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Jun 08, 2011
Case Study

Sales-Marketing Alignment: What B2B marketers can learn from a one-person team that drove a 10% product demo conversion

SUMMARY: Marketing/Sales alignment receives a lot of attention because when these teams work closely together, the entire process becomes more holistic. When the two are operating in individual silos, the relationship becomes more adversarial.

Taking a deeper look at this hot topic, this case study involves a B2B software company where these two functions reside in one person, and covers the tactics used to move a prospective customer down the pipeline from marketing-ready to sales-ready.
by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter

CHALLENGE

Marketing/Sales alignment is an often discussed topic with the idea being, the closer the alignment between Marketing and Sales, the more holistic the entire process becomes. The alternative is having the two functions operate in silos in veiled (or sometimes even open) adversarial relationships.

One area of getting Marketing and Sales together is defining terminology -- particularly the point where a marketing-ready lead becomes a sales-ready lead -- and developing tactics applied to that lead to match the definition and the lead's location in the buying cycle.

Leverage Software is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company, and describes itself as a social business platform. It provides private, secure and branded social networks for B2B companies. Its customers use Leverage Software's online community platform to connect with clients and partners.

Lauren DeLong, Director of Strategic Sales, Leverage Software, handles both marketing and sales at the company, and uses a high-touch strategy at each step. So in this case Marketing and Sales is in complete alignment because DeLong is effectively both departments for the company.

A very important part of its business is getting prospective customers to demo a product, and DeLong defines leads as marketing-ready until they take the product demonstration. At that point they are moved to Sales in the CRM. By company definition, all activity directed toward those leads -- email, phone calls and telemarketing -- falls under the marketing-ready lead definition. And, because DeLong handles both functions, the line between Marketing and Sales is somewhat blurred.

Leverage Software generates many of its initial leads through a form-protected whitepaper download on its website, and uses a combination of tactics in concert in order to get the prospective customer to take a demo and move from a marketing-ready lead to a sales-ready lead.

CAMPAIGN

On handling leads as they are generated, DeLong said, "The most important thing is to have a formula in place for how you treat somebody when they arrive. An inbound lead is like receiving someone at your house, and you definitely want to have a formula or plan in place so that you treat everyone well."

She added, "But there are points along the way in the process where they go down different routes. They're always moving through the pipeline."

DeLong's main goal is to ensure nobody "falls out" or "gets missed" during the process.

Step #1. Get prospective customers to the website to generate leads

In Leverage Software's case, most leads are created by Web visitors who fill out a form to download a whitepaper. These visitors get to the website through both push and inbound efforts. All of Leverage Software's whitepapers are targeted to specific industries, so there are outbound efforts to push those prospective customers to the site to download the whitepaper including trade shows.

The company receives organic search traffic based on terms such as "agent social networks" and "agent online communities," and it also does some pay-per-click advertising.

Once the potential customer hits the whitepaper landing page, they are confronted with an online form to complete before downloading the content.

The form fields vary depending on the actual whitepaper, but several mandatory fields are included on all forms:

o Name
o Company name
o Email address
o Phone number

Other fields included on some forms are number of employees at the company and a request for more information about the project the visitor is interested in creating.

The form itself is hosted by Leverage Software's inbound marketing vendor, and when a form is completed DeLong gets an email with the results of the form and a link to the simultaneously created new CRM record. At this point the potential customer becomes a lead.

Step #2. "Tactfully stalk" your leads

When DeLong receives the email with form information and the CRM record, she immediately qualifies the lead looking at:

o Is it a legitimate company?

o Is the company U.S.-based? Leverage Software offers an international solution, but currently prioritizes U.S. business.

o Is the phone number legitimate?

o Is it a competitor?

The next step is to visit the company's website to understand the industry, possibly help answer some of the qualification questions, and to prepare to speak intelligently about the company.

Preparing to speak intelligently about the company is important, because if DeLong has a legitimate phone number for a U.S.-based company, she usually calls within four hours, and always within a day.

If she gets hold of a person she thanks them for downloading the whitepaper, offers to answer additional questions and is prepared with an online demo if the new lead is ready to immediately view the demonstration.

