March 24, 2022
Case Study

How to Sync Marketing and Customer Desire to Improve Marketing Performance (3 quick case studies)


Back when I started in advertising writing newspaper ads, my old boss used to tell me, “Nobody notices the refrigerator ad on page A3 of the newspaper…until their fridge breaks.”

Fast forward a couple of decades, and these days digital gives you many more tools to tap into moments of need and want.

To help you get the timing of your messages just right, in this article we bring you examples from the World Wildlife Fund, Hickory Farms, and SpareFoot.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

How to Sync Marketing and Customer Desire to Improve Marketing Performance (3 quick case studies)

This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

What do your customers want? And when do they want it?

“Synchronize the gain with the thought sequence,” Flint McGlaughlin taught in Headline Examples: 3 ways to load your predicate with value.

To help you synchronize your marketing, we bring you three quick case studies in this article.

First, the World Wildlife Fund optimizes its email marketing journey. Then, Hickory Farms overcomes seasonality challenges. And finally, SpareFoot better communicates the gain a customer wants on the search engine results page.

Quick Case Study #1: WWF increases fundraising from animal adoptions by £63,000 with new email marketing journey 

Conservation organization World Wildlife Fund (WWF) works across nearly 100 countries, collaborating with people around the world at every level to protect communities, wildlife, and the places they live. WWF’s animal sponsorship packages are its biggest product, generating £20 million in fundraising in the last year to help fund the organization’s work.

Identifying the potential to make a bigger impact

The data and marketing teams at WWF spotted an opportunity to maximize the support and revenue generated from its adopt-an-animal packages by improving the email marketing journey for supporters.

“We were previously running a simple adoption journey that consisted of three emails to new supporters across three months. The content was static and included just three personalization fields,” explained Clare Charrier, Data Systems Development Manager, WWF. “We needed to update the journey to accommodate and reflect the full supporter journey, including the different actions supporters could take to cancel, renew, or increase their support.”

WWF’s supporter base is made up of self-supporters and those purchasing a sponsorship as a gift, either paying a monthly direct debit sponsorship fee or paying for a full year. These different purchase options – coupled with the fact that these sponsorships could run across any of, or a combination of, 14 different animals – made personalization difficult.

Due to complexities with WWF’s email service provider (ESP) system, supporters could only enter the journey once, regardless of how many adoptions they took out, meaning multi-adopters would not receive communications about all their sponsorships. Another limitation was that renewal prompts could only be sent to supporters with single cash adoptions – just a subset of the total number of supporters that could be contacted.

Creative Sample #1: Example of previous WWF email

Creative Sample #1: Example of previous WWF email

“The marketing team [was] asked to dream big and come up with what they’d like in an ideal world – and they did not disappoint! They came back with requests for a data-driven, highly personalized, and multi-staged journey over 12 months, with interactive and engaging content. We required options for cancellations and ways to handle renewals more efficiently, as well as opportunities to cross- and up-sell,” Charrier said.

Creating an all-encompassing supporter journey 

The team created complex adoption journeys for the 14 different animals, considering the different actions supporters could take through the journey and automating the relevant communications. 

The journey adapts to individuals based on their interactions, sending different content according to their actions and clicks. For example, if a supporter doesn’t open one of the key emails in the journey, it will be resent. The team now A/B tests subject lines and uses live polls and quizzes to capture supporter preferences, which inform future communications.

The adoption journey now incorporates specific actions and communications for cancellations, offering supporters alternatives to cancelling their full agreement, like changing the payment amount or opting for a payment holiday. Supporters that wish to move ahead with the full cancellation are prompted to fill out a questionnaire with their reason, which is fed back to the analysis team to inform the charity’s marketing in the future.

Cross-selling opportunities to increase sponsorship revenues have also been incorporated in the new journey. WWF can promote three other animals a supporter might like to consider based on the animal they’re currently supporting. An API (application programming interface) integration between the ESP and campaign planning and management tool allows WWF to handle these multiple adoptions more effectively, creating an ‘order level’ so supporters receive information about every animal they sponsor, relative to when they started the adoption.

“WWF is not simply asking people to make more donations. It’s not a one-way deal, the charity is genuinely trying to give its supporters a great experience with all its communications, from amazing photography of animals to interactive polls and quizzes, and factsheets. It’s all about putting the supporter first, and then naturally the donations and purchases will follow,” said Neil Martin, Commercial Director, Qbase (WWF’s data services provider).

