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Celebrating success with award winning Albert Freeman – how one email led to 97 new Direct Debits worth up to £109K

Being proud of clients in my job is an every day occurrence and getting to see the amazing results of their campaigns just puts the icing on the cake. In this photo is Albert Freeman who is my main contact at Bradford MDC and a real driving force behind all of our plans to generate income, channel shift and change behaviours. On Friday, I was fortunate enough to attend the Comms2Point0 UnAwards in Birmingham where Albert and his team scooped up two awards for Best Communications Officer and Best Use Of Email.

Today I wanted to share what Albert and the team did which led to them winning this award and the amazing power of just one email.

Campaign objectives

The main objective was to increase Direct Debit sign ups. We all know that the more people who pay in this way demand less direct contact with their council and it enables the authority to secure the income from Council tax.

    Secondary objectives were to:

  • increase the number of people settling outstanding balances
  • increase the number of people notifying us of changes in the circumstances
  • reduce the volume of enquiries received by the Council tax team
  • increase the number of Council tax payers who subscribe to email updates from the Council

How did they do it?

The Council tax team held email addresses for 58,000 current Council tax payers. As these residents had provided their email address in relation to paying their council tax, it was believed they would be responsive to an email campaign specifically about Council tax. From other recent marketing campaigns, the team knew that email was the most effective and economical way of encouraging people to take an online action. So Bradford developed a bespoke Council tax email campaign targeted at these people.

The email was specifically designed to have simple messaging and strong calls to action focused around the organisations desired outcomes. UTM parameters were used on links in the email in order to track the online journeys of people who had been referred to the website from the email campaign.

The email was timed to be sent shortly before Council tax bills were posted to all residents. An imminent Council tax bill is a good incentive to set up a Direct Debit and the arrival of Council tax bills often prompts high volumes of contact from residents wishing to settle balances or make enquiries.

The communications team ran an A/B test to optimise for a higher open rate. This involved sending two variants of the bulletin with subtly different subject lines to two small subsets of people. The version with the highest open rate was then sent to the remainder of the people on the list.

Bradford Council measured the number of, and value of, new Direct Debits set up in the days following the email campaign being sent (6 March to 9 March). They then compared new Direct Debit data with the same days the previous week, and the same dates the previous year.

The outcomes

Up to £109K of new Direct Debits set up in four days

In the four days immediately after the email campaign was sent, 82% of all the visitors to the Direct Debit webpage came from the email (601 out of a total of 730 views).

It was calculated that in those four days there were up to 97 extra Direct Debits set up as a result of the email. The value of those new Direct Debits was between £40K and £109K.

The conversion rate is an estimated 16.1%, meaning that of all the people who clicked the Direct Debit link in our email, 16.1% of them went on to set up a new Direct Debit.

The calculations above are based on previous new Direct Debits set up in similar time periods, and does not take into account the fact that 82% of all our Direct Debit website visitors came from the email. If it was assumed that 82% of new online Direct Debits were the result of the campaign, the value and conversion rate would be even higher.

Up to £155K of new Direct Debits set up in three weeks

Bradford MDC know that people were clicking through to their website from the campaign email long after 9 March, so the final value of the campaign is likely to be higher than the estimate of £109K. More than 50% of the people who visited the online Direct Debit page between 6 and 25 March (850 out of 1,507) came from the email campaign. Based on this volume of website visitors, the value of the campaign could be up to £155K in the 19 days between 6 and 25 March.

2.1K views of Payments pages

While new Direct Debits was the primary objective for the campaign, the most clicked link in the email was the “Payments, arrangements and balances” link. This led to over 2,000 unique views in four days on the web pages where people could settle outstanding balances. While the team have not been able to measure a definitive financial value for these website visitors from the campaign email, it is likely that a number of these people made arrangements to pay as a result.

7K new email subscriptions

During that campaign, people added 7,671 new topic subscriptions across the whole suite of email topics. That is more than 10 times as many as during the same period in either of the following two weeks. So it’s estimated that 7,000 new subscriptions resulted from the campaign email.

Longevity of the campaign

By monitoring the UTM parameters on the links of the campaign, it is known that people continued to go from the email to the website for some time after they stopped measuring the campaign results. Even in October, seven months after the email was sent, it was still the source of visitors to the Council tax section of the website. This suggests people have kept the campaign email for reference.

Future planning

Another important benefit of this email campaign is that the striking results in the first few days highlighted to managers why a similar campaign should be prioritised as an integral part of the Council tax billing process next year.

Well done to everyone involved, what amazing results and congratulations on the awards – well deserved.