Forefield Case Study: When Traffic Is the Goal

Regular readers know what a typical case study looks like. Company A sells a product. It sends email promoting that product, then tracks stats such as open rate, CTR, and conversions, the latter being the ultimate goal. Traffic numbers (such as clicks back to a Web site) are important but for the most part irrelevant, except in how they affect conversion.

In this case study, traffic is the primary goal.

Keeping Current Business

Forefield Inc. provides sales, education, and client communication solutions to financial institutions and advisors. A subscription-accessed Web site provides valuable information, including its FMA Advisor product. This sales, research, and client communication tool supplies up-to-date information to professional financial advisors. FMA Advisor contains industry updates, new legislation, and access to over 6,000 articles, illustrations, worksheets, tables, and interactive tools. It also enables advisors to import client lists and create custom presentations for clients.

The business model is simple. Forefield’s clients pay for an annual subscription to the service (independent advisors pay $795 per year; larger firms pay a sliding scale of $300-$400 per advisor).

Traffic to the FMA Advisor site means subscribers are accessing valuable content. If they don’t visit, they won’t see that content and aren’t taking full advantage of the service. If they aren’t getting the most out of FMA Advisor, they’re less likely to renew their subscription. That would result in lower company revenues.

In the past, Forefield posted alerts on the site’s home page. You can see the problem — without a reminder or alert sent directly to users, they’re less likely to log on. A typical Forefield subscriber visited twice monthly. By then, an alert could be out of date.

So Forefield turned to email. It first tried an email marketing tool from Yahoo Business Service. It was inexpensive but geared toward smaller businesses. The more alerts Forefield sent (first biweekly, then weekly), the harder it was to maintain its list.

So Forefield teamed with BoldFish, an email marketing software and services vendor. For an initial $5,000 investment, Forefield installed software allowing it to broadcast email alerts on BoldFish’s Express Network. The company creates mailings that are sent to BoldFish for delivery and tracking. A sample email:

It’s that time of year again — time for year-end tax planning! FMA Advisor has the tax tips, year-end strategies, and checklists you need. We’ve also got a new client presentation template. For more information, see our article Year-End Tax Planning or view our related client presentation template.

The price is right, says Bill Davenport, Forefield’s COO. Cost is based on bandwidth usage. Forefield spends about $1,000 per month.

“For us, it’s an incredibly good deal,” says Davenport. “Others we investigated charged $30,000 and up. Plus, we would have needed additional equipment and employee time.”

Of course, none of this would mean anything without results. Here they are:

  • Forefield has seen an overall increase of 88.7 percent in FMA Advisor use since it began email alerts.

  • Product usage (e.g., individuals who log onto the site and check out the FMA Advisor) has increased dramatically immediately following email alerts — typically 200-250 percent.
  • Forefield’s two largest customers have renewed their contracts, and both have increased in value. Each company has more employees using FMA Advisor, so each pays more.

Attracting New Business

Bear in mind the focus is not on attracting new subscribers but demonstrating to current ones the value of their subscriptions. Forefield also uses email as a component of attracting new business, offering a 30-day trial of FMA Advisor.

Forefield uses BoldFish to send potential subscribers four messages. Message one contains login information. Message two arrives the same day and is designed to encourage trial members to explore the site. It includes information on the FMA Advisor site, highlighting points of interest. Message three arrives one week into the trial period, offering a free online training session. The last message arrives on Day 20 of the trial, with a reminder the trial expires in 10 days. Links highlight valuable information the FMA Advisor offers.

The campaign has quadrupled the number of monthly conversions from free trial to paid membership. And, of course, these new subscribers are likely to use FMA Advisor more often, thanks to the email alert system now in place.

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