How The Motley Fool uses Personas to optimize return on ad spend

The Motley Fool uses Segment to more accurately target paid ad campaigns and decrease cost per acquisition. 

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“Segment is much more of a self-service platform. Whereas before we were limited in how we could message or target prospects and members, we can now build and activate audiences almost immediately.”

— Nate Wallingsford, Head of US Marketing Operations and Optimization, The Motley Fool

The Company

The Motley Fool’s purpose is to make the world smarter, happier, and richer by offering business and investing insight. Founded in 1993 by brothers Tom and David Gardner, The Motley Fool reaches millions of people across its podcasts, newspaper columns, radio shows, websites, and paid subscription services. 

The Challenge

Along with The Motley Fool’s free website, the company offers premium content – like expert stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and detailed market analysis – on a subscription basis. For the marketing team, acquiring new, premium members is a top priority, and often done via paid ad campaigns. But targeting the right prospects had become a challenge. 

The data platform that The Motley Fool had been using wasn’t able to accurately distinguish between prospects and existing paying members at scale. As a result, a number of existing premium members were being included in customer acquisition campaigns, which was making ad spend less efficient. 

To address this challenge, The Motley Fool’s business intelligence team would have to manually pull a list of existing members from their data warehouse, deliver that to the paid media team, and then manually upload those lists to a variety of ad platforms. But this data still reflected a static point in time, and ran the risk of being outdated. 

The Motley Fool needed a new data solution that fit the following criteria: 

  1. Ease of use in building, managing, and activating audiences. 

  2. Out of the box integrations with Google and Facebook (two main ad platforms). 

  3. The ability to send data downstream to destinations in real-time.  

The Solution

For The Motley Fool, Personas was the perfect fit. It was quick to implement, democratized data across teams, and offered a holistic, real-time view of the customer. The business intelligence team no longer had to serve as data gatekeepers for the paid media team’s major ad platforms. The marketing team could easily use Segment to suppress active members from its campaigns, which increased the efficiency of both operations and ad spend. 

Segment is much more of a self-service platform. Whereas before we were limited in how we could message or target prospects and members, we can now build and activate audiences almost immediately.” - Nate Wallingsford, Head of US Marketing Operations and Optimization, The Motley Fool

The Motley Fool also leveraged Segment’s integrations to personalize member experiences and identify upsell opportunities. For instance, the product team had been using Chameleon to build out the onboarding experience for premium members. With Personas, The Motley Fool could easily share first-party data (like membership level, interest, etc.) with Chameleon to customize site tours and show relevant on-site ads.  

The ease of sharing data between tools and acting on real-time insights showed a quick return on investment. As Nate Wallingsford noted, “We’re making even more incremental revenue from the combination of these tools. The ROI on it is ridiculous.” 

The Results

By switching to Segment, The Motley Fool was able to:

  • Increase operational efficiency by democratizing data, automate manual data upload processes, and reduce the reliance on the business intelligence team. 

  • More accurately target paid ad campaigns to decrease cost per acquisition (CPA). 

  • Personalize experiences for premium members –  from onboarding to on-site advertisements – to increase retention and lifetime value. 

Industry: Financial Services
Location: Alexandria, Virginia