American Gastroenterological Association


ICE Case Study

The AGA Puts its Newsletter on ICE

Every organization that attempts to communicate with a large constituency as often as the AGA does, needs to be doing what the AGA is doing with ICE

-Aaron White

Senior Director of Digital Communications Strategy

Founded in 1897, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) is the trusted voice of the GI community. The organization has 16,000 global members who are involved in all aspects of the science, practice and advancement of gastroenterology. To stay in touch with its members, and keep them informed, the AGA sends out about 2.9 million email messages a year.

Email is a key part of member communications. Several years ago, the AGA had a mass email system that was difficult to use, requiring a lot of IT assistance. The organization sends daily emails to members, and it maintains a centralized mailing schedule to ensure that any member subgroup is not receiving too much AGA email on one day. When the main AGA newsletter is sent, nothing else goes out that day because the newsletter goes to every member. Streamlining the email communications process would deliver significant benefits to the AGA.

The AGA needed an easier, smarter way to manage member email sends, one that allowed for message customization, the use of different templates, provided meaningful metrics and integrated fully with its AMS. These enhancements would allow the AGA to serve its members better while eliminating the need to constantly upload address files and manually run reports just to get basic metrics, like open rates.

It was, in fact, the need for better reporting that motivated the AGA to seek a better email solution, since the old system couldn’t provide the desired reports. The search for a better solution began by contacting the AGA’s AMS vendor, to ensure that only systems that integrated with the AMS were considered. HighRoad Solution provided this integration, and it also provided the ability to easily create custom templates. After viewing demonstrations and checking references, the AGA selected HighRoad, which it has been using successfully for several years.

Because it relies heavily on email to communicate with its members, the AGA is interested in finding ways to only send to members what is pertinent to them.
“One of my first projects for the AGA had to do with personalization,” said Aaron White, senior director of digital communications strategy for the AGA. “We were looking for ways to specialize better, narrowcast more. We’ve been sending the weekly enewsletter for 10 years, every Thursday, to every member, and every member got all the same content. So if you’re a member, for example, from Germany, you really don’t care about CMS rules for Medicare reimbursement – but you got that article because everyone has the same newsletter.”

The initial request for personalizing the newsletter, based on the known characteristics or demographics of the recipients, came from Aaron’s boss, who was the vice-president of communications. Aaron, however, had never heard of a system with such capabilities. Aaron recalls his internal reaction to his boss’ personalization request: “Me and Bigfoot will ride our unicorns over to find this magic newsletter for you; right after I finish parting the sea I’ll get on that for you.” Even though he wasn’t aware of a solution, Aaron recognized the value of personalization: “We got some member needs assessments over the years where members essentially said ‘stop telling us what you think we should see; let us tell you what we’re interested in.’”

When Aaron began searching for a way to personalize the AGA enewsletter content, he discovered Intelligent Contextual Email (ICE)TM from HighRoad, the email solution vendor the AGA was already using. ICE provides associations with a way to drive personalized emails that are unique to each recipient, while enabling associations to consolidate emails, decrease staff time and increase open rates while sending hyper-personalized, automated newsletters.

Aaron was pleased to find that someone had actually figured out how to do personalization, and that it was a solution from their current email vendor. The AGA began using ICE in January 2016. “We send so much out, it’s trying to find a way to send less but send more relevant information,” said White. “We have pretty high open rates on our emails. B2B emails in the medical field get single-digit open rates. We get 20 percent open rates on our email sends, but, we want to get better.”

Since the AGA put its enewsletter on ICE, the cumulative open rate is higher than the average open rate was in the old system. Introducing ICE has changed how the AGA provides content, because that content is delivered differently. The AGA is now writing content assuming a specialized audience is getting it, not every member. The content is being customized for delivery to a specific audience, and implementation of a preference center is underway to allow AGA members to indicate what kind of content they want to see.

The AGA is seeing better than average cumulative open rates since the introduction of ICE, and the expectation is that the delivery of more relevant content will lead to better member engagement. ICE is already delivering results for the AGA, and results are expected to improve as more members indicate their content preferences. ICE is helping the AGA deliver more value to its members through communications. “Every organization that attempts to communicate with a large constituency as often as the AGA does, needs to be doing what the AGA is doing with ICE,” White concluded.

Challenges

  • AGA’s eDigest had become a stale publication positioned as a members’ only benefit
  • Open rates were flat
  • PAC (Political Action Committee) members required a separate email which needed additional resources
  • AGA’s emails were very long as to include all content for everyone

Solution

  • Employ ICE to consolidate & better target content
  • Include PAC-member content automatically based on member types in the CRM system
  • Leverage the tagged content in the CMS to populate email

Dimensions that Drive AGA Email Content

  • Target content to PAC members
  • Target content based on a member’s preferences
  • Target content to specific audiences
  • Target content to everyone

AGA eDigest (Before)

before.jpg

AGA eDigest (Now)

after.jpg

Results

  • Increased engagement
  • Higher open rates
  • Move towards read vs. skim consumption behavior
  • 25+ hours per week in saved staff time in manual email creation