May 09, 2012
Case Study

Marketing Automation Vendor Selection: B2B marketer reduces unqualified leads 341%

SUMMARY: With an abundance of available marketing automation vendors, there is likely an automation solution that fits into your budget, marketing needs, and existing software (such as CRM).

This case study covers a global ERP software company that employed a marketing automation system which no longer fit its business needs. Learn the process the company used to evaluate 15 marketing automation vendors -- from assembling a team, selecting a new automation solution, and then implementing the software.

Also, see how this company increased deliverability from 81% to 99.6%, and open rate from 11% to 18%, while reducing unqualified leads by 341%.
by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter


In today’s marketplace, there are a large number of marketing automation vendors and solutions from which to choose. Ideally a marketer is able to match features and capabilities to the marketer’s automation needs and technical setup with other software pieces, such as the customer relationship management (CRM) system.

ECi Software Solutions, a global enterprise resource planning (ERP) software company, had a legacy marketing automation program in place, but Traci Johnson, Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Marketing, ECi, knew that the legacy system was no longer effectively serving the company’s automation needs.

ECi serves niche industries like aerospace manufacturing; office products, equipment and furniture; as well as lumber and building materials companies. The company has several U.S. offices, two U.K. offices, and one each in Holland and Australia.

Understanding the legacy marketing automation system was a marketing problem for the company. Johnson initiated a process that led to the formation of a new team to manage marketing automation and an intense search for a new automation solution.

After the new system was implemented, the results proved the worth of the effort: email sender score rose from 84 to 99, deliverability rose from 81% to 99.6%, and unqualified leads were reduced 341%.


One additional element that made this effort even more challenging was a daunting time constraint.

Johnson said, "We were coming up against a decision where we had to upgrade and commit for another year with the (legacy) provider and go through another year of not moving forward, or we needed to move really quickly. We made the decision to jump in and move really quickly."

The entire selection process for finding a new automation solution took place in only 30 days.

Step #1. Build a marketing automation team

Once Johnson realized there needed to be an organized process to replace the legacy system, she revamped the existing marketing team that managed the various lead generation and nurturing campaigns.

The key element to this retooling was hiring a new manager, Jeremy Mason, Senior Online Marketing Manager, ECi. Mason’s main responsibility at ECi is lead generation, but he took the lead in the vendor selection process.

Mason said that Johnson empowered a "full court press" for the selection process and gave Mason’s team permission to spend all their time evaluating and testing systems to make the 30-day deadline.

Step #2. Review the existing marketing automation solution