September 04, 2012
Case Study

B2B Marketing: How to auto-qualify new leads without a CRM or lead scoring

SUMMARY: B2B marketers often deliver unqualified leads, which wastes their resources and those of the sales team. How can you generate qualified leads without breaking the bank?

A combination of content marketing and triggered emails enabled one B2B team to generate and auto-qualify leads. The result is a campaign that automatically delivers the company’s best sales prospects. Find out how the team drives SEO traffic and earned a 50% conversion rate on the landing page.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter


The sales team at Cogentys spent a lot of time on the phone -- too much time. The company provides training solutions to organizations, and its marketing team relied on telesales.

"We did a lot of cold calling and telemarketing, and it just proved very ineffective, as people just don’t answer the phone anymore," says Jeff Armant, Principal, Cogentys.

Armant did not want to eliminate telesales, but he wanted to make it more effective. Instead of wasting resources on unlikely customers, he wanted to send the sales team qualified leads who were more likely to convert.

Lead qualification often implies lead scoring, but Armant’s team did not have the resources to launch a new CRM or build one from scratch. How could the team improve lead qualification and nurturing without spending a ton of resources?


Cogentys established more than 10 triggered email marketing programs to qualify and nurture leads automatically. The most effective among them generates leads for the company’s learning management system (LMS), a product that helps organizations deliver and manage their training programs.

Here are the five steps in this triggered-email campaign:

Step #1. Create valuable, niche content

B2B customers are often shopping for big-ticket items. They must feel confident that they’re making the right selection, and, in the case of Cogentys’ potential customers, they need to prove ROI.

"In many cases, the people pursuing this are in a training environment or in an HR department, and they’re trying to justify the expense of it and the value of it in an organization," Armant says.

To meet this need, Armant’s team created a business case to give to leads and prospects. It is comprised of two mostly text-based PDFs:
  • The first PDF is a single page and explains tips for getting the LMS funded

  • The second is three pages and describes the system’s ROI

Companies that are shopping for an LMS will research the topic, and Armant’s team hoped some of them would find these PDFs. Their rich content was expected to attract search engines and generate leads. The valuable insight each provided was expected to help turn those leads into customers.

Pre-qualify inbound leads

To call "LMS business cases" a niche topic is an understatement. It has almost no value to anyone other than potential LMS customers. Anyone who downloads this content is "pretty likely" to be a buyer, Armant says.

"It proves that somebody is trying to buy a learning management system. If they are going request that information, if they need to understand this better, then they are trying to get sign-off internally," he says. "This enables us to really focus on the qualified buyers."

Step #2. Create a landing page

Cogentys created a landing page to offer the business case documents. The page centers on a single call-to-action and includes the following:

Benefits in the copy

The copy includes a headline and six short sentences, almost all of which emphasize why someone would want the report. The headline includes the word "free," and four bullet points mention benefits, such as proving ROI and getting support from other departments.

Simple form

The team strives to make the form as simple as possible, Armant says. It requests five pieces of information, and sits on the right side of the page. The form even has a mini-headline that continues to emphasize the report’s value: "Get a free business case for an LMS."

Step #3. Drive traffic to the landing page

Armant’s team linked to this landing page throughout the Cogentys website, and members of the sales team often suggest it to leads. Natural search is another important source of traffic.

"When people want something, they are going to search for it, and targeting that has really worked for us. Having people find us has been much more effective than trying to find them," Armant says.

The team attracts search engines with an SEO landing page. This page is loaded with content about the business case for an LMS. It acts as bait, attracting people who look for similar topics in search engines.

Key features of the page:

Keyword-rich content

The right side of the page includes more than four full-sized paragraphs of text. Target keywords include combinations of "learning management system," "LMS" and "business case."

The left side of the page includes seven internal links to related content, and the bottom of the page includes a full sitemap.

Call-to-action buttons

Two buttons are also included on the right side, below the seven links to related content. The larger of the two is titled "Free LMS Business Case." It stands out on the page and brings people to the landing page to request the PDFs.

The second, smaller button is below the first and is titled "Free LMS Trial." It brings people to a landing page to request the demo.

Step #4. Send a triggered email

Cogentys sends a triggered email to reach anyone who completes the form on the landing page. The mostly text-based email is sent immediately. It includes:
  • Subject line – "Your requested LMS business case!"

  • One link to each PDF

  • A link to a related video from the team’s eLearningTV series

  • Cogentys' phone number

While automated, the message's signature and from-name are from a specific person at Cogentys. All the links in the message’s body point to Cogentys content.

Step #5. Nurture with an autoresponder

Twenty days after sending the report, Cogentys sends a second email. As with the first, this message is mostly text-based but also includes a Cogentys logo in the header.

Other features of the email:
  • Subject line – "Cogentys LMS Business Case and LMS Trial"

  • Personalized first-name greeting

  • Copy – most of the email’s copy is in the first paragraph, which is five sentences long. The message thanks the recipient for downloading the business case, notes that it can be a challenge to convince other people in the organization, and offers help from Cogentys to get internal support for the project

  • Phone number – the second paragraph gives the reader a number to call, and emphasizes that Cogentys is there to help make the case

  • LMS trial – before signing off, the message also includes a link where leads can request a free trial of the LMS product

This email’s signature and from-name are also from a specific person at Cogentys.

Goal: Warm up leads

The message includes two calls-to-action (call Cogentys and request a trial), but its true goal is to prime leads for a sales call.

"We really want to talk to them, get the opportunity to ask questions and start to build a relationship," Armant says.

A salesperson will call the lead within one week after the nurturing email is delivered. If the lead is not reached, the salesperson will send an email, but reaching them on the phone is ideal.


The sales team tells Armant that this marketing campaign attracts the company’s best leads, he says.

"With cold calling, you could just talk all day. But this [campaign] enables you to qualify the buyer," Armant says. "That’s the important thing of establishing the email campaign. It is more of a soft approach and is more disarming, I think, to prospects."

The team has been able to cut lead-to-close times, Armant says, and can commit the resources it has saved to converting more leads.

On the business-case landing page, the single call-to-action helps earn strong results:
  • 25% conversion rate over the last three months

  • 50% conversion rate over the last month

The 50% rate is the highest earned yet by the page, Armant says. However, an expected summertime slowdown in business significantly cut traffic to the page. This caused a drop in leads generated and inflated the conversion rate for the month.

Triggered email results

The first triggered email offers the free business case and earns a 34% clickthrough rate on average. The body of the email contains only three links, all of which point directly to content.

The second triggered email earns an 11% CTR on average. This may seem low, but the goal of the email is not to earn clicks. The goal is to prime prospects for the sales call. There is only one link in the email’s body, and it seems added almost as an afterthought.

"Our goal is to sell them on the phone, because we are not going to be able to sell them via email," Armant says.

Creative Samples

  1. Cogentys LMS PDF 1

  2. Cogentys LMS PDF 2

  3. Cogentys LMS business case landing page

  4. Cogentys SEO landing page

  5. Cogentys first triggered email

  6. Cogentys second triggered email



Related Resources

Email Marketing: How Microsoft used triggered email to increase open rates 800% and clickthrough 2,100%

Multichannel Marketing: Combining email and content marketing leads to 35% conversion rate for Elsevier

Content Marketing: How an online retailer created a research report that produced 212% more downloads

Email Marketing: Landing page testing less popular but more effective

The Upside of Opt-outs: Refining your email list with a preference center, opt-downs and unsubscribes

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