by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter
Offering content can be a great way to convert email subscribers into sales leads. At least that's what Greg Donahue hoped.
Donahue is the marketing programs manager at Mercury Computer Systems, a processing solutions provider for the defense and intelligence industries. Early this year, he wanted to encourage prospects in Mercury's database to schedule meetings with salespeople. He just needed an incentive.
Mercury had just completed a research project, and Donahue thought it was a perfect fit.
"This is something that is of key interest to our customers," he says. "This is something that they were really itching for."
However, Mercury usually kept this research "close to the vest," Donahue says. Much of the company's business comes from large U.S. defense contractors, which made national security a concern. In addition, the industry is very competitive.
"We would never take everything that we have and just put it out for the public to see," he says.
How could Mercury use the research to generate sales leads without releasing it publicly?
Mercury launched an email campaign that offered a free in-person presentation of the research or a free whitepaper summary. This allowed the team to generate sales leads with the research without releasing it publicly.
The team followed these four steps:
Step #1. Find high-value content
The product management team spent months testing mobile- and server-class computer processors and compiling the results into a slide presentation. Donahue thought the engineers in Mercury's database would love to see the data.
"When I saw this stuff I thought, 'Why don't we use this?'"
Focus on a segment
The technical nature of the research made it useful to engineers, a key audience for Mercury. The company maintains a segment in its email database for engineers.
Donahue focused on this group for the campaign. He hoped the engineers who expressed interest in such detailed and specific research would be good leads for Mercury's sales team.
Meet to explain the content
In its current form, the data revealed too much information and could be easily misunderstood.
"The slides really needed to be explained," Donahue says.
Instead of publishing them, the team planned to offer the research in two formats:
- In-person presentation - subscribers would be offered a one-hour overview from experts and salespeople from Mercury.
The full results would only be presented in these meetings. This limited the team's availability to a selection of companies (some of which were Mercury customers who had previously signed non-disclosure agreements).
- Whitepaper summary - subscribers who wanted the research but did not want to schedule a meeting would be offered a whitepaper summary. The document would include valuable information but nothing sensitive.
Step #2. Create email and landing page
The team launched the campaign by sending an email that asked subscribers to register to receive the research. To resonate with engineers, the email and landing page had a lot of information, Donahue says.
"Having marketed to engineers for about 20 years now, and having been an engineer before, I know they like a little more detail than other people would."
Here are key features of the launch email
- Greets subscribers by first name
- Introduces and describes the research in 10+ sentences of copy
- Lists examples of the data
- Call-to-action button: "Click here for the performance data"
- Call-to-action link: "Click here to register"
Clicking a call-to-action brought subscribers to a landing page
to register. It had these key features:
- Header: Mercury logo and chart image
- Introduces and describes the research (similar to the email)
- Lists examples of the data (longer list than the email)
- 10-field registration form
Test subject line before launch
The team A/B tested the email's subject line before sending it to the entire segment. Here's the winner:
"Intel Processor Performance Test Results for Defense Applications: See Inside for Details"
Changing an email's subject line can affect much more than its open rate. This winner achieved better results in three metrics:
- 1.6% higher open rate
- 16% higher clickthrough rate
- 10% higher conversion rate
Step #3. Follow up to schedule meetings
Donahue worked with the sales team to coordinate the follow-up strategy. One of two things happened to prospects who registered:
- High-value leads (those from "target companies") received a follow-up phone call from a salesperson asking if they would like to schedule an in-person presentation of the research.
- Other leads received a follow-up email from a salesperson asking if they wanted to schedule an in-person presentation.
"This was to facilitate getting all those [valuable] leads acted on more quickly than if we had to call everybody," Donahue says.
Anyone who requested the research but declined (or did not respond) to the meeting request received the summary whitepaper.
Step #4. Create and deliver whitepaper
The company was confident in the campaign, and the team experienced a lot of pressure to get it out the door, Donahue says. In a rush, the team launched it without the whitepaper, planning to quickly create it later.
Have your content ready
"Unfortunately, we had a delay of a few weeks before they got [the whitepaper], which was not optimal," Donahue says. "It was not a major issue, but it still put our salespeople in a tough spot."
The sales team stayed in touch with the leads, and sent the whitepaper as soon as possible. Donahue says in the future he will emphasize that a campaign's content must be ready before launch.
"We're very happy about the results," Donahue says. "They actually got the CEO's attention."
After launch in March, the campaign added more than $700,000 in opportunities to Mercury's sales pipeline. One of the leads converted soon after, which Donahue says is encouraging since the company's sale cycle often extends beyond a year.
"This is really just the start," he says. "Now that we have that whitepaper, I'm going to use that externally and start using that to get some new names into our system."
The campaign's launch email had these results:
- Open rate: 11.35%
- Clickthrough rate: 1.38%
- Conversion rate: 0.5%
Teamwork drives results
Donahue received "tremendous feedback from the sales team" on the quality of the leads, he says. He credits the campaign's success to the cross-department collaboration that made it possible.
"It was a great cross-functional campaign, and it involved Engineering, Product Management, Marketing, and Sales all working together," he says. "It was actually a good way for me to say, 'See how effective this can be when we have really good content?'"Want more email marketing case studies? Sign up for our free email marketing newsletter.
- Launch email
- Landing page
SourcesMercury Computer Systems
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