Creative Sample #2: Example of new WWF email

Creative Sample #2: Example of new WWF email

A force for nature

The team now delivers a complex and sophisticated 15-stage journey, including 16 different personalization pieces. The new journey spans a full year, while requiring only the same amount of time and size of team as the previous three-stage journey.

“For organizations communicating with a large number of customers or supporters it’s critical to build an accurate picture of how you engage with those customers and what journey they experience with you. WWF’s success lies in its ability to map out the customer journey clearly and definitively and personalize it for individual supporters,” Martin said.

WWF is now able to serve appropriate and personalized renewal prompts to its entire supporter base. Within the current three-month renewal period, it’s able to increase the number of renewals served by 35%. As a result, renewals have increased from 3% to 10%.

Thanks to the new journey, WWF has seen a decrease in attrition, set to total £30,000 in saved income over 12 months. A further £33,000 has been raised from additional donations, shop sales, adoption renewals, and new products. Recipients are now 15% less likely to cancel their adoption on the new journey.

Charrier commented, “The new journey…has shown how we can use data and software to improve the supporter experience to pave the way for charity-wide, automated and supporter-centric journeys in the future.”

The new adoption journey averages a 46% open rate and has resulted in 100,000 visitors to the WWF website directly from email clicks.

“One practical piece of advice – ensure that you get as much training and insights into the platform you’re working with. This goes for the whole team, not just the tech or data teams – involve marketing too. By understanding what’s possible you can really apply features and functions to your program to make it more effective,” Martin advised.

Quick Case Study #2: Hickory Farms overcomes seasonality challenges, achieves email inbox placement rates near 100%

Hickory Farms makes a significant amount of its annual revenue in the last six weeks of the year. Email is among the top revenue-driving channels at Hickory Farms, especially during the busy holiday season. However, the strong seasonality of its business means that engagement tends to drop off during the off season, which can cause deliverability issues as sending ramps up during the critical selling period.

The launch of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) in September 2021 compounded the company’s normal seasonal challenges.

“Email is a leading channel for driving revenue at Hickory Farms, particularly during the holiday season. However, even before the launch of Mail Privacy Protection, we have faced challenges with audience engagement due to the seasonality of our business, which were only exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Jen Partin, Senior Marketing Manager, Email & SMS, Hickory Farms.

The team implemented an email platform with sender certification to gives its email priority status with leading mailbox providers and spam filtering vendors worldwide. They also used the platform’s list validation to identify invalid or questionable email addresses so every send can start from a clean list.

In addition, they segmented Apple Mail users so the team could track changes in performance metrics caused by MPP.

The team addressed challenges caused by seasonality as well. “We’ve also focused our marketing efforts on building campaigns throughout the year – Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and other unique gifting occasions like Game Day – to keep our subscribers engaged beyond the traditional holiday season,” Partin said.

At the end of the year, they implemented a deliberate segmentation strategy to help them avoid deliverability issues. In addition to ramping up send volume as the holidays approach, they now send to active subscribers first and schedule sends to less-engaged segments later.

Thanks to these changes, Hickory Farms improved its email deliverability. “Hickory Farms achieved a Sender Score of 99 and reached inbox placement rates of nearly 100%, which is up to 35 percentage points higher than similar non-certified senders,” said Kate Adams, SVP of Marketing, Validity (Hickory Farms’ customer data quality and marketing analytics software provider).

“By investing in a sound engagement analytics strategy, we hope to circumvent issues with MPP and strengthen our long-term customer relationships,” Partin said.

Quick Case Study #3: Simple change increases SERP CTR 9% for self-storage marketplace

“Last year Google changed how they display title tags, resulting in an increase in title rewrites. After Google released the change, our H1s started being displayed as the title tag, and subsequently, organic CTRs (clickthrough rates) tanked,” Meredith Raico, SEO Director, Storable.

The team rewrote the H1 tags for its SpareFoot website, a self-storage marketplace, to be more attractive to searchers on a search engine results page (SERP). For example, they changed “Storage Units in [City Name]” to “Cheap Storage Units in [City Name].”

“Google started displaying our newly optimized H1 as the title tag and organic CTR increased nearly 9%!” Raico said.

Related Resources

Visualizing the Conversion Journey

Value Sequencing: A step-by-step examination of a landing page that generated 638% more conversions

“True Blood” Vampire Fangs from the Dentist: When you’re too successful at driving the wrong traffic to your website– Podcast Episode #5

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