industry: Financial Services
Use Case: Customer Communications and Content Marketing

AEF Uses Act-On to Execute Modern Content Marketing Strategies At Scale

Small but nimble team achieves major success with purposeful tactics and a holistic strategy

Company:AEF Customer Spotlight Webinar
Customer:

American Endowment Foundation

Eric Kinaitis, VP of Marketing

Success By the Numbers

30
%

Open rates using Adaptive Send.

100
%

Increase in lead engagement by using advanced segmentation.

Realized Business Value

  • Optimal business growth resulting from modern content marketing at scale
  • Driving improved brand loyalty
  • Delivering actionable customer communications

Pain Points

  • Brand awareness and lead generation in a crowded market
  • Engaging with the right targets across digital marketing channels
  • Establishing AEF as a trusted thought leader
  • Measuring and reporting on key metrics
American Endowment Foundation

American Endowment Foundation (AEF) is the United States’ largest independent donor-advised fund. Founded in 1993 and based in Hudson, Ohio, AEF helps donors administer funds and assets to the charitable organizations and endeavors of their choosing.

Executive Summary

American Endowment Foundation(AEF) is leveraging Act-On to create and elevate a holistic content marketing strategy at scale that fuels their entire multi-channel approach. Using Act-On, they are able to deliver highly relevant messaging and content to interested parties based on their demographics, engagement rates, and online behavior. These coordinated efforts continue to increase brand awareness and generate hundreds of quality leads for the organization each month. And by tracking, measuring, and analyzing their progress, AEF is able to continually improve in real-time and provide accurate and actionable reporting to key stakeholders. As a result, the annual funds continue to grow by double-digits.

Challenge

Historically, AEF has been heavily focused on using direct sales tactics to banks, individual financial advisors, and financial custodians at investment firms like T.D. Ameritrade. However, as more consumers conduct financial research online, AEF recognized the need to shift how they market and engage with prospects and customers. The challenge was getting AEF’s thought leadership material in front of the right people at the right time across the full spectrum of digital marketing channels.

Act-On provides us with both the creative and analytics arms to accomplish our customer communications effectively and efficiently in one comprehensive and reliable platform.

Eric Kinaitis, VP of Marketing and communications (American endowment foundation)

Approach

American Endowment Foundation(AEF) is leveraging Act-On to create and elevate a holistic content marketing strategy at scale that fuels their entire multi-channel approach. Using Act-On, they are able to deliver highly relevant messaging and content to interested parties based on their demographics, engagement rates, and online behavior. These coordinated efforts continue to increase brand awareness and generate hundreds of quality leads for the organization each month. And by tracking, measuring, and analyzing their progress, AEF is able to continually improve in real-time and provide accurate and actionable reporting to key stakeholders. As a result, the annual funds continue to grow by double-digits.

According to Eric, the end goal was (and remains) to create smarter investors. “We use our content marketing  to prove our expertise to our customers and ensure they’re equipped to make educated decisions.” 

And every one of these weekly thought leadership assets is built in, delivered by, and measured with Act-On.

Increased Readership 2X With Gated Forms 

Good marketers understand that the key to customer engagement is having a wide reach and then delivering helpful and relevant messaging to a multitude of personas and segments. AEF achieves this by: 

  1. Creating compelling and informative thought leadership content
  2. Gating this content on high-performing and relevant webpages
  3. Nurturing newly identified prospects and segmenting them according to their online behavior and demographics
  4. Tailoring messaging to fit unique segments for better engagement across the spectrum of their client base

Placing gated assets on high-traffic pages presents the perfect opportunity for AEF to collect valuable lead data. This data flows into their CRM (Salesforce) and allows their development team to build and strengthen ongoing relationships with these prospects.

American Endowment Foundation can then track online behavior and user engagement with in-depth reporting dashboards in Act-On’s Data Studio module. This helps the AEF team better understand who is visiting their website and interacting with their outreach programs. Not just a number, either — but their actual email addresses and additional demographic information.

