For over 30 years, LEGO® Education has been working with teachers and educational specialists to provide solutions and resources that bring subjects to life in the classroom – and make learning fun. Brandee Johnson, Senior Marketing Manager at LEGO Education North America, recently had a conversation with Leo Merle, Marketing Programs Manager at Act-On Software, to talk about how LEGO Education has been using Act-On solutions to improve their productivity and boost the effectiveness of their campaigns. Read on to learn how all the pieces fit together as the LEGO Education team went through the process of finding and adopting a technology solution for their unique needs.
LEO: Tell me why you decided to implement marketing automation. What specific issues needed to be addressed?
BRANDEE: About three years ago, LEGO Education was using a marketing tool that allowed us to do basic email marketing. It was designed for smaller companies just getting started, and it served its purpose for a period of time. But we were growing, and we wanted to do more scalable campaigns. We didn’t have the capacity to manually execute all of the email marketing that we wanted to accomplish.
We also needed a better way of handling and managing our marketing lists. I started looking at marketing automation programs and doing research to gain a better understanding of what they had to offer. And really, I felt that some of those issues that we were facing could be solved by a marketing automation program.
LEO: What were the criteria you used to evaluate systems?
BRANDEE: As I began looking into different marketing automation programs, I wanted to make sure that I was purchasing a tool that would meet the requirements of our business to give us the functionality and flexibility that we were looking for. That included automated emails, reporting on email results, and list management that was easy to use. As I started learning more about marketing automation programs, I also realized that lead scoring was a gap that I really hadn’t pinpointed, so I started to look for a tool that had lead scoring. So, functionality was definitely one of the criteria.
A second criterion was ease of use. At the time, our group was smaller than it is today, and there are a lot of programs out there with a ton of bells and whistles that might require a small team just to get up and running. I needed something that had a low floor and a high ceiling. Something that was easy to get started with that didn’t require two or three full-time employees to manage it. But it also had to have scalability that could grow with us as we grew, or that we could grow into. So I looked for a tool that was easy to use, easy to get started with, but also had a lot of functionality that we could use as we expanded and grew in the future.
And a third criterion, of course, was pricing. Finding a solution that had the functionality that we were looking for, the ease of use and scalability, and also the right price to fit into my budget was important.
LEO: What were your most critical or most stubborn marketing challenges prior to implementing? After implementation, did marketing automation address those challenges?
BRANDEE: Prior to implementing marketing automation, we lacked visibility; we never really knew how our touch points were driving leads down our buyer’s funnel into our marketing funnel – what was effectively moving them, and which ones were staying stagnant. It was like a black hole for us.
Another challenge was that we didn’t have a way to direct our customer’s journey based on the behaviors they demonstrated, or the relationship they had with us. You could say we were treating all of our targets as if they were the same person. We lacked personalization and we lacked customized paths that allowed us to watch behavior and then send targets down a path that delivered the right message at the right time based on their demonstrated interests.
Marketing automation really helped us to solve these challenges. By implementing Act-On Software, and having the lead scoring component as well as the automation component, we were able to gain visibility into where our leads are in our funnel. And not only can we now see where they’re at and how they’re progressing, we can drill in and point out what’s working and what’s not. So we can invest more of our budget in areas that are working and effectively move leads through the funnel. We can also pinpoint things that are not working as effectively and analyze those to determine if we need to modify them, or maybe stop doing them.
Marketing automation also allowed us to address the problem of not being able to direct the customer’s journey through their interactions with LEGO Education. With Act-On, we’re able to do a variety of different things that really allow us to speak to our customer or to the target audience in a very personalized and customized way.
At this time we’re running multiple campaigns. Some are trigger campaigns, some are drip campaigns, and some are a combination of both. They allow us to make sure that we’re sending the appropriate message to our customers based on their interactions with us. Have they opened our emails? Have they visited our web pages? What forms are they downloading? All of those activities and behaviors give us feedback as to what they’re interested in, and we can then follow up with additional touch points that are really customized to that individual target’s need. No longer is every person being treated the same – each person has their own customized journey.
LEO: Since adoption, what has changed for your company?
BRANDEE: Our company hasn’t yet implemented a full CRM that’s integrated with Act-On, so I’m very excited that we’re going to be doing that in the upcoming year. That’s going to give us more exposure to some of the ROI that we may not be able to fully see yet.
Since we’ve implemented Act-On, we’ve realized some very substantial changes within our marketing. I can say they’ve probably been the single biggest driver of some pretty significant changes that we started introducing in North America. About a year later, we’ve since chosen to implement them globally because they’re working so well.
Some of the tangible things that we’ve noticed are that we can achieve much greater reach – and a more personalized reach. So, prior to having marketing automation, we might have tried one or two campaigns a year. This year, we are running 14 different campaigns, and next year we will be running a similar number and maybe a few more. Our campaigns are better – they’re more customized to the individual target. Maybe that’s based on their title, or on the activity that they have demonstrated with us. It may be based on web pages that they visited. Often times it’s a combination of all of those things.
We’re getting more leads and we’re able to nurture those leads in a better and faster way, which then shortens the sales cycle. We’re able to hand over hot leads to our sales team to generate sales more quickly. And just the sheer visibility into the results of our marketing efforts has really helped us hone in on what’s working and what’s not.
LEO: Can you attribute ROI to the system? If so, what results have you experienced.
BRANDEE: We’ve significantly increased our ability to reach more targets and to move them through the buyer’s cycle faster. We also nurture leads, and the leads we turn over to our sales force are ready to purchase and ready to talk to a sales representative. And so this has really optimized use of our sales force. Rather than calling on cold leads, they’re getting a plethora of warm, nurtured leads from the marketing team.
LEO: Do you have advice for other marketing professionals evaluating marketing automation platforms?
BRANDEE: My advice to other marketers who are considering marketing automation is to first take time to understand and identify what your needs are, the problems you’re trying to solve, and to document those. Get a firm understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish. Based on that, then I would suggest that you look for a solution that addresses those needs.
Some of these tools require large teams to implement, while others can be implemented with one person, maybe not even a full-time individual. It’s a capacity thing to consider, making sure that you have the resources to put behind the tool. Just to understand the tool and understand all that it can do for you and then kind of parlay that back onto your marketing activities and think, “Okay. What can we do differently? How can we utilize this tool to really help us grow?”
I also strongly suggest reaching out to peers in your industry or in marketing who have implemented these programs. Getting feedback and advice from them as I was going through the process was really helpful for me.
Read the case study to learn more about the many ways LEGO Education North America has continued to build on the success of their automated marketing campaigns.