For the ancient Greeks, the center of social activity was the Agora, a lively marketplace where people came not only to buy and sell goods, but also to meet to exchange news and ideas. That same philosophy is what drives Agora Inc. today, a holding company for various publishers of financial, health, travel and special interest books and newsletters. But news and ideas by themselves don’t make a business. You’ve got to monetize this content – and Agora does this by sending out thirteen and a half million messages every day!
Daryl Berver, VP of Operations and Getty Sarno, VP of Enterprise Applications began their session during the Best Practices track at Interact 2013 with the following statement that encapsulated their business focus on relationships with customers: The goal of direct response is to deliver the right message at the right time to the right people.
Agora is supported by subscribers rather than advertisers and has built a strong relationship with their subscribers. Back in the day, Agora did not even have a website (although they do have one now!) . The underlying logic behind this decision was summed up in one question: How do you have a relationship with someone that goes to a website?
To Agora, the value of email lay in the fact that it was similar to 1-to-1 interaction and it allowed more frequent communication. When they launched a newsletter, they explained to subscribers why they were receiving a newsletter to define the business-customer relationship.
With this heavy focus on email as a primary touchpoint with their customers, Agora quickly outpaced their systems – and that’s when they found Message Systems. Before this discovery, Agora had one system in place for international messaging and another for the US – this proved to be a nightmare.
Agora needed a scalable multinational system that could quickly manage time-dependent data. They looked at different third party options, and liked the ability to control the look and feel of messages in Message Central so they would be able to better “speak” to customers. Agora pushed information into Message Central to better target subscribers, working with Message Systems to create a custom query builder. While the level of targeting subscribers became more and more complex, it was almost real time in Message Central. Message Central was also easy to use, even non-technical people could use the platform.
We’ve done a pretty good job with email marketing… but what we’re starting to find is customers are moving towards mobile
Increasingly Agora sees more and more people opening emails on their mobile devices and recognizes the need to provide readers with their preferred channels of communication. Looking to the future, Agora has been considering integrating push and social capabilities into their messaging. From a technology perspective, Agora requires flexibility with their messaging platform so as not to stifle marketers – Message Systems provided Agora the ability to segment and customize emails. The key to their success however, remains the focus on that relationship with the customer and the need to constantly re-engage them. When it comes to mailings, the secret, in Getty Sarno’s words, is to
Watch it, test it, fine tune it.