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Mar 13, 2001
Case Study

Sento Corp Doubles Email Marketing Response Rates by Switching to a B-to-B Specialty List Broker

SUMMARY: Marketing Director Kevin Graves says the first week he switched list brokers, the results from the more highly targeted lists "blew away" his former response rates. His campaigns now generally average 10-12% click through rates. Almost 10% of these visitors then convert to becoming serious sales leads for $3000-$8000 training courses. Here are the campaign details.

Sento Corporation has had great success using fax marketing to generate qualified sales leads for its $3,000-$8,000 IT training courses. So, in Fall 2000 they decided to take their electronic marketing one step further -- to the Web. Sento's first step was to hire a Marketing Director, Kevin Graves, who already had an Internet marketing background.

Graves, together with Technical Writer Mark Pope and Graphic Designer Meagan Getz, devised an email marketing campaign to drive traffic to a Web site especially designed to collect sales leads. They turned to a big famous email list broker for their names. Graves says, "They had a great marketing campaign, they sold me!"

However Sento's first email campaigns got a less than stellar response, averaging 3%-5% click throughs. Graves says, "I knew my creative might need some tweaking, but it was hard for me to believe that it was that bad."


Graves began investigating the email list rental market more thoroughly. He discovered that, just as in postal mail, all brokerage firms have access to the same lists. However, just as in postal mail, this didn't mean account reps who were used to working on multi-million piece consumer campaigns could give good advice on lists for much smaller, niche, B-to-B campaigns. So, Graves switched from the big, famous, mainly B2C broker to a B-to-B specialist broker.

Instead of recommending the general IT lists he'd been renting before, the B-to-B broker dug a little harder and came up with highly specific list ideas, such as TechRepublic opt-ins who'd noted an interest in specific types of IT training.

Graves was happy enough with results to run a standing order for several thousand new names per week, which he broke down into smaller chunks to be mailed over several days. He explains, "We just have three sales people, so in order to not overload them, we space it out, doing some on Tuesdays, some on Wednesdays and then some on Thursdays."

In order to gather the most sales leads from each mailing, Graves and his team devised a landing page with three different offers, each designed to appeal to a different personality:

1) Win a free Palm Pilot
2) Q&A Do you consider yourself a geek? Take this MCSE Quiz to find out
3) Free MeasureUp Practice Exam $99 Value

Despite this plethora of offers, the page was cleanly designed enough not to be confusing. (You can check it out for yourself at the link further down.)

Next Graves decided to see if he could improve landing page conversion rates even higher by adding a live online chat option. Again he was careful not to overload the sales team. He says, "We only link 500 of the emails each day to chat." Graves knew nothing's more frustrating than promising something that doesn't work, so he only had the chat offer come up during the hours of the day when his sales team could answer it. He says, "Beyond that time frame, visitors wouldn't see it. They didn't know the difference."


Graves says the first week he switched list brokers, the results from the more highly targeted lists "blew away" his former response rates. His campaigns now generally average 10-12% click through rates. Almost 10% of these visitors then convert to becoming serious sales leads. Graves says, "They say, ok let me look into it, let me see if I can get the money. They move toward becoming a sale."

Graves has noticed a "slight increase" in the conversion rate of click through to warm sales lead for the names receiving the link to the live chat. However he believes he could improve this with more sales training. He says, "Selling on chat is different than selling on the phone. You don't have as much verbiage to do it with, you have to be much more to the point. As soon as you see the prospect drifting off subject, you have to grab the reins right away and bring them back."

Sento's sales cycle is at least two-to-three months long, so Graves doesn't have enough closure data to give definitive metrics yet. However he does say, "My goal is to close at least 2% of all leads generated and I definitely expect we'll do better than that."

NOTES: The name of the B-to-B broker Graves is so happy with? B-to-B Works.

Graves' advice for B-to-B marketers testing email, "You've got to try experimenting with a lot of lists and keep tweaking your campaign. Don't get discouraged if the first one or two, or even the ninth, bomb. Make sure you use your broker for advice too. I bounce things off my rep constantly!"
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