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Join Our Research Team at DMA 2014
Dec 03, 2008
Case Study

Generate Leads with Social Media Strategy: 6 Steps to Fill Up Sales Funnel

SUMMARY: Can a social media strategy boost your lead generation effort? Absolutely. Read this Case Study.

A technology marketer at a startup firm needed an immediate, cost-effective way to reach their niche audience and bring qualified visitors back to their website. They tested and measured activity from several social media channels to help fill up their sales funnel with prospects.
CHALLENGE

Pam O’Neal, VP Marketing, BreakingPoint, didn’t want to adopt a typical demand generation strategy after she joined the networking-equipment testing system provider in April 2008. The startup company had a limited budget, and their target audience of security and quality assurance professionals in R&D laboratories wasn’t merely skeptical of marketing -- they hated it.

O’Neal and her team wanted to supplement traditional PR, events and demand-generation campaigns with a social media strategy that created strong relationships with hard-to-find prospects. But they wanted to make sure those efforts were reaching the right audience and turning them into leads.

“It was either going to work big or be a huge failure,” says O’Neal. “We didn’t know, but we wanted more than anything to have a good solid case study and have metrics that prove social media could work in this climate and with this audience.”

They took six steps to develop their social media strategy and measure its impact.

CAMPAIGN

O’Neal and her team tested several social media channels while revamping their public relations tactics to drive visitors to the company’s website. They tracked growth and engagement metrics from those initiatives. They then correlated those results to traditional metrics, such as unique visitors, leads, and pipeline activity.

The six steps they took:

Step #1. Create blog to start and join online conversations

O’Neal’s team began its foray into social media by launching a company blog. They didn’t wait to finalize a blog strategy before launch, however. Their blogging approach evolved over time, based on observation of online conversations related to their network equipment testing niche.

- First, the team set up an online monitoring system that scanned the Web, the blogosphere, online forums and communities to find conversations relevant to their industry and their technical audience. The results were consolidated into an RSS feed that a team member could review each morning.

Scanning tools included:
o TweetScan, for Twitter posts
o Google Alerts for industry terms, such as “security threats” and “equipment testing”
o Boardtracker.com, which monitors technology forums and message boards

- When the scanning tools found a relevant conversation, such as a blog post about cost of network equipment-testing tools, a team member would join that conversation. They would comment on the blog post and point readers to content on the same topic at the BreakingPoint blog.

- The team also used their blog to break stories with the potential to go viral. For example, the company’s security research team published tests and research related to clickjacking – a recently discovered security flaw within websites that takes clickers from a legitimate-appearing button to an illegitimate site.

Those stories generated links from other industry blogs and articles in major trade publications.

Step #2. Establish a Twitter account

The team supplemented their blog with a company Twitter account. It allowed them to post shorter, more frequent updates to their niche audience.

Company “tweets” included:
- Notices of new blog posts, webinars
- Fun entries (e.g., trivia questions, quizzes)
- Informal focus group questions (a poll of Twitter followers about potential names for the company newsletter)

As they did with the blog, the team used their scanning tools to find and participate in Twitter conversations relevant to their industry. They were particularly interested in community members asking for advice about equipment testing, so they set up alerts to find key terms, such as:
o “Bake off,” an industry term for a head-to-head equipment test
o “Test methodology”
o Competitors’ names (along with the word “sucks”)

“People are complaining a lot more on Twitter than in the blogosphere,” says O’Neal. “It’s a place people go to vent, as well as search for solutions.”

They also re-tweeted relevant information found through their scans, such as reports about equipment testing results or interesting industry news. “It gives us a reason to stay in front of our followers and stimulate conversations.”

Step #3. Create LinkedIn group

To explore an array of social media channels, the team created BreakingPoint groups on LinkedIn and Facebook. They quickly realized that their target audience wasn’t well represented on Facebook. But the LinkedIn group began attracting members with the right professional backgrounds.

The team established the group as an open forum to discuss issues related to network test equipment and security – not to the company or its products.

Group members took the lead in starting conversations among themselves. Typical topics included:
o Advice on vendors
o Reviews/suggestions for industry events
o Feedback on new testing approaches or programs

O’Neal’s team acted as hosts, joining discussions when they had a pertinent point to contribute, or sharing relevant industry news, blog posts or other content to keep members engaged.

