CPA Australia outlines 7-step personalisation strategy for digital engagement

Australian professional accounting association shares how it has based its digital strategy on personalising content in order to address an increasingly diverse and fickle customer base

CPA Australia has revealed its seven-step methodology for personalising customer engagement, claiming it is helping the organisation better address a complex and digitally savvy audience while driving operational efficiencies.

Speaking at the Sitecore Digital Trendspot event in Sydney, representatives from CPA’s digital team detailed the accounting professional group’s efforts to implement a company-wide digital strategy, as well as how it is personalising content using behavioural and location-based insights.

“Digital is the primary means of engaging with end users from both a customer transaction and engagement purpose,” CPA executive general manager of communications, content and publishing, Lisa Carroll, told attendees. “Half of our members are under 40 years of age, but we go through to retirees. It’s a huge mix and represents a complexity of demand.”

The first step for CPA was developing a company-wide digital strategy last year including roadmap and related activities. Previously, digital had been driven by business units in silos, Carroll said.

CPA’s digital offering also needed to address everything from helping with acquisition to certification and retention, as well as drive strategic objectives such as broadening the audience, driving efficiencies, Carroll said. To do better understand how to achieve this, the digital team mapped out a customer engagement maturity model and started building the foundations for a personalisation strategy.

In 2013, CPA rebuilt its corporate site based on responsive design and introduced content targeting capabilities based on two data sets: Geotargeting and login. The work was undertaken in partnership with Deloitte Digital, while the core content management platform is from Sitecore.

“Localisation was vital to selling our professional development events or tailoring information on things happening in an individual’s local area,” Carroll said. Login details, meanwhile, allowed CPA to differentiate between those that were students and not yet members, those already studying through its programs, and fully qualified members.

In 2014, the focus for CPA has been on adding in a new layer of personalisation through behavioural targeting. To do this, the organisation has created six customer personas, four of which have already launched, which it then uses to serve up relevant content online. A primary motivator was to resolve issues with blockages in the sales funnel, Carroll explained.

CPA digital publisher manager, Natalie Buffett, then outlined the seven-step personalisation methodology adopted by CPA to carry out its objectives:

  1. Segmentation: With 150,000 members across the region, Buffett said it was important to first understand CPA’s core customer segments by tapping into existing CRM data as well as insights from staff across the business. This was then used to craft a segmented customer approach.

  2. Persona development: To illustrate how personas have been developed, Buffett used the example of ‘Charlotte’, a typical customer type devised using a combination of age, professional motivation and ambition, location and skill set. In this case, the persona has a qualification but not through CPA, and interacts with multiple devices, she explained.

    Against this, CPA lists key tasks each persona would use the CPA website for, and what content should be prioritised and presented to them. In the ‘Charlotte’ example, key tasks include researching the CPA as an organisation, the membership application process, registering for events and applying to become a certified member, Buffett said.

  3. Engage stakeholders: A key part of how CPA’s digital team ensures the rest of the business has supported its personalisation strategy is by holding multiple workshops with different functions interacting with customers at various touchpoints. While KPIs might be different across these teams, the workshops helped align everyone to the same point of view, Buffett said.

  4. Identify goals: In the case of Charlotte, the most important activity when she comes to CPA’s website is to complete the member application form, Buffett said. CPA has devised a pyramid of core activities it hopes individuals will use its website for and rates each of these using a points-based system. Higher scored actions include completing an application form and registering for a seminar, while lower scored interactions include saving or downloading an application, and general contact enquiries.

  5. Map customer journey: Once its business goals were identified, Buffett said CPA looked at mapping the customer journey to ensure personalised content meets a customer’s needs along the way. “We then look into the Sitecore DMS [digital marketing system] and at what types of content to serve up, whether this is event pages or localised content,” Buffett said.

  6. Problem identification and hypotheses: Understanding where the biggest problems occur for customers and how an organisation can remedy them is vital in digital engagement, Buffett said. After devising prospective personas for example, CPA trialled a range of hypotheses using A/B split testing to ensure the data was valid.

  7. Execute test – evaluate – launch: It’s also vital to continually test theories out to improve effectiveness before launch, Buffett said. In CPA’s case, the group increased conversion on its ‘become a CPA’ event registration page from 4 per cent to 13 per cent by making the page more visually attractive and by featuring targeted content, she pointed out.

The seven steps were important in getting the digital team’s heads around what personalisation looked like, Buffett continued. “Many businesses don’t do enough preparatory work before getting on the personalisation journey,” she claimed. “We set goals and objectives and we had to report on these regularly.”

According to Carroll, identifying the high priority segments for the business and then identifying goals and tests for each segmented also helped the digital team get runs on the board.

“We demonstrated efficiencies and share data step by step, so momentum for personalisation has grown over time,” she commented. “This has moved us [the digital team] from being a service provider to the business, to being that partner at the forefront of business.”

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The next task in 2015 is to integrate the website personalisation engine with CPA’s CRM database so the association can provide things like automated messaging based on behaviours and status, as well as personalised content based on transactional information, Carroll said.

“This is also about driving better value from our content by serving it to the right people at the right time,” she said.

The personalisation is being undertaken by CPA’s digital team, which sits outside both marketing and IT and is responsible for both owned and earned channels as well as the business’ digital channels.

Buffett said CPA originally came up with 11 personas but paired these back to six. While having just six personas might not seem like the holy grail of one-to-one customer interaction, it was vital in selling personalisation as a business strategy to the rest of the organisation, she said.

With plans for a personalised dashboard next year, CPA now hopes to further target website visitors.

“Now that we have assigned names to these personas, the real win is that they have become part of the vernacular of the whole organisation,” Carroll added.

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