Said Eric, “Act-On provides us with both the creative and analytics arms to accomplish our customer communications effectively and efficiently in one comprehensive and reliable platform.

Turning Anonymous Visitors Into Known Prospects

By using Act-On’s Website Prospector tool as an opportunity to better understand and eventually segment their leads, AEF identifies anonymous visitors and turns them into known leads. As these leads engage with different high value pages on American Endowment Foundation’s website, Eric and his team can leverage those pages as prime real estate for gated content. 

For example, if AEF notices a sharp increase in visitors to particular pages, such as their “Building Your Financial Practice” page, they can then gate a piece of relevant content behind an Act-On form as a call-to-action (CTA). Then, as more users engage with and download this content, AEF can segment these prospects and better position the development staff to engage with them.

Customer Spotlight: Executing Modern Content Strategies at Scale

Timing Is Everything

One of the key things AEF wanted to accomplish was to improve the performance of their primary communication vehicles, such as their weekly newsletter. Early on, AEF created a game plan to learn how to best optimize their newsletter delivery times for highest engagement.

To do this, they conducted a series of A/B tests. The first was focused on particular days where readership was high. Once that was identified, they used Act-On to narrow it down to the hour in a recipient’s particular timezone. As it turns out, financial advisors typically like to read their emails at 2pm on Mondays!

Later, AEF began incorporating Act-On’s dynamic Adaptive Sending feature and tested it with various control groups (traditional send vs. adaptive send). Adaptive Sending uses machine learning to understand which contacts are opening and engaging with AEF’s emails at which times. Using this engagement data, it then automatically creates a send schedule based on the best time to reach out to each individual contact.

So far, Adaptive Sending has been a game changer for AEF. “Click thru rates have climbed from low single digits to exceed 10% in some instances. Adaptive Sending has vastly improved our email engagement rates, so I use it now for every send. I’m thrilled with our strong metrics and don’t think we could’ve done it without Act-On.”

Measuring and Scoring Lead Engagement

With Act-On, AEF gains insights and measures progress across their content marketing programs. “We can see who is most active with our content and our team is able to isolate and pursue at their peak of inquiry,” said Eric.

This allows AEF to develop customized lead scoring programs that identify hot prospects based on high-value behaviors and pass quality leads to the sales team. In addition, Act-On’s built-in reporting tools have increased AEF’s marketing team’s ability to measure and report on key metrics and easily share these engagement insights across the organization. 

Social Media Extends AEF’s Brand Awareness

As part of AEF’s comprehensive strategy to promote their thought leadership content and extend their reach, AEF is also using Act-On’s Advanced Social Media module to schedule regular posts that link to their thought leadership articles on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. 

Not only that, but the Advanced Social Media module makes it easy for the marketing team to leverage the reach of AEF employees through the Advocacy Board. The marketing team provides marketing-approved posts that get shared across varied AEF staffers and their personal LinkedIn profiles.

Outcomes: Simple, Efficient, and Effective

By using Act-On to execute and distribute a modern dedicated content strategy, American Endowment Foundation has improved their brand awareness and optimized their lead generation efforts. They’ve also perfected their outreach through advanced segmentation and increased their email open rates to more than 30% and click-through rates between 10-20% using Adaptive Sending. 

Additionally, AEF is using Act-On’s Website Prospector to understand who is visiting their website and Act-On reporting to drill down into their customer and prospect engagement levels. This knowledge empowers the American Endowment Foundation team to deliver highly relevant content to distinctly segmented audiences, which increases their reach and drives more prospects to partner with AEF.

According to Eric, “Act-On is the primary tool we use to link and report on key metrics and present that information in a way that is easily accessible to others within our organization.” And since Act-On makes it simple and effective for AEF to execute and report on individual campaigns within their larger holistic strategy, they plan on getting the most out of our platform for years to come!

Customer Spotlight: Executing Modern Content Strategies at Scale