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Nov 29, 2007
Case Study

How to Double Subscriptions & New Business - 5 Lead-Gen Strategies

SUMMARY: If you market a range of subscription levels and need to appeal to both high-end and low-end customers, you know how difficult it is to separate the two types.

A financial services information firm developed a system of newsletters and white papers to qualify leads for the direct sales force while sending less-qualified leads to an online subscription registration. Subscriptions and new business from the marketing-generated leads have both doubled.
Sue Childs, EVP Marketing and Business Development, Edgar Online, had to juggle two marketing missions for the provider of interactive financial data and analytical tools: generate more-qualified leads for a direct sales force and entice less-qualified prospects to register online for their subscription-based products.

Edgar Online’s financial information products range from a $240-a-year subscription to data feeds for professional analysts that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Childs and her colleague, Bill Shaughnessy, Director Online Marketing, realized last year that their marketing efforts on both fronts -- particularly email -- needed improvement.

“Our focus was on user communications, with some level of campaign promotions, but the process wasn’t as streamlined as it needed to be. We weren’t tracking leads all they way through to the direct sale, and it was often very difficult because leads got lost,” Childs says.

They wanted to create a system that would help them steer leads into the appropriate channel while keeping track of them throughout the sales or nurturing process.

The team devised a lead-management system that combined new processes, content and technology infrastructure. Plus, it tied the new lead-generation and lead-management system to an existing CRM tool used by the sales team.

Here’s how they built Edgar’s new lead-management system:

-> Step #1. Overhaul and re-launch the newsletter

Childs and Shaughnessy re-created and renamed a monthly email newsletter titled SECrets. Before the relaunch, the newsletter was delivered to 10,000-15,000 subscribers, and it focused primarily on understanding SEC documents and filings. After the overhaul, it became a lead-generation tool titled EDGAReview and went out to 300,000 names.

Changes included:
o New title to reflect the company’s brand
o Redesign
o New editorial team
o Focusing on all of Edgar Online’s products and services, including data feeds and online analysis tools
o Offering more relevant content aimed at current financial issues, such as the impact of the mortgage-backed security crisis

To distribute it beyond current customers, they culled names from a massive in-house email database generated from multiple sources, including:
o Co-registration sites
o Content partnerships with Yahoo! Finance and Google Finance
o Edgar’s own free site,, which required users to register to access SEC documents

Old, defunct or otherwise irrelevant names were cleaned out of the database to develop the final email list.

-> Step #2. Create white papers and registration form to qualify leads

The in-house database was a good resource for newsletter contacts, but it wasn’t seen by the marketing team as a true list of leads. Each name typically had only an email address tied to it. So, the team developed a series of white papers to offer to existing contacts and new prospects to help qualify leads.

They chose topics for white papers that would appeal to different segments of potential customers -- from individual investors looking for basic SEC information to corporate finance or financial services professionals needing high-end products.

Among the white papers:
o EDGAR 101: Find Information on Public Companies
o Introducing Interactive Data: The eXtensible Business Reporting Language [XBRL] for Today
o How to Invest in China

Based on what prospects downloaded from the website, Shaughnessy says, leads were qualified in terms of products.

The marketers also created a registration form that helped them further segment prospects for either the direct sales or online subscription registration channels. The form first asked users to provide:
o Name
o Email address
o Company name
o Work phone
o Job title

Then it asked three qualifying questions:
- Choose your biggest financial data challenge.
- Are you currently evaluating or do you plan to evaluate a financial data and analytical solution in the next six to 12 months?
- Are you a decision maker, an end user, an influencer or a user and a decision maker?

-> Step #3. Promote white papers online and by email

The team promoted the white papers in several email and online channels, including:
o The revamped newsletter
o Online ads with partners, such as
o Paid search campaigns
o Email list swaps with partners, such as Investopedia

-> Step #4. Qualify leads for direct sales team

As responses to white paper offers came in online, the marketing team first looked for “marketing qualified leads” for the direct sales team.

They started with the source of the lead and the particular white paper used in the offer -- for instance, a title aimed at higher-end products.

Marketing qualified leads met these criteria:
o Came from legitimate companies
o Indicated they were evaluating solutions or planning to evaluate solutions in the next six months
o Indicated they were a decision maker

Those leads were entered into the company’s CRM system and tagged with a code that indicated the campaign which generated the lead. The code allowed them to track the effectiveness of different efforts and measure overall ROI.

The sales team could either accept the lead and begin working with it or reject it and send it back into the marketing pipeline.

-> Step #5. Segment top leads from low-end prospects

Leads for higher-end products who weren’t ready for the sales team or prospects who seemed better suited to online subscription registration were entered into an automated email marketing process to further qualify them or drive them to the registration form. Two examples:

#1. Prospects who downloaded the XBRL white paper, but weren’t fully qualified, might receive:
- Email three days later offering a live online tour of the company’s data analytics service.
- Offer for a free trial of the service.
- Initial email offering both the live demo and the free trial.

#2. Prospects who downloaded the EDGAR 101 white paper were likely to be individual investors or other smaller business users. They were seen as better suited for a basic online subscription. Follow-up included:
- Initial up-sell email outlining some of the company’s higher-end corporate products. “I don’t want to assume they’re not interested in higher-end products,” Shaughnessy says.
- Offer to save 20% on a subscription if they registered online.
- Option for a free trial that required prospects to enter credit card information.


Edgar’s new content and lead-management system has balanced the tricky mission of driving both the direct sales and online channels.

“We’re very pleased, the board is very pleased, and the president calls the marketing department a well-oiled machine. Now, we have the ability to prove it, which is the most important thing for us,” Childs says.

Among their successes:

- More than 25% of new business came from marketing-generated leads by the third quarter of 2007. That’s approximately double the 11%-15% of all new business booked per quarter at the beginning of the year.

- Online subscription registrations have doubled. That’s because of better targeting of prospects for the basic level subscription and new programs that require users to enter their credit card information.

“[Online subscriptions] is becoming a tougher and tougher space, particularly around financial information,” Childs says. “Given the fact that our sales team is now focused on higher-end products, we’re really depending on the online channel to drive our basic subscription business. That kind of growth is really critical for us.’

- Response to EDGAReview is averaging a 10.15% open rate and an 8.2% clickthrough rate.

- White paper offers in the first issue of EDGAReview saw a 1.1% conversion rate.

- An XBRL white paper sent to an Investopedia list generated an open rate higher than 23%. This rate made it the most successful white paper in Edgar’s library for total downloads and percent of qualified leads generated.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from Edgar Online's nurturing program:

Sirius Decisions - helped develop Edgar Online’s lead nurturing program:

Vtrenz - runs Edgar Online’s email and lead nurturing campaigns:

Edgar Online:

See Also:

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