August 26, 2015
Association marketers have been using email as a critical component of their multi-channel marketing programs for years, but for many marketers, automated campaigns and marketing automation is new territory. Marketing automation technology can help organizations automate manual processes, send more relevant and timely messages, and – most importantly – achieve tremendous results.
So how does an association implement new technology like marketing automation? Making the switch from a “batch and blast,” one-off email strategy to a meticulously planned, automated campaign approach isn’t something that happens overnight.
The Florida Association of Insurance Agents, FAIA, has started to automate its membership marketing strategy. Using the Informz Campaign Designer, FAIA has rolled out four new automated campaigns and has seen an increase in email engagement by 201%. I spoke with Sue Ray, Communication Director at FAIA, about the implementation and planning process, lessons learned, and excitement about the new strategy.
Alex Mastrianni, Informz: What do you think the biggest change has been in your marketing process?
Sue Ray, FAIA: While it takes a lot of time and coordination up front, the effort creates a more thoughtful and effective process and the results are better. It also ends up reducing the amount of time spent overall.
AM: Tell me about the types of campaigns you’ve been running.
SR: The first two campaigns we ran were a re-engagement campaign and a past-member recruitment campaign. It’s definitely been a learning process and I learned a lot from the mistakes I made; namely, I didn’t set something up correctly and had a difficult time evaluating the effectiveness.
We also have a new member campaign in place, called “Welcome to the Family.” We used to send out one big email with tons of details when a member joined. Now, we split it up by topic over three emails spaced evenly apart; this has increased the number of opens and clicks significantly. And finally, we tackled the big one: membership renewal; we are about half way through that one with very encouraging results.
AM: How have your engagement metrics changed?
SR: Since we’ve only been doing the Welcome to the Family campaign since late April, I compared about the same time period the previous 4 months, when just one big email was sent. Before automation – one email, lots of content – we had a 21.2% open rate and 44% click rate. Now, with three emails, staggered, each with a separate message, we have a 63.8% open rate and 44.9% click rate.
AM: Wow! That’s great to hear. There’s always so much to share at the start of membership, and we think welcome campaigns are the perfect place to start when it comes to automated campaigns.
SR: It makes a lot of sense.
AM: Where else have automated campaigns come in handy?
SR: We are right in the middle of our member renewal campaigns for agency and associate members. This is where it’s so worth it. Earlier this year our IT department made it possible for us to do “real” online renewals. In anticipation of that, last year we started telling members to renew online. At the time, they were mostly just filling out a web form that was emailed to membership, which still had to enter the information into our database. In years past, our membership department had three huge mailings and still had to chase down renewals. This year, they sent just one hard mailing, and instead, built an automated email campaign that touches on key points in the process (notice of renewal, don’t forget to renew, payment over due, etc.). So far, we are 172 ahead, and we’re on track to reach our conversion rate of having 40% of members renew online. A very significant amount of people are choosing to renew this way. It’s a huge win.
All told, the association management upgrade combined with the automated renewal campaign has saved our membership director two to three hours a day. I wouldn’t say it’s saved my department a lot of time this year, as we’re learning the process, but I expect next year it certainly will.
AM: Why did you choose to automate campaigns instead of sending one-off emails?
SR: The work flow was less in our control, and we were susceptible to random email requests. Our campaign – the messaging, the timing, etc.—has been carefully considered. It shows we know what we’re doing and have a plan. How can anyone argue with that? (They haven’t!)
AM: What advice would you give to an organization who is looking to go the automated email route?
SR: If you’re brand new to this strategy, the Informz Campaign Starter Kits are very helpful, but really understand the process. I dove in head-first without fully understanding, but that’s how I learn.
AM: Thanks for sharing your experience, Sue!