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“Wild, brown, or rainbow?” asks a Facebook post from Poronui, a wilderness retreat tucked away on New Zealand’s North Island. Sun beams illuminate a wet, sparkling fish caught in a net, and below it, comments roll in about which trout is the perfect catch.

 

As one of the most prestigious sporting lodges in the world, Poronui’s breathtaking beauty speaks for itself. And for years, it enjoyed a rapt audience of anglers, hunters, and other guests from around the world.

Over time, having moved from traditional activities like trade shows, the lodge’s owners noticed that their new inquiries had started to dwindle. Their website performance came to a halt. Their web performance stagnated as did responses to their email marketing campaigns.

The team decided it needed a change—one that would help them grow. And so they approached Auckland-based Calibrate, an agency specializing in marketing technology and e-commerce.

“I’ve been involved with various forms of marketing for 15 years now,” says Nick Whiteacre, Head of Strategy, who revels in finding creative solutions to challenges like Poronui’s. “It’s great to work with a company that has such a cool product, and they have a lot of great material as well because of the depth of experience of their staff, a lot of whom have been there for 20 to 30 years. They’re really passionate about what they do.”

To harness that speak-for-itself material, Calibrate set up a content-rich digital strategy spread across key digital channels: email, social media, and their website. This multi-pronged plan allowed Poronui’s splendor to spark conversations about its 16,000 acres of offerings (including trout) again, bolstering engagement and bookings.

 

Analyzing the past

To figure out what would perform best in emails and on social media, Calibrate conducted a review of both channels late last year. “We felt they could benefit from a better integrated and more structured approach to digital marketing,” Nick says.

“For most of our clients, email is a critical part of their overall marketing ecosystem,” he adds. “It’s an area where they often need some guidance, whether that’s selecting the right technology and getting started, or taking things to the next level with their existing programs.”

For Poronui, that meant enabling Google Analytics tracking on email, extracting all the reporting out of MailChimp, and analyzing click maps so that they could highlight subject lines that produced the best open rates and content that produced the highest click rates. Similarly, they reviewed their social to see what kinds of posts got the most engagement.

 The results? “High quality photography and authentic, educational content from the staff. That’s the magic for us,” Nick says. “At Poronui, a big part of the appeal of the overall experience is the depth of knowledge of the guides and staff, so we’ve made a conscious effort to tap into that and regularly feature educational, authentic content which is sourced directly from the team on the ground.”

 

Segmenting their audience

Now that they had an idea about what topics would maximize engagement and conversion, it was prime time to separate Poronui’s content by customer interests.

“Poronui’s clients are people who are extremely passionate about the outdoor pursuits on offer at the lodge such as fly fishing, hunting, and horse riding, so we find they’re only too happy to see content in their inbox which relates to these interests,” Nick says.

At the simplest level, Calibrate established distinctive streams of content: people who are interested in angling and people interested in hunting. “There’s a little bit of crossover there, but on the whole, they are 2 quite different types of people, so it’s important that we don’t put hunting content in front of someone who’s not interested in that,” Nick explains.

Using these activities to segment their lists isn’t the only way Calibrate corralled its content streams: The agency also designed and built a customizable modular email template for each of Poronui’s brands, as well as 2 separate sites, Poronui.com and PoronuiHunting.com. Their social is split up similarly. The content is further personalized according to location and contact type, too, so they can be sure that everyone—from corporate clients to wedding planners—is receiving information that’s relevant to them.

“It’s important for us to try to make sure the content is relevant and resonates with the right people,” Nick says. “We find that as long as we bring value to the readers, even if they’re not in buying mode, we can hold their attention and engagement.”

Celebrating the results

The culmination of all of these channels—their websites, signup forms, social media, and live chat—made engagement soar, with an 83% higher than industry average email open rate and a 406% increase in email engagement rates.

Since working with Calibrate, Poronui has generated multiple 12-month-plus forward bookings for experiences that hadn’t previously had any forward bookings. “Our access to reporting, best practices, and ideas is great, enabling us to constantly monitor, learn, and improve. Overall, enquiry is well up and traffic from our priority markets has strengthened,” the team says.

3 ways to maximize the benefits of segmentation

 

Record everything, but focus on what matters most.

“With Poronui, we make use of a wide range of different data types to help ensure the content we send is as relevant as possible. This includes a combination of declared data points captured at the point of subscription and those we can derive from observed behaviours, both offline and online.

The most important segmentation variable for Poronui is ‘Interests,’ which we use to determine the types of content we send to subscribers such as hunting, angling, equestrian, or corporate hospitality. We then layer in other additional data points such as ‘Contact type’ (which includes past guests, prospects, and influencers), ‘Subscription source’ and ‘Country’ and others.”

 

Stay organized.

“With so much data being stored and numerous subscription sources, list hygiene practices become essential to ensure everything stays organized, consistent, and accurate. We worked with the team at Poronui to visually map out the flow of data into and out of MailChimp and define clear rules and processes for keeping the list clean.

Rather than maintaining multiple lists, we find it’s best to use a single master list and then build segments within that. We also use Groups in MailChimp quite extensively as we find this is a more efficient way of storing lots of data rather than relying entirely on Merge fields, which can only have a single value per contact record. Groups function a lot like tags, which we can append to the subscriber record as we learn more about them.”

 

Use engagement based segmentation.

 “In addition to splitting the list based on declared interests and data from the booking system, we also segment using email engagement data. For example, we often resend newsletters to contacts who didn’t open the first time. We find giving people a second opportunity to read emails generates a significant boost in engagement.

We also keep an eye on contact ratings in MailChimp to identify any inactive subscribers who may need to be cleaned from the list or downgraded to a lower frequency.”