June 29, 2011
Case Study

Lead Nurturing: 3-part funnel campaign creates 70% increase in inbound calls to sales reps

SUMMARY: Some marketing efforts are like painting with a broad brush, while others are fine-lined and highly focused. When the goal of a campaign is to elicit a specific action, like getting a prospect to speak with a sales rep, the entire campaign needs to center on this call-to-action.

Read on to find out how one direct mail company combined a successful lead gen effort and three-part lead nurturing funnel to turn Web form registrations into inbound calls.
by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter


When your marketing goals are based around a specific action, such as getting prospects to call and speak with a sales rep, the message and call-to-action received by the prospective customer should be highly coordinated.

One way to achieve this is through a lead nurturing funnel consisting of multiple touches using more than one medium, all focused on the particular marketing goal. In this case, the funnel involves three parts: an automated email campaign, teleprospecting and direct mail.

PostcardMania is a B2B direct mail marketing company that serves mostly small- to mid-sized businesses. Its primary offering is postcards -- the company generates mailing lists; and designs, prints and mails postcards for its clients.

"We do all of our sales over the phone and nothing online," stated Sarah Kicinski, SVP Marketing and Business Development, PostcardMania. Because of this, Marketing's goal is to get potential customers on the phone with its sales team, referred to internally as "marketing consultants."

When prospects would make their first touch a phone call, getting them talking to a marketing consultant was relatively easy. But, PostcardMania was also generating leads through website forms and needed a marketing strategy that would get those people on the telephone with a sales rep.

This case study looks at PostcardMania's lead generation and three-part lead nurturing process that turned Web form leads into phone calls with the sales team.


Kicinski said, "We were trying very hard to get [a potential customer's] first touch to be a call-in, which is harder and harder each year." She explained PostcardMania's potential customers now prefer to request information online.

To meet this change in customer behavior, the company first implemented an online lead generation campaign, and as that effort became successful added a lead nurturing funnel to create that important telephone connection with a sales rep.

How important is the call from a prospect to the sales team? Web form leads have an overall five percent conversion. Web leads who call in to speak with a sales rep have a 19 percent conversion rate.

Step 1. Generate leads

Without a lead to nurture, the lead nurturing funnel is going to be a pretty barren place, so successful lead generation begins this entire strategy.

Most prospective customers are driven to the website homepage, or to specific landing pages, through pay-per-click ads or direct mail sends and are presented with one of two different offers requiring a form registration. One offer is for free postcard samples, and the other is for a variety of free reports.

Both forms include five fields:

o Name
o Company name
o Address
o Phone number
o Email address

None of the fields are required, although anyone seeking free postcard samples will need to provide a correct address to get the mailing.
Kicinski explained, "In our testing, we found that we would rather take what we can get than make many fields required."

PPC ads are sent to an industry-specific landing page, and 90 percent of ads offer postcard samples.

Kicinski said if the visitors are coming via a PPC campaign targeted to a specific business, such as dentists or air conditioning technicians, they will either sign up for postcard samples of other business in their industry, or for a report related to their business like "10 ways to increase your dental practice" or something more generic like a 95-point marketing checklist.

Kicinski added PostcardMania does generate a small number of leads from LinkedIn and organic search, but also that other social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, are used mostly for lead follow-up and connecting with customers and prospects.

Step #2. Use automated email for nurturing

Once someone fills out an online form with valid email address, they receive an almost instant email thanking them for either downloading the free PDF report, or for requesting free postcard samples. All emails in the nurturing funnel end with a call-to-action giving the prospect a reason to call a sales rep.

The first email provides testimonials and examples of direct mail campaigns PostcardMania has conducted for other businesses within the prospects industry.

For the first month of the nurturing funnel, prospects receive mail about every three days. After four weeks the volume goes down to once a week. And after several more months pass, the email sends end and the prospects only continue to receive PostcardMania's weekly marketing newsletter.

The entire email nurturing funnel includes 28 emails sent over 3.5 months.

The email content varies and includes facts about PostcardMania, marketing tips and information about mailing lists. Each email contains the call-to-action of telephoning the sales rep, and also includes a photo and signature of the prospect's representative.

According to Kicinski, an important advantage of the automated email campaign was that it ended weekly brainstorming meetings about email content to send to prospects that week.

She said, "The worst part of it is when we had a home run email the week before that generated a ton of calls, but it was now used up."
She added there was constant pressure to create new ideas for email.

The automated funnel allows a specific series of email to be sent in a specific order through the campaign. Kicinski said now PostcardMania send its best-performing mail at the beginning of the campaign to hopefully drive quick success.

