MyFitnessPal Flexes its Content Marketing Muscle

Driving customer engagement requires both brain and brawn: A company may have stellar intelligence, but it won’t yield success unless it has the right technology to execute. Likewise, an organization can have the latest gadgets and gizmos, but it won’t see any ROI if it doesn’t have a plan on how to use its technology effectively.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson, VP of marketing of MyFitnessPal, talked about how the health and fitness app relied on marketing automation to tone up its own content marketing and email programs during a session at Advertising Week in New York.

The before picture

While MyFitnessPal had the build of a communicative brand, it wasn’t exercising its engagement muscle. For instance, despite having 15 million email addresses in its database, the company only sent a total of four emails in 2013.

“We actually had no marketing tools,” Nelson said. “We had zero infrastructure.”

Nelson, who started working with MyFitnessPal in 2013 as CEO and founder of marketing consultancy RETHINK Multimedia Inc, attributes the infrequent communications to the fact that all emails had to be hand-coded. Any time MyFitnessPal wanted to send an email, it had to call its engineers and have someone code the message into HTML. And if the company was working on a new edition of the app, it couldn’t send the email until the update was complete.

“It was prohibitive,” she said.

However, Nelson still saw potential. She decided to focus on a segment called transformational consumers. Transformational consumers, according to Nelson, are consumers who constantly focus on making behavioral and life changes to “level up” and enhance their personal growth. Nelson knew from her time working at her consultancy that transformational consumers often rely on tools and content to help them achieve their goals. And while MyFitnessPal app was the type of tool transformational consumers would use, it didn’t have the content that they desired.

Nelson also knew that the company wouldn’t even be able to produce or distribute content in its current state. So when she came on as VP of marketing for MyFitnessPal, she implemented a cultural shift: Instead of depending on resources that were meant to build the app, MyFitnessPal was going to run as an independent marketing agency.

Creating a regimen

If MyFitnessPal wanted to be more self-sufficient, it would need a platform that would allow them to send emails sans engineers. So, the company implemented Marketo’s customer engagement platform and started using marketing automation this past April. 

As a way to start providing transformational consumers with content, MyFitnessPal started sending weekly newsletters containing four content categories: eat, move, live, learn. These categories provided a range of topics, including recipes, cooking tips, workouts, advice for setting goals, and health and nutritional news. In addition, MyFitnessPal began sending daily recipe and weekly workout email newsletters to its most engaged app users (people who were logging their diets and workouts consistently). The brand has also sent on-boarding and welcome email series.

“Our emails don’t say ‘here’s the app,’” Nelson said. “Our emails say ‘here’s the content.’”

All of MyFitnessPal’s email newsletters drive users back to its blog, Hello Healthy. The blog is also a recent development and contains a wider array of content that’s broken down into the same four categories as the email newsletters. To create a more seamless user experience, MyFitnessPal recently built its blog into its app.

However, MyFitnessPal wanted to ensure that the content that it was sending its subscribers was actually information that they wanted to receive. As a result, the brand conducted user surveys and interviews. This insight also helped MyFitnessPal identify what causes people to derail when it comes to diet and exercise.

The after picture

Over the past six months, MyFitnessPal has grown its email database from 15 million subscribers to 23 million. In addition, the company has reactivated 500,000 users weekly and seen a 10% increase in user engagement. As for its blog, MyFitnessPal currently has about four million monthly unique and 20 million monthly page views.

“A lot of it is about knowing who your users are and what kind of content they crave,” Nelson said.

MyFitnessPal is also committed to sticking to and enhancing its regimen. For instance, the brand is expanding its email program to other countries, including Germany and Brazil, and experimenting with dynamic and life event email content. The life event emails will use data to provide users with relevant content that reflects where they are in terms of health and nutrition in their personal lives. Knowing a mother-to-be’s due date, for instance, could help the brand send appropriate workouts throughout her pregnancy and nutritional ideas for after the baby is born.  

Looks like this healthy marketing strategy is well on its way.

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