October 15, 2015
The little things matter. They always have. It doesn't matter if it’s a smile to a stranger walking by, an extra five minutes on the phone with a loved one, or spending extra time preparing that project at work; attention to the little details in everyday life can, and usually does, make a big difference. The issue we all face in our personal and professional lives is making the time for the little details and recognizing when we need to take a step back and reevaluate our approach.
This was the case for the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) when they started to evaluate the performance of their educational communications. TIA is the premier organization for third-party logistics professionals in North America providing resources, education, and advocacy in service to their members’ customers. Each Friday, the education team at TIA would send a newsletter from Informz promoting upcoming courses open for enrollment. While analyzing past email engagement, it was noticed that when a standalone marketing email was sent there was a surge in enrollments. That was when they decided to evaluate their communications strategy.
Matt Hirniak, Communications Manager at TIA, worked with their internal marketing team to develop a new plan for their education series. They came up with a more targeted approach that included sending separate emails for each educational offering. The result of this campaign was a 49% increase in registrations accounting for 32% increased revenue, roughly $57,000, for one course.
I sat down with Matt, as well as Cindy Amos, the Director of Education and Meetings at TIA, to learn more about their incredible results.
Chris Scavo, Informz: Could you give us some background regarding the newsletters and the approach you took?
Matt Hirniak, TIA: Every Friday the education team would send out a weekly TIA Foundation Newsletter. It was meant to be more of a big picture communication — just a separate paragraph describing each upcoming educational course. Since the newsletter covered all courses being offered, it wasn’t targeted and was usually sent with more of a generic subject line like “TIA Foundation Newsletter.” We were getting some clicks, but too many items were buried and not reaching our audience.
To start trying to improve our open rates, we began A/B testing our subject lines. As we started to learn more about what enticed subscribers to open, we decided to get more targeted with our communications, so we moved away from the large, generic approach and started targeting members with standalone emails for courses.
CS: How was enrollment affected by this marketing strategy?
Cindy Amos, TIA: We had always realized decent response but it was never as high as we would have liked. After changing our approach, we saw an increase of 49% in registrations for one course, easily surpassing our previous high from 2013.
CS: What was your approach for determining how you would target your audience?
MH: We wanted to promote the Certified Transportation Broker (CTB) course to our membership, which breaks down into two different groups: MPC and non-MPC. Member Primary Contacts (MPCs) tend to be owners and CEOs of member companies. For these contacts we used subject lines with more statistical values, like “Did you know 65% of these top companies have CTBs on staff?” We wanted to incorporate statistics because we felt that they could really draw something from seeing numbers.
Non-MPCs are a more diverse crowd, with more management or day-to-day function employees. For this we went with targeted subject lines to further your career, such as “Further your Career with a CTB,” or “Do you know someone that would benefit from a CTB?” The content of the email would include more testimonials as well as some video of the CTB courses that we were able to work in.
CS: That is a really great approach. How did your open rates change when moving to a more targeted subject line?
MH: Our open rates were low for the education mailings, sometimes as low as 13%, but our subject lines were usually very basic. The standalone communications resulted in an increase of over 54% over our previous open rate.
CS: Due to the success of this strategy, are there any plans to roll out a similar strategy in other areas of your marketing plan?
CA: Absolutely. This specific course is offered three times each year so we plan to use the same approach for the upcoming course. In addition, this approach is being used for all of our events, some with much success like we saw with the CTB course.
MH: We would like to continue using this approach because it allows us to promote all of our courses without flooding our members’ inboxes.
CS: What did you learn by going through this exercise? Were there any other benefits realized?
MH: First and foremost, targeted subject lines and standalone emails work. Spending the extra time to brainstorm with other members of your team, figuring out what we want to say, different subject lines to use, etc. is very helpful and beneficial. In addition, we used Send Time Optimization to test the delivery time, as well as the day of the week. We saw very strong results from this, including positive open rates on Saturdays, so I think that it is important to have that willingness to deliver the email when subscribers want and not just go by our schedule.
As a result of this, we ended up doing away with our Friday newsletters. We do send a Wednesday newsletter that has a different focus, but this has really helped us focus our marketing plan to better serve our members.
CS: Wow, what a great story. Thank you so much for your time Cindy and Matt. I know we will be looking forward to hearing how your future test plans perform!