How this university team is improving email marketing on a shoestring budget

Business manager for Griffith University’s Asia-Pacific Centre for Franchising Excellence shares how a new digital marketing platform is helping improve efficiencies while still offering audience segmentation opportunities

Griffith University’s Asia-Pacific Centre for Franchising Excellence has cut its marketing expenses in half and is generating customised and segmented emails in-house after investing in a new digital marketing platform.

The centre’s business model is to provide research and education-based commercial products that help Australia’s franchising sector grow. Its core audience includes franchisees and franchisors, sector supports such as consultants, lawyers, people interested in starting small businesses and buying a franchise, and individuals working for franchises.

The division’s general and business manager, Kerry Miles, told CMO its business model is based around its Web presence, while its marketing budget is spent almost exclusively on email marketing. The franchising centre has a database of 7000 subscribers globally, which it’s looking to grow to 10,000 over the next few years by leveraging digital automation.

With a small team of just three, finding easy-to-use technologies that make the process of communicating in a tailored and effective way to its database is key. This was the reason for its decision to swap out IBM’s Silverpop marketing cloud platform 12 months ago in favour of Dotmailer’s email marketing platform.

Miles said a key driver had been the desire to find a less expensive email solution. At the same time, it was looking for something that was easier to use across a small marketing team. The team initially went through five days of training to use Silverpop, but as staff turned over, specialist knowledge was lost, leaving a skills gap.

“We have a small team and we’re generalists, not specialists,” Miles said. “Everyone gets into database marketing and we needed to have something that was really intuitive, that we could just get on and work through ourselves.”

Miles highlighted the platform’s customisable, mobile responsive templates using drop-and-drag capability as key to improvements in her team’s effectiveness. These have cut down the time taken to create the centre’s biweekly e-newsletter, as well as EDMs, while also cutting annual marketing expenses in half. Previously, new templates had to be outsourced, costing up to $3000 each time.

The centre has also gained an ability to segment and customise emails based on audience engagement through Dotmailer’s ‘hot prospects’ functionality, which provides reports on who’s opening emails, unique open rates and other core reporting features.

“If we are doing campaign on specific products and start with the whole database, we can then narrow down to the hot prospects opening our original EDMs,” Miles explained. In some cases, she noted prospects could be opening email 15 or 20 times. “We can then can follow up and call them.”

At present, the centre doesn’t have a CRM platform and is relying on its email platform for audience segmentation. One data set Miles and her team are using is website forms, which site visitors fill in as they download information. This helps determine if they are a franchisee versus franchisor, for example. These lists are uploaded into the email platform to use.

“We gather that information over time, and what we can then do is pull out lists based on that criteria,” she said. “So if we’re launching a product specific to franchisors, we can target our communications appropriately.”

User-friendly reporting has been another consideration. “We need to be able to get insights quickly and easily,” Miles said. “Usability has been the biggest benefit.”

Miles’ next priority is to integrate the email communications platform with the centre’s product subscriber database, which sits in a separate elearning system.

“Eventually, we’d like to get a true CRM system that Dotmailer talks to, so we can get more sophisticated, but we need to build the budget case for that,” she said.

In the interim, the centre is completely redesigning and replatforming its website. Miles said its current offering sits underneath the Griffith University portal.

“The uni’s website is for student recruitment, whereas we need shopping cart integrations, and an ability to talk to elearning platforms, so we need to take things up a notch,” she said.

“There is a real opportunity to use our email marketing platform in more sophisticated ways with APIs and over the next few years, we want to make sure the new website works well with CRM and our email system.”

Better integration between email marketing and social sharing is another key focus for Miles. “We can track where those articles are going socially, which is important,” she said.

While many in the industry have suggested email’s future is increasingly shaky, Miles said it remains a cornerstone of her business’ communications efforts.

“Our email open rates are declining slightly, so there is some truth to it, but we see it’s still going to be very important over the next few years,” she added.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

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