Lesson Planet's Email Marketing Program Makes the Grade

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The online curriculum resource relies on email to educate people on its site's functionality and drive conversion

Image source: Lesson Planet

Email is an area of constant study for marketers — just ask Lesson Planet.

Lesson Planet is an online curriculum resource for educators teaching kindergarten through 12th grade. Teachers can search the brand's resources by grade, subject, state standard, and more to find materials ranging from worksheets to videos.

But, the brand faced a problem. Although it's subscription based, Lesson Planet gives teachers a 10-day free trial to experiment with the site. After looking at its statistics, Lesson Planet's marketers realized that both paying members and free-trial members weren't taking full advantage of the site's capabilities. In fact, these groups were using only 15% of the website's capabilities.

Lesson Planet's marketing director Jeff Chappell wanted to launch an email marketing program to better educate subscribers and trial members about the brand's full offerings. However, he knew that a single, batch-and-blast message wasn't going to cut it.

“We couldn't just stuff that [information] into one email,” he says.

So in 2013, the brand started developing an email series using email marketing solution EmailDirect. To fine-tune its messaging, Lesson Planet spent a year A/B testing its emails, experimenting with everything from the content to the subject lines to the frequency. Then, Campaigner acquired EmailDirect in 2015 and became Lesson Planet's new email marketing solution.

Here's how Chappell describes Lesson Planet's email marketing program today.

A lesson in targeting

When teachers sign up for Lesson Planet's free trial, they automatically receive a confirmation/welcome email. On day three of the trial, they receive an email tailored to their activity on the website. 

Chappell knows that trial members who perform certain behaviors are more likely to convert than those who don't. So, the email series encourages these actions. One email might advise trial members to search for content using specific filters, for instance, while another email might recommend viewing certain resources. If the trial members have performed all of the desired actions, they'll receive a “fallback email,” Chappell explains, which contains more generalized content and tips for how to better utilize the website.

On day seven, trial members receive another email focusing on their personal account. If trial members haven't updated their profile with their grade level and subject area, for instance, Lesson Planet will remind them to do so, Chappell says. Or, if they haven't reviewed their search history, Lesson Planet will remind them of this capability. Again, if trial members have performed all of these desired behaviors, they'll receive a fallback email.

Finally, on day nine, Lesson Planet sends trial members an email based on their content consumption habits. So if trial members haven't used Lesson Planet's organizational tool Curriculum Manager, the brand might suggest that they check it out. Or, if trial members haven't read one of Lesson Planet's lesson-planning articles, it might suggest that they do so. Again, if all desired actions have been performed, they'll get a fallback email.

After the 10-day period, trial members are automatically billed for a full subscription. This begins a whole other set of targeted emails.

For instance, new members who haven't completed their profile will get an email reminding them to do so, Chappell explains, while those who have completed their profile will get resources targeted to their needs, such as their grade level or subject area. They may even receive emails when new resources pertaining to their profile are uploaded to the site.

“Giving any user helpful information that applies to them is something we want to do,” Chappell says.

There's also a renewal reminder email that's sent to members 30 days before their annual renewal date that summarizes how they've used the site this year. Plus, there's an inactivity email that's sent to members who haven't visited the website in 30 days.

In addition, Lesson Planet sends targeted emails to people who don't become trial members or subscribers. Chappell says the brand has an abandoned cart series for people who start signing up for a free trial but don't complete the necessary steps. He also says that there's an engagement series for people who cancel their account within the 10-day trial period. 

“If someone doesn't continue their free trial, we will continue to message them up to about a year off and on periodically,” Chappell says.

A+ results

Although Chappell says market conditions have caused the overall number of subscribers to decrease since 2013, email marketing has also helped Lesson Planet drive growth.

According to Chappell, email engagement during the free trial period has helped Lesson Planet see more than 10,000 new members convert to paid subscribers per year. He also says that Lesson Planet has seen more than 25,000 membership renewals per year due to email engagement promoting awareness and usage. What's more, he says trial members and paid subscribers are now using 55% of the site's full capabilities, versus 15%.

Of course, Lesson Planet's teachers aren't the only ones enhancing their knowledge. Chappell says the biggest lesson that he's learned from this experience is to just give things a go. As he puts it, “You never know until you try.”

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