"We were generating so many leads we couldn't satisfy them all," says Jinfonet Software's Marketing Director Marty Brandwin.
"We'd offer white papers and get 1,000-2,000 leads, but sales reps didn't want to call them because a lot never developed into true leads. Sales told us they would rather have one solid qualified lead -- someone with a project in mind to start in the next six to eight months -- as opposed to 40 white paper leads."
Brandwin had an in-house telemarketing team to help pre-qualify the white paper leads before he handed them to sales, but even that proved troublesome. The team was small and the incoming leads overwhelmed them.
What do you do when your white paper offers are too effective? If you move to a less effective call to action, would the volume go down too much and then leave the team stranded with no one to call on?
And, what on earth should marketing do about the leads that fall from a busy sales team's plate? How can you dust leads off and nurture them, until they are ready to be handed back to sales again?CAMPAIGN
Luckily, Jinfonet's marketing team had close and fairly comfortable ties with sales (yes, we know how unusual this is). So, the two teams sat down together and agreed on six specific action items:
Action Item #1. Number-coding all leads
The teams invented a coding system with seven numbered ranks for each lead stage. The rank was initially set by marketing and telemarketing, but quickly "owned" by sales. As a lead got progressively more likely to close, sales would change that lead's rank.
If a lead was highly unlikely to close in the next eight months, it would be assigned the worst ranking #7.
Action Item #2. Sales only gets the best leads
Instead of giving all leads to sales, the marketing and telemarketing team sorted through them first. Sorting included removing obvious "mickey mouse" fake names from registration forms.
Also, telemarketing agreed to prequalify names that came from offers and sources which had traditionally proven to produce lower quality leads. This meant white paper download names were never handed directly to sales. Plus, marketing had to tweak their media buys and offers frequently, carefully adjusting incoming lead flow to manage telemarketing's workflow.
No lead gen campaign launched just because it was "budgeted." No plans were considered set in stone beyond the next couple of months. Managing the pipeline is more delicate than an annual budget can handle.
Action Item #3. Sales updates data about each lead
"We track everything in the sales database," says Brandwin. "I'll go through good leads every week, and if I ever come across one without some sort of contact being made, don't tell me 'Oh I forgot to enter it in the record, or I haven't had a chance to call yet.'"
As every marketer knows, getting sales to input data can be almost impossible. Brandwin luckily had an extremely supportive VP Sales on his side. That said, he still needed a tool to get the job done...
Action Item #4. The Friday Spreadsheet (link to sample below)
That tool turned out to be the threat of public embarrassment.
Every Friday the marketing team updated a fairly simple spreadsheet based on the latest sales database records.
Lead and sales rep names were named. If there was missing info in the database, for example records showed a great prospect hadn't been contacted yet, that cell appeared in vibrant red.
Everyone on the sales and marketing team got a copy each week.
Action Item #5. Marketing can "grab leads back"
"Once a lead goes to #7, and it's inactive, we grab it back," says Brandwin. Next the marketing communications team took over the relationship, using three specific nurturing tactics to keep Jinfonet top of mind with these prospects, without being obnoxious about it.
o Client-side success stories -- with help from sales, who pointed out specific happy clients, the team created an ongoing series of press releases, each focusing on how a single client was solving problems with Jinfonet Software. (Link to sample release below.)
Marcom pitched these stories to industry-specific vertical publications and Web sites rather than sending a generic blast to all business media. Not only were the releases more likely to be picked up by editorial, but readers were more likely to be persuaded by the story of a true peer.
o Monthly email newsletter -- Instead of happy talk about the product, the newsletter also focused on the latest client success stories. Marcom figured readers were more interested in their peers than a list of new features or a Jinfonet CEO letter.
o Vertical mini-white papers -- If sales in one vertical were either lagging or far surpassing expectations, marcom would support them by producing a mini-white paper.
What's a mini? It's not as long as a full paper -- it's more like an easy-to-digest list of factoids. And it's extremely targeted to a particular industry vertical rather than being of generic interest. For example, "Top 10 Trends and Tactics in Retail Growth for 2005."
Instead of just sending out the paper to prospects and hoping they liked it, marcom asked the telemarketing team to call all #7 leads in that vertical to offer them the paper. It's a great excuse for a quick phone call to check in on a prospect's status.
Action Item #6. Weekly interdepartmental lunch meeting
Every Wednesday, everyone in sales and marketing who can make it to the building, sit down for lunch together. It's an open access meeting -- so other departments such as programming and service are invited to attend as well if they'd like.
The discussion ranges from lead sources quality to upcoming marcom releases, as well as product developments.
As a result of all of these discussions, and tracking now-reliable response data, the marketing department decided six months ago to cut regular white paper offers entirely, except for times when telemarketing hit a lull.
Instead, marketing switched to a trial download offer.
It's a dangerous tactic because although trial downloaders tend to be much further down the sales cycle (which makes sales happy), there are also a lot fewer of them (which stresses out marketing).
To maximize the impact of these fewer leads, marketing decided to lock the download. Prospects could download the file, but they couldn't open or use it ... not without talking on the phone with a sales rep from Jinfonet first to get the alpha numeric key.
The rep uses the call to find out more about the prospect's pain points, and can even run an on-the-spot demo (or offer a self-guided tour) for the prospect with examples focusing precisely on that prospect's vertical and problems. (No generic demos - everyone hates them.)
Plus, sales chooses which key to give - enabling just the functionality that matches the prospect's needs, so the prospect isn't distracted by other options and loses interest.
We've never met a marketing team who was happier about their relations with the sales department, so that's the best result to our mind. "Every day several of them pop their heads into one of our cubes to tell us about something -- this lead is good or a source of leads is good," says Brandwin.
The trial download offers result in 60% fewer incoming leads. However, white paper offers generally result in a 30% "mickey mouse" rate of entirely false sales leads, while downloads only get a 10% "mickey mouse" rate. So, the difference in volume is less than it appears on surface.
Plus, sales reps report a higher, swifter close rate with trial leads.
Nurturing campaigns have turned into a big success, and offer hope for future white paper-driven leads. When, in the course of a #7 ranked (inactive) lead's lifetime, that lead finally raises their hand to respond to a trial download offer, sales gets a remarkable almost 30% close rate. If Jinfonet had abandoned those old, lower quality, leads on the salesroom floor, the company would be far less successful today.Useful links related to this article:
Creative samples of Jinfonet's marketing campaigns, including a Friday Spreadsheet: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/jinfonet/study.html
Jinfonet Software Inc: http://www.jinfonet.com