Say "Publishers Clearing House" and most Americans probably immediately think of blue vans, giant checks, and screaming winners from the near-ubiquitous "Prize Patrol" PCH Sweepstakes ads of the 1980s and 1990s. The company has been around since 1953, when it began as a discount bundler of magazine subscriptions. Since then, it has expanded into merchandise, Web-based and mobile portals, a search engine, and, more recently, game development. In 2010, Publishers Clearing House saw about $700 million in revenue. The company wanted to expand that and its customer base dramatically.
PCH approached eWayDirect, a customer acquisition and engagement firm, to help meet its targets. PCH was particularly interested in CertainSource, eWay's multichannel acquisition solution.
As one might expect, PCH has a large existing database of names to market to. "Massive," says Christopher Dailey, eWayDirect chief operating officer.
Massive was not enough. PCH had set a number of aggressive growth goals, among which was adding a significant number of names to its list, enough to make a substantial financial impact. This would be a feat given the starting size of the database. When it began this push, PCH was leveraging many avenues of outreach; it was running television ads as well as using direct mail and paid search. One of the only things it wasn't doing was coregistration. It had tried it in the past but swore off it after less-than-optimal experiences.
Coregistration is a practice in which one company agrees to register leads for another through its portal for a fee. Think of those little check boxes you see at the end of a registration on a Web site that asks if you want to receive emails from third-party vendors. That's usually how it's manifested.
"It tends to be associated with a lot of risk [though]," Dailey points out.
Sometimes the names gathered turn out to be false leads, like fake email addresses, or the customers don't realize what they're opting into and end up resenting the company that begins to email them, damaging the brand's reputation and wasting resources.
"When you look at performance and...customers and what you paid, it doesn't tend to work for a lot of markets," Dailey says. "But it's something that has the potential of filling the need of growing a database."
Given that PCH had already tapped many existing channels, eWay realized it would have to convince the company to return to coregistration if it was going to meet its difficult goals. It would have to prove it could effectively screen out the associated risk and deliver results at the "aggressive" cost-per-action price that PCH had set. EWay turned to its central business proposition in its sale: its customer and source qualification process.
"When we start with any client, we are always looking at the source level—the dot.com level," Dailey says. In other words, where the registration is coming from. EWay spends a great deal of time qualifying and monitoring these sources.
Next, eWay takes steps to assure that the registration is following best practices, chief among them a true freewill opt-in. This means making sure that people understand right from the beginning that they are raising their hand to speak to the vendor in question, like PCH, rather than being opted in surreptitiously or without full knowing consent. (Some channels may do this to boost their figures.) From here, each email is further targeted to convert the contact into a customer.
Rates of conversion from interested party to engaged lead are closely followed and measured by metrics such as whether emails are opened and whether follow-ups are pursued. Based on these, eWay begins making determinations about turning off sources. If, for instance, 50 percent of opt-ins convert from one source but only 25 percent from another are proving to be engaged and qualified, it might shut off the second source to maximize resources.
"We're also further looking at individual leads and crafting the campaign to make sure the emails are working in a series to effectively qualify and lead to conversion," Dailey insists. "We squeeze every drop out of every person who is truly qualified and interested...[to] drive every possible conversion we can get."
The process seems to have worked for PCH. In a press release, Sal Tripi, assistant vice president of digital operations and compliance for PCH, says, "CertainSource has opened a whole new acquisition channel that has exceeded our expectations, delivering highly qualified customers who are already engaged with our brand."
After implementing CertainSource, eWay's multichannel acquisition solution, PCH has:
- increased its acquisition per month tenfold within four months;
- hit its target acquisition numbers within 90 days; and
- delivered results while minimizing brand risk.