How Citeline Reduced Martech Stack Complexity (While Personalizing 1.6M Emails Per Month)

April 12, 2024
By Chuck Leddy, B2B Storyteller, and Charlotte Currie, Global Head of Customer Success at Sojourn Solutions

Citeline/Norstella is a $5 billion business with more than 1,000 employees that delivers high-quality content (pharma intelligence) to a target market of life science professionals. The editorial team at Citeline, made up of 65+ journalists and hundreds of analysts, produces the best email newsletter in the pharmaceutical industry. 

Citeline powers a full suite of complementary business intelligence offerings to meet the needs of pharma/life science professionals, supporting their work in accelerating patient treatments and therapies. Citeline’s daily and weekly email newsletters are sent out according to the subscriber’s pre-defined preferences for content.

Citeline wanted to migrate to a single Eloqua instance for sending its personalized emails to subscribers. The project described below produced a powerful and unique synergistic effect (combining Citeline’s editorial and marketing teams), while exceeding the project’s goals around reduced license-related costs, increased operational efficiency, increased email reach and engagement, and operational continuity.

Eloqua Migration: Project Goals and Challenges 

The project objectives, as detailed by Citeline, were as follows: (1) to significantly reduce license-related costs (e.g., sunsetting Salesforce Marketing Cloud), (2) to maintain continuity of Citeline’s personalized Insights email product, and (3) to increase the reach and engagement of personalized Insight emails, all while migrating to a single Eloqua instance that leveraged the Instant Marketing (IM) app. 

The new approach as developed by Citeline, in partnership with Sojourn Solutions and Instant Marketing, would:

  • Send out highly-personalized, best-in-market pharmaceutical news stories via email to subscribers, with dynamic content pulled from its news website, while allowing Citeline marketers to maintain the system without relying heavily on technical coders/developers.
  • Automate the generation of email content in Eloqua based on preferences and content selections pre-determined by email subscribers in Sitecore, which had been happening in SFMC prior to the Eloqua migration.

Among the challenges the project confronted were:

  1. Creating newsletters from complex RSS feeds, many assembled uniquely for each subscriber based on their preferences. This was an extremely complex automation, which was being done using SFMC’s legacy “AMPScript” code language, which was difficult for marketers to work with.
  2. Managing subscriber preferences and content selections across different platforms (Sitecore, Salesforce) and integrating them into a new Eloqua instance, without disruption to subscribers as emails went out daily and weekly.
  3. Ensuring dynamic population of email content for each recipient while maintaining performance and avoiding email bounce issues. On average, 1.6 million emails went out per month, each with up to 20 articles depending on user preferences.
  4. Handling different email variations and branding requirements across multiple use cases and brands.
  5. Building logic to pull and format content from external sources (RSS feeds) and incorporating them into emails.
  6. Managing data complexity and potential limitations in querying and processing large datasets from Salesforce/Eloqua CDO.
  7. Implementing a new Eloqua instance within a tight 3-6 month timeframe, while working with multiple teams across two different companies as Citeline was breaking away from Informa and integrating with Norstella.

Project Strategy 

The Sojourn team determined that if Citeline was migrating to Eloqua, it didn't need to continue using the SFMC platform. The legacy approach leveraged a lot of complex code and processes, but the Citeline team lacked sufficient documentation and support around the code and related processes.

While Eloqua would support Citeline’s business needs and existing architecture, it didn't have an out-of-the box solution for accommodating personalized Insight emails, so an Instant Marketing app was built and added onto Eloqua to enable personalized emails. 

Eloqua + IM App

Sojourn brought in partner Instant Marketing (IM), knowing it would be able to help build a solution. The Instant Marketing app plugged into Eloqua and had the capabilities of doing the RSS feed function and intelligence required to produce the Insight emails on time and to a high standard. 

