How to increase email revenue: lessons learned at publishing house MIF

30 Jul ‘17

In 2004, Igor Mann, Mikhail Ivanov and Mikhail Ferber decided to publish business books in Russian and to take personal responsibility for the results. In 11 years, MIF has become one of Russia’s top-20 publishing houses. The business’ massive growth has inevitably required them to adopt innovative technology, including for how they communicate with readers.

Part of MIF’s plan is to «Мpublish books that thousands of people will read, changing themselves and the world around them in the process». MIF publishes books in nine main areas, including: business, marketing, personal development, children’s books, and healthy living. The audience’s interests vary greatly.

 Igor Mann
Ivan Borovikov and Igor Mann, 2015

Each week, the publishing house sends one letter for each category of book recommendations. Copywriters create the content, while developers and the project manager are responsible for layout, database prep and setup. Two years ago, MIF sent these messages blindly. They would choose a book, press «Send» and watch to see if it would work. In six months, their subscriber database added 100,000 new email addresses. Then they started to notice that as their subscriptions rose, so did unsubscribe requests: emails were winding up in spam folders and revenue growth was stagnating.

MIF originally used Mailchimp’s service. After a while, they began to understand that they needed to change their email marketing strategy. For example, innovative marketing books are only interesting to people subscribed to the «Marketing» topic. Customers were getting tired of irrelevant content and were no longer opening their emails. A publishing house works not because of book sales, but thanks to them.

MIF decided to segment their database by genre and send a unique email to each audience. To do this, they needed to be able to automate email sequences and trigger-based messages. Sadly, Mailchimp’s solution could not do this. Additionally, the falling rouble exchange rate made the Western email solution too expensive to keep using. MIF analysed the products on the market and chose Mindbox (whose platform turned out to be 10% less expensive than Mailchimp).

«We covered our costs from six months of integration and all initial setup within a month of mailing our first active messages».
Anastasia Makarova, MIF Project Manager

It took one and a half months to set up the segmentation and launch the trigger-based messages. Site users can subscribe to emails from nine interest-based categories and via a general form, which makes segmentation more complex.

The platform segments subscribers based on their interests and site activity. If someone visits the page for a marketing book and views books from that category as well as business, information is collected in their profile about their behaviours. For the next mailing, the subscriber will automatically be included in a pre-configured segment and will receive letters about marketing and business books.

«We see when someone adds Barbara Sher to their wish list, looks at watercolor textbooks, wants to take up running or explain math to a child. Segmentation based on user actions is the magic wand of personalised marketing».
Anastasia Makarova, MIF Project Manager

Segmentation definitely plays a huge role in selling books, but it’s far from the only marketing tool at our disposal. MIF has launched more than 50 triggers, including:

  • welcome sequence
  • abandoned cart
  • discount and promo guide
  • upcoming books
  • subscription confirmation
  • gift emails

The publishing house confirms that their monthly email revenue has recently increased by 17-25%. Automatic trigger-based messages deliver up to 30% of email channel revenue.

Email channel
Revenue share based on Mindbox data: +150% email channel revenue share

MIF case study

For more information about how Mindbox helped MIF to deliver 25% email revenue growth, see our detailed case study.

Mindbox generates letter scenarios based on customer interests, discount categories, wish lists and other variables. When MIF sends out information on a new book about Scrum, for example, the mailing list is generated from those clients who are interested in the “Business” segment and have added the book to their wish list (or purchased similar books). A first message is sent to the email addresses in the segment, and a second is sent to the remaining “Business” category subscribers who have not yet made a purchase. It’s obviously easier to create a targeted offer for the first group, which is why the message impact is always higher for them.

Welcome sequence: «Welcome to MIF»

When a new email address is registered, MIF asks for subscription approval, as it is illegal to send messages without the customer’s approval. MIF’s welcome emails are highly unusual. The content changes depending on where and how the customer subscribed. This is what it looks like in the Mindbox interface:

Welcome to MIF

Discount and promo guide

Emails about discounts and promos are automatically generated. Everything depends on the customer’s interests, their wish list, discount size and current promotions. This gives each of MIF’s customers a unique, personalised offer. Nearly 10% of visits from these emails are converted to orders (based on Google Analytics data). Before the illustrations are added, the customer offers look a bit weird, like a bunch of chaotic variables. But in the end, you get a pretty picture:


Abandoned cart

MIF’s abandoned cart is also personalised. New users see one abandoned cart and regular customers see another. Recommended books change based on preferred genre and shopping history. According to Google Analytics, more than 20% of emails are converted into purchases.

Gifts for friends

People give gifts to their friends through MIF. These gifts are not the kind of e-books that people read in the metro, but beautiful illustrated books more suited to reading with a cup of tea.

When you give a virtual gift, you want to make sure that it gets delivered. This is why the person who sends the gift gets a letter sequence with the order status, so that they don’t have to worry. For some reason, it was impossible to implement these notifications with the last service: the letters wound up in spam. Everything works with the new partner.

Future plans

In the future, MIF plans to implement complex RFM segmentation, as well as to launch more personalised trigger-based mechanics and product recommendations. The publishing house is not currently interested in using other message channels, like SMS or Viber.

Anna Stepanova, Mindbox Manager 
Anastasia Makarova, MIF Project Manager

Source: Retail & Loyalty

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