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Email Marketing


Growing Zumba Fitness Through Optimization and Personalization

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Email Marketing


Growing Zumba Fitness Through Optimization and Personalization

 How Zumba Fitness Tripled Open Rates and Increased Holiday Sales by 400%

Zumba Fitness is the dance workout craze that swept across the nation back in the early 2010’s. I was one of the earliest additions to their ever-expanding Digital Marketing team in Miami. When I was brought on board the role of my position was to transition their simplistic email system that did nothing but blast newsletters and advertisements at members into an engaging powerhouse that brought the brand to the next level. Pretty big goals, but with some great team work and late nights we pulled it off.

Apparently Ice Ice Baby doesn’t translate.

Apparently Ice Ice Baby doesn’t translate.

Challenge: Disconnected Membership and Low Sales Numbers

Back before Zumba Fitness was a household name the brand worked tirelessly to maintain their identity and to grow as fast as possible into the global sensation it eventually became. But, to get there the tools needed to be expanded and improved upon while teams were built. When I was handed the keys to the digital kingdom (a.k.a. their email and website backends) the company was using tools that were just a smidgen better than the freemium offers of today. And, at the time, everything had to be coded by hand. So the operating hypothesis was that through gathering up all that low hanging fruit and then moving on to greater optimization of tools and tactics, growth and profits would follow - which they did.

Campaign: To Revolutionize the Brand through Optimization and Personalization

The initial email platform Zumba Fitness was using, which I will not name here, was garbage. To send an email, we had to write a strip of SQL code to the database to kick out lists, then code each email from scratch. The idea of a personalization string wasn’t even in the picture and the other options were limited at best. We evaluated pretty much every email system out there from Silverpop to StrongView and after weighing all of the options, we settled on StrongView - StrongMail back then. With hearty tools, we started the transition towards success.

Step One: Transition to an Enterprise Email Platform

There are a lot of moving parts to Zumba Fitness. There are fans, people enjoying the classes, and instructors. Each level of individual interacts with the company in many different ways and to be truly successful a lot of it needed to be automated. I built out an automated CRM system of more than 33 different messages that were triggered based on user behavior that varied from signing up for certain events, purchasing merchandise, membership renewals, and many many more. All of this was built into the new StrongMail platform.

Step Two: Personalize Content

Zumba Fitness is first and foremost a local phenomenon. Individuals take classes and love their instructors. But Glocal, Globally Local, is a better way to describe it. Zumba Fitness has a footprint in more than 100 countries and the marketing materials and, well everything, goes out in 13 different languages to ensure a proper inclusive experience. That means personalization is bigger than just the individuals name. We personalized based on location, language, Zumba Fitness Styles, and even created VIP segments for big spenders. This was able to be really well done because of all the time we spent cleaning up the data sets we began from.

Step Three: Get Clever

To take a program to the next level you first have to clean up all the low hanging fruit of optimization, then you can start doing exciting things like A/B testing, deep segmenting, and creative campaigns. The creative campaigns started slowly with Flash Sales that lasted no more than four hours, creating a sense of urgency and definite FOMO loss for email subscribers which taught an important lesson to die hard fans who wanted discounts - read your messages. Then we started making personalized videos and gifs that blew people’s minds. It’s one thing to see, DEAR SO AND SO, but when you see your own name mid-video, it keeps you engaged. That, combined with our drip and automated campaigns made a huge difference.

Results:

In less than a year we turned a nascent email marketing program into the shining star of marketing performance. From the Holiday Season pre-transition to post-transition sales increased by 400% and open rates tripled. Most email programs get bogged down in struggling to get best practices right, but the truth is, you have to nail those down fast so you can move on to testing innovative ideas that will open doors to larger ROIs.

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Social Media


How Social Media Brought Machinima Back From the Dead

Social Media


How Social Media Brought Machinima Back From the Dead

How Machinima Turned One Million Followers into Three Million in One Year

At one point Machinima was a global powerhouse of fandom. The company housed some of the leading names in YouTube gaming and it’s Multi-Channel Network represented the world’s top tier gamers. Then through a half-decade of mismanagement and industry issues the powerhouse became an outhouse that would occasionally push out some greatness. The one shining star for Machinima was the dedicated staff that did their best, no matter how far off the rails management took the train in search of quick profit.

Challenge: Machinima’s once industry-leading social media presence was now a sleeping dragon that needed to wake up

For more than a decade Machinima had been grinding away, producing excellent content and keeping fans and subscribers stoked on everything they did from Inside Gaming to ETC to Realm and all kinds of other shows produced daily from the West Hollywood office all while maintaining one of the largest MCNs. But, branding deals were dwindling and creators were fleeing the MCN, so the Machinima brand needed a shot in the arm to interest potential investors and ad buyers.

Campaign: Turn the roughly one million tuned-out, but still subscribed, social media fans into active participants with the companies new direction

You can’t sell ads without people to watch them and click on them. Machinima had the numbers, millions of YouTube subscribers, a million followers on Twitter, and so on and so on. Eyeballs were there, but the engagement rate was under 0.5% and the social media outreach was falling on deaf ears and advertisers were noticing. So, I took over the social media team which was one person not posting much and turned it into the industry standard for gaming fandom.

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Step One: Out with the old, in with the new

Machinima was suffering from the industry-wide malaise that was becoming standard among MCNs. Customer service with partners was frustrating and complicated and putting anything out on social media or email immediately resulted in a flood of negative responses. So, we flipped the script and did something different. We pushed all responses to a separate customer service handle and refocused the entire purpose of the - until that moment - rather vague footprint of Machinima’s social media. Instead of being a repository for other creator’s work, we did something we should’ve been doing all along - we began creating our own content. Shocking, right?

