Since its widespread adoption in the 1990s, email has typically been the most effective and most widely-used communication channel for B2B marketers. That’s especially true when it comes to promoting B2B events, whether they’re virtual, in-person, or hybrid.
That said, the biggest challenge B2B event marketers face with email is the same challenge all marketers face: how to reach the right customers with relevant messaging that will convince them to act (in this case, by registering for the big event). If you had an email list of over a million contacts, and you were asking them to register for the same event, you wouldn’t want them all to receive the exact same message. That simply wouldn’t lead to optimized engagement . . .and could even feel spammy.
After all, people might participate in the event for different reasons and may want to attend different event sessions/speakers that address their different functional needs (such as to learn new skills or to network with other professionals in similar roles). Ideally, an engaging email message should address those different audiences and their diverse needs.
The challenge: Leveraging email to drive more event registrations
A well-known global communication and collaboration firm organizes an annual event that brings together tens of thousands of professionals from an array of industries and functions, including marketing, sales, and beyond. The communications and collaboration company (hereinafter, “the client company”) uses its annual big event to build a customer community, launch new offerings, and generally promote its global brand. The company reached out to Sojourn Solutions for help.
The client company’s primary objective was to optimize its email program supporting the event, which was virtual in 2022, and build upon the past success of its email channel, which had driven 54% of total event registrants the previous year (2021).
The client company leveraged four instances of Marketo. It also worked with multiple outside agencies and stakeholders to support promotion of the big event. While the client company had 1.3 million records/contacts, some of those records had missing or unreliable data fields such as “industry.” This missing/unreliable data meant the client company couldn't personalize its email messaging by industry.
To further complicate matters, some of the client company’s managers were taking vacations at critical times around the email campaign’s launch, which had the potential to create delays or quality control concerns. And due to the just-launched Russian military invasion of Ukraine, messaging had to be altered at the last minute to ensure that the email’s tone was sensitive and considerate, especially for European recipients.
Finally, the organization of the big event also posed challenges, as sessions were typically more focused on the solutions offered by the client company rather than the specific Industries or roles the email recipients worked in. What’s true for shoes and hats is also true for events: one size does not necessarily fit everyone.
The solution: More personalization leads to more event registrations
Sojourn worked closely with the client company to define a strategy for its email campaign, one that would enable more personalization/relevance in order to drive more registrations. Sojourn began by pulling all relevant contact/email recipient data into one place, PowerBI. It then made two big recommendations to the client company to facilitate increased email personalization:
1. On tactics and strategy. Sojourn looked broadly at what messages were being sent to which recipients. “We believed that if the client company leveraged its available data to improve personalization and address the specific needs of multiple customer segments and personas, it would lead to increases in email open rates and more registrations,” said June Dean, Marketing Automation Consultant, Sojourn Solutions.
The client company’s 1.3 million email recipients were grouped into five different and distinct “journey types” for the big event.
Using the client company’s available data, Sojourn considered the function and role of each recipient, as well as the contact’s job level (junior, senior, or mid-level) and decision-making authority (were they on the execution/practitioner side and/or decision-makers?).
Sojourn created two different “persona types” among email recipients; (1) Decision Maker and (2) Practitioner. From a campaign standpoint, outgoing email messages would recommend what sessions the recipients should attend, based on their distinct journey type and persona, and then help recipients pull out a specific value proposition for their particular needs.
The main idea was to tailor the email message to make it easier for email recipients to decide whether or not to attend the event. Not only were the emails tailored to address recipients’ personalized needs, but so was the event experience itself, which was tailored to different journey types and personas.
2. Campaign Execution. Sojourn also recommended how the emails would be sent, working with the client company to create a more efficient and automated process to get all these different, more personalized emails built, QA tested, and delivered on time and on budget.
Sojourn and the client company built out emails with 57 variations, in three different languages, using Velocity Script for efficiency as it meant content could dynamically be laid out, depending on the personalization required from the data.
Additionally, A/B Testing was used on the subject line across the multiple language versions to help optimize performance.
Sojourn did all the coding for the emails. Since there were four instances of Marketo, it also gave the emails, code, and instructions to another agency to manage, offering support as needed. Tracking links were added to all emails to determine what registrants were coming from what emails, as a way to prove and improve campaign performance.
The results: 10% more registrations, cost savings
The bottom line result of the “personalization” email solution was a 10% increase in overall email channel performance, with 64% of event registrants coming from email in 2022 compared to 54% in 2021.
In terms of raw numbers, about 2,400 more email recipients registered for the big event in 2022 versus 2021. The cost of each additional event registrant was only $8 per registrant.
The campaign also effectively accommodated shorter timeframes around the launch and also addressed the “tone issues” created by the just-launched Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“In the end,” says Dean, “the personalized emails simply performed better, garnering higher open rates, better engagement, and more registrations because they were more relevant in addressing the specific needs of different recipients.” In all, 57 dynamic versions of emails were sent to 1.3 million email recipients. While this “send volume” was indeed impressive, the quality of recipient engagement was even more so.