PreSonus Finds Its Email Marketing Rhythm

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The provider of music production and recording tools increased direct sales and engagement after implementing a new ESP and introducing new capabilities, like segmentation and automation.

Marketers often sing email's praises when it comes to delivering ROI. But if they don't have the right tools and strategies in place, the channel can cause them to sing the blues.

PreSonus, a global provider of music production and recording tools, experienced its own highs and lows with the channel but landed on a positive note after switching ESPs and implementing new segmentation and automation capabilities.

An offbeat strategy

When Carl Jacobson joined PreSonus in 2012 as director of strategic marketing and business development, he knew that the company's email marketing program was in trouble. It had been using the same email service provider (ESP) for more than a decade, he says, and the company wasn't paying competitive prices.  But that wasn't PreSonus's only issue. The company didn't have an API to pass data through from its CRM system to its ESP, and any segmentation or A/B testing had to be done manually. Plus, the brand's emails weren't optimized for mobile, and employees from different departments had to share one ESP account.

“It was horrible,” he says.

But because Jacobson primarily focused on business development, these email issues fell out of his domain. Then in 2014, Jacobson assumed the role of marketing director, but his attention remained on more immediate priorities. It wasn't until 2014 that he had to face these email woes when he was tasked with taking over the company's direct marketing efforts.

Despite the myriad of issues with the ESP, Jacobson managed to increase direct sales by 20%. But when his VP of sales projected to increase direct sales by 50%, Jacobson pushed for a new platform. In fact, he bet his VP that he could double direct sales if he was given the right tools to do so.

“I knew that we weren't doing the right things that we needed to do,” he says. “And if we started operating correctly [and] we started using best marketing practices and best communication practices, then we would be able to do better than anybody here expected.”

Jacobson was given the green light. After researching several ESPs, he decided to implement email marketing software and service provider Emma. He started the integration process in February 2015 and officially rolled it out a month later after doing a bit of testing. But he didn't have too much time to tinker with the technology. PreSonus was debuting a new upgraded version of its music production software in May, so the company had about a month to get its strategy right.

Playing a new tune with segmentation

One of the first areas Jacobson wanted to tackle was segmentation. Before using Emma, Jacobson had limited segmentation capabilities. Every time he wanted to target a specific product fan base or reach a specific geographic region, he would have to pull data from PreSonus's CRM system, re-upload it to the ESP, and then rebuild his list manually. As a result, he sent mostly batch-and-blast messages.

“Somebody in Portugal would get the same email as somebody in Taiwan as somebody in the United States,” he explains.

Now, the company is able to pass data from its CRM system to its ESP through Emma's API and segment its audiences by geographic region and purchased product. The company acquires this data by having customers fill out a My.PreSonus account when they register their products. It's also able to obtain customers' email addresses and self identifiers—such as music educator or live sound engineer—to build out customer personas during this process. Jacobson estimates that about 70% to 80% of PreSonus's customer base fills out one of these profiles.

One place where Jacobson applies this geographic and past-purchase segmentation is the brand's newsletter, which he sends out two to three times a month. These emails generally contain information about new products and promotions, educational content (such as in the form of a how-to video or article), and a user testimonial, which shows an actual customer using one of PreSonus's products.

Besides the newsletter, Jacobson segments direct promotions, which he sends manually on an as-needed basis.

“[Implementing segmentation] was the most important thing to me because it's such a horrible thing to not deliver targeted content to your customers,” Jacobson says. “They unsubscribe more; they tune out.”

Mixing in automation

In addition to implementing segmentation, Jacobson wanted to roll out marketing automation. He likens automation to a musician continuously collecting a check every time his song plays on the radio or in a movie.

“Smart marketing automation is that,” he says. “You just set up and it will continue to churn and generate revenue for you.”

Jacobson was able to automate PreSonus's aforementioned email newsletter. In addition, the capability enabled him to introduce a new automated series—welcome emails.   

Jacobson says that he once heard from a large musical instrument and equipment retailer that 65% of recording products end up unused on a shelf or on eBay within six months of purchase. This is often because musicians tend to “romanticize” the recording process, he explains, and quit after discovering that the technicality of these tools requires a bit of a learning curve.

PreSonus has a number of resources to help customers learn how to use its products, from how-to videos to detailed manuals. However, not everyone knows that these resources are available. As a result, PreSonus created a welcome series to help with the onboarding process and educate customers on how to use its products.

The welcome email contains links that direct recipients to educational content that's specific to their product, as well as a gift, such as free sound effect plug-ins or e-books. The message also contains information about complementary products. Customers receive these emails after they register their products online. Once they do, the registration information is passed to Emma and a message is automatically triggered. Workflows are dependent on the product or product family. For instance, one customer who purchases a fairly straightforward product might only receive one email while someone else who purchases a more complex product might receive a series.

