Wahoo! Last September a new enterprise software firm called M7 Corporation got funded by venture capitalists.
In the old days this would have meant Zack Urlocker, VP Marketing, would get to fling advertising money about for months with joyous abandon.
However, now it meant he had just 60 days to create a campaign to get hundreds of highly qualified sales leads to raise their hands eagerly and say, "I'm interested in buying your software."
The VCs and the sales team wanted highly qualified leads, and they wanted them pronto.
Since M7 was emerging from "stealth mode" practically nobody had ever heard of them. Not the press and certainly not potential customers. The Company barely had a Web site, and zero marketing collateral.
On one hand this was a dream job because Urlocker did not have any legacy branding to deal with. He got to invent everything from scratch, and the tight deadline was an adrenaline rush.
On the other hand, enterprise software buyers do not purchase from companies they do not know, like, and trust for the long-term. How do you build a relationship in 60 days?
The first step involved lots of pizza, caffeine, and a cheap motel meeting room.
Urlocker gathered everyone who might have useful input, including the CEO, the VP sales, the head of tech, and M7's marketing agency, for eight solid hours of brainstorming.
"We were locked away in this low-rent hotel conference room for a day to get really explicit about what is our positioning and what are our prospects' pain points."
To get them started, he presented demographics and psychographics of the target market (culled from analysts, journalists, industry message boards, and experience) as well as copies of all competitors' marketing materials.
Whenever the discussion threatened to get too buzz-wordy, he made everyone view a few competitor ads.
"It's a reality test. Someone would say, 'Why don't we say we're this?' But when you looked at competitors, everyone says the same thing, Blah, blah, blah in high-tech marketing jargon. They communicate with jargon so much that it's meaningless. You have to force yourself to stand out and communicate in a more compelling fashion."
"We had whiteboards and papers hanging on all the walls of the room by the end of the day. It was pretty intense."
The team's work boiled down to a unique sales proposition in language that spoke directly to the hearts of prospects, plus an initial marketing plan and white paper topics. "Virtually every piece of communications from then on was derived from this one day."
Urlocker decided to start prospecting efforts with email because it could get results quickly, and he had discovered enough lists (about 15) for his marketplace that he could test some, cut the duds, and still have more names to mail to.
To make the most of his initial investment, he tested:
-> Short copy vs. long copy (samples of both below) -> 5,000 names from five different lists -> A text ad in a highly targeted email newsletter
The landing page for all the tests was fairly simple. Urlocker cut descriptive copy to a bare minimum, just a paragraph explaining the offer's benefits. The registration form began above the fold so visitors did not have to scroll down or click anywhere to see it.
The form was also fairly short. Although M7's sales team wanted lots of information to qualify each prospect, Urlocker did not think the first touch was the best time to ask for it.
"We're an unknown company, so we had to offer a lot of value and make it very easy for people to come into the information. Then we did ongoing things the get people more comfortable, develop a reputation and earn their trust," he explains.
In fact, he says that if you are an unknown brand, asking for all the data you need to qualify a prospect is "kind of like asking someone to marry you on the first date. It may be better to ask for a second date instead."
Even before mailing the first test campaign, he is lined up a second and third date strategy.
Urlocker knew many prospects might forget M7's name a few minutes after they left the site, even if they loved the white paper they downloaded. Therefore, he lined up two email follow-ups with very careful timing and messaging to follow the first campaign, for a total of three "touches" in all over three weeks.
Here's how the campaign played out (link to samples of all below):
Touch 1: Initial M7 white paper offer sent on a Thursday. Registration form asks for basic contact info. The offer focused on a pain point prospects had, "Cut J2EE Development Time in Half"
Touch 2: Third-party analyst paper offer sent to respondents of Touch 1 on the next Tuesday. Registration form asks some specific sales qualifier questions. The offer focused on providing outside credentials for M7. "'Very powerful stuff,' The Baroudi Group."
Touch 3: Seminar or evaluation offer sent to respondents of Touch 2 on a Tuesday. Registration form asks still more specific sales qualifier questions. The offer focused on getting prospects to try M7 for themselves.
Prospects who got all the way through the funnel and answered qualifiers correctly were turned over to the sales team as solid leads. Anyone who stopped along the way, or who was not qualified yet to purchase, was kept on file to be contacted with campaigns in the future, whenever Urlocker had a new white paper or newsletter issue.
Despite the fact that Urlocker was in a big hurry to prove to both sales and VCs that he could generate loads of great sales leads, he waited until the responses to his very first email tests got all the way through the three-step funnel *before* rolling out additional campaigns.
That is because he suspected that some lists that would do very well in terms of initial offer acceptance, might turn out to generate less-qualified names once everything was said and done.
The very first test campaigns exceeded Urlocker's budgeted lead number goals by 294%. In fact, in 60 days he had only spent 23% of his total budget and got 70% of the qualified leads he had expected to take many more months and campaigns to acquire.
More results data:
- Average response data through the 3-touch funnel Touch 1 13% of names mailed clicked, 60% of clicks registered Touch 2 61% response rate (opened, clicked, filled out form) Touch 3 53% response rate (opened, clicked, filled out form)
- Long copy won hands down. The email blast that included an explicit table of contents for the white paper offer was three times more effective than the shorter email blast.
Urlocker notes this may not be true for all audiences. It is just that his demographic in particular are information seekers and readers.
- Even though the initial cost of a newsletter ad was much cheaper than renting a list for a blast in Urlocker's marketplace, in the final analysis, ads were so much less successful in generating response that they cost four times more per lead.
Urlocker notes again, that this is probably due to the fact that his marketplace likes long copy. The short text-ad coupled with his unknown brand name, spelled disaster.
However, he still tests newsletter sponsorships when he can get them cheaply enough (often as part of a bigger media buy).
- Some lists that performed very well on the initial campaign, ended up as stinkers after the third touch. Waiting for results before rolling out was tough but worth it.
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