Automating Marketing Reaction to Customer Action

Peel away the layers, and the typical email marketing campaign works something like this: You send out a message to a group of individuals, track and analyze the results, and then move on to the next campaign.

But isn’t typical. As we saw from last week’s case study, this e-marketplace for commercial real-estate professionals is doing some innovative work. Here’s another example. It makes use of a multiple-rules-based engine in a strategy sometimes known as “adaptive sequential messaging” or “remailing.”

Different Action, Different Response

The premise behind this approach is simple. When you send out a mailing, you know that not all recipients will take the same action. Some won’t open your mailing, some will read it and stop there, others will click through to your site, and, if there’s a further call to action — such as having the recipient perform some task while at your site — a few will follow through on that call. Depending on the action taken by each recipient, you’ll want to follow up in different ways (if you decide to follow up at all).

What the multiple-rules-based engine does is help automate this process. Instead of your having to take several steps, the engine looks at each recipient’s action and takes some of those steps for you.

And it can contribute to a significant lift in response.

Reminder of Benefits

To see this in action, look to In August 2000, the e-marketing team, headed by Tony Branda and Guisy Mele-Brown, developed a campaign to reacquaint registered users with the benefits of the site. The group sent out a message to 14,000 brokers reminding them of’s key benefits: They could post listings of available properties on the site, they would earn a full commission on a sale, and they could find buyers that matched all types of criteria.

As an attention grabber, the subject line read: “Free List of Buyers and Their Phone Numbers When You Post a Property.”

Tony Branda, the vice president of database marketing, notes that the initial response from recipients was good. About 32 percent opened the message, about 4.5 percent clicked through to the Web site, and a small percentage clicked through to the site and listed a property.

Customized Follow-Up

But didn’t stop there. The team had customized a Responsys software program called Responsys Interact to automatically send out follow-up messages three days after the initial mailing. The follow-up messages were based on customers’ behaviors and came in three flavors:

    A thank-you note. This was sent to the customers who listed a property.

    A soft reminder message. Brokers who opened the email and clicked through to the site received a message that said, “A buyer is looking for your property.” This same message was also sent to those who didn’t open the mailing at all.

    Something a little bit harder-sell. A “Market Your Properties on the Internet” message was sent to those who opened the message but didn’t click through to the site. Why the harder sell for these folks? As these people were two steps away from listing a property, PropertyFirst thought a somewhat stronger push was in order.

And here’s where we see some interesting results. The numbers get a little tricky to interpret, but I’ve highlighted some of the more notable ones below. (You can see the full chart for yourself here.)

  • Overall, the open rate ended up at about 40 percent (about 5,600 of the 14,000 recipients). Remember, this contrasts to the initial 32 percent (about 4,500 of 14,000). Branda says a key goal was to remind users of the service, and this data indicates that a critical element of the campaign was achieved.
  • The click-through rate increased from the initial 4.5 percent of all recipients to about 5 percent, which translates to roughly a 12.5 percent click-through rate among those who opened the message.
  • The cost per open dropped from 50 cents to 40 cents after the second set of messages was sent out.

The program worked so well that is repeating it monthly.

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