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Oct 06, 2004
Case Study

Online Marketing to CFOs of Multibillion Dollar Companies

SUMMARY: Your company has to gross at least half a billion for Alan Ginsberg to even consider marketing to your CFO. (And he'd prefer it if you were over a billion.) How does he get big-time CFOs to respond to lead generation campaigns for software? Killer content plus a Web/email combo that rocks. Definitely check out this Case Study (including creative samples for white paper and webinar offers) if you target c-level executives at large companies:

"I started with a blank sheet a year ago," says Alan Ginsberg, Cartesis Director of Marketing. " We didn't have an opt-in database. The marketing function was limited to ads in trade publications without any tracking or measurement."

He had one single agenda -- to generate new business sales leads, preferably with email permission.

The target audience -- CFOs and other very senior financial executives in "very large companies" with billions in annual revenues. "It is a difficult market to reach," Ginsberg says dryly.

While Cartesis is one of the top companies in its field (business performance software), it's a fairly new field so the company is hardly a household name. The classic way to gain Global 500 exec respect would be to spend several years softening the ground with loads of brand advertising and PR in big name pubs before launching serious lead gen efforts.

Ginsberg didn't have that kind of time, and he didn't have that kind of budget. It was lead gen or nothing.


Since Cartesis' brand name alone might not make CFOs sit up and take notice, Ginsberg rolled out a wealth of offers based on brand names and topics that would catch CFOs' attention.

He partnered with CFO Magazine and Business Finance magazines to speak (or better yet have famous name clients speak) at webinars and targeted real-world events. He created a series of white papers and articles on hot topics such as Sarbanes-Oxley.

It's worth noting that none of this content was overtly marketing copy or remotely salesy. There were no free trial offers or cheesy giveaways that might turn top level executives off or alert their gatekeepers to stop the message from getting through.

The key was to offer extremely classy, useful educational materials as a way to garner the lead. Only then would qualification and the sales process begin. (So many marketers we see try to trumpet a sales message and a lead gen offer at the same time; it just won't work with this audience.)

Sample Cartesis Campaign #1. The CFO Project

Ginsberg allied with high-profile partners, Accenture and Montgomery Research, to sponsor a "thought leadership" Web site called The CFO Project (CFO standing for Competitive Financial Operations).

The site featured the type of content you'd expect from a top professional magazine, including CFO interviews, analyst columns, links to research and white papers, etc. The editorial advisory board included such luminaries as Microsoft's CFO.

Content was free and open access (which made it much easier for search engine spiders to view it). At the end of every article, there was a lead gen form asking for feedback, and allowing readers to request information about the contributing author or company.

Resulting leads were fed to participating site partners via email.

Because this site was openly and freely available to anyone on the Web, Ginsberg didn't automatically send resulting leads off to his sales team. First, his team carefully weeded through them, tossing consultants, competitors, and financial execs from "tiny companies" (defined as anything under half a billion) to one side.

Then each one of the resulting qualified leads received a highly personalized email note from the Cartesis sales rep in their territory. (Link below to sample note.)

Instead of hard selling or asking for an appointment, the letter carefully reiterated Cartesis' credentials by referencing famous name clients, and then offered the CFO a hotlink to a white paper or webinar that was hand-selected to appeal to him or her.

(To make a campaign like this, you need a library of various white papers and canned webinars so you've got something that will appeal to everyone.)

Next the rep and the marketing department watched each lead's reactions (including if and how that CFO used info on Cartesis' site from links in this letter or follow-up email newsletters) and planned their next move in the sales cycle.

Sample Cartesis Campaign #2. Paid Search Ads

Yes, even multi-billion dollar corporation CFOs surf the Internet on occasion.

Instead of marketing under software-related terms, Ginsberg again took the high road, promoting white papers related to topics such as Sarbanes-Oxley. The goal was not to find out who wanted to buy software at this moment, but rather which CFOs were so deeply interested in the challenges of the day that they were seeking educational materials ... and might someday need a software solution as their next step.

In short, Ginsberg's paid search marketing started at a level much higher up in the sales cycle than most search marketing does. This helped eliminate bad leads, and lowered the amount of keyword competition.

His landing pages (see sample below) broke the rules. Instead of focusing on the one solitary offer (which we generally recommend), he centered the main offer in big type on the page, but surrounded it with enticing, alternate white paper and webinar offers on the sides.

The resulting page looked like a page in a content-rich educational site, rather than a marketing vehicle.

Plus, instead of putting the registration form on the landing page (which again we generally advise marketers to do), Ginsberg held back, coyly saying "click here to download your PDF..." The link then led visitors to the registration form.

Key - this registration form restated the offer specifically in the headline. Ginsberg didn't assume that because he got a click that person would remember exactly what they would get for registering.

Also, opting-in for email was optional, not required. Ginsberg only wanted names on his email list who wanted to be there.

Names were again triaged and received follow-up emails, newsletters, and other contacts where appropriate.


Starting from zero permissioned email addresses a year ago, Cartesis now has a healthy database of more than 5,000 big-company, high-level financial executives who've raised their hands to say, "Send me email!"

The CFO Project results in roughly 100 new incoming leads per month, 20% are extremely targeted and worthy of immediate follow-up.

On average 62-68% of these worthies open their personal intro letters from Cartesis' sales reps. 26-29% click on the targeted white paper or canned webinar offer in that letter.

The paid search engine ads for Sarbanes-Oxley specific campaigns average a 1.6% clickthrough. 18% of clicks convert to registering as a lead to get one of the offers on the landing page.

According to MarketingSherpa data, that's three-times above average for b-to-b paid search lead gen campaigns. Ginsberg notes currently he's paying $5.22 per submitted lead in this campaign.

On average 48% of prospects who register to attend a Cartesis Webinar actually attend. This is roughly double the average attendance rate for high-tech marketing webinars, and points to the difference high-value content and peer speakers can make.

Cartesis' email newsletter "The BPM Buzz" consistently gets a high 75% open rate and 20% average clickthrough rate of recipients clicking to read an entire article on Cartesis's site. We suspect much of this success is due to the fact that the newsletter name is not the same as the company name. It's clearly on a subject, not on a company.

Useful links related to this story:

Samples of Cartesis' email campaigns and landing pages:

Eloqua - the marketing management software Cartesis relies on to handle and track campaigns, including email:

The CFO Project


See Also:

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