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Join Our Research Team at DMA 2014
May 12, 2011
Case Study

Content Marketing: Inbound strategy pulls in 25% more revenue, 70% more leads

SUMMARY: Content marketing can increase the volume and quality of your site traffic, and doesn't require a huge budget. As this company shows, you can build a strategy from the ground up using mostly free tools and resources on hand.

Check out the small-budget inbound strategy this company used to pull in 70% more leads and increase average annual account revenue by nearly 100%. See the key parts of the strategy and the steps they took to build it.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter

CHALLENGE

When Carissa Newton joined Delivra about two years ago, most of the email service provider's sales leads came from paid third-party sources. Newton wanted to pull in more qualified leads, but her budget was tight.

Spending more on advertising and other outbound strategies was not an option. Instead, she needed more prospects to discover and reach out to Delivra. She knew from past experiences that such leads could be valuable.

"My job was to build marketing efforts where we could get inbound leads to start flowing in," Newton says. "In my past experiences, that's where we found the highest-quality leads."

"If you want better leads and you want higher dollar sales, then you need to have these people raising their hands and telling you that they want to hear more about your products or services, rather than just pushing your messages out."

Newton needed to establish an inbound marketing strategy to pull in high-quality leads -- but the company did not have the architecture. Her team needed to build it from scratch.

CAMPAIGN

Newton set her sights on building marketing assets on a low budget and without the help of agencies or vendors. She wanted these assets to efficiently attract more qualified leads and to be easily measurable.

Here are the steps her team followed:

Step #1. Create guidelines for messaging

Newton planned to generate a ton of content for the strategy. For it to be effective, she needed the strategy to accurately describe Delivra's brand, products and philosophy.

Delivra did not have a messaging strategy before this effort. Newton's team had to create one. Over a period of three weeks, the marketers shaped Delivra's tone and style through meetings with management and employees, as well as through research on Delivra's position in the market.

They created documents outlining Delivra's branding and messaging guidelines. The documents explained topics such as how employees should describe Delivra's services and how the company differs from other email service providers.

"Brand design, logos, fonts and colors -- those are all pretty easy to identify and make sure you are consistent with," Newton says. "But being able to nail down a message and to get the entire company saying that same message and reiterating that in all of your marketing, that is an amazing feat."

- Apply across every channel

The messaging platform took less than a month to create, Newton says. But applying it to every part of Delivra took nine months. Throughout that time, Delivra's marketers worked to ensure consistent messaging through Delivra's website, customer service team, sales reps -- everywhere.

They did this by ensuring every employee had access to the messaging documents and by having many meetings to explain the guidelines and their goals.

"Everyone in the company adopted it so quickly. I was really shocked by that," Newton says. "I've been through the exercise of building messaging and branding statements in the past, but I have never seen a company get behind the messaging and brand as quickly as they did here."

Step #2. Setup and monitor architecture

Newton planned to create and disseminate content that would attract people researching topics on email marketing -- which directly relates to Delivra's target audience. The content would point to Delivra's website where people could find more information about email marketing and the company.

"We want to create a conversation with that audience to the point where they become interested, they go to our website, they fill out a form, or they call us. Sometimes it takes multiple interactions," Newton says.

Here are the channels the team focused on:

- Blog

Delivra launched a blog, called mailchatr, and published daily posts. The blog served as an email marketing resource and provided a face for Delivra's brand and content, Newton says. Today, blogs are written by Delivra's staff, such as the CEO, Director of Operations, and members of the marketing team.

"Our CEO embraced it immediately...He insisted that we post five days a week, every week...We sometimes are able to sprinkle in an additional posting."

- Social media

Immediately after a post is published, Delivra shares a link to it through social media channels. The team maintains active profiles on:

o Facebook
o Twitter
o LinkedIn
o Smaller Indiana - a local social network (see useful links below)

Delivra's marketers also interact with audiences on these channels and employ other social media marketing tactics. Their Facebook profile page, for example, has several pages including:

o A welcome page with a video
o Newsletter sign up form
o Contact us form
o And others

- PR

Scoring mentions in industry press has been essential to building Delivra's credibility, Newton says. The articles were published by trusted organizations and listed in search results next to Delivra's own content, which lent the company more credibility.

"That [credibility] has really helped us in leaps and bounds with larger scale clients, the clients that we would really like to have because they're more profitable and we can work with them longer term."

Step #3. Add more high-value content to the website

Newton's team first established the blog, website, and social profiles, and offered a few case studies and whitepapers from its site. After several months, Newton showed results to her superiors that proved the strategy was working and gained support to continue.

The team moved onto "phase two," Newton says, and added more detailed how-to articles to its website. These articles were open access. They helped establish Delivra's expertise and were intended to appeal to search engines and people researching email marketing.

- Premium content behind a form

The goal was to have highly relevant prospects (those shopping for email services) find Delivra's site, enjoy the content, and reach out via telephone or contact form to learn more about its services.

To encourage more prospects to fill out a form, the team also added more case studies and whitepapers to the site and placed them behind lead-generation forms. Visitors who supplied basic contact information could download the reports and would be entered into Delivra's customer relationship management (CRM) system.

Step #4. Leverage automated marketing and respond quickly

Newton's team found that a different approach was needed to nurture leads arriving from unpaid, inbound sources than leads from paid sources.

