Focal Points: Marketing Execs Share Their Top Priorities for 2017
Tech, data, and flexibility remain front and center when it comes to growing and monetizing audiences.
Chief Marketing Officer, Society for Science & the Public
Folio: What’s your main area of focus for the new year?
Kathlene Collins: Science News is the magazine of a larger nonprofit called the Society for Science & the Public. A couple of years ago, in an attempt to stanch rapidly declining subscription sales, the Society decided to shift from a straight magazine sales approach to a “membership” model, presenting Science News as a benefit of joining the Society.
The strategy was never fully fleshed out and except for some language changes in the direct mail campaigns, not much really changed. But over the course of 2016, we’ve done a fair bit of research and will be rolling out a series of test campaigns to gauge which messaging will best capture not just the potential readers of science news, but supporters of the Society’s overall mission. We’re targeting significant audience growth for our free offerings (public science literacy is a key component of our mission), but more importantly seeking to convert a much greater percentage of that audience to financial supporters (whether as subscribers or donors).
Folio: What will you be doing tactically to achieve that growth?
Collins: We’re shifting our marketing spend from expensive direct mail almost entirely to web-based channels for most of 2017. We’ll be focusing on acquiring contact information via free e-mail newsletters (we’ve already grown our e-mail lists from about 40,000 in November 2015 to more than 75,000 today), using our growing social media channels, and completely overhauling our website to create a genuine conversion funnel (something the organization has never done before).
Folio: Which channel is your most important, both as a source of revenue and for its value in supporting your marketing efforts?
Collins: At the moment, our website is our most valuable marketing channel. We log about 1.3 million visits a month and at the moment a few hundred of those result in transactions (gifts or subscriptions). We’re working very methodically to add the CTA’s, data capture, messaging, and marketing automation necessary to double our transactions by the end of 2017.
Folio: How much does technology play a role in your marketing? Will you be further investing in technology to support your marketing in 2017?
Collins: Quite a bit, though honestly, it’s the humans we’ve hired to run the tech that’ll really make the difference. But we’ve invested in Salesforce Marketing Cloud to develop much more attractive e-mail options for users and to run welcome/drip campaigns for those who opt in. And we’re investing in an extensive overhaul of our websites (not just the Science News site, but the Society’s site as well).
Folio: Are you engaged with marketing automation or account-based marketing?
Collins: As mentioned above, we’re ramping up Marketing Cloud to push our conversion rates up to a more rational number. We’re also developing a more sophisticated ad sales strategy, though I’m not looking to advertising to create game-changing revenue near term.
Folio: How will data affect your marketing operations in 2017?
Collins: Well, until very recently, data wasn’t informing our decision making much, but we’re working to change that with a radically improved analytics regime, marketing automation to allow us to target messages to the several constituencies (teachers, scientists, parents, general science lovers) who are likely to respond to different aspects of what the organization does, and insight into who in our fairly large contact list is actually engaging with us in a real way.