"We've been around forever, but that doesn't mean everybody knows who you are," says Shelley Maley Secure Computing's Director of Worldwide Marketing.
Although it's a public company (NASDAQ: SCUR), Secure Computing is a "medium-sized business" with a medium-sized marketing budget to match. But, Maley's market is huge, "it is SMB clear up to enterprise. We've got very large corporations using our products as well as small schools."
How can you generate qualified leads in a vastly broad marketplace who have not only heard of you, but are ready, willing, and able to sit down with a sales rep? It's a lot like finding a needle in a haystack... on a budget the "Ciscos of the world" would scoff at.CAMPAIGN
"We all know the math on how many times it takes to make an impression on prospects. If you have limited dollars, you're much better off making a consistent impression on the people you can afford to reach, versus reaching millions one time," says Maley.
"I'm a firm believer that if we hit the same audience constantly over a year, we'll be able to flip awareness" she notes. And as studies have shown, as you raise awareness it's far easier to get good response rates to lead gen offers and your sales close rate goes higher.
So, instead of spreading out her media buying budget broadly in an attempt to reach the whole marketplace, Maley decided to buy only from a couple of IT media outlets. The catch? They had to be able to give her a comprehensive package reaching the same audience including trade shows, webinar marketing, email blasts, white paper distribution, online ads, and even print advertising in a magazine.
"It helps my dollars go so much further if I focus on two-three vendors who offer me that reach and integrate me. I will not buy just print."
Next, starting in March 2004, Maley launched her integrated campaigns by using a three-step process:
Step #1 Campaign creative & execution Juggling multiple campaigns across multiple media can be a nightmare, so Maley set up an integrated six-month calendar noting due dates for everything from email copy, to white papers, to trade show materials, to webinar guest line-up.
Next, Maley focused her outreach efforts on these tactics:
o Trade show booths -- "If you have 60 or fewer vendors on the floor, chances are you'll stand out. Once you start getting into 100s of booths, you get lost unless you're a huge brand and take over half the floor space." To gather leads at the smaller, targeted shows she selected, Maley offered live demos and specials such as "a five-pack starter kit unique to the show."
o Print ads -- "If it's going to impact, you've got to be consistent about reaching that audience. There are months I go dark based on budget issues, but over 18 months I've never been dark for more than a couple of months at a time."
Maley's 4-color full-page ad creative (link to samples below) separated the page into two halves. The top was dedicated to a compelling image. The bottom was dedicated to copy printed on a white background, featuring a company logo, product list, URL and a headline with the word "you" in it. (Copy printed on top of an image or a colored background consistently gets lower readership ratings in print ad studies.)
o Webinars & white papers -- Maley created a steady stream of these, generally one new every quarter. She tested using famous name client Case Studies versus featuring a famous-name analyst.
o Email blasts -- Maley copywrote email blasts to rented lists using a non-salesly, informational tone to appeal to IT pros. (Link to samples below.) To boost response, she kept messages brief and bulleted; didn't waste space on product pitches or "about us" background info; and placed click links at the top and bottom of the email.
Step #2. Qualifying incoming leads
"I came from sales, so I know you don't do anything without getting in synch with sales first. That's not a goal, that's a mandate," says Maley.
Most critical -- building consensus around a highly-specific definition of what makes a lead qualified enough to be worth the sales department's time. The team set criteria for more than a dozen types of qualification status, from A1 to D4. The alpha codes A-D indicated how big the potential account was. The numeric 1-4 codes indicated how close to buying the lead was. If the size and timeframe were unknown, the lead would be coded D4.
Maley set aside a portion of her own budget to pay for outsourced lead qualification help from a specialist telemarketing firm. Why pay a middleman to do something your inside sales team normally would be expected to do?
Cost-wise, she would only pay for calls as they were made, and not carry year-long overhead for hiring, training, benefits and office space. Also, splitting qualification calls from sales calls enhanced marketing's reputation with sales for only providing leads one could and should act on immediately. "The real value of doing pre-qual is the garbage doesn't get to inside sales. They are just seeing people who've gone through the funnel."
Just because you outsource staffing doesn't mean you outsource training. Maley worked very closely with her vendor, training and monitoring calls her dedicated rep made on her behalf. On average these reps change jobs every 6-12 months, so she built in assumed training-a-replacement time into her schedule, and warned inside sales they might have to pick up the slack occasionally. "They were very happy to do it."
Aside from budget and readiness to buy, pre-qualification questions included:
- Technology platforms - Competitors' products being used - Preferred resellers
(By the way, Maley notes never trust purchase intent or budgeting info you get on a lead gen form. "Unless you have a human conversation, you'll not get a real answer. We find qualified prospects say 'No' on forms just so they don't get a sales rep phone call.")
Step #3. Apples-to-apples measurement Maley tracked every campaign -- with the exception of print advertising -- by the end result, what proportion of A1 leads had she received and what was the ROI?
In the end open rates, click rates, trade show badges zapped, even total number of webinar attendees aren't remotely important compared to the number of A1 leads you get and how much you paid for them.
In addition, Maley tracked brand awareness throughout the year by invariably placing the same question on as many lead gen forms as possible "have you heard of Secure Computing?" She hoped this would help justify media buys that weren't specifically direct response.
From March 2004 to November 2004, Maley generated more than 1,000 qualified leads from her integrated campaigns ... and the campaigns continue to this day. Some more learnings:
After three phone call attempts, the telemarketing team was able to qualify 8% of Maley's fourth quarter leads generated as A1 leads. (Link to pie chart detailing results below.) The industry average is 10-15%, but most marketers are not as picky as Maley about what makes a lead qualified enough to pass to sales. And her sales team loves her for it, which means no leads go into the infamous black hole of never-being-contacted.
Webinars generated the highest portion of A1 leads, after that in order were trade shows, white paper offers, and lastly email offers. "I personally think this poor audience gets so much email pushed at them they are hammered with it. I don't know how they respond to anything."
Famous name client speakers pulled pretty well for webinars, but a webinar featuring a Frost & Sullivan analyst attracted roughly 70% more attendees.
For a typical educational webinar run in conjunction with the editors at an IT info Web site, 50.5% of users who signed up to attend actually did so during the live event. (That's almost double the industry average.) Only 22.6% took the time to view a canned archive version later (the average is 30%). 3% attended both the live and canned webinars.
Maley's brand awareness survey yielded happy results -- one year ago 59% of new leads said they hadn't heard of Secure Computing. Now 62% say they have definitely heard of the company.
While Maley doesn't have other data to support print ads, she notes, "Resellers like to see vendors doing print. Many of these people don't care how long you've been in business. They think if you're doing print, you're doing marketing. That's the end all, be all. If you're not in print, you're not marketing. They need to see you there."
Since Secure Computing's products ultimately are sold to the end-clients by resellers, print matters.Useful links related to this article
Creative samples from Secure Computing's campaigns: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/seccom/study.html
TechTarget - one of the media outlets that Secure Computing buys integrated campaigns from including print, trade shows, email and webinars: http://www.techtarget.com
The Lead Dogs - the lead qualification telemarketing firm Secure Computing relies on: http://www.leaddogs.com
Secure Computing: http://www.securecomputing.com