November 30, 2011
Case Study

Email Marketing: Anti-newsletter strategy nurtures $1.5 million in leads in 4 months at Citrix

SUMMARY: One way to grow an email list is to focus on valuable content and encourage your current list to share it. For this strategy to be successful, two elements have to be in place: the content has to be worth sharing, and it should be very easy to share by the email recipient.

This Citrix Online case study met both criteria, and was so successful it was chosen as “Best-in-Show – B2B” in MarketingSherpa’s Email Marketing Awards 2012. You can also see Citrix’s Baxter Denney speak about his learnings from this case study at the upcoming MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2012.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter

Many B2B marketers send an email newsletter to coax prospects into engaging with Sales. The marketers at Citrix, however, abandoned the newsletter format last year. The team now focuses on sending targeted offers for premium content in a program that is half-automated and half-manual.

"We used to send out a quarterly newsletter for certain products that was more of a catch-all for all our content. It had multiple calls-to-action and very little response," says Baxter Denney, Manager, Database Marketing, Citrix Online.

"We used the newsletter in concert with our content offers, so we did not stop one and start the other, per se. But we found that the multiple-offers format did not perform well at all. With one clear call-to-action, the response rate is much higher," Denney says.

So Denney's team took what many might consider a radical step -- it killed the email newsletter. Emails are now delivered in an automated series, as well as a house-file program, which nurture leads for Citrix's enterprise software and services. Leads receiving these emails generated more than $1.5 million in revenue at Citrix from April through July this year.

The Citrix team used five key email tactics to achieve their results:

Tactic #1. Route and segment new leads

Citrix uses a variety of lead sources:
  • Sponsored webinars

  • Organic search

  • Paid search

  • Database purchases

  • Third-party email partnerships

"We cast a pretty wide net to the kinds of folks that are coming in," Denney says.

With a high-volume of diverse leads, Denney's team immediately scores them, determines their segment, and primes them for Citrix's email program. The team on-boards new leads in three ways:

Send when ready

The team direct-routes any incoming leads it determines ready to talk with a salesperson. This determination is based on information known about the leads (such as their source and contact information), which is compared against the team's sales-ready criteria.

"If they meet our sales assignment criteria, then we'll actually send the initial message on behalf of their assigned rep," Denney says.

Segment regular leads

Most people who enter the team's database are either not ready to talk to a salesperson or have not provided enough information to make that determination. These leads enter Citrix's nurturing program and are segmented by their product of interest and customer profile, or persona.

The team maintains roughly 11 personas for the six products in Citrix's GoTo brand. Their titles include project manager, sales manager and others. These leads will receive content-targeted offers based on their persona's attributes and product of interest.

New leads the team cannot determine a persona for will receive emails that are targeted only to their product of interest.

Send welcome email

New leads first receive a welcome email. This auto-responder thanks recipients for their interest in a Citrix product and provides links to additional resources. This email helps set expectations and provides more content if recipients want to engage immediately.

Tactic #2. Automated emails for new leads

People entering the database will first receive a two- to three-email series offering content from Citrix. These automated emails include:
  • Personal salutation

  • Banner mentioning the product of interest

  • Free content offer

  • Short description of the content

  • Image of the content

  • Two links and one button to download

The email message and the content offered are customized for each segment. For example, a project manager receiving emails about Citrix's online meeting software is offered a third-party whitepaper on managing virtual teams. The content is designed to be high-quality and "evergreen," so its value will not greatly diminish over several months.

These emails do not typically feature sales-oriented calls-to-action, such as to attend a product demo or contact an account manager. Their goal is to familiarize a person with Citrix's products, provide helpful content, and build interest in talking with a salesperson.


Leads receive one email each week for two to three weeks before finishing the series.

Updated each quarter

The team updates the content offered in these emails every three months, replacing any items that have underperformed or gone stale. The team also changes offers and messages between these reviews if they are performing poorly, and routinely tests the emails' layouts and messaging.

"It requires a lot of effort to stay on top of it and make sure you're sending out the good stuff," Denney says.

Regularly updating these emails ensures new leads are not offered stale content, and that the program's response rates remain strong.

Tactic #3. Timely offers for all other leads

Any lead that finishes the first series without being sent to Sales, opting-out, or purchasing, is moved into the team's general house file. This program continues nurturing leads using the strategy described above, but with the following key differences:

Not automated

The house-file emails are not pre-programmed in a series. They are created and sent to each segment on an on-going basis. This gives the team more flexibility to integrate messages about recent headlines, new products, upcoming webinars and other time-sensitive information.

