March 29, 2016
The generation of non-dues revenue is a challenge that many organizations face. The availability of online educational resources such as webinars, video series, or course materials can often be a dependable revenue stream source. What happens though when adoption of your educational resources levels off? That is exactly the challenge that Texas Medical Association (TMA) was facing recently with their Continuing Medical Education (CME) course series.
Historically, TMA sent their CME communication on the second Tuesday of each month. This was an effective method for some time, but they started to notice that sales were flat and there was an overall downward trend. As a stand-alone email, there was little follow up that occurred as part of their original marketing plan. When the Informz Campaign Designer was introduced, they saw an opportunity to further the conversation and enhance their communication strategy. The adoption of marketing automation coupled with their work with Informz Design Services on a new template had a dramatic effect on both their sales numbers as well as how they approach member communication.
I sat down with Trevor Delling (Marketing Specialist), Lena Banks (Director of Marketing) and Debra Heater (Communications Project Administrator) from TMA to learn more about their tremendous success, the process of moving to an automated campaign structure, and what is next for TMA.
Chris Scavo, Informz: Could you tell me more about your CME communication and the strategy behind it?
Texas Medical Association: The mailing is called CME Spotlight. It is not like our other newsletter emails; it is definitely a sales vehicle. The email is meant to highlight and sell any new CME courses that we have just launched or are featuring. Some months we will build the content around a specific topic, such as practice health or helping you communicate better with your patients, or if we have a lot of new materials we may do a specific theme to feature it, but we always feature six courses on it. It’s actually a custom template that Informz built for us, so that’s really where the changes started.
CS: That’s great! What prompted the redesign?
TMA: We wanted something that “popped” a bit more since it is a sales piece, and really separate it from our other communications and give it a unique look and feel. Our prior email was very text heavy, containing few images other than the header, and overall had a very basic structure. We worked with your design team and told them what we wanted to do with it and what pieces we wanted. About 60% of our Spotlight users open on a mobile device, so that was a big factor in the re-design as well. Once we designed the new template, we started seeing an increase in engagement, specifically with click-through rates.
Since it was a new template, we wanted to A/B test Friendly From values, which we conducted over four months. We tried using a value specific to “TMA CME Spotlight” against our standard “TMA” value and consistently saw that “TMA” won month over month.
CS: Giving A/B tests time so that you have enough data to analyze is often overlooked, so as a strategist I am happy to hear how that worked for you. When did you decide to move to an automated process, and what did that look like?
TMA: Up until July of 2015 we were sending the one email per month. In July we made it an automated process. Now, instead of just the one email, we are giving members time to interact with the message, then use decision steps to determine what courses they click on as well as if they completed the purchase. Utilizing our integration, we are able to have the campaign ping our database a few days after the initial email is sent and see if they completed the purchase. If they haven’t, then we send them a second email that is specific to the course they clicked on with more information such as what is included, it’s benefits, and so on.
This really allows us to personalize the message and give them relevant information.
CS: So this really sounds like a total methodology shift as far as needing to find a way to continue the conversation.
TMA: Yes. It really was about how can we give them more of what they want. We don’t want to just reach out for the sake of reaching out, but if they have shown enough interest in a particular course to click on it, then we can assume they would want more information about that course or a more specific email about that course that they have already clicked on.
CS: The results you have seen since making this shift have been pretty remarkable.
TMA: Very much so. Averaging the months after moving to automation, we have seen a 313% increase in sales. The results have been two-fold. When we changed the template, we saw a big boost in click-through rates, but if you are talking about just the automation, engagement metrics have stayed pretty much the same but more people are purchasing.
It’s really important to add how the template is such a stark difference. It is a more commerce-driven email. It’s so different from our regular communications that people expect to be newsier and less colorful. The new template changed behaviors significantly, and from there it’s just a matter of keeping them engaged after the fact, which is what automation has really helped with.
CS: Incredible. Did you find it challenging moving to an automated process?
TMA: I don’t think that was part of the challenge. The buy-in was there, it was just kind of like “Hey, we have this great tool now. Let’s try it and see what happens.” When we were building the flow we worked a lot with our Advisor, Taryn, who was instrumental as far as helping us understand the product and visualizing how this would work. Once we wrapped our heads around how the decisions needed to go, building it wasn’t hard. On the technical side, we worked hard to have our AMS, our online education system, and Informz all work seamlessly together. Our AMS is our database of record, and the only common ground between the three systems, so we needed to be sure to build all of the tables out to capture the sales data properly.
As far as planning, the biggest challenge is that we have had to adjust how early the planning gets finalized due to the amount of content and getting the campaign setup and tested. The bottom line is that each month’s campaign involves more prep work than a single email announcement did. The payoff was worth it, but be prepared for the extra effort.
CS: So what’s next for TMA?
TMA: We actually just used Informz reporting to identify a really cool thing that’s been right in front of us the whole time. With the additional insight within Informz to view sales data, we were surprised by how many non-members were purchasing. These are people that are buying the courses, but not hearing from us again because they are not part of our membership communications. We are currently working on a plan for how to reach out to them, either in their own campaign or branching off of the current one. This is a real area of opportunity for us to grow membership that we identified via Informz reporting and the automated campaign process.
CS: Lastly, do you have any advice for other organizations thinking about making the shift from stand-alone messages to an automated campaign structure?
TMA: Have a process for actually building the newsletter, or email, that goes out. Make sure it’s an organized process that is clearly outlined and managed by a single point of contact. We have a number of people involved with the content for this specific campaign, and one of the biggest challenges we have faced is folks not having their stuff ready in time.
This biggest thing to remember is that this needs to be deliberately planned out. You are not sending one email any more. This has lots of moving parts and lots of steps. You have to start early, leave yourself enough time for testing, and plan, plan, plan for it. That’s the biggest takeaway I have learned from this.
CS: Thank you, Trevor, Lena, and Debra for sharing your marketing automation successes and challenges!