For example, leads from a paid lead-generator would be called to schedule an appointment with a Delivra salesperson. Leads from inbound channels, however, were automatically assigned to a relevant salesperson and contacted via telephone within 24 hours.

"If we acted on them quickly, we've found that those [leads] convert much more quickly than any other kind of sources of purchased leads or cold calling," Newton says. "And having that automated and flowing into our CRM system has really created an army out of two people in the marketing department."

- Do not annoy or overwhelm

Delivra's leads from inbound channels receive confirmation emails after filling out a form. Newton is careful not to send them too much additional information, she says.

For example, leads from paid sources generally have not had prior contact with Delivra. Some are entered into a five-part email series to familiarize them with the company. Leads from inbound sources, however, have interacted with the company and expressed interest, so Newton's team does not enter them into the five-part series.

"Typically, they've already done a little bit of research...They've already seen a bit of that information in a couple of different areas, and so I don't want to be too redundant and I also don't want to scare them away."

Step #5. Measure, adjust and prioritize

Newton's team does a lot of analysis on leads. For Delivra's inbound leads, Newton monitors every source individually and tracks:

o Number of leads captured
o Ratio of leads to sales
o Average value of sales
o Average return-on-investment.

This information helps her determine which of Delivra's inbound channels are performing best and which should be tweaked.

"I am looking so I can make adjustments to links and calls-to-action in real time, but I'm also looking at it from a marketing planning perspective," she says. "For example, if I had $10,000 to spend next year and I had to make a call to invest in the blog or the website, I would look at those two lead sources and see which one produced the highest level of revenue and I would focus on that."


RESULTS


Delivra's inbound strategy successfully attracted leads of a higher quality than the company's paid sources, Newton says, and helped increase sales.

"Inbound leads typically cost a bit more from a time and money perspective," Newton says. "However, when you see the return is almost double, that most certainly makes it worth it. Again, it is all about results and ROI."

"[Our salespeople] are not taking five rounds of calls with every lead. They can close the sale a lot quicker and they are also leading to much higher revenue deals."

The inbound strategy has been in full swing since early 2010. The team has since achieved:

o 25% to 40% increase in revenue each quarter

o Nearly double average annual revenue per account

o 70% increase in inbound leads

o 20% increase in website traffic

o 3-4x more site traffic on the blog than Delivra's website

o Improving SEO Rankings for major keywords:

Email Marketing (currently page-13, previously page-29)

Email Marketing Software (currently page-8, previously
page-17)

Email Marketing Service Provider (currently page-16, previously page-32)

Useful links related to this article

CREATIVE SAMPLES:
1. Blog
2. Facebook profile page
3. How-to articles
4. Lead-gen form
5. Lead confirmation email
6. Industry press

Social Media Marketing: Tactics ranked by effectiveness, difficultly and usage

Social Media Measurement: Moving forward with the data and tools at hand

Members Library -- B2B How-To: 5 lead nurturing tactics to get from lead gen to sales-qualified

Selling Free Content: Why Seth Godin never gives anything away for free

Inbound Marketing: Unlock the content from your emails and social marketing

Delivra



Comments about this Case Study

May 20, 2011 - Matt Smith of 3FORWARD says:
We completely agree with the first assertion. Content marketing can absolutely increase site volume and lead quality. It’s the second part of that statement that we have to challenge. Across all the companies we talk to and work with on content marketing we continue seeing two big gotchas consistent with every program. These challenges are surmountable, but don’t go in with blinders on! First, there is a steep learning curve to content marketing and running these new types of lead generation programs. The marketing leader in this case study brought with them experience in designing and running in-bound, content marketing lead creation. That’s a huge advantage over companies that have not done it before and don’t have the internal expertise of someone who has. Talk to peers who have done this before and they will ALL tell you the same thing – it takes time and experience. Hire it, outsource it or engage consultants who have done it before. You will save months of time vs. trying to learn it all on your own. Second, a well running content marketing program has costs, whether hard or soft, that companies need to anticipate. Don’t take the suggestion that “Content marketing… doesn't require a huge budget,” and “you can build a strategy from the ground up using mostly free tools and resources on hand” to mean you won’t need to allocate budget and resource one way or another. Here’s our quick summary of program expenses you need to anticipate. 1. The cost of your marketing automation platform itself including software licensing, acquiring lists, and modifying your website to support the new platform. 2. The cost of administering the program, creating the campaigns, messages and landing pages, mining the data, maintaining the databases and analyzing results. 3. Engaging and managing the accompanying social media programs. After all, social media is a big part of what makes these programs “in-bound”. Getting your links, content, messages and ambassadors into all the relevant social media takes time and resources. Those resources are either on your payroll or you will need to outsource the responsibility. 4. Lastly, the content. This company relied heavily on company blog they launched as part of this initiative. They also made the commitment to post at least five days a week, sometimes multiple times daily. Later they added white papers, how-to articles and other ‘premium’ content. They had members of their executive team (CEO included) writing posts and several members of the marketing team also became company ‘bloggers’. This is major investment to consider, content doesn't write itself and these resources can be costly. Does this mean you don’t make the commitment to Content Marketing? Absolutely not! It’s an imperative, a best practice and as these results a proven way to grow sales. Go into it with your eyes open, but do it well and your ROI will make it all worth your while.



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