Marketing Feats

How a Mailchimp partner helped a top university have their best year ever

Implementing any sort of institutional transformation is difficult enough under normal circumstances. In a global crisis, the stakes are much higher. Luckily for Australia National University (ANU), Mailchimp partner Gary Eckstein has never shied away from tackling sizable marketing overhauls. And no pandemic was going to get in his way when it came to helping his client.

When COVID-19 hit, ANU’s once-bustling campus fell eerily silent. In an effort to curb the spread of the virus, the administration had announced a university-wide WFH policy. With next to no lead time, the school needed to adapt to both online learning and an unknown future. Change at this pace is foreign to most large public institutions, and ANU was no exception.

“The way that many universities needed to operate had changed suddenly, and I was given the opportunity to make it count in a time of crisis,” says Gary, who was hired at the onset of the pandemic by ANU Press, the university’s open-access academic publishing house. “This was much more than just another bit of work for me,” says Gary. “In a time of so much misinformation, it was good to be part of the distribution of high quality, peer-reviewed content.”

ANU creates their own digital marketing, so they didn’t need help with day-to-day tasks. They did, however, need help from a Mailchimp expert with big business experience. And Gary had a CV that more than fit the bill.

“This was much more than just another bit of work for me. In a time of so much misinformation, it was good to be part of the distribution of high quality, peer-reviewed content.” — Gary Eckstein

In 2010, following a career in process-and-business analysis, Gary launched OrganicWeb, a Mailchimp-focused training and consulting agency. Ever since, he’s helped dozens of medium and large-sized businesses, non-profits, and government departments streamline their digital marketing processes.

The university wanted to develop a new information architecture for its records and database that could be easily transferred to Mailchimp, while simultaneously harnessing this information to drive traffic to the ANU Press website. On top of this, the ANU also hoped to streamline their processes, which were eating away at valuable staff time. “We had been suffering under a dozen excel spreadsheets and manual data capture and maintenance,” says Vanessa Rouse, ANU Press' Marketing and Communications Coordinator.

Gary found a great collaborator in Vanessa, who was clear in establishing the university’s requirements and expectations: changes needed to be implemented quickly, the budget was constrained, and results had to be seen ASAP. And they were.

“We saw results immediately,” says Vanessa. “In mid-2020, we had a subscription base of 1,300 (built over 3 years), and now we just surpassed 5,200. More importantly, we have reduced staff workload by up to 200 emails per week. Now, staff have more time to focus on content development, manuscript assessments and editing.”

“Agile marketing is about larger organizations embracing the dynamic and experimental marketing tactics of small to medium-sized enterprises.”— Gary Eckstein

The secret to Gary’s success? His agile approach. “Agile marketing is about larger organizations—which are traditionally risk-averse and slow to change—embracing the dynamic and experimental marketing tactics of small to medium-sized enterprises,” explains Gary, who’s in the throes of a marketing agility-focused PhD dissertation. “Larger organizations, like universities, are recognizing that this agile approach to marketing can lead to competitive advantage for them.”

“By witnessing how software can support staff—rather than it being a constant burden—Gary has had a psychological impact on the company.” – Vanessa Rouse

True to agile philosophies, Gary tackled his to-do list iteratively. This meant, rather than waiting for all changes to be implemented at the end of the project (once all the to-do boxes had been checked), Gary was knocking things off one-by-one and getting components of the project online as quickly as humanly possible.

Gary’s collaborative nature also helped get the project over the finish line in record time. “I have worked with many consultants and CRM specialists who are famously dismissive of women, and who do not listen to the organisation’s needs,” says Vanessa. “Gary was the exact opposite.”

Here’s a look at the eye-popping, 6-month results:

Thanks to their gangbuster 2020 performance, ANU Press is now one of the largest open-source publishers worldwide.

Gary was instrumental to the publisher having their best year ever, but his largest legacy can’t be measured by metrics alone. According to Vanessa, “By witnessing how software can support staff—rather than it being a constant burden—Gary has had a psychological impact on the company.”

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