. The product is the brand. We spent a lot of time and money on brand protection because, at the end of the day, if those three letters became devalued, what would we have?
Where are you now with how you're thinking about brand?
We really focus on building sales overnight and the brand over time. What we've done is make sure we always have a consistent visual and verbal identity. When you look at something, you know that's CFA Institute. When you hear something in a voiceover, you know that's CFA Institute. We use the same talent consistently, and then we provide assets that our local independent member societies around the world can use in their local markets. The pendulum is always going to swing over periods, over business cycles. I think you must be flexible. Where we are right now definitely puts a heavy emphasis on demand generation and revenue build.