MicroStrategy Case Study

  |  March 21, 2002   |  Comments

Text? HTML? Flash? In this B2B mailing, the richer the format, the better the results.

Here we go again. We’re revisiting one of your favorite issues, if your email is anything to go by: the text versus HTML versus rich media email debate. A couple weeks ago, I wrote about CareerJournal’s "hide while you seek" campaign, targeted toward job-seeking executives. In that study, text outperformed HTML, which in turn outperformed rich media.

Well, here’s some more material to chew on. Today, we’ll look at a campaign that focuses on the latter two formats. At first glance, this campaign’s results seem to contradict those from CareerJournal’s mailings. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find significant differences in the two campaigns.

MicroStrategy is a business intelligence software company targeting directors at Fortune 5000 companies and IT and IS managers. It has conducted email marketing campaigns and sent out email newsletters for a year now. A few months ago, it began looking into the idea of rich media. But (wisely, I must say), the company didn’t want to put together a rich media campaign simply because it was the latest and greatest. The technology needed to enhance the message.

The opportunity came a few months ago, when MicroStrategy was ready to release its newest software package, MicroStrategy 7. The goal was to introduce recipients to the notion of business intelligence software and to generate interest in a specific product.

MicroStrategy worked with Dynamics Direct, an email marketing firm, to create the mailing. The offer was a free, 30-day trial edition of the software. It was promoted in two message formats, HTML and rich media.

The HTML version began with the company logo and the message "30 Days of Business Intelligence. Free." A few sentences described the product, there was a button to click to order the CD, and an award the software won was mentioned.

The Flash version was similar in that it had the same look (logo, introduction, award mention), with significant variations. Where the HTML version had sentences describing the product’s benefits, the Flash version showed a short movie detailing those benefits, complete with audio. It also had a "tell a colleague" button. Moreover, it automatically created a pop-up window containing an order form.

The mailing was sent to about 48,000 recipients on various opt-in lists. About 15,000 received the HTML version; the rest got the rich media version.

Results? The rich media message generated a 331 percent increase in click-throughs over the HTML mailing. It delivered about 24 percent more registrants. Overall, the average click-through rate was 74 percent higher and the cost per response 31 percent lower than average for previous campaigns.

Some thoughts on why rich media outperformed HTML in this case:

  • Email access. The target audience here was business-to-business (B2B). Though some corporate firewalls do block HTML and Flash (if anyone has stats on this, feel free to share them!), it’s also true these recipients tend to be on faster connections than the typical home user. Other marketers, particularly those doing business-to-consumer (B2C), likely have a larger percentage of home users receiving mail over slow dial-up connections.

  • Target audience. Speaking of target audience, the folks at MicroStrategy hypothesize their recipient base is somewhat predisposed to a Flash message -- one more "exciting" than an HTML message. Job seekers, the subject of the last case study, probably aren’t all that excited about the prospect of searching for employment. A Flash message may not work well in that mindset.

  • Audio. As Sanjee Gupta of Dynamics Direct noted, this Flash message supported audio. Gupta says this likely made the message more compelling. (CareerJournal’s campaign didn’t include audio. A job seeker would certainly not want her next-cube neighbor hearing her email.)

  • Pop-up. The automated pop-up window made it easy for recipients to register. Easy is good.

Now, I’m not saying there are hard and fast rules for using text, HTML, or Flash. I’m hoping this helps provide a basis for decision making when you’re conducting your next campaign.

Point of Clarification: CareerJournal

A reader asked: "I’m unclear on whether the same database received all three messages, with the text message being last, or if three different sets of people were exposed to three different forms of communication."

Fred Jorgensen of Trahan, Burden & Charles responded: "All three pieces went to the same database. [Recipients” were given the highest creative format based on their email clients capabilities. People who were set for Flash got Flash, HTML got HTML, text only got the text."

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Heidi Anderson

Heidi is a freelance writer who covers the Internet for both consumers and businesses. She's a former editor of the E-mail Publishing Resource Center and coauthor of "Sometimes the Messenger Should Be Shot: Building a Spam-Free E-mail Marketing Program." Her work also appears in Smart Computing, PC Novice, What's Working Online, and Editor & Publisher.

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