Texas Hospital Association: An Early Success Story in Marketing Automation

How to hone messages, reach deeper into your membership base, and achieve better results.

When Digital Communications Manager Lane Boyd signed up to Beta test Real Magnet’s new marketing automation platform, he had no idea that he’d wind up rethinking how the Texas Hospital Association (THA) approached marketing. “Our first experience with marketing automation was a real eye-opener,” he says, thinking back to his test campaign designed to generate registrations for THA’s annual conference.

“We used to write an email, send it out to 5,000 members, look at the results, and then rinse and repeat until the campaign ended,” he says. Although Lane could deliver emails to readers on schedule, he had no way to automatically send reminders to recipients who clicked to register, but abandoned prior to completing the transaction—a capability built into the Real Magnet system. “The abandonment component is really important,” he says. “For this campaign, I was able to build messages with two options: one click took readers to the conference page, another to the registration page. If a reader clicked but then didn’t register, the abandonment series kicked in. I didn’t have to do a thing other than write the messages and tell the system which to send to whom, and when.”

Despite being easy to run and successful (the goal for conference registrations was exceeded), the campaign revealed that THA needed to extend its outreach and revise messaging to individuals below the C-suite within member organizations. “We’ve always found it easy to reach executives, but not so much other segments, such as nurses, physicians, and quality and marketing staff,” he says. “Now that it’s easy for us to reach the front line, it was an eye opener to find out how little they know about our Association—who we are and what we do.” In one instance, Lane targeted a group of women executives, achieving just 31 clicks for 3,000 delivered messages. “Of course I’d prefer our communication vehicle give us good news,” he says. “But sometimes bad news has to come first.”

That bad-news insight has given THA a new mission—to educate and reconnect with all staff levels at member organizations, not just the C-suite. And Lane’s brimming with ideas for future projects that require marketing automation: a member re-engagement program to connect with the 10,000 members who don’t open emails, as well as birthday reminders and other campaigns to keep in touch with members. When it comes to regular campaigns, such as for webinars, new-member welcomes, and conference registrations, Lane and his team are focused more heavily on segmenting. “We’re a large association,” he says. “Now, instead of sending one message to everyone, we’re thinking twice about what we put into our emails, looking at who members are and which messages should go where.”

Lane counsels his peers considering marketing automation to go for it. “There’s no reason why every association shouldn’t be using marketing automation,” he says. Because the email messages contain tiny, live bits of information, they’re not static; they’re out there doing work for you. Marketing automation brings your email to life.” He also says that although the automation itself is complex, using a marketing automation platform doesn’t have to be. “The great thing about Real Magnet’s system is that it’s so easy,” he says. “We set up the campaign very quickly, let it run, and then were able to focus in other directions to get more numbers.” He also points to the platform’s easy reporting approach. “The reporting is simple and intuitive,” he says. “You can watch what you’re doing on the charts instead of having to run reports to get your data. You can see what’s happening right in your dashboard, so watching the numbers is part of the fun.”