Why we gave away $100K in Postmark credits

We gave Postmark customers free credits to set up DMARC

When you’re building a feature for a product, it’s easy to imagine your customers will adopt it in droves. Maybe you imagine this scenario: You announce it on your blog and won’t need to do extra work to convince customers to take advantage of it. Sometimes new features take off, and people flock to what you’ve been working on. For most features life doesn't work this way. You need to educate and convince customers to take the time to start using a new feature.

What’s the best way to create a campaign to promote a big new feature?

That’s the question we asked ourselves recently with Postmark. Over the past 18 months, we’ve been working hard to support DMARC, a relatively new email standard to help fight phishing and other email scams. During this time we:

We’ve promoted each one of these steps individually, but after finishing all this work we wanted to help educate our customers on these new features and make sure they benefitted from each one. Fully aligning a domain with DMARC improves the email experience by making email abuse less effective. It also gives domain owners a report of where email originates for their domain, so they can make sure email is only being sent from sources they trust.

We had a call and thought through some ways we could show our customers the value of setting up DMARC. We talked about creating a video, sending a newsletter with the DMARC guide, and a few other ideas. As we talked, we realized there was one tangible and immediate benefit we could offer our customers for adopting DMARC: free Postmark credits. Chris touched on the idea of giving customers Postmark credits first, and we started to develop a plan.

We decided to give 100,000 Postmark credits to every customer who had a 100% DMARC compliant domain. This incentive purely benefitted our customers and would give them all the benefits of DMARC and a pile of free Postmark credits they could use.

This campaign exceeded our wildest expectations. By offering our customers something they valued, a better email experience and free Postmark credits, we were able to grow the number of Postmark customers using DMARC over 900%.

So how did it work? Let's go over each step of the process.

Step 1: Launch!

It’s easy to focus on the action of a campaign, the things the world sees, and not see the work that went into building it. This campaign was the culmination of over a year of work by the Postmark team! The guide was particularly important. It gave our customers who were curious about DMARC a single place they could go to learn, absorb, and start working on their DMARC policy.

To give away 100K credits for setting up DMARC we needed more than a blog post and email. Our customers represented a spectrum of DMARC adoption. Some of them were 100% DMARC compliant, and some didn't have any DMARC setup complete. We needed to create groups of customers to provide info relevant to their needs and walk them through each step of the process.

To create our groups we thought through the process of DMARC setup and identified four main groups we used to email our customers:

  • completed DMARC setup (100% setup and getting credits)
  • needed a custom return-path (50% setup)
  • needed a DMARC record (50% setup)
  • needed a DMARC record and custom return-path (0% setup)

Each group received a unique email to explain the offer in the context of their situation and cover the steps they needed to take to claim their credits. We also asked each group to share the offer on Twitter.

This phase took a bit longer than we planned. The first “final” draft of emails I wrote drifted from our initial planning conversation. Because of this drift, we created a message matrix to identify the groups for our campaigns and describe what we wanted to say to each one. Now, when we plan a campaign we immediately put everything we discussed into this matrix. We make sure our goals and messages are clear and refer to it as we’re working.

It's a bit like a compass to make sure we stay on goal as we work. We can alter our goals or message at any point, but the matrix helps make sure we end up where we wanted to go in the first place.

The message matrix we used for our DMARC campaign

Once we had our emails ready, we needed the lists. We pulled all the data needed for each one and made sure we had a pool of credits ready to hand out. These credits would help us track how customers responded from each group. These steps required coordinating with the Postmark development team, and Nick helped take care of both of these items.

Step 2: Track responses

The first thing we measured were the open and click rates for each email. Across the entire campaign, we saw an open rate around 56% and a click rate around 25%. This response was double our normal open and click rate for newsletters. These weren’t the numbers we were using to measure the success of the campaign, but it was encouraging to see this response.

Our open and click rates made it clear offering our customers free credits grabbed their attention.

The most important part of this campaign was making sure the number of Postmark customers using DMARC grew. Second to this, we needed to make sure customers were able to claim their credits. If we knew then what we know now, we might have spent more time up front streamlining this process. To claim credits a customer who completed DMARC setup needed to email our Customer Success team. A minor miscommunication caught our customer success team off guard on the day the campaign started, but they handled the increased support flawlessly.

