case study

Marketo Engage consultation, measurable impact at CFA Institute

trust, transparency, and true collaboration

background: Marketo Engage consultation for a global leader in investment management

CFA Institute is the world’s largest association for investment management professionals. With more than 178,000 members and 157 local member societies worldwide, CFA Institute’s mission is to lead the investment professional globally by promoting the highest standards of ethics, education, and professional excellence for the ultimate benefit of society.

For investment management professionals, CFA Institute offers a range of educational and career resources including the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) credential, the Certificate in Investment Performance Measurement (CIPM) designation, and the CFA Institute Investment Foundations Certificate Program.

“As a global non-profit organization servicing the investment management profession, we take our mission very seriously,” explained Tiffany Keaton, Global Marketing Director at CFA Institute. “We seek to educate individuals who are performing investment management activities so economies are lifted up in an ethical manner.”

Our goal is to nurture investment management professionals who are committed to our level of transparency, clarity, and accuracy for the good of society, rather than the good of the individual.

Tiffany Keaton, Global Marketing Director, CFA Institute

To deliver on the goal of nurturing their audience, CFA Institute sought an agency with both industry expertise and Marketing Automation skills. In late 2018, the team made the decision to collaborate with Fathom on a variety of services, from Marketo Engage consultation and execution to the creative and analytics that support and prove the value of digital marketing efforts.

“We were looking for a firm with experience in higher education, but who also had deep expertise in some of the technology platforms we were already using,” said Tiffany when asked to describe her approach to choosing an agency.

“It’s interesting because conventional thinking says we’re in the finance industry. However, three years ago, our team suggested we instead consider ourselves more aligned with institutions of higher education. We try to find the right individuals who are interested in pursuing the certification, who are likely to persist on that journey, and who will be good stewards of the designation throughout their career.”

challenge: implementing Marketo Engage to realize customer-first strategy

The Credentialing Product Marketing team’s goals and objectives easily connect to the organization’s mission:

“We tell a really simple story, and that is: The more we can get people to engage with our messaging, with our content, with our emails, the more likely they are to show up on exam day, and, therefore, the more likely they are to persist through a very challenging journey. Every one of those conversions from level to level and from the exams to charter status means we’re driving more into membership—we’re getting more charter holders who are doing more good work in more places around the globe,“ explained Tiffany.

The team’s Key Performance Indicators include:

  • Registration rate
  • Exam show rate
  • Candidate engagement with marketing communications

To accomplish these objectives, the CFA Institute team developed an audience-first strategy and invested in the Marketing Automation platform Marketo Engage to enable touchpoints across their candidates’ experience. Distributing a robust content strategy across a three-year—or more—lifecycle required a complex Marketo Engage implementation, and the complexity of that executional work led CFA Institute to seek out experts.

“Fathom has done great work in the higher education space,” began Tiffany as she described her team’s thought process in agency selection. “They understood that analogy, that comparison that we were looking to make, but they also have really great technology chops. So, that allowed us to move more quickly in advancing some of the strategies we had planned.”

While CFA Institute initially selected Fathom to be their Marketo executional team, the relationship was built with bigger goals in mind. Recognizing an opportunity to let data drive decision making, the team committed to leveraging analytics to better understand what motivates candidates. As insights have emerged and that foundation has grown, so too has the team’s ability to tackle broader, more strategic challenges.

Brent Levi, Fathom’s lead strategist on the account, put it this way, “The CFA Institute team knows the personas and their motivations, but they look to us to help them understand how each audience engages differently, or registers differently, or shows up on exam day differently.”

CFA Institute views us as the expert on their audience who can answer “How does the audience perform?”

Brent Levi, Senior Consultant, Fathom

approach: a foundation built on trust

Our team began by developing a deep understanding of CFA Institute, their candidates, and their organizational mission. An initial Marketo Engage implementation had already taken place, so we audited that system to create a roadmap that prioritized opportunities.

