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The Thomas Collective brings Culturelle’s digital community back to life in e-newsletter campaign

Like all brand building and maintenance initiatives these days, customer relationship management (CRM) sinks or swims depending on how well the efforts engage their intended audiences online. In 2016, probiotic brand Culturelle was seeking to rejuvenate its own digital community and tasked communications and digital media agency The Thomas Collective (TTC) with the strategy, content development and execution of its eCRM activities.

The campaign team developed a set of objectives designed to build and strengthen the relationship between the brand and online user—who at the time was disengaged—as well as provide consistent communication across digital channels and deliver value to the customer. Read on to see how the firm achieved its goal with clever content and design, purposeful targeting and savvy results measurement—earning the firm and its client a Bronze Award in the “Best Organizational e-Newsletter, External” category in Bulldog Reporter’s 2016 Digital/Social Awards.

The Challenge: “The current audience was disengaged—there were low open and click-through rates across all types of emails,” says Kimberly Howard-Thomassen, VP of Digital at TTC. “And because of that, there was little information on what garnered engagement from those who were interacting with the brand’s emails. We had to start from scratch to reengage the subscribers.”

Performance indicators of the Culturelle Newsletter Campaign were identified as follows:

  • Increase engagement with the current consumer base
  • Build better understanding of the product with the current consumer base
  • Growth in the number of consumers driven to the brand website
  • Increase product trial
The Thomas Collective staff

The Strategy: TTC’s team set out to drive engagement on Culturelle’s existing digital platforms, with a particular focus on community-building. “An eCRM audience is already an engaged consumer, so touting your social community—as long as it’s a robust and engaged community—will offer the subscriber another avenue of interacting with your brand, and organically increase your social engagement,” Howard-Thomassen offers.

The team outlined the following strategic objectives:

  • Re-energize communication to capture the user’s attention and interest
  • Redesign email communication to provide a better user experience across devices
  • Customize messaging to consumer behaviors to drive engagement and clicks
  • Re-develop contact management plan to streamline communication and capitalize on relevant news and opportunities
  • Drive trial and consumer endorsement through messaging and offers

As the planning began, the campaign team determined it would need to segment the brand’s audience based on product preference (from Culturelle’s family of products) and serve those audiences product-specific content. “We did a lot of testing and analyzing of the language we were using to different segmented audiences,” Howard-Thomassen relates. “This really allowed us to create more personal connections with our subscribers, which helped to increase our engagement.”

Other tactics were identified as follows:

  • Provide personal and relevant information to drive to website, including review call outs
  • Highlight offers, coupons, promotions and real consumer reviews in each newsletter to drive trial
  • Conduct send time tests by time zone to determine optimum activity peaks for opens and clicks
  • Redesign template to create a responsive, mobile-first email design for view-ability across email clients and devices
  • Introduce design consistency in all communication, from branding and color to look, feel, and layout
  • Incorporate preview text and greater creative copy in subject lines to capture the user’s attention and interest

The Implementation: TTC’s first step was to create a content management plan, outlining all digital activity and mapping out a 12-month content calendar to provide consumers with the most relevant and engaging information. The plan was built to speak to Culturelle’s highly segmented audiences that were fairly evenly divided around the brand’s two primary product lines, for Adults and Kids.. Content focused on key time periods that included promotions, sweepstakes, free product offers, coupons, new product announcements and real consumer reviews.

The user segmentation was a major factor when creating the monthly content, resulting in dynamic modules that served the recipient groups different content and imagery based on how they are classified in the brand’s database, personalizing and customizing whenever possible, and including subject lines catering to each segment.

“Our biggest challenges were technical—keeping a consistent look across email clients is difficult, so we used several tools to test emails prior to each send to ensure as consistent a look as possible,” Howard-Thomassen explains.

The plan also included a conceptual theme for each month’s content, with distribution planned against a strategic hierarchy that was created based on the management plan. Content incorporated social media and public relations campaigns into newsletter content to offer fans additional opportunities to engage. To further drive these relationships, TTC created a newsletter-specific promotion entitled “#1 Rewards,” which rewarded 50 randomly selected fans with a box of free product every other month just for interacting with the newsletter.

After the content sections were mapped out, the email newsletter template was redesigned. TTC focused first on mobile users and then translated that design to desktop to ensure all users had a seamless experience. The team’s copywriters worked in tandem with the design team to create optimized communication by platform: mobile design offered a quick read opportunity, hiding design elements to focus on important call-outs, while the desktop newsletter design had more visuals to accommodate the larger screen size.

Each mailing had a clear goal, and copy was created to quickly communicate that goal to drive clicks. Navigation was also added to inform fans what lived deeper in the newsletter.

The Deployment: TTC used the first three email deployments to test a range of send times, emailing the newsletters at four different times throughout the day based on the recipients’ time zone. After a winning time was determined—based on open rates and CTR—all following emails were deployed at that time (within the recipients’ time zone). The team also tested creative themes and subject lines on the segmented audiences before roll-out.

Following each newsletter’s deployment, TTC analyzed and reported on the results, noting most-opened subject lines, clicked-area and content type—making adjustments to content and placement, based on these results, to ensure optimum results.

The Results: “The outcomes far exceeded the goals—we were hoping to increase engagement and website drive by 10–15%, and we’re on course for a 200% increase,” Howard-Thomassen reveals. Here’s an overview of results categorized by specific objectives:

Increased Engagement:

  • There has been an increase in engagement in just six months of activity, with open rates nearly doubling—averaging 12.5%, compared to an average of 7% in the year prior
  • The open rate continues to increase, with the lowest recorded rate at 10.6%, and the highest being 21.5%
  • The click through rate more than tripled, achieving an average of 7%, compared to an average of 2% in 2015 (CTR continues to increase with the lowest recorded at 5% and the highest at 9%)

Better Understanding of the Product:

  • Subscribers are more engaged with the educational content when they get to the website, despite the site having seen minimal maintenance updates from 2015 to 2016—reflecting a better understanding of the product and its benefits
  • Page visits per session have increased to 3.21 from 1.84 the previous year
    Average time on site increased to 1:58 from 1:17 in 2015, showing further interest and education opportunities

Growth in Drive to Website:

  • The 2016 campaign is outpacing the 2015 campaign with clicks to the website—in the past six months, the product pages have already received 70% of the total clicks that drove to these pages in the entirety of 2015

Increased Product Trial:

  • In just six months, website coupons have received 80% more clicks to download then during the whole of 2015

Secrets of Success: Howard-Thomassen provides some insightful takeaways from the campaign experience that your next e-newsletter campaign can incorporate—and showcasing why

The Thomas Collective and Culturelle won a Bronze in Bulldog’s 2016 Digital/Social Awards:

  • Don’t be afraid to test, even if you are seeing an improvement in engagement. “Keep testing! In email marketing, testing is the only way determine your greatest impact.”
  • Customize the language for your different audiences. “Email is one of the only platforms where you can get really granular in your segmentation and still reach a large volume of people. Breaking your list out into 2–3 audiences and creating dynamic content within your emails that caters to each only increase your engagement. The actual content or link doesn’t have to be different—just the way you talk about it.”
  • Think in terms of mobile. “Everything is happening on mobile devices. Plan your creative for the mobile space, then see how it works in desktop—not the other way around. By doing this, you are ensuring what you are creating is user-friendly where most people are interacting.”
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