TestingMom.com Gets a Crash Course in Segmentation

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The online education platform increases open rates, delivery rates, and conversion by switching ESPs and experimenting with targeted emails.

Breaking up is hard to do—especially with your email service provider.

“Switching platforms is like switching cell phone providers,” says Michael McCurdy, CEO and cofounder of online education platform TestingMom.com. “You just don't do it unless you're just in dire straits.”

But desperate times call for desperate measures. TestingMom.com proved that the pain can be worth the gain when it switched ESPs and started leveraging segmentation.

Failing to deliver

Sending emails through TestingMom.com's old ESP was what McCurdy considers a “nightmare.” The email delivery was “non-existent,” he says, and the brand faced several technical issues, including the email platform being down for 48 hours and delayed customer support.

“It was OK at first,” he recalls, “and then it went downhill really quickly.”

McCurdy knew that he had to find a solution, especially considering the brand's loyal subscriber base. After all, 97% of the parents who use TestingMom.com to help their children perform better at school and on tests cite the brand's emails as their favorite thing about the company.

As a result, TestingMom.com decided to pull the plug on its old provider and implemented a new ESP, SendGrid, about two years ago.

Learning something new

McCurdy wanted to use SendGrid to improve its email deliverability, engagement, and ROI. So, he started small and began sending out TestingMom.com's emails through the platform's API.

Parents can enroll in TestingMom.com's email program by visiting the website and entering their name, ZIP Code, email address, and a password to receive 100 practice questions. These questions are designed for children in pre-kindergarten to eighth grade and test kids on various skill sets, including pattern recognition, mathematics, and grammar.

After providing this information, parents are prompted to choose from one of TestingMom.com's three membership levels, which range in price and product offerings. They'll also receive a welcome email in their inbox encouraging them to purchase, explaining the benefits of doing so, and inviting parents to attend a webinar or speak to a representative for further information. If they decide not to become a member, they'll be dropped into TestingMom.com's email series, which nurtures them to join. For example, a parent might receive an email containing a 10% discount the next time they visit the site.

Once they opt in, the parents are sent to a program page where they can indicate the kinds of tests, skills, and grade levels on which they'd like further practice questions to be based. As part of their membership, the parents will then receive a daily email filled with these targeted questions for them to review with their child.

“They don't have to log into the website or download an app,” McCurdy explains. “They get these emails and they're able to work with their child at the breakfast table quickly or at night right before their kid goes to bed.”

Studying up on segmentation

But McCurdy wanted to ensure that it was sending high-quality emails, not just high quantity. So, in December 2015 the company implemented SendGrid's Marketing Campaigns tool.

The Marketing Campaigns tool allows TestingMom.com to segment its list and send targeted emails. For example, McCurdy can segment customers by geographic location and test prep interests and send them information about a specific regional exam. He can also segment customers based on their membership status. So if a customer leaves the business or downgrades their membership, for instance, TestingMom.com can send that customer retention emails inviting them to rejoin, he explains.

In addition to segmenting customers based on their geographic data, preferences, and membership status, McCurdy says TestingMom.com can segment its list based on how long customers have been on the platform, whether they've purchased one of TestingMom.com's supplemental products (like its IQ Fun Pack), and how they behave on the website after they log-in.  For example, TestingMom.com might send a separate email to nonpaying members who have been on the site for 14 days or less—because that's when the highest conversion happens, McCurdy explains. Or, if TestingMom.com detects that a nonpaying member is trying to access paid content, he says, the company might send that member an email inviting him to become a full-paying member.

“The biggest change was that we've been able to identify and segment much more thoroughly than we have in the past and do it on a dynamic level,” McCurdy states.

Delivering A+ results

Within the first three months of using SendGrid's Marketing Campaigns tool, TestingMom.com increased its open rates by 17%, enhanced its delivery rate by 14%, and decreased its unsubscribe rate by 96%. McCurdy even estimates that about 40% of the brand's conversions now come from email.

So take note, marketers. Because even though professionals may struggle with mastering the channel, McCurdy says that it's worth it to do your homework.

“You keep hearing that email marketing is dead , [or that] email marketing doesn't work,” he says. “Well, I'm here to tell you it does.”

Updated: 6/17/16

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