Protecting Baby: Cross-Channel Marketing To Sell A Stem Cell Service

Cord Blood Registry faces an almost impossible task: The company stores stem cells extracted from the umbilical cords of newborn babies, and it has to sell this service before the due date. It does this with a cross-channel marketing program that includes everything from social media to telemarketing. For insights on this complex effort, we spoke with Kevin Hsieh, director of online marketing and operations at Cord Blood Registry, a unit of AMAG Pharmaceuticals.

Please explain the product.
It’s called cord blood banking. When your child is born, there’s blood in the umbilical cord containing newborn stem cells. We help parents freeze those stem cells cryogenically and store them for potential use in the future. It’s of interest to all parents, but some children have a propensity for certain diseases. We are storing 600,000 samples right now.

How do you sell a service like that?
It’s really B2B marketing to consumers. We have an 800 number, we have brochures in doctor’s offices, we send a lot of email and we’re active in social media. The main product, cord blood banking, costs $1,650, and there’s an annual storage fee of $150. We have an online checkout, or you may talk to a sales rep or to one of our genetic counselors.



But how do you move the prospect to the sale?
We try to find out where you sit in the customer journey so we can send the right message. One big part of it is our email nurture series. There’s a weekly schedule, depending on your sensitivity to price or your knowledge about the product. You may get information on a bi-weekly basis if you understand the value proposition. But we also use other channels. We get indicators of whether the person is interested or not based on digital engagement. We can see in our system if someone is searching for certain keywords, using both paid and organic search. And we target through social media.

How long is this sales process?
We have four to six months to work with them, nine months if we’re really lucky. We run the whole gamut, but the majority is going to fall between four to six months like other pregnancy products. We’re better if we can start in the first trimester. If you miss the due date, the whole journey is kind of shot.

Other than that, what’s your biggest challenge?
Being able to standardize data across partners. It’s not just email addresses; it’s state spellings, ZIP code validations, and other stuff. We get the due date in different formats from the partners, and we have to standardize those things to have one common format.

Who are your partners?
We have partnerships with other pregnancy Web sites so we can interact their prospective parents. Overall, in the U.S., there are about four million pregnancies, and we probably know half of them. We have about two million pregnancies.

But how do you build a relationship with a one-time product?
You might have another child, and the relationship will start again, with different communications. But we’re thinking about how to extend the relationship. Historically, this has been a one- or two-product company. How do we expand to other products and services?  

How long do you store the stem cells?
It’s dependent on how the science continues to advance in the future. It’s not one size fits all. It depends on the parent’s perspective, and their desire to believe in advancements in science and the future health of their child — 20 years, 30 years, even 40 years from now.

What about attribution?
We looked at last touch and first touch — email typically is a last touch kind of mechanism. We reach out, and if they enroll online, the action is done. But we need to be at a multi-touch stage, so we know what’s working and what’s not. We’re working toward it. We’re better off than we were a year ago.

What’s next?
We’re in a phase where we’re trying to experiment. We’re looking at TV and radio. We keep hearing that these things are dead mediums, then we see all these high-tech companies going back to those old-school methodologies. 

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