Step #4. Modify press release strategy for blogger coverage

The team revamped its press release strategy to encourage more online coverage for the company. Actions they took:

- Release at least one new press release each week.
- To encourage inbound links, press releases were shorter and contained more links to sections of the company website.
- Shift their release time from 8 a.m. Eastern time to late morning/early afternoon, when West Coast bloggers were most likely to begin scanning for news.
- Publish press releases using a service called PitchEngine, and post releases to social media channels, such as their Twitter feed and LinkedIn group.

Step #5. Promote social media channels on company website and in email signatures

To encourage customers and prospects to participate in their social media channels, the team included links to different accounts from the company’s website and in their email signatures.

The news section of the website, for instance, included links to the company’s Twitter feed and LinkedIn group under a “join us” headline. They also included updates from the company Twitter account in the right-hand column of the company blog.

Employees’ email signatures could include links to the blog, Twitter account or LinkedIn group, along with name, email address and phone number.

Step #6. Measure growth of social media accounts and Web traffic

O’Neal was determined to measure the contribution social media efforts made to the company’s marketing and sales activity. So, they tracked metrics to determine the growth of their various social media channels, such as:
o Unique blog page views
o Twitter followers
o LinkedIn group members

At the same time, they tracked a series of marketing metrics, such as:
o Unique website visitors
o Traffic generated by SEO
o Leads
o Leads by source (inbound Web, email, trade shows, seminars)
o Marketing-influenced pipeline activity, by source

When comparing the metrics side-by-side, they looked for correlations between activity in social media outlets and an increase in leads and sales pipeline activity.


RESULTS


“After six months, we saw some amazing results,” says O’Neal.

The team’s analysis showed a dramatic correlation between the use of social media channels and the growth of the company’s Web traffic and leads. (See creative samples link below for a chart illustrating growth trends.)

By the end of Q3 2008, their social media campaign resulted in:
o 10,230 unique blog page views in Q3
o 280 Twitter followers
o 141 members of their LinkedIn Group
o 155% increase in unique Web visitors

Most important, that Web traffic is now contributing the majority of the team’s leads and pipeline activity.

- Leads by source:
o 55% inbound Web
o 23% trade shows
o 20.5% email
o 1.5% seminars

- Marketing-influenced pipeline by source:
o 75% inbound Web
o 17% email
o 4% seminars
o 4% trade shows

The amount of leads and pipeline activity generated from Web traffic demonstrates to O’Neal that their social media strategy is reaching their marketing-averse audience.

“In my prior position, I felt like I was on a treadmill when every quarter I had to come up with more and more clever campaigns to drive demand generation,” says O’Neal. “I’m not saying that there isn’t a lot of work that goes into social media, but I’m not constantly having to do these elaborate demand gen campaigns anymore.”

The team’s social media efforts also support their ongoing search-engine optimization strategy. By engaging in conversations about industry issues, they’re generating more links on non-brand search terms that help boost their search engine results positions. Non-brand search terms are typically those used by prospects when searching for testing equipment.

When O’Neal joined the company, the ratio of Web traffic from brand terms to non-brand terms was 2.5 to 1. “That’s really bad. It means more than twice as many people were searching for our company name versus their own pain point.”

Now, the ratio of brand to non-brand search traffic is 0.6 to 1.

Useful links related to this story

Creative samples from BreakingPoint’s social media campaign
http://www.marketingsherpa.com/cs/breakingpoint/study.h
ml


BoardTracker
http://www.boardtracker.com/


Facebook
http://www.facebook.com


LinkedIn
http://www.linkedin.com


PitchEngine
http://www.pitchengine.com


TweetScan
http://www.tweetscan.com


Twitter
http://www.twitter.com


BreakingPoint
http://www.breakingpoint.com

See Also:

Comments about this Case Study

Dec 03, 2008 - Pam ONeal of BreakingPoint says:
Thanks for sharing the results of BreakingPoint's social media successes with the world. It's truly been a companywide effort to achieve these results with much of the success attributed to Kyle Flaherty, our Director of Marketing and Social Media, and our technical execs and staff who provide a steady stream of relevant content and advice. It's been gratifying to see these leads turn into actual revenue to show that social media can generate ROI.