Here's what happened. As we planned the campaign, I made sure to keep our customer success team up to date on our plans. They needed to know what we were offering customers, when we planned to send emails, and what steps customers needed to take to claim their credits. Most of this communication was one-to-one with Dana. I wanted to keep noise about the campaign from overwhelming the entire team, but on the day we launched Dana was unexpectedly out of the office.

This turned out to be a minor snag as the customer success team quickly asked what they needed to do and executed the entire process.

Over the life of the campaign, our customer success team spent between 30–40 hours verifying customers had completed their DMARC setup, helping customers complete their DMARC setup, and answering questions about DMARC.

Most of these hours were centered around days we sent email campaigns. If we had failed to keep them updated on our plan, they would have spent even more time and effort on those days.

Before we started this campaign, 79 customers had completed DMARC setup. During this phase, the number of Postmark accounts who were 100% DMARC compliant grew to 490 accounts, an increase of over 500%!

Step 3: Friendly reminder

We told our customers about our offer when we launched, and we extended the offer for 60 days so as many people as possible could claim 100K Postmark credits. We knew our customers would be busier than normal because the campaign launched during the holiday season.

We decided to follow up with a second email to our customers to remind them about this offer. This time, we sent an email to three groups:

  • completed DMARC setup (100% completed)
  • needed a custom return-path (50% completed)
  • needed a custom return-path and DMARC record (0% completed)

This time our open rates, click rates, and conversions dropped a tiny bit from our original campaign. We weren’t surprised. Without this reminder hundreds of customers would have missed out on these credits for setting up DMARC.

A friendly reminder goes a long way. Failing to send a reminder email would have reduced the number of customers who claimed 100K credits for setting up DMARC by 35%.

Tracking the results

Getting a handle on how a campaign like this performs can be tricky. You’re offering something to existing customers, and any new customer can redeem the offer too. It’s not a sponsorship or link, which makes it difficult to attribute new sign-ups to the campaign. To track the success of this campaign, we decided to measure the increase in the number of Postmark accounts who became 100% DMARC compliant.

As the campaign progressed we kept a close eye on this growth and how each piece of content connected with our customers.

By the numbers

  • Total accounts 100% DMARC compliant — 803 accounts, a 916% increase
  • Total $ amount of credits — $120,450
  • Number of emails sent to customers — 7 emails spread across 4 groups
  • Email campaign success metrics — 53.70% open rate, 23.07% click rate
  • Total number of tweets sent out by others — 51
  • Hours spent on the campaign by the team — around 140 hours

Lessons for your next campaign

There are a few things we’ve seen with this campaign we plan on including in our future marketing efforts.

Focus on your customers’ outcomes first — It’s tempting to focus on things that make you proud of your product. Don’t focus on your product, instead give your customers something they need. Yes, this campaign gave our customers free credits, but it also helped secure their domain. It doesn’t do much for Postmark, except show our customers we want to make sure email for their app works great.

Don’t be afraid to ask more than once — Your customers trust you to solve a problem and not waste their time with frivolous chatter. This can cause you to hesitate when it’s time to send a follow-up email as part of a large campaign like this one. If you don’t ask more than once you will miss out on connecting a big part of your audience to your offer.

Ask your customers to share your offer — Every email we sent included a click to tweet link. We saw more customers participating in sharing than we have with our other campaigns. These aren’t right for every blog post or email, but if you’re solving a meaningful problem your customers will want to tell their friends! We tracked over fifty individual tweets, and most of them were the exact tweet we included in our emails. Don’t be stingy, and extend the offer to new accounts and watch as your word of mouth reach grows.

On top of these lessons, we got lots of questions from customers about DMARC. These questions helped us improve help articles, tighten our process, and spend even more time educating people about DMARC. This showed us we should revisit features with similar campaigns across all our products.

Giving your customers something that’s purely for their benefit isn’t just good marketing. It’s an investment in their success and, ultimately, your product’s success as well.

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