To build trust, our team first worked on CIPM designation promotion and registration—delivering upon quick-win elements of the Marketo Engage roadmap that would impact CFA Program marketing, as well. After a cycle supporting that program, and with a much deeper understanding of CFA Institute’s organizational imperatives and opportunities, we were invited to support the upcoming CFA Program exam cycle.

“At first, our team was just bringing CFA Institute’s vision to life. We were lifting and shifting what they had developed into Marketo, but we also brought an expertise they didn’t have internally,” Jenelle Maddox, a Fathom Account Director and member of the CFA Institute account team, described. “Through that process, we earned trust. We emphasized delivering value from an executional perspective, and we earned the right to have very strategic conversations around what the future should look like.”

Lifting and shifting was common language for the CFA Institute and Fathom team at that time. With exam cycles playing such a critical role for CFA Institute and the growth of their member base, wholesale changes bring unnecessary risk. Really, lifting and shifting meant our experts focused on three things as it related to the intersection of Marketo Engage and the CFA Institute candidate engagement strategy:

  1. Increase efficiency and shorten the turnaround time of executional work
  2. Develop accurate, repeatable campaign reporting
  3. Troubleshoot a complex Marketing Automation environment on-the-go

Tiffany explains the early work of enhancing the candidate experience this way:

“Just a few years ago, CFA Institute was still operating in a very transactional nature. A candidate would register to sit for the program and pay their money. We would send them a confirmation of that, and then weeks or months later they would finally hear from us again. We decided if we wanted to have a long-term relationship with these individuals, if we want them to uplift society and change the perception of investment management, then we really needed to start at the beginning. We needed to lift and shift those basic communications into Marketo, but we also had to earn their trust.”

outcomes: a unique collaboration, not without results

Bringing the candidate engagement strategy to life with excellence via Marketo Engage has yielded significant impact. Candidates who are actively engaged with Candidate Communications and Nurture streams are more likely to register for and attend exams. From 2018 to 2019, registration rates improved by 13% for the Level I exam and 24% each for the Level II and III exams.

“We’ve created a much more nurturing relationship surrounded with meaningful content developed in concert with Fathom: interactive experiences within ION Interactive, articles that are inspiring to our candidates, tools to help them get through those tough moments of studying,” shared Tiffany. “We’re seeing candidates who are registered, who are showing up on exam day, and they feel better prepared. We’re giving them the tools to persist and be successful.”

When more candidates are engaged and attend exams, that presents significant revenue implications for CFA Institute, allowing the organization to broaden its impact.

When we look at a 21 to 1 return on our dollars spent, that’s a pretty impressive number, and one I am very happy to go to my leadership team and my finance department and say, ‘Invest more in these efforts because this is what the results will be,’” explained Tiffany, connecting the impact of candidate confidence on business outcomes.

For Jenelle, the impact goes beyond marketing results. “We talk a lot about the opportunity we have to better the lives of our clients and Fathomers. I’m grateful for our relationship with CFA Institute. Our team has so much pride in the work we do, and our counterparts at CFA Institute feel like an extension of our team. There’s complete trust and transparency. We care about each other, we share family photos, and we just so happen to do really great work together.”

The CFA Institute team sees real benefits in that sort of collaboration, as well.

“The benefit of working with a firm like Fathom is you get a diversity of thought and perspective, but the only way you get that is if you trust in it, if you build that relationship, if you share a lot of information very quickly and treat that agency like an extension of your internal team. That’s what we have done with Fathom, and I think that’s why we have been so successful.”

Tiffany Keaton, Global Marketing Director, CFA Institute

An Adobe Platinum Partner owning a Marketo Engage Specialization, Fathom’s team of digital marketing specialists includes certified Solutions Architects, Experts, Consultants, and Revenue Cycle Analysts. From implementation and integration through strategy, execution, and measurement, Fathom’s nurture marketing specialists help brands get the most from Marketo Engage.

Interested in learning more? Meet our Marketing Automation team.