How A/B testing helped CoSchedule grow by 2,800%

Libby Margo in Autopilot software on 21 st of Feb 2019
ab testing marketing

A/B testing marketing

CoSchedule is a leading marketing work management platform for thousands of marketing teams around the world. Think of it as your mission control for marketing and a tool for content planning, project management and social media all in one place.

In five years, CoSchedule has grown exponentially, with over 8,000 customers in more than 100 countries around the world. In 2018, they revealed a 2,800% growth and ranked in the top 200 fastest expanding businesses in the US. But like every other startup, CoSchedule began with no customers, no email list and no traffic. So what’s the secret to their success? CoSchedule’s Head of Marketing Nathan Ellering tells us it’s all about building customer value before you make a sale.

From zero to a half a million email subscribers

Nathan believes that building relationships with your customers and with your marketing tools is key. It may sound funny when talking about a relationship with marketing automation software like Autopilot, but it's not. The more you understand the power of automation and AI, the closer you connect with your customers before a single sale is made.

Marketing automation is the next step in the evolution of all SaaS companies. Nathan remembers that his team hit a point where they had to embrace automation for fear of being stuck in a marketing dinosaur era.

“[Marketing automation software] is so powerful, and in the beginning, we went through a huge learning curve. But as we learn, so does our audience, and Autopilot helps us deliver content on a silver platter.”

With Autopilot’s Annotate and Collaborate feature, Nathan can easily onboard people into marketing automation and shorten their learning curve. He can watch his team create and test a journey without the fear of hitting the publish button and sending contacts down the wrong path.

“Annotate and Collaborate helps my team work on the same journey. I can see where everybody's cursors are moving and nobody's doing something that's invisible to somebody else,” explains Nathan.

“You can leave notes and comments, and you can park a thought right there. I can lower anxiety levels by teaching people how to run the automation beast much more quickly.”

With the data and customer insights that marketing automation provides, teams can quickly discover what element of their customer journey is working and what needs improving. Nathan reveals that with the help of Autopilot, his team determined that the most important emails are the first four.

“80% of our conversion activity happens in those first four emails, and 20% happens after. If you look at where to put your time and investment, those first four emails are super important. I encourage people not to start with a giant 48 email sequence. If you don't get them in the first four emails, you’re doing something wrong.”

Building customer value

Direct, relevant and personalized communication with your customers is essential for every SaaS business. According to Experian Marketing Services, personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates than non-personalized emails. Furthermore, relevant emails drive 18 times more revenue than a broadcast email.

Email marketing is still a core function of customer communication. For every dollar CoSchedule assigns to their email marketing strategy, they receive $3 back. An email list gives every marketer the opportunity to grow a business and nurture the relationship they have with their customers. Building an email list from scratch is no easy feat, and marketers need to find the email opt-in sweet spot if they ever hope to grow.

With traditional email service providers like MailChimp, marketers reach a point where they have too many contacts and struggle to segment them into the right categories intuitively. Before marketing automation, Nathan was creating a strategy around guesswork and assumptions. “I was asking myself: ‘did they click our CTA, did this person actually visit our landing page, have they viewed our pricing page, are they reading our customer stories?’ There were all these things I didn't know because I didn’t have a mechanism to listen and react.”

With Autopilot, Nathan reveals that CoSchedule now has a large volume of people (close to half a million) that they can talk to on a contextually relevant level. “To me, the beautiful part of automation is that I can talk to people in the most helpful and the most profitable way to our company.”

To help other marketers nurture contacts into customers, CoSchedule has shared one of their most valuable journeys. The below WordPress User Nurture Journey is one example of how CoSchedule nurtures contacts who should be interested in integrating tools they love with CoSchedule.

The customer journey

Nathan explains that CoSchedule uses their website as one of their main contact capture points. An anonymous visitor becomes a lead as they interact with the website and sign up to the weekly email newsletters. When CoSchedule knows those leads use a software that integrates with CoSchedule, (such as WordPress, HubSpot, Campaign Monitor, etc.), those leads are automatically triggered into contextually relevant journeys like the example WordPress User Nurture Journey.

Within each thread, leads are sent the emails; those identified as WordPress users will even see a Headsup message appear on their screen when visiting specific CoSchedule pages. Nathan admits that A/B testing subject lines, copy, delivery time and plain text versus designed email templates are critical to crafting the perfect email and improving open rates. “Every journey we create has some sort of A/B testing that we track. For example, we discovered that plain text outperforms designed emails on CTRs by 37% except in customer stories and feature announcements. This is why split tests are so important — what works in one context doesn’t mean it will work elsewhere!”

Through A/B testing subject lines, CoSchedule has crafted an email with an open rate of 82%. Nathan says it’s the best email subject line he’s ever written and he didn’t even write it. “I just copy pasted what someone said to us on Twitter. When you go through A/B testing that's the kind of stuff you figure out. The power of automation is that it doesn't happen one time, it happens 100 times a day. So, you can't afford not to track and test everything you do.”

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