Marketing Automation Helps LEGO Education Build Better Emails

Building a successful email program is a lot like building with bricks: Marketers must have a strong foundation based on multiple layers of data stacked on top of each other. LEGO Education, a division of the LEGO Group, reinforced this lesson when it leveraged marketing automation to gain further insight into its sales cycle and deliver more targeted emails.

Constructing a base

Getting products in the hands of teachers and school administrators is the best way for LEGO Education to expose its target customers to the toy bricks and solutions it designs for classrooms. However, these “brand-in-the-hand” experiences, like conferences and workshops, can be expensive and difficult to scale, says Brandee Johnson, senior marketing manager for LEGO Education. In turn, the brand relies on multichannel campaigns, which are primarily driven through email.

So when LEGO Education began outgrowing its old email service provider a few years ago, Johnson knew that she had to search for an alternative option. 

“[The old platform] allowed for one-off emails, but it lacked automation, [and] it didn’t offer lead scoring,” Johnson says. “Essentially, we weren’t able to market at the scale that was needed to continue the growth that we needed to achieve.”

Johnson wanted a platform that would enable LEGO Education to expand its reach and deliver more qualified leads to sales—something the brand, at that time, was struggling to do. Although the organization could track who downloaded a form or watched a video, it couldn’t connect the sequence of these events, and as a result, couldn’t determine where these leads were in the sales cycle. So to solve this problem, LEGO Education implemented Act-On Software’s marketing automation platform in 2012.

Stacking on new technology

LEGO Education uses tools from Act-On for marketing automation, list segmentation, and lead scoring. With this software, marketers for LEGO Education can build customer profiles based on data points like job titles, geographic locations, past purchases, and online behaviors. The brand collects this information through a number of ways, including data purchases, events, online Act-On forms, transactions, and responses to email marketing promotions—like giveaways. Then based on this information, marketers segment the company’s list and send relevant content to specific audiences automatically, such as product previews, teacher testimonials, and videos.

“We might know that we’re targeting first grade teachers in the state of Texas who’ve already purchased [our product] StoryStarter,” Johnson explains.

After LEGO Education sends its campaigns, marketers track a number of metrics: who opens the emails, who clicks on them, which links they clicked, the pages that they visited (and for how long), and whether they eventually convert. These interactions help LEGO Education better identify where leads are in the sales cycle and guide the company’s nurture process and lead scoring.

For instance, if a recipient clicks on one area of the email but doesn’t show further brand engagement, LEGO Education may follow up with additional content to try to pique his interest, Johnson says. Or, if a subscriber received an email and then watched a video or attended a webinar, the company will pass the lead onto sales.

Compared to the retail market, the purchase process for the education sector is quite different, Johnson says. First, LEGO Education has to adopt more of a B2B mind-set because it’s targeting people who aren’t spending their own discretionary income. The size of the order can also impact the duration of the sales cycle. If a district is ordering products for multiple school buildings, the purchase process can take upwards of 12 months, Johnson explained. But if a teacher is purchasing a product for an individual classroom, that time frame is much shorter. Plus, the brand experiences different seasonality. Instead of seeing a spike around the holiday season, LEGO Education sees fluctuations around school budgeting cycles. Therefore, it’s critical that LEGO Education knows who it’s talking to and where they are in their customer journey.

Building up results

Not only has LEGO Education been able to send more emails since implementing Act-On’s platform, but it’s also been able to send more targeted ones. The company has more than doubled its number of marketing leads and, in turn, sends more quality leads to its sales teams. In addition, the organization expects to have expanded its reach by four times by 2015. Furthermore, LEGO Education’s marketing team is sending seven times as many email campaigns per year.

“We’re down to a pretty fine science now,” Johnson says. “When we send out an email we can get almost generally within 1% [and] tell you what percent is going to open and what percent is going to click.”

Atri Chatterjee, CMO of Act-On, says that LEGO Education has also been able to reap the benefit of launching campaigns without constantly running to IT.

“A marketer needs to be able to design and run a campaign without involving IT because often times, especially in mid-sized companies, they don’t have that many IT resources,” he says.

However, LEGO Education wasn’t able to stack up the success right away. While Johnson says implementing the software was easy, realizing its full potential was a challenge. Investing in more resources, such as additional talent, helped LEGO Education overcome this challenge and expand its capabilities.

“Just like with any other tool, you can get out of it what you put into it,” she says.

LEGO Education has continued to enhance its email marketing program by updating designs and templates, as well as by growing its marketing team. Johnson adds that the company is also making some list management changes to maintain data hygiene and is in the process of launching a new nurturing project for leads culled at events. 

Of course, not all marketing and sales organizations are able to work together like the teams at LEGO Education. But perhaps they could learn to work hand-in-hand by following The LEGO Movie’s mantra: “Everything is awesome. Everything is cool when you’re part of a team. Everything is awesome when we’re living our dream.”

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