As part of ION’s brand refresh a new design for email marketing had to be produced, which could run on the new platform, StudentCRM. The design was to be "coded" rather than rely on drag-and-drop and standard layout templates (a la MailChimp).
The task and my contribution
Following the ION brand refresh and changing of various marketing platforms, new email designs had to be constructed. My role was to lead the design, coding, and implantation of these various emails.
The project was represented across the organisation, with key personnel involved being:
Phase 1 – Reason for change
Prior to its brand refresh ION was using MailChimp as its email marketing platform and the open-source software CIVI as its CRM. During the refresh ION was scheduled to change its CRM system to StudentCRM, which was more heavily geared towards tracking and analytics in an education setting.
ION identified three issues with the current setup. The first being cost, the second being the lack of integration between the two platforms, and the third being a lack of student/customer marketing activity logs on StudentCRM if they stayed with MailChimp.
For this reason it was decided all email marketing would be done through StudentCRM. This new platform used an HTML editor, that required code to be written, rather than MailChimp’s drag and drop offering.
Phase 2 – Planning, research, and feedback
Due to this sub-project being part of ION’s brand refresh, the customer research, persona creation, etc had already been completed. Most of the research was done to gain feedback on the current email design, marketing capabilities of StudentCRM, and staff competency survey for HTML editing.
A survey was sent to the 28,000 strong mailing list to understand their issues, and popular replies were:
Difficult to understand which department has sent the email
Inconsistency between images
Not conversational in tone
Different sections of the email not being clear
Hyperlinks difficult to make out
Similar to the brand refresh it was decided each department would use their own colours in emails. These colours would affect header backgrounds, text colour accents, and certain image elements.
The overall look of the email would however be consistent across all departments. This included:
Section backgrounds to start at RGB 250,250,250 and keep decreasing by a value of five. For example, next section to be 245,245,245
Typefaces used to be Times New Roman and Arial
Hyperlinks to be in accent colour
Buttons to be a thick stroked rectangle (in accent colour), with no fill
Button text to be short and concise
Most imagery to be stock imagery with minimal flair
Changing of ‘subject line’ sentence structure
Email tone to be more first person and friendlier in tone. For example using first name tag in subject line
We then broke down the emails into various templates:
CPD course marketing
Important information (e.g. alumni graduation dates, office closures, etc)
Phase 3 – Design
With the above rules in place the code had to be produced for these templates. To help speed up the process the emails were based on free responsive templates produced by Litmus.
I modified the code using Dreamweaver to bring it into the ION brand style. I then produced all the templates for staff members to use, which they can modify if wanted:
As a backup I also produced a simple Word form that collates content to be turned into code:
The redesign proved popular with fewer unsubscribes and greater interaction. Anecdotally it helped play a part in most courses and offerings being oversubscribed and requiring the setup of waiting lists.
Analysis of the numbers backed this and showcased an upward trend from the day the first email was sent out on 16th February 2019, with results being significantly improved.
To begin with, most probably due to the COVID19 pandemic, the numbers/conversion rates are 10.18x greater than before, before they eventually come down and settle. Current numbers show a 3.3x greater open rate and a 6.2x greater click rate compared to the old platform.