6 best practices from the BBC’s CRM team

Posted On by Dan Elman

Engaging customers is something that all marketers have to do in order to acquire and retain their customer base. When we think of engagement and conversion, we associate that with doing business, selling products or services. But let’s not forget that non-commercial companies find benefits in marketing automation and CRM too. I recently had the chance to chat with Ben Hammond, Head of CRM at the BBC. It struck me how advanced Auntie Beeb is when it comes to retargeting, personalisation and data science. I came away from our conversation with a raft of best practices.

Think broader than one product

Although the CRM team that Ben Hammond leads focuses on a limited number of products and services (iPlayer, Sounds, News, Sports, Bitesize), it never wastes a chance to promote other products from the corporation. “We have a pan-BBC mindset,” Ben told me. “As a team we focus on individual products, but we do not miss an opportunity for cross-pollination.” Ben cites the weekly newsletter as an example. It goes out to a large portion of the BBC database and tries to encapsulate content across the entire breadth of the BBC. “It does not focus on a specific product or genre. We try to find out what content and programmes people are really interested in. Based on that, we want to direct them down a particular path, based on their online behaviour. We think holistically and try to be very audience-centric.”

Adapt to circumstances

This weekly newsletter is also a great example of the flexibility of the CRM team. The newsletter is scheduled manually, to allow for the specific promotion of specific shows. “If there is a show early in the day that we want to promote, the newsletter will also go out early in the day. If there is a live event we are covering, we can also fluctuate the send time,” said Ben. Automating the newsletter to the max, could get in the way of flexibility, although the team is looking for ways to automate the content creation and curation for the newsletter.

Segment and personalise

While the second B in BBC stands for Broadcasting, the CRM team uses the vast array of data and insights it acquired over the years about customer behaviour on the BBC’s online channels to personalise its marketing. “We have a data analyst and data science team that can build new segmentation for CRM purposes. We are constantly looking for new segmentations. Some segmentations are quite basic, for instance around watchers of a certain programme. Others are more complex, for instance on how often people revisit the BBC platforms and how we can retarget them based on that frequency.” The ultimate aim of the CRM team is to deliver hyperpersonalisation at scale, along complex customer journeys. Personalisation also finds its way into the weekly newsletter. The newsletter you receive may be quite different from the one your neighbour gets. “We dynamically populate a lot of the content based on Salesforce and we use AMPscript for that. That ensures a highly personalised email experience.” The BBC is currently also investigating using recommendation engines to further drive personalisation.

Don’t focus on acquisition only

While acquiring new customers is as important to the BBC as it is to commercial organisations, the CRM team also looks at retention and re-engagement. When the BBC launched its streaming media app BBC Sounds, it used the substantial BBC database to identify which audiences could utilise the streaming service. “If people engaged with a particular programme on another BBC product such as iPlayer, we could use that data to retarget people,” said Ben. For instance: someone who watched a lot of Premiership football was probably interested in the ‘Match of the Day’ podcast on BBC Sounds. So what the CRM team did, was use one programme to interest them in another. Once BBC Sounds was launched, campaigns were set up to retain people on the services and re-engage them if they started to use it less.

Find the right balance between channels

One of the tactics used to re-engage customers is using push notifications, but here the BBC wants to strike the right balance. “We try to manage multichannel contact strategy in the most appropriate way. We don’t want to hit people with the same message across e-mail and other channels such as push. We noticed that the level of engagement may drop off using e-mail, but there may be high engagement with push. So we change the balance a little bit in how we reach out.”

Measure and adapt

Using all that marketing power to direct the audience to specific programmes is one thing, measuring it is quite another. Measuring KPIs for digital marketing at the BBC is not done on an individual show basis, but rather on categories or genres. “We have specific targets for typical engagement metrics such as open rate, clickthrough,… But we are even more interested in how our communications impact the consumption of our products. As a CRM team, we want to have an impact on our customers’ habits and their time spent on our online media. We use these metrics as a basis for future activity and KPIs.”

With its hundreds of shows and channels, the BBC has a lot on offer to the British and global audience. While these programmes are there for everyone to watch, the CRM team strives to deliver a personal experience. No mean feat: behavioural data are quite challenging if you know that households watch television together, but also separately. That makes it difficult to see what a particular household member prefers to watch. But with its focused CRM team and the great technology at its disposal hyperpersonalisation at scale will be there in the near future.

Interested in listening to my entire conversation with the BBC’s Ben Hammond? You will find the podcast here. And while you are there, don’t forget to subscribe to the ‘Dear Marketing Automation’ podcast.