DeLong stated when she makes these calls, "If it's the CEO or an executive who's downloaded (the whitepaper), they often say, "Wow, I wish our salespeople did this.'"

If she reaches voicemail, she leaves a simple message thanking them for downloading the whitepaper, tells them she's available to answer questions and also lets them know to watch for an email with her contact details.

About this quick phone call to new leads, DeLong said, "You don't want to be too creepy, but you want to tactfully 'stalk.'"

Step #3. Provide a quick email follow-up for the new leads

Immediately after the phone call, unless she reaches someone who goes through the product demo, DeLong sends an email thanking the lead once again for downloading the whitepaper, and also provides company information about Leverage Software.

The call-to-action in this mailing is to schedule a product demo, with three times DeLong is available for the online demonstration.

In preparing the email DeLong considers the industry of the recipient and tailors the message to industry-specific challenges, as well as utilizing industry lingo in the copy.

She explained, "You need to think through what questions they might have, and the more you can give them in an email the more likely you are to elicit a response."

If that first phone call led to a demo, that lead -- now a contact -- gets a different immediate follow-up email.

In this mail, DeLong attaches:

o A PowerPoint slide deck as a leave-behind to provide a visual tool of what was covered in the demo

o Links to customer success stories

o A free trial offer

o An offer for additional demo time

One reason DeLong offers additional demo time is she has found many prospects mention they need to consult with other people in their company so in the follow-up mail she lets them know they can forward the entire message to anyone else who might want or need to see the information and schedule a demo for themselves.

She also adds to the mail that she is planning on calling the prospect and asks if two weeks is appropriate, or would a longer time frame be better. This question is another element of her "tactful stalking" technique. If the prospect responds two or three months is better for the follow-up call she wants to not waste her time calling too soon, and more importantly show the prospect she is listening to their needs and desires.

Step #4. Continue nurturing with additional calls-to-action

If the prospective customer does not respond to the demo call-to-action in either of the initial phone and email touches they are still considered a marketing-ready lead and one month later they receive a second phone call.

This third outreach retains the "high touch" strategy of Leverage Software's marketing, but with a twist. Instead of DeLong making all of these calls herself, she outsources them to a telemarketing call center. The call center did develop a script for the Leverage Software calls, but retains the high-touch element by only using the script as guide for having an actual conversation.

Qualifying questions were developed and prioritized and the phone reps making the calls went through the Leverage Software product demonstration.

Unlike the typical scripted phone center call, these reps were given enough experience in Leverage Software's product to realize when they don't have an answer to a prospect's question, and they are allowed to let the call recipient know they don't have an answer but will get a Leverage Software representative in touch with a response very quickly.

DeLong is pleased with the results from the call center. She explained, "It's very tactful, which goes right in line with who we are. They'll ask questions and based on the answer to the questions they'll ask the appropriate next question, but it's not scripted. It's natural."


RESULTS


A key result of this three-part marketing effort is DeLong outlined a very personalized and high-touch overarching marketing strategy for Leverage Software. So much so that she personally handles every initial contact with new leads -- first a phone call and then an email. The third follow-up is outsourced so DeLong can focus on those initial touches, but the chosen vendor was able to provide a service that maintains that high-touch strategy.

Here are some numbers from the efforts outlined in this case study:

o 10% of whitepaper downloads lead to a product demo
o 3% of demos lead to a sale
o 3% of targeted outbound efforts lead to a whitepaper demo

The outsourced call center made more than 200 hours of calls and scheduled 44 demo appointments. That program has a 5 percent overall positive response rate

Useful links related to this story

CREATIVE SAMPLES

1. Online form
2. Email

Leverage Software

It's Your Call -- telemarketing vendor used by Leverage Software

Members Library -- Inbound Marketing: How to pull in customers without pushing ads

Members Library -- Lead Nurturing and Management Q&A: How to Handle 5 Key Challenges

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

Marketing Strategies: Is performance-based vendor pricing the best value?

Search Engine Marketing: Finding appeal for your PPC Ads

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