E-mail Thrives in Albany

When it hired Jennifer Drumluk as VP of communications and marketing in 2001, the Center for Economic Growth lacked a cohesive messaging strategy. “We didn’t have a sophisticated or consistent way to communicate,” she said. The Albany-area business development group relied on a smattering of direct mailings, mostly, and its lists were out of date.

Her charge was to build awareness of the Albany-area business development group’s mission and initiatives and to increase the number of business community members receiving information from it. The solution had to provide a cheap way to disseminate info to the CEG’s target audience of member companies, clients and funding partners; general members of the Albany-area business community; and local, state and federal government bodies.

She needed email, of course, but didn’t have the tools for a sophisticated program. “We started through an Outlook system, like everyone does,” she said.

That changed when she met Joe Tyler, president of email marketing firm Informz. Tyler was involved at the time with the CEG’s technology alliance, and he urged Drumluk to upgrade to a business-scale email platform — oh, say, one like Informz. She lacked the budget to pay for the Informz system, so the two worked out a barter deal: CEG membership in exchange for email services and consulting.

Implementation

Informz enabled multiple lists on the CEG’s Web site, letting constituents sign up for different message types, including event notification, biotech information, messages from the president and technical services information. There were private and public lists. Subscriptions were self-managed, so the CEG’s busy, 20-person staff wouldn’t have to deal with unsubscribe requests.

Sign-ups were completely organic, occurring through Web site visits, email forwards and on-site registration at the CEG’s events. No lists were rented or appended.

In addition to email, Informz provided the CEG with online event management and survey tools. Event sign-up, one of the organization’s key fund-raising and friend-making tools, was thoroughly integrated with the email medium. Recipients to invites for paid events could RSVP directly through an e-commerce application and provide credit card information without calling or faxing, which were the CEG’s old methods of doing business.

“Event planning is very administration-heavy. Any time we don’t have to take a phone call or type in a bunch of fax-back forms, that’s a huge plus,” she said

Results

The opt-in lists have enlarged the group’s community, increased event registration and freed its administrative resources. Since February, the CEG has seen an almost 50 percent growth of its email list, to 9,400 subscriptions, and its 400 members in 11 counties around Albany are seeing the benefits.

Interaction metrics are also impressive: In October 2004 alone, the group sent 27 mailings. Of 59,300 delivered messages that month, 65 percent were opened and the overall click-through rate was 7 percent. While those metrics don’t mean a ton, given the wide range of message types, they are way above email marketing averages. That speaks to the CEG’s successful targeting and the relevance of its messages.

The event management software, once hitched to Informz’ email wagon, turned out to be a real boon. Online registration was the dominant RSVP method for a paid speaker series the CEG held last year. And for its annual meeting, held last night, the group registered 200 people before a hard copy invite went out.

“As much as email has done for the brand, the event management side has [really” streamlined our system,” said Drumluk.

Spam fears appear to have neither diluted the group’s message nor resulted in any measured incidents of false positive spam-routing, a miracle Drumluk attributes to its zero tolerance policy on list rental. Savings? $153,000 in postage and 3.5 trees, she said.

The CEG email program’s lack of a spam record, particularly considering its rapid growth, owes a lot to its Informz relationship. In addition to its standard list management and consulting services, the company employs an ISP relations team and retains renowned email expert and spam attorney Anne Mitchell on legal issues.

And, well, Informz just has a soft spot for the client, so it works extra hard on the account.

“I’m partial to the CEG,” said Meghan Curtin, marketing services manager for Informz. “First and foremost, they’re nice and wonderful people. We’re in Saratoga; they’re interested in making Albany grow. We have a vested interest in that obviously. And they really embrace email as a microphone.”

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