Challenge: Increase paid
Solution: Implement a marketing automation platform.
When Ben Jackson took the position with Voices.com in 2009, the marketplace for professional voice-over talent was still sending out batch-and-blast email campaigns to convert guest members who had free accounts to paid membership.
Something had to change, knew Jackson, director of sales and marketing for the London, Ontario-based, auction-centric website.
"Email's probably one of our biggest channels of communications," Jackson says, admitting phone isn't the channel chosen by his audiophile customers.
So, rather than repeating history and manually responding to 1,000 members who opted in for paid accounts, he decided it was time to automate the process. Plus, Jackson wanted to be able to track results—which he couldn't do using multiple applications, such as emailing from his customer relationship management system and even his administration system.
In 2011, Voices.com hired Beaverton, Ore.-based Act-On Software. Using the marketing automation platform, Jackson instituted drip email campaigns in July for Voices.com's 150,000 members.
Then Jackson specifically sent an email blast to just the free membership customers who were voice-over professionals. The messages told those members they could try out the paid services for $9.95 for one month. Then he closely watched the analytics.
Soon, Jackson noticed the magic timeframe to get free account holders to convert to paying was two weeks.
From September to October, Voices.com executed a new campaign. Voice artists who signed up for free membership received a welcome email immediately, then an offer for paid membership two days later, Jackson says. The next email read, "Three Days Left," and the final message: "Last Day to Take Advantage of the Offer."
"Near the end of October, after the dust settled and we had everybody signed up from it, we ... looked at the analytics and said, 'OK. People are more likely to buy,'" he says.
A fortnight after signing up for free accounts, 6 percent of email recipients converted to paid memberships. After that, only 1 percent did the same—matching historic numbers. Jackson says this response rate is "a 30 percent increase in our new business sales."
With figures like that, Voices.com institutionalized the idea by implementing it in drip campaigns in November. Since then, Jackson has "seen a real drastic increase in conversions" among both talent and client customers.
He says he'll continue "fine-tuning" email communications. For instance, Voices.com may move up the paid offer to the moment website visitors sign up for the free memberships.
"We test messages on pretty much any bulk message that we send out," Jackson says. "It could be a webinar going to 800 [people] or a couple thousand people. It could be a newsletter or it could be another offer. If it's sent to a bunch of people, then, typically, what we'll do is split test right at the beginning. ... If I'm doing a quick split test then, typically, I'm just looking at the subject line to see what subject line gets people to open the message. Basically, the one that gets more opens is the one that we'll go with, depending on the outcome you want, too. ... If it's a sign up to a webinar ... we'll look at clickthroughs, as well, to see whether or not some of the messaging needs to be changed."
For example, through testing, Jackson found that creative within the messages absolutely must speak differently to the talent vs. the clients who want to hire them.
Overall, since implementing marketing automation, Jackson says, "our campaigns are way more targeted now and way more personal."