Step Two: Bring in the right team

We knew we needed a crack squad, so we laid out what we were looking for. We needed a video editor, a graphic designer, and someone who was an amazing comedy writer. We searched the LA talent pool and assembled a team of four social media gurus who were multi-talented and we created our own writer’s room for Machinima. I applied the scrum mentality to the team and each morning we would meet and review what was happening in the world of gaming and after each morning meeting we had more content ideas than we knew what to do with, and within an hour, our social media profiles were spilling over with content. I focused the creative, chaotic energy of the team and spent my time worrying about if it was brand safe and easy to sell.

Step Three: Turn it to 11

It started as funny, original content focused on making fun of and appreciating gaming culture and with encouragement quickly grew from there. We went from one post a day to posting hourly. After the first week we began live streaming for one hour each day. We would play current and retro games and answer questions from fans who started showing up again to engage with the fresh new faces of Machinima. Then, we started podcasting and bringing in guests. At this point the social media platforms were knocking on our door asking us to be beta-testers for their new live streaming products - and we jumped right in and worked tirelessly to engage our fans where they lived, online. We analyzed each platform and it’s strengths and utilized the emerging algorithms to our advantage, driving fans back and forth. Within six months we added more than a million followers to our main Machinima twitter account.

Results: An unprecedented turnaround

 When I took over Machinima’s main twitter account it was hovering around one million followers. In one year my team grew the account to more than three million actively engaged followers. Our engagement rate went from 0.005% to 4.7% - 1% is considered average, 4% is considered amazing. What we did was considered groundbreaking. This constant, reawakened engagement flooded over to every aspect of the company. It was easy to sell brand integrations when we had actual, true numbers to show the brands. And, one of the most important things was that brands stopped asking to work with YouTubers we represented and started wanting to work with us directly. This removed a lot of complications around working with influencers because now we owned the keys to the kingdom and were able to work directly with brands without worrying about whether or not someone would remember to post something.

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Copy writing


How to Keep Members Engaged When the Content is Complex

Copy writing


How to Keep Members Engaged When the Content is Complex

How to Translate Complex Information into Engagement and Donations

In 2018 I was invited to join the National MPS Society team in Raleigh, NC to help with communications, member acquisition, and marketing. The Society represents families affected by a rare genetic disorder called Mucopolysaccharidosis that is an all-encompassing, life-limiting disease that affects every part of the individuals body. So, the science around it is very complex genetic and systemic research that is most commonly presented at symposiums where researchers lay out their findings with some very heavy medical terminology that flies above the comprehension level of the average post-doctoral student, let alone the average parent just trying to do their best.

Challenge: The information presented to members is complex and difficult to digest

My first real interaction with the complex science around MPS was at their International Symposium in San Diego where I sat in on several presentations by leading researchers in the field and was hit with a wall of information that was almost impenetrable. They spoke about myelin sheath staining and animal research that was simply above my head, and looking around at the crowd I noticed two types of people there: scientists and families affected by MPS. The latter were learning out of necessity and didn’t have a lot of help.

Campaign: Create an information flow of digital newsletters, online news posts, and quarterly magazines that present the information in an easily accessible way

Throughout the Society’s 45-year history there were various iterations of communications pieces ranging from fliers to paper newsletters to direct mail campaigns. Most were not visually appealing and were written from the point of view of researchers and scientists which left families scratching their heads and unsure about the information being released. The Society was amazing at one-on-one outreach and dealing directly with scientists, but the communication and marketing pieces that left the office needed some help.

Step One: Upgrade all Communications Pieces

Throughout the Society’s 45-year history there were various iterations of communications pieces ranging from fliers to paper newsletters to direct mail campaigns. Most were not visually appealing and were written from the point of view of researchers and scientists which left families scratching their heads and unsure about the information being released. They were mostly folded black and white paper newsletters with long, inaccessible paragraphs. So, I started with all print material that leaves the office. Because I was at the International Symposium with my camera, I was able to gather a years worth of photo content in a few days. From there, I began rewriting and repackaging the former print newsletters into high quality glossy magazines with sections and pieces that were able to bring home the impact of the information in new ways. I also increased the email newsletter to a monthly feature to stay top of mind with members, instead of sending it every few months.

Step Two: Present information in ways members want to see it

When I arrived at the Society, they had decided to do away with print materials in lieu of presenting information in a digital format. Many members did not approve of this and after several years of absence, I brought back the newsletter as a high gloss, full bleed 64-page magazine that was sent twice a year and created a keepsake for members where they could view their own stories side-by-side with stories of scientific breakthroughs and desperately needed information. The magazine was a massive success with industry partners and members, and was implemented as a permanent change.

Step Three: Engage members with new tactics

A challenge at the Society is that we represented 11 different syndrome types, and each of those sub-types were populated with many engaged families and individuals that faced their own challenges and realities and wanted the Society to focus on those above others. But, the beauty of the Society is that they were all approached as equal. So, building on this I developed a plan to introduce, educate, and engage the general public with each syndrome. Each month, one syndrome was chosen and families affected by it were introduced, the leading science around the type was discussed, and individuals were prompted to share their own stories. This drove engagement and donations on every level.

Results: Record levels of donations

By taking complex information and presenting it in approachable ways such as social media campaigns and glossy magazines, members become more engaged and active in the community. This drives online, and in person, participation as well as donations. In 2018 the Society was able to donate a record breaking amount of money to research while raising an unprecedented amount of money in entirely new channels.