“If we can use these automation work flows to get more people engaged with our product and making music, we will fulfill our mission of making more music happen in the world,” Jacobson says.

Composing a campaign

In terms of better leveraging email to promote the new product launch, Jacobson had a specific game plan. He started off by blasting PreSonus's entire list and announcing that there would be a three-part “secret product launch” webcast series that would simulcast in Baton Rouge, Hamburg, Tokyo, and Los Angeles. Customers in different time zones could tune into the webcasts at the most convenient time to learn more about the product and hear live performances, interviews with music producers, and testimonials from people who had early access to the product. Although, Jacobson says passionate customers tuned into all three.

Because the product was an upgrade, there were several upgrade paths from previous versions customers could take. So, Jacobson sent an email to segments from each path immediately following the webcasts. Each of these emails listed the specific ways the new product would benefit those particular customers. He also sent a generic email to customers who didn't have a previous version of the product. Furthermore, Jacobson sent an email to customers who had purchased the previous version of the product within a month of the new product's launch to let them know that they could upgrade to the new version for free. Customers who registered for the previous version of the product within two months of the launch received a 50%-off promotion as a sign of “goodwill,” he notes.

In the weeks following the late-May launch, Jacobson sent these segments follow-up emails concentrating on third-party validation, including product reviews, artist testimonials, and how-to videos on the software upgrade's new features, he says.

The sweet sound of success

Since installing Emma, Jacobson and his team have been able to implement several other capabilities, including customizable sign-up forms for events and gated content, an Eventbrite integration to automatically send customers reminders for webcasts, and a SurveyMonkey integration to further its product research. And it looks like all of their hard work has paid off.

One year after switching to Emma, PreSonus experienced an 8% increase in average open rate and a 14% increase in average click-through rate, according to an Emma blog post. Jacobson says that PreSonus's welcome emails do particularly well, generating open rates between 33% and 87% and click-through rates between 20% and 40%.

In addition, PreSonus experienced a 95% decrease in email bounce rate, as well as a 29% decrease in email opt-out rate. Plus, the percentage of emails being forwarded increased by 16,577%. Although, Jacobson attributes this number to one email going viral and generating thousands of shares. Still, he estimates that PreSonus's sharing has increased by 760% if that one email is removed from the equation.

It looks like Jacobson made good on his promise, too. He managed to increase direct sales by 101% one year after implementing the new ESP. And as for the new product launch, Jacobson says that PreSonus experienced its best direct sales ever following the launch—both in terms of single-day sales and monthly—and that these sales could be linked to email.

Also, PreSonus's emails are now optimized for mobile.

Adding to the email ensemble

Still, PreSonus isn't done experimenting with email.

“I want to improve direct sales even more,” Jacobson says.

In June, shortly after PreSonus's one-year anniversary with Emma, Jacobson started targeting PreSonus's customers through their native language. Now, the company can send newsletters to customers in their native language and offer region-specific promotions and calls-to-action. So, a customer in France would get an email in French while a customer in Japan would get an email in Japanese, he explains, as opposed to all recipients receiving emails in English, which was the case before.

There was a bit of a learning curve in terms of how PreSonus could best capture this language data. Jacobson says that he started by selecting a language based on the country the recipient lived in, which was information PreSonus had in its database. And while this step was certainly an improvement compared to sending emails solely in English, Jacobson knew that his method wasn't perfect.

“What if the customer is an expatriate American music producer living in Paris, or a Japanese DJ living in Berlin?” he explained in an email. “Likewise, how do we better serve the thousands of Latinos living in the U.S. on our list who might prefer to receive their emails in Spanish?”

As a result, Jacobson set up a language preference field in its database, which now overrides the language that was automatically associated with a customer's country of residence. So whenever someone opens PreSonus's software or logs into the company's customer portal, he says, their language preferences are automatically passed through Emma's API to its database.

After testing this new capability for eight weeks, Jacobson has seen a 4% increase in click-through rates. What's more, he says that direct sales for June and July were about 25% higher than the previous quarter. He suspects that customers are happier, too.

Lessons that struck a chord

So, what has Jacobson learned from this entire experience? First, he discourages marketers from following in his footsteps and waiting to change a solution that isn't working. Second, he reiterates that customers really do care about receiving relevant content from brands.

“You can't target enough,” he says. “You can always get more targeted with people.”

Update August 16, 2016: The name of the retailer that provided the 65% statistic was removed.

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