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How the National MS Society Got a 55% Open Rate on their First Email

Lynette Rambo | January 5, 2017 

“Getting 55% of 60,000 people to do something is pretty amazing!”

— Todd Culter, Associate Vice President Digital Marketing, National MS Society

Todd attributes their email success to list cleanliness, segmenting the list by subscriber engagement level, and having a relevant message. For details, download the full case study.

A Bold Vision Needs Bold Communication

The vision of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is bold — A World Free of MS. A bold mission requires a bold way to communicate that mission and help people affected by Multiple Sclerosis (MS) live their best lives

The National MS Society chose the Salesforce Marketing Cloud as the tool to help them communicate with their members, researchers and educators, advocates and service providers, and fundraising campaigns.

“MS is a unique disease to every person who has it, which means each individual has a unique need or reason for engaging with the Society,” explained Todd Culter, Associate Vice President of Digital Marketing. “That’s why we need to be able to engage with people on a one-to-one basis, based on their goals and needs.”

One-to-One Connections

The Marketing Cloud has provided the Society with the tools they need long term as they move toward a more sophisticated, one-to-one level of marketing. While the peer-to-peer fundraising platform they have used for years has been a useful all-in-one product, it doesn’t have the automation or customer journey functionality required to take their member engagement to the next level. The Marketing Cloud will allow the Society to tailor messages that meet each individual where they are at any given moment in the journey with MS — whether they have the disease or are a caregiver, family member, volunteer, donor, or an advocate for change.

They hired ListEngage, a longtime Salesforce services partner, to onboard them on the Marketing Cloud, create custom email templates, help set up their data, and warm up the new IP address.

A 55% Open Rate

Most marketers would give an eye and a tooth to get a 55% open rate! The National MS Society got that on their first email send during their IP warmup. Here’s a synopsis of how they did it. Click here to download the full case study.

  1. Clean up their subscriber list and remove duplicate email addresses.
  2. Break down their 2.2 million subscribers into smaller lists based on engagement rates over the past two years.
    • Result: identified 60,000 of their most engaged subscribers
  3. Assign a score to each subscriber
    • Result: Identified 150,000 highly engaged subscribers to study further
  4. Further segmentation of data:
    • Demographic data
    • Connection to
    • Determine number of opens, frequency, and recency
    • Assign an email engagement score for each subscriber based on their behavior

During the IP Warmup — which includes sending small amounts of emails gradually over time to establish the IP as a legitimate email sender — the Society sent their first email to the 60,000 most engaged subscribers they had identified. The secret?

  • Cleanliness of the list
  • The predetermined engagement level of the subscribers
  • Having a relevant message

The IP warmup was very successful in laying the foundation upon which to build their sender reputation.

Customer Journeys

The Society’s ultimate goal is to begin introducing one-to-one customer journeys by localizing content, using personalized information, and making sure the message fits the actions of the individual. This will include further segmentation of their audience, collecting the right data, and making sure every data collection point is linked to their email marketing platform.

ListEngage is currently working with the Society to set up customer journeys and email automations on the Marketing Cloud using Automation Studio and dynamic content.

To learn more about Multiple Sclerosis and how you can get involved in stamping out this disease, visit

ListEngage has been a Salesforce partner since 2003 and exclusively supports the Marketing Cloud and Salesforce family of products. Contact us today for a free consultation and let’s discuss how we can help increase your email marketing success.

About the Banner Art

We came across an article in momentum, the magazine of the National MS Society, that featured some paintings by artist Liz Holly. Liz is an artist in Brooklyn, New York who was diagnosed with MS in 1994. Even though she has lost some of her mobility, Liz is determined to continue painting and “seeing the light.” We appreciate Liz giving us permission to use parts of her painting, “The blues moves,” for our case study cover and for the banner art in this blog post. Read the article or see more of Liz’s work at

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Lynette Rambo

Lynette Rambo | Marketing Consultant

Lynette Rambo is a Salesforce Certified Marketing Cloud Consultant, Administrator, Email Specialist, and Trainer. She has worked in marketing and communications for more than 20 years and with Salesforce Marketing Cloud since 2012. As a Marketing Consultant and Trainer for ListEngage, Lynette helps clients learn Marketing Cloud functionality, email marketing best practices, and effective campaign management. She also works with the Salesforce CRM and connecting Sales and Marketing initiatives. You can contact Lynette at