How to Use Formstack to Fill the IT Gap

Written by Guest Blogger on December 3, 2013

Posted in Case Studies

I’ve been using Formstack now for over a year – without issue. I use it primarily to drive newsletter subscriptions for our blogs, and it works flawlessly. In addition to newsletter sign-ups, we also use Formstack for the registration process at both paid and free events.

But recently, I’ve started using it another way – to fill a gap with our IT team. If you’re like me, IT is your fren-emy. We constantly battle over what needs to be done, what needs to be built, when I need it and when they can deliver it. For a recent project, we used a Formstack form as a way to submit a creative brief for marketing email communications.

Assessing communication needs with Formstack
We are in the process of rewriting all of our current communications, aligning them to our brand and voice. As you can imagine, this is a daunting process. Our communications audit team identified over 700 communications that are sent over a student’s life cycle with us. In an effort to tighten up this process, we started to develop a workflow where someone could submit a brief to the team and we would help them write it, cross check it against what is going out currently and then approve the communication. This proved to be futile, because people didn’t want to fill out a Word document and then email it the communications audit committee.

That’s where Formstack came to mind. We have developed an online communication creative brief. It contains fields for just about every part of the communication development process. Instead of sending a Word document to the committee, now a person simply clicks on our hosted form link, inputs all the information and then clicks submit.

How does this make it easier?
We utilize Formstack’s conditional logic feature to shorten or lengthen the form and make it easier for someone to submit. Instead of submitting it to the committee, and risking it being lost in Outlook, the person filling out the form submits it to a single “communications liaison” who is assigned to their business unit. That person reviews the brief, looks at our database of emails and determines if it is a worthwhile communication.

The same form is even filling a gap for our creative services team. If someone wants to produce a new email communication and needs a new template or custom artwork, they can identify those needs in the form. The submission is not only routed to the communication liaison, but it’s also routed to members of the marketing team and creative director. The communication liaisons not only act as the traffic cops in this process, but they are the central point of contact for the scheduling of initial meetings and issues that arise during the creative process. They become the project manager for lack of a better word.

The best part is using logic to manage the length of the form. The routing of the creative brief allows everyone to have a copy in their inbox and reduces needless communications, or those not aligned with branding.

To top it off, we use ExactTarget as our ESP. Through the Formstack API, we submit the data collected to a “list” in ET to keep a “central file” of all new emails that are developed in addition to keeping the submission in the Formstack submission database.

This has helped to streamline our communication process. We no longer have to enter data or text in multiple places. One person does it (the submitter) and then the writers can cut and paste everything that is needed to construct the email. The submission email also serves as a check list for when it comes time for sending. Everything from ‘conditional statements’ to ‘pre-header text’ and ‘from/reply to addresses’ are submitted on the creative brief. It serves as the final checklist for the approvals process recently implemented by Exact Target.

This form has been successful in helping us manage our process that other departments (like our survey and institutional research teams) are now asking me for forms. They want their own “submission request form” to manage and track exactly how many requests they receive per year.

What we thought was just going to be a tool to fill the WordPress/ExactTarget newsletter subscription gap, has now evolved into a multipurpose tool that fills gaps we didn’t know existed. The funny thing is, now anytime we need to collect information for something, the first thing I am asked is “Can Formstack do that?” Nine times out of ten, I reply “Yes, yes it can.”

About the Author
kgray-headshotKirk R. Gray (@kirkrgray) is a Formstack customer and has been doing email marketing for more than fifteen years. He works for a major online education provider, and operates his own blog –browserspencer – providing unique real world insight into email marketing best practices and offers solutions/consulting for the problems facing email marketers in a mobile-age. When not blogging, Kirk enjoys living in Washington, DC with his partner and their two dogs – Browser, a corgi and namesake of his blog, and Oly, a Jack Russell. He’s also a huge fan of Broadway theatre and theme parks (especially Disney World!) and an advocate of online education, holding multiple degrees from online universities.