Boosting ROI with Data-Driven Segmentation and Messaging

Best Practices : Article

An Event Marketing Case Study

Key Takeaway

Defining personas and customizing messaging for your audience leads to more successful marketing campaigns that reach new groups with a proven ROI.

The Problem

An analytics-focused professional association was beginning to see declining revenue after five years of successful half-day local seminars held across North America. These events were focused primarily on local trends and practical application – “learn it today, do it tomorrow.”  So, they decided to host the first national conference in their 15-year history. The event would feature two days of interactive thought-leadership and their familiar focus on practical applications and best practices. While the conference itself would generate non-dues revenue, they also hoped that it would increase awareness among their existing membership as well as prospective members.

As the conference launched, compounding situations lead to low registration numbers.

  • The messaging being used was the same as the local seminars, lacking in differentiation and alarmingly it wasn’t resonating with the target audience. Email open rates were strong, but click through rates were well below what they should have been.
  • The conference was but one in a crowded landscape of user conferences from vendors to large events from conference management producers and other associations in the space. The competition for money and time was tight.
  • The association wanted to target “everyone” as a potential conference registrant. This left the messaging too general and to a broad audience with many vendors and organizations vying for their attendance.

The Approach

Finding opportunity in the problem and the importance of analysis

Nothing is rarely ever one size fits all. It’s frequently not even one size fits most. New ventures undoubtedly attract new audiences and repel established ones. So, it’s no surprise that as the organization was attempting to scale that the generic, locally targeted messages were missing the mark on a national stage. Today, messaging at all levels should speak to the recipient as an individual, even if it’s not an individualized campaign.

Before we could pivot and tweak the marketing plan, we had to put in the work. Why was this typically engaged community not acting beyond opening an email or visiting a landing page? What were they not having answered? So, the first thing that could help us answer this was reviewing current registrants. By examining who had already been compelled enough to say, “heck yeah, I’ll be there,” so we could establish preliminary trends. In this case, most registrants were mid-level managers and above, had the term “analytics” somehow in their title and neither geographic location nor industry type seemed to be a factor. This was data that we could work with.

Armed with this knowledge, we evaluated across seniority, title, member status and other factors the types of individuals who were opening emails, even if they did not click. Bingo – we had some trends forming. Members further along in their career were the most notable – and here we had been, taking a practical application approach. Senior-level folks aren’t as concerned with what new tool or method they should know, but they do care about how to grow their teams, what skills they should be focusing on and learning from big names to help them grow their business. Personalized, segmented messaging. We bucketed our audience into three areas and considered which message would resonate with them and then put it into action across all areas of promotion.

Email communication was further tailored and segmented to reach varying levels of professional experiences. This refined messaging matrix was then applied to personal outreach and both paid and organic social media, where through additional testing we began to learn more about the industry audience and recognize where the association had room to expand and grow.

The Results

  • For a modest budget, the resulting LinkedIn ad campaign generated an astonishing 230% return on the ad spend. Moreover, the more than 20,000 impressions help to build brand awareness, bolstering reputation and increasing mindshare.
  • This deep-dive research proved to have broader implications. The lessons learned from this one specific campaign reached over into recommendations for future educational series, provided insight for where the association should be focusing strategically and taught them more about how the industry was maturing – and how they could solidify their place within it.

The Lessons

  1. Don’t just evaluate internally, get outside. Virtual’s approach involves an environmental scan – what’s happening across the industry of this organization generally – and how can we use that knowledge to inform strategy and recommendations?
  2. You have to know your audiences and what drives them. Remember, you likely have multiple audiences with diverse motivations. To understand your audience better, do research in your database and on platforms such as LinkedIn.
  3. Be flexible. As you build personas, create unique messaging that will resonate with them, and be prepared to adjust once you see how the messaging performs in the field.


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