San Jose State University
Objective: San Jose State University needed to increase deliverability for its Alumni Membership initiatives, and also sought a platform that would provide centralized support for the school’s many departments.
Results: SJSU saw deliverability rise to 98%, and the Real Magnet platform is now used to drive communications from over 30 departments across the university. In the process, the school made some eye-opening discoveries about its mobile audience and developed processes to spot new trends as they emerge.
Deliverability challenges diffused
In the summer of 2008, San Jose State University re-assessed its growing email needs and decided to conduct a competitive review in search of a new email partner. Brian Bates is SJSU’s Associate Director of Alumni Relations by title, and the university’s chief email officer by function. He identified some deliverability issues that were the catalyst for the review. “We were having a terrible problem with Yahoo! chronically soft-bouncing us,” he said. Because the university relies heavily on email to support its dues-based Alumni Association membership initiatives, he saw that those soft-bounces were costing the school hard dollars. Worse – the undelivered email was severing ties with alumni.
SJSU selected Real Magnet from the competitive review because he was sold on the company’s approach to deliverability, the learning possibilities through its reporting, and the intuitive interface. “Plus, they account managers were great. They seemed to really want the business and were very responsive. With the other companies we were considering, I got the feeling that they could take us or leave us.” The decision paid off for SJSU. Within a short time, Brian was seeing a remarkable lift in deliverability. “They got our Yahoo! issue ironed out. Now we’re seeing deliverability rates of 98% for most of our groups.”
Centralized email management; Distributed learning
Brian is SJSU’s email power user, but the Real Magnet platform is used to support “between 30 and 40 different departments.” The interface makes it easy for new users to start on the application quickly, and the richness of features encourage different departments to dive in and study response rates and other analytics. “It’s remarkably reliable, consistent and easy to use,” said Brian. “I’ve shown colleagues how to use it in no time. And I think the reporting is outstanding. It’s really helped us learn who is using the program and when are subscribers opening messages.”
SJSU also makes a point of sharing internal learning across departments. Brian explains, “For example, yesterday we did an email for our Annual Fund, and we shared the results with them afterwards. We showed them where we tested different subject lines and how it affected open rates across different groups. We were able to compare the difference in gift giving from the messages as a result of the improved open rates.”
Today, the Inbox. Tomorrow, the phone.
Like most email power users, Brian has learned a few shortcuts to reading the analytics. He reviews reports not so much to find success stories and reward himself with “attaboys,” but rather to spot problems and trends as soon as they start to emerge. Recently he was astonished to realize just how much of his audience was reading messages on a mobile device. “The mobile data is eye-opening. I saw in one of the tracking reports on a message that 34% of opens were from a mobile device. 4 months earlier we were not aware of our mobile audience at all. “
Brian didn’t sit idle with this revelation. He quickly began tailoring messages for the mobile audience, by modifying the design and the content. “We now create a mobile-specific version of our messages, with shorter copy and the links showing up earlier in the message. We know we have to be succinct with our copy because people aren’t going to scroll as far on a mobile device. So we rely more on online information instead of putting it all into the newsletters.” To make sure the messages display as intended, Brian makes sure to send test emails to an account he can read from his own iPhone as well.
Now that SJSU has tackled deliverability and is getting ahead of the curve on mobile, Brian is already thinking of the other high-impact improvements he can make. “We would like to drive more click-throughs and get our online content in front of more of our audience. Click-through rate is a constantly moving target. The Google Analytics integration becomes important.”