Gauging customer sentiment: LexisNexis’ content marketing and automation journey

Deploying marketing automation and a content marketing strategy is lifting customer engagement rates and generating plenty of surprising data for the global publishing giant

Content marketing is on the tip of most marketers’ tongues right now, but it wasn’t until a decision to implement a marketing automation solution that the team at LexisNexis understood why.

LexisNexis is a global content publishing company specialising in products and services for the legal and financial services markets. Its products range from printed books to online resource portals and research platforms, workflow and back-office solutions.

Customer experience manager and former marketing and communications manager for LexisNexis Pacific, Kerry McGregor, (pictured) told CMO its centralised marketing team was historically limited to “product pushing”, restricted by a manual email blasting tool.

Globally, the company had started looking at how to deliver campaigns and customer communication more effectively. Rather than wait for head office to roll something out, however, the Australian business opted to invest in an automated marketing platform.

“Marketing had to change the way it was conversing with the customer. The impetus was to have better and higher quality conversations with the customer, and at the right time,” McGregor said. “We wanted to change the customer experience and by automating, allow for greater efficiencies in doing so.”

Following a market evaluation process, LexisNexis chose Eloqua’s marketing automation platform. McGregor highlighted Eloqua’s flexibility, along with strong systems integration, reporting, event-based marketing and lead generation, as key reasons. Its global presence and support, and the capabilities of local implementation consultancy partner, Sqware Peg, were also a plus.

“We wanted to be able track and manage all the [customer] touch points, which we couldn’t do before,” McGregor said. “Everything had been running separately – PR, campaigns, social – and having a marketing automation suite allowed us to integrate these elements. We also wanted a way customers could trigger conversations with us, and include social as well.”

One of the immediate benefits of marketing automation was tracking things from a behavioural point of view. “Before we couldn’t understand the signals customers were sending us because we weren’t across that data, and we also weren’t looking for them,” McGregor said.

“We couldn’t even work out what type of communication was effective, and who would become a warmer lead. We had been shooting in the dark and didn’t have the data that showed how they were interacting with us. Eloqua solved that with the depth of reporting available.”

This reporting functionality allows marketing to share its insights across the business, as well as better support the sales team to understand what and when to talk to the customer and prospects.

But McGregor is quick to point out marketing automation is a tool, and that it’s the customer engagement strategy that leads to success. For LexisNexis, the learning curve proved to be embracing content marketing.

“There was no point in doing things in the same way as previously with our old system, so our success depended on understanding the benefits of content and value-added information, rather than asking people if they wanted to buy our products,” she said.

As a company, LexisNexis had access to a lot of content from customers for free. Various solution lines started actively pursuing content marketing programs, and investing heavily in creating content based on customer insights.

“It got people thinking about content as a good internal promotion tool as well as external one,” McGregor said. “People realised without content, all we have is asking for the sale. Customers have demonstrated clearly that they are happier to talk to us if we are not simply asking for money and gone beyond the transactional way of selling and talking to them.

“This also elevates us more as experts and gives us a way of showcasing our capabilities as a publisher in the industries we serve.”

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The Eloqua implementation kicked off in February last year and was initially based on two flagship product campaigns. “Seeing the success of these campaigns was a shot in the arm for all of us in marketing,” McGregor said.

“That was when everyone realised this way of working actually works. People became real advocates not just of marketing automation, but content marketing and deliver superior customer service.”

We could see the customers engaged right down the marketing flow. People started trusting more in what was coming through and engaging more with us and our content.

Radically improved customer engagement was the result. Previously, email open and click through rates sat at 20 per cent and 2 per cent respectively. By leading with tailored and engaging content, using marketing automation to trigger a multi-step approach based on behaviours and different stages of the customer cycle, campaign averages rose to 28 per cent and 4 per cent, McGregor said. In some solution lines, email opening rates hit 50 per cent.

“We could see the customers engaged right down the marketing flow,” she said. “People started trusting more in what was coming through and engaging more with us and our content.

“We tend to take customers to trial first, and we started to see a large shift in engagement rates there. People were also taking trials in products they had never trialled before or were expected to be interested in.”

McGregor also cited more downloads of content, case studies and whitepapers. “This change has triggered better communications, better calls to action, and allowed us to be in a conversation, not just selling,” she added. “Customers are opening more, doing more, and staying with us for longer.”

The next phase

One year on, LexisNexis is now exploring lead scoring functionality and further process and operational improvements. At present, the team is using basic lead scoring model to track touch points and customer segments including its website, but McGregor said integrating Eloqua with its CRM platform is vital in improving its lead nurturing capabilities. A delayed global CRM upgrade project put a temporary hold on these plans, but she expected integration to become a reality in 2014.

Expanding content from a campaign tool to longer-term brand contributor is another critical step. “We have been using content marketing in a very limited sense so far for campaigns, but we haven’t properly explored it as a retention tool for those leads that don’t go anywhere when we give them over from a campaign,” McGregor said.

The most notable sign of the marketing automation deployment’s success is LexisNexis’ proposal to take Eloqua global. Besides Australia, the platform is also already used to manage subscription offers by its Philippines team. “It’s been exciting to be able to share with our overseas colleagues just what we have been able to achieve,” McGregor said.

Yet she admitted LexisNexis still has a long way to go to maximise the comprehensive capabilities available in Eloqua. “Before we had some information, but not at a behavioural or content level,” McGregor said. “One of the big surprises for us was the depth we could plumb. We’ve not leveraged data effectively before or had the insights before.

“Some segments behave in ways that are unexpected – barristers for example behaving in the same ways as sole practitioners. We could also see for the first time how often we touched decision makers versus influencers in a holistic way.

“Now all of this data and insight is being fed back into product development and various other teams to better inform what they do.”

This article originally appeared in CMO's first magazine edition in March 2014. To subscribe to your free copy of our exciting new print title, visit: cmo.com.au/subscribe.

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