Dec 03, 2008 - Martin Edic of Techrigy Inc. says:
This is a great example- we're literally doing the same thing with very strong results.


Dec 03, 2008 - Robert Lesser of Direct Impact Marketing says:
Congratulations Pam & Kyle on your social media successes! When we spoke earlier in the year, I was impressed with the headway you have made given your niche market and that BreakingPoint is in start-up mode. Look forward to hearing more!


Dec 03, 2008 - Leah Washington of Safend says:
Thanks for sharing this story. It is great as I face many of the same challenges for demand generation at a startup. Can you tell me how many people within the company were/are involved in the initiative. For example, how many marketing and technical people are maintaining, monitoring and responding blog posts, the LinkedIn Groups, etc. That would be helpful in understanding how such a strategy could work for my company. Thanks!


Dec 04, 2008 - Ian Hendry of WeCanDo.BIZ says:
I have seen the same thing happening when companies add social media to their lead generation mix. In fact, one of our users achieved more from social media than they were achieving from outbound telesales. Ian Hendry CEO, WeCanDo.BIZ http://www.wecando.biz


Dec 04, 2008 - Kyle F Flaherty of BreakingPoint says:
Thank you for helping to tell our tale at BreakingPoint, it is exciting to see social media be an effective tool not only for community building but lead generation. Also just wanted to mention, in the spirit of being social, that Pam and myself can be found on Twitter (@poneal and @kyleflaherty respectively). Looking forward to hearing what people think.


Dec 06, 2008 - Mike Damphousse of Green Leads says:
Is facebook really relevant to B2B marketing? Blogs, twitter, scanning, I get all that. But I can't compare the activity my teen daughters do on facebook to be of value to a B2B campaign. Should we make a B2B Lead Gen identity on facebook? Just not sure. Would love to be proved wrong. Demand generation/demand creation are key to building B2B branding, but when I think facebook, I think pictures of my kid's sticking their tongues out. Just my 2 cents...prove me wrong. Market with Courage!


Dec 08, 2008 - Terry Meehan of Independent says:
Great case study! I'm curious about the increased leads. Can you share the percentage increase in leads generated?


Dec 08, 2008 - John Wolf of SpectraSoft says:
Great case study. I am also curious about the staffing and hours per week that go into this. Thanks!


Dec 10, 2008 - Pam ONeal of BreakingPoint says:
To answer the questions raised: Thanks for all of the great questions. We have one full time person devoted in part to listening, cultivating relationships and distributing content. He is also responsible for other Marketing programs, as well. The rest is done using a small fraction of time from our Chief Technology Officer, 3 or 4 of the members of our application and security reasearch team, and me. We also share content that we've researched and welcome members of the community to contribute and help spread the word, as well as our partners. That's an important way for a growing company to be able to distribute enough content. Of course, we have an Inside Sales team that turns these leads into appointments and Sales closes deals. As far as an increase in leads? Well, that's huge because of the stage of the company. We launched our Marketing initiatives in April of 2008, so we've seen tremendous growth in leads. Quarter over quarter growth is averaging about 303%. Hope that helps.


Apr 20, 2009 - Rob of CapitalSolutionsBancorp.com says:
I just read this six months after the fact! Very interesting. Other than building and contributing to a blog and outsourcing about 3-4 unique and relevant news stories a day, we haven't done anything else. But then I always thought our B2B clients were not "into" doing any social networking activities. I'm really curious if anyone can answer Mike's (Green Leads) question about Facebook. We've held off on that for my reasons stated, but if it makes sense with ROI, maybe we should. Any advice or answers?


Apr 20, 2009 - Sean Donahue of MarketingSherpa says:
Rob, to partially answer your (and Mike's) question, the BreakingPoint team didn't find a good fit with Facebook. Their audience just wasn't well-represented on Facebook, so there wasn't a lot of lead-gen impact from Facebook. Anecdotally, I hear much the same thing from other marketers -- Facebook is better for personal interests, LinkedIn is for relevant business conversations. But I'd love to hear from B2B marketers who *are* seeing significant impact or ROI by adding Facebook to their lead-gen strategy. If anyone's got a compelling story to share, it would make a great case study.



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