Music for All revamps homegrown email system to boost subscriber rates

Karen J. Bannan

E-mail remains a powerful tool for b2b marketers. Best estimates indicate that e-mail marketing will enjoy $1.5 billion in sales in 2011. Clearly, email marketing remains a crucial tool for b2b marketers.

But how are b-to-b marketers using e-mail? As prospects are increasingly bombarded by e-mails, have marketers changed their tactics in order to break through? This report takes a look at these questions along with the key performance metrics, budgets, and industry trends.

Straddling the b2b and b-to-c markets takes precise segmentation, especially in the not-for-profit world. Indianapolis-based Music for All faces this challenge daily. The company, which runs school marching band competitions, symposiums and festivals targets school administrators as well as teachers, parents, students and charitable donors. As such, it views email as one of its most important marketing and promotion tools.

Before 2008, the company used a number of email tools—including an email service provider and its own homegrown email system—to reach out to subscribers; but both were lacking, said Deb Laferty Asbill, director-marketing and communications at Music for All. “We needed to be very targeted and to be able to quickly design and email a broadcast using segmentation,” she said. “We didn’t have those abilities with our previous systems.”

In 2009, Music for All hired email marketing provider Delivra to help the company rethink its email strategy. Delivra immediately suggested a complete overhaul of Music for All’s 120,000-plus subscriber database. The first step was cleaning up Music for All’s subscriber lists. The cleaning included archiving inactive addresses and creating better segmentation; during the process, the company trimmed its list by more than half, culling it to 54,000 active uses. That had an immediate effect. Before the revamp, Music for All had an 80% deliverability rate; after the list was cleaned, that number jumped to more than 96%.

Music for All also improved its segmentation. The company built multiple segments, grouping subscribers based on demographic data, interests and needs, and also created geographic segments. That made it easier for Music for All to send out targeted content, and Laferty Asbill said subscribers are more interested in what they are receiving.

The company has also redesigned its e-newsletters, enabling Laferty Asbill’s team to use templates rather than building each e-newsletter from scratch. “The ability to use templates has been very important, in that it allows my staff to create professional-looking emails,” she said.

Since cleaning its lists, changing its newsletter design and creating targeted segments, Music for All’s database has grown to 70,000 subscribers while its deliverability rate stayed constant at about 96%. While the email program’s overall open rate hasn’t deviated from about 8.5%, click-through rates are up by nearly 60%. In addition, email forwarding is up about 28%.

“Ultimately, we’re promoting music and arts education advocacy,” Laferty Asbill said. “Now we can target who we’re reaching out to and give people an easy way to opt in and opt out. Really, the new system has improved every aspect of our email marketing program.”

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