by Mary K. Pratt

Big Data and CRM Help Public Broadcaster Attract More Donors

News Analysis
Dec 29, 20143 mins
AnalyticsBig DataPredictive Analytics

Data quality projects show Boston's WGBH how to segment customers for more lucrative target marketing

Public TV and radio station WGBH wanted to build deeper relationships with current and potential members, but the Boston-area PBS and NPR affiliate couldn’t easily analyze its donor data from within its Salesforce customer relationship management system. That put targeted marketing efforts beyond reach, says Cate Twohill, the station’s senior director and managing partner for CRM services.

Using RedPoint Global’s Interaction and Data Management tools, Twohill’s team mirrored the Salesforce data, to clean and analyze member information. Ultimately, WGBH wanted to find out which marketing programs appeal to which donors and to potential members.

WGBH pays $140,000 annually for RedPoint tools and services and is already seeing returns, Twohill says. The station cut 80,000 duplicate records, saving $100,000 by eliminating double mailings. Also, the station now automates administrative portions of membership renewal campaigns, which used to take 1,200 hours every year to run. So far, the new tools have cut hours in half.

Most important for growth, WGBH now segments consumers for targeted appeals, selecting people likely to show interest in, say, a wine tasting or a family event. “We can send people information based on the data and then track who opens emails and who gives gifts based on [specific appeals],” Twohill says.

Ted Friedman, an analyst at Gartner, says WGBH’s deployment of customer analytics follows a growing trend of organizations focusing on data quality. Tools that help the quality effort are in high demand, Friedman says, but these products aren’t as simple to use as they could be. For example, they often don’t integrate easily with other customer and analytics systems and could use better visualization capabilities, he says.

At WGBH, Twohill’s group now embarks on more ambitious marketing initiatives than it could in the past. For example, the station borrows demographic and other data from similar organizations, such as National Geographic and other PBS stations, to analyze against its own.

Before, Twohill shied away from experimenting with such potentially useful borrowed data because it would have been difficult to keep it segregated if she put it in the Salesforce system for analysis. That’s because of data management rules built into Salesforce tools, she says. “We don’t want to push data in that inadvertently gets kept,” she says. That would violate terms of WGBH’s agreements with organizations that share their data.

WGBH has also been able to identify neighborhoods with a high volume of active donors and target areas with the highest potential receptiveness for door-to-door canvassing, creating maps with such detailed information as membership saturation levels by neighborhood.

There’s no doubt that nonprofit WGBH is seeing ROI, Twohill says. The station’s membership renewal rate is up 10 percent in the past year, and revenue is up 11 percent. She credits insights from better analysis and targeted marketing for 80 percent of those increases. “We have the technology in place to be better marketers,” she says, “because now we can be as flexible and as sophisticated as we want.”