Step #3. Make regular teleprospecting part of the nurturing funnel

When a prospect fills out a Web form and provides a valid phone number, they receive a call within 15 minutes of submitting the registration. PostcardMania's goal is to make two very quick touches through email and telephone for every lead generated via the online form.

That first phone call thanks the prospect for either downloading the free report or requesting postcard samples. If registration came through the free sample form, the caller from PostcardMania also confirms the address provided.

Similar to the email campaign, subsequent calls cover information specific to the prospect's industry and also specific direct mail campaigns PostcardMania has created for other customers.

PostcardMania actually has two internal groups in its call center. One group is its "marketing consultants" who are experienced sales people with extensive knowledge of direct mail marketing, and the second are less trained call center reps who are tasked with getting prospects on the phone and passing them to the marketing consultants.

The reason the company created the call center rep position is the marketing consultants were too busy to call every new lead within fifteen minutes of registering online. If a call center rep is able to get in touch with a lead they transfer the prospect to a marketing consultant almost immediately.

For the first three weeks of the telephone nurturing campaign, prospects receive calls every three days. After that the frequency drops to every seven days. The entire telephone campaign lasts for six weeks.

Step #4. Make direct mail part of the lead nurturing funnel

Since direct mail is a core part of PostcardMania's business, making direct mail a part of the lead nurturing funnel was a natural fit.
The initial email and phone call go out as soon as the new lead fills out a website form, and are not qualified in any way for those first touches.

Once a prospect is entered into the database they are automatically assigned a particular marketing consultant, and they receive a postcard "from" their assigned sales rep. This card looks handwritten and includes a call-to-action of giving the rep a telephone call. The first card is sent the day the prospect is entered into the database.

The following day a postcard sample pack is sent to the prospect. Although some leads are generated through registration forms to either receive free postcard samples or free PDF reports, as long as the prospect has provided an address, every registered lead receives the free postcard samples.

Like the email content and telephone messaging, the samples relate to the prospect's industry and also provide information on PostcardMania's pricing and services.

Future direct mail pieces include different success stories from PostcardMania customers.

The direct mail portion of the nurturing campaign includes 19 pieces of direct mail sent once a week. Also similar to the email nurturing, once the funnel sends are complete,. prospects then receive PostcardMania's printed newsletter that goes out once every couple of months.

Step #5. Remove prospects from the nurturing funnel

With any lead nurturing effort, you want to have well defined criteria for removing prospects from the campaign. This can come from some manner of qualifying the leads or by actions the lead takes.

The first email and telephone touch happen as soon as the registration form is filled out, so there is no qualification of the lead at that point.

The data from the form is automatically imported into a database, but PostcardMania also has an administrative team go over each new lead for a high-level qualification -- mostly checking for duplicates or clearly non-valid leads.

Because one of the two offers to spur registration is free postcard samples, the company noticed occasionally its offer would end up on "freebie" websites. The administrative team keeps an eye on Web traffic analytics to watch where leads are referred from.

For example, if a lead is coming from "freesamples.com" and is clearly not a business person, that lead gets deleted from the database (and obviously, the lead nurturing funnel as well) and the Webmaster will block the source website.

Prospect actions will also remove them from the funnel. The four main actions are:

o Calling in
o Requesting a quote via email
o Going through a marketing presentation with a consultant
o Unsubscribing from the email send and/or the direct mail send

If a prospect is taken out of the funnel through any action other than unsubscribing from email, the nature of the communications changes.

Funnel communication includes a consistent call-to-action of telephoning the sales rep. Post-funnel communication is tailored more toward credibility and company information to help the sales rep close the deal.

The lead nurturing funnel was created with a very specific goal in mind -- creating inbound calls to sales reps from leads generated via online form registrations.

The most important result is the increase in inbound calls. Before the nurturing campaign, 29 percent of Web form leads called in to speak with a sales rep. After the funnel campaign went into effect, that number rose to 49 percent, a 70 percent increase in sales rep calls.

The campaign also increased the number of Web form-generated leads the company was able to contact through either email or telephone from 67.7% to 77.6%.

Kicinski said creating the organized funnel saves PostcardMania a minimum of six man-hours each week that was previously spent coming up with ideas for email and direct mail sends.

PostcardMania was happy with the results from their follow-up campaign, and as result of this success, launched a new service offering consulting and creation of lead nurturing campaigns for their clients.

Useful links related to this article


1. Email
2. Phone script
3a. Direct mail piece 1
3b. Direct mail piece 2


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

Members Library -- Lead Gen Overhaul: 4 Strategies to Boost Response Rates, Reduce Cost-per-Lead

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

B2B Marketing: The 7 most important stages in the teleprospecting funnel

B2B Funnel Optimization: What happens after you capture the lead?

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