By Adam T. Sutton
, Senior Reporter
Marketers rarely scream "eureka!" when they dig into data. They usually find small insights and make incremental improvements.
But First Databank (FDB), a drug information provider for health IT companies, found a big opportunity. Its team noticed that prospects who had previous contact with the company had much higher conversion rates than those who had no prior contact.
"I saw a drastic difference," says David Manin, Director, Marketing, FDB. "Contacting folks that we think may be a good target for us and having no previous contact with them is just absolutely not going to generate better results than if we've had some level of contact."
FDB consistently used a lead generation strategy that combined email marketing and telemarketing, and Manin's team thought it could increase ROI by focusing the campaigns on this group of "known" contacts.
The team's lead generation strategy combines two emails and six phone calls, and encourages prospects to schedule a meeting with a salesperson. The team planned to focus its strategy on the new group in a series of campaigns.
The team followed these five steps in each of those campaigns:
Step #1. Select segment and goal
After realizing they had much higher conversion rates, the team tested focusing the campaigns on prospects who had:
- Connected with FDB in the past (such as by filling out a form to download a whitepaper)
- A phone number listed in FDB's database (providing a phone number is optional on the site's online forms)
Segment within the audience
Even within this group, prospects had a variety of needs and interests. For example, some were interested in specific products, such as alert-based solutions. Others were from specific types of organizations, such as hospitals.
The team planned to target and tailor each campaign to different segments of the group. FDB hoped this would increase response rates and limit outbound calls to a manageable number for each effort.
Step #2. Send the first email
The first outbound message of each campaign was an email
. Rather than pushing for a direct response, its goal was to prime prospects for later follow-up calls.
Here are the key features of this message:
- Sent from Sales -- The email was addressed from and signed by a salesperson.
- Simple layout -- The email had a clean and simple design and included mostly text.
"It's not about being fancy," Manin says. "It's really about what problem you are going to solve."
- Customer examples -- After a personalized salutation, the email described the experiences of similar customers. One example spoke of two hospitals that tried FDB's service, and also included a PDF of a client case study as an attachment.
- Targeted messaging -- The email spoke to a specific audience segment and promoted a specific product. Here's a line of copy from an email the team sent to prospects in hospitals:
"[Hospital X] avoided hundreds of hours of medication research and order customization time"
- Mention the goal -- The email did not have a strong call-to-action. Its goal was to prime prospects for follow-up calls, not to generate direct conversions. It only mentioned a potential meeting in the final line before the signature:
"I’d like to see if you will have time in the coming weeks for a brief phone conversation. I look forward to speaking with you soon."
Step #3. Immediate follow-up call
All prospects continue through a sequence of messages until they convert, request not to be contacted, or the campaign ends.
The first email earns conversions, but it mostly "warmed up" prospects for the follow-up calls. The first call was made several hours later on the same day and was by far the highest converting step in the campaigns, Manin says.
FDB loosely followed a call script
, and the calls were similar to the emails in three ways:
- The goal was to get prospects to schedule a meeting
- The tone was informational, not aggressive
- The caller cited examples of how FDB helped similar organizations
After introducing themselves, callers quickly referenced the email sent earlier in the day. Here's a line from the call script:
"I’m following up on an email I sent to your attention earlier today regarding FDB Go-Live Med Orders, a service created by FDB and supported by [major healthcare IT vendor]."
Plan a schedule of calls
If the prospect was not reached in the first call, the team waited two business days and made a second call. If there was no response, the team waited three more business days and made a third call.
Step #4. Send a second email
The second and final email
in the campaigns had a personal tone. It was sent four business days after the last phone call and came from the same salesperson as the first email.
In two short paragraphs, the email included:
- Mention of previous email and calls (see call cadence in next step)
- Desire to schedule a 15-minute meeting
- Topic of the meeting: a description of how FDB's service has helped clients
The email's final line left it up to the prospect to respond:
"Looking forward to hearing back from you soon!"
Step #5. Call three more times
Prospects who have not responded to the previous contacts were called three more times.
Here's the full contact schedule used in the campaigns:
- Email #1 - launches campaign
- Call #1 - after the email, same day
- Call #2 - two business days later
- Call #3 - three business days later
- Email #2 - four business days later
- Call #4 - two business days later
- Call #5 - three business days later
- Call #6 - four business days later
The campaigns earn a massive ROI, currently around 300%, and FDB continues to launch variations to reach different segments in its database.
FDB recently analyzed campaigns that targeted "known" prospects and noted the following results:
- 13.4% average conversion rate (prospects schedule a meeting)
- 15.9% of prospects who scheduled a meeting became customers (FDB's sales cycle is about 100 days)
"The ROI, which is basically a four-to-one ratio right now, is just based on the first-year value of the accounts," Manin says. "We have very high retention rates, so more than 95% of those accounts will still be customers in five years. Even if they don't grow over five years, that's pretty much a 20-to-1 ratio."
Manin notes that these results underscore why his team has decided to focus on "known" prospects, rather than those his company has no prior contact with.
"This is indicative of why we have decided to focus on this 'known' category versus the unknown category with our permission-based email. … The response rates are way higher, [and] the ROI is way higher."
Phone calls drive conversions
Further analysis revealed that the team's phone calls were the highest conversion points, and the two emails served as "primers" for those calls:
- 93% of conversions were earned via telephone
- The largest source of conversions, about 40%, came from the first follow-up call (made the same day that the first email is delivered)
- Only 7% of the meetings were scheduled via email, which underlines the channel's role as a "primer" for the follow-up calls
Returned calls and emails
Most appointments were scheduled during one of FDB's outbound phone calls, but a sizeable number came from returned messages:
- 40% of appointments scheduled when a prospect returned a phone call or email
- 18% of those appointments were scheduled via email
- 82% of those appointments were scheduled via telephone
- Copy from email #1
- Copy from email #2
- Call script
- Client case study - page 1
- Client case study - page 2
- helped FDB design, launch, and execute the strategy
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