"There are folks on my team whose job is to work with the campaign managers to figure out what offer they want to send that week and set everything up," Denney says.

Content shift

This program continues to offer evergreen content, but also integrates offers that are sales-oriented, such as offers for Citrix's webinars and whitepapers related to Citrix's products. This content is used to entice nearly sales-ready leads, gather their information, and determine if they should be passed to a salesperson.

Tactic #4. Request detailed info when appropriate

The team uses a variety of measurements to determine when a lead is sales-ready. The information is often gathered when a lead fills out a form to download content offered in an email. The team uses two different forms for this task:

Long form

This form collects contact information from leads, as well as sales information such as:
  • If their company uses a related product

  • When they are planning to purchase

  • The person's role in purchasing

This form typically offers content that is product- or need-specific, which interests people nearing a purchase decision, Denney says. The team collects this information to find out if the leads are ready to go to Sales, and to select the right salesperson.

Short form

The team uses a shorter form when offering "softer" content that is less sales-oriented, such as the content offered in its automated series. This form has half as many fields as the longer version, which makes it less cumbersome to fill out, and its conversion rates are roughly 10% to 20% higher than the long form's, Denney says.

"We don't want to scare folk away from engaging. We don't want to make it harder for them."

Tactic #5. Send a full profile to sales

Once a lead meets the team's criteria, a profile is automatically sent to Citrix's CRM system and assigned to a salesperson. The salesperson can use a dashboard to view the lead's basic information and see every engagement the lead has had with Citrix.

Information in the profile includes:
  • Lead source and date of entry

  • Emails opened and clicked

  • Whitepapers downloaded

  • Webinars attended

  • Information provided through online forms

  • Information the team appended to the database (if applicable)

This rich profile empowers the salespeople to calibrate their approach and maximize their chances of closing.

"It gives them all of the information they need. So when they pick up the phone, they should feel confident that the person is ready to talk about the product and potentially buy," Denney says.

Quality and volume challenges

Citrix's lead nurturing and qualification system is efficient and sophisticated, which has fostered several challenges. For example, the system can generate a daunting number of good leads.

"We're hitting our revenue and sales targets, but we never want to get to the point where sales teams can't respond to leads because they just have too many," Denney says.

Because of its sophistication, the system cannot always be easily adjusted.

"One of the projects I am working on now is to build a model that is more flexible and allows you to dial-up and dial-down quality, and therefore quantity, to adjust to market conditions," Denney says.


"This pretty much drives all our lead nurturing or demand management," Denney says.

Strong response

The team's automated nurturing emails are the clear winner in terms of average response metrics:

Automated nurturing emails from April through July
  • 1.70% CTR

  • 1.57% response rate (content downloaded)

Manually-sent house-file emails for the same period
  • 0.65% CTR

  • 0.62% response rate

Stronger sales

The tables turn when looking at the total business nurtured by the two programs:

Manually sent house-file emails from April through July
  • $1.3 million in sales from leads nurtured

Automated nurturing emails for the same period
  • $250,000 in sales from leads nurtured

Combined, these two email programs have nurtured leads resulting in more than $1.5 million in revenue in four months.

"Keep in mind, our sales cycles can be anywhere from three to six months for the larger deals, so we might not see the results of our marketing efforts materialize until another quarter or two from the first offer sent," Denney says.

Segmentation proves effective

The team's use of customer personas to segment its list and target offers has also proven effective. The metrics below compare the average response rates for the team's persona-targeted emails and its general emails in two product categories.

Product: GoToMeeting
  • General emails: 0.93% response rate

  • Targeted emails: 3.94% response rate

  • Difference: +324%

Product: GoToAssist
  • General emails: 1.14%

  • Targeted emails: 2.97%

  • Difference: +161%

Note: This was based on an earlier article, published Sept. 20, 2011.

You can see Baxter Denney speak about what he learned about lead nurturing at the MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2012 held at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas from February 7-10.

Useful links related to this article:

1. Nurturing series email
2. House-file email
3. Long form
4. Short form

MarketingSherpa's Email Marketing Awards 2012

Lead Nurturing: Fewer emails yield 225% more sales leads

Email Marketing: A toxic misunderstanding that could kill your response rates

Email Marketing: Triggered emails that target the conversion funnel boost revenue

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