Removing SFMC reduced license-related costs, as well as complex coding and manual processes that brought high risks of operational failure. The legacy Eloqua + SFDC approach lacked sufficient documentation and also required a dedicated coder to help. Reporting was also difficult. The new approach replaced legacy SFMC AMScript with low-code and no-code components:

  • Eloqua drag & drop tools removed the need for a lot of the code, providing a simple visual interface.
  • What code remained was migrated from AMPScript to Instant Marketing’s Custom Actions, enabling users to write modern server-side JavaScript directly from inside Eloqua itself. A huge amount of complex, unwieldy AMScript was thus reduced to a tiny fraction of modern, type-safe TypesScript written, maintained and monitored directly from Eloqua.

The new Eloqua + IM solution was implemented in such a seamless way that no customer realized that Citeline was migrating away from SFMC to a new Eloqua instance. 

Project Execution

The specifics of the solution, all achieved within a tight project timeframe of 3-6 months and without any disruption to Citeline’s email subscribers, were as follows:

  • Development of an Instant Marketing app to query and filter preferences stored in Salesforce and Eloqua CDO for each email recipient.
  • Email content was dynamically populated based on subscriber’s saved searches, My View preferences, and daily email requirements.
  • Implementation of the logic to pull content from external RSS feeds and incorporate them into email templates.
  • Brand-specific styling and customization were ensured for each email variation.
  • Mechanisms for email tracking, click-through, and handling ad blocks as per brand requirements were set up.
  • Email deliverability was monitored using inbox replacement, list validation, and sender score reputation.
  • Deployment of extensive IP warming to control the ramp up to large volume sends on the new Eloqua instance.

Project Results: Exceeding Expectations

Achievements of the new Eloqua + Instant Marketing app approach included:

  1. Sunsetting the SFMC license reduced license-related fees by 88%.
  2. Continuity of personalized email delivery, at a volume of 1.6 million emails per month, with 40% increase in reach vs. legacy.
  3. Implementation of dynamic content population based on user preferences and real-time data.
  4. The low-code/no-code approach streamlined operations, saved hours of work each month, and made for a better marketer/user experience. Time to create actionable insights from reporting reduced by 50%.
  5. More than doubled the click-thru rate: Eloqua average of 4.19% vs. SFMC average of 1.9%.
  6. Compliance with branding and styling requirements for each brand's email variations.
  7. Agency monitored emails that were sent out and ensured more emails were actually reaching their intended recipient's inbox. Tracking email performance and reporting capabilities hadn’t happened with SFMC. 
  8. Due to enhanced monitoring and reporting, these deliverability metrics are now continually improving:
    • Delivered rate of 83.84% (Eloqua) vs. 79% (SFMC)
    • Soft bounce rate of 16.15% vs. 25%+ (SFMC)
    • Hard bounce rate of 0.6% vs. 0.92% before Oct. of '23
  9. Reporting of email delivery and engagement at an account and user level will add significant value for Citeline’s commercial/sales teams. The ability to quickly take up new requirements (e.g.,  separating free and paid users) will be an ongoing benefit.

Key Project Takeaways

The speed of doing the project in 3-6 months and without disruption to Citeline’s email subscriber base was mission-critical, especially as Citeline was in the middle of integrating into Norstella. Another indicator of project success is that a similar project is now on Citeline’s roadmap for their other product team. 

The project improved the experience of internal marketers who were managing the solution (improved employee experience), due to easier workflows/processes related to low-code/no-code, and also lays the groundwork for ongoing improvement of the experience of Citeline’s email subscribers (improved customer experience).

A Final Word from Citeline

Julia Seto, Product Manager, Insights and Platforms, at Citeline, shared the following perspective on the Eloqua migration project:

Switching from Salesforce Marketing Cloud to Eloqua was a massive undertaking, which we had to do in a short time-frame as we moved from Informa to Norstella. The team had not initially grasped how complicated the backend solutions were. Getting everything set up, including the IP warming, was all very compressed because we had so many things happening at once. 

So from the perspective of degree of difficulty, and our goal of not disrupting product continuity, this was a very challenging and, in the end, a highly successful project.

Citeline’s project was recently entered into the 2024 ANA Business Marketing B2 Awards, in the “Integrated Marketing Program: Large Enterprise” category.

Contact us learn more about how Sojourn Solutions can help your marketing organization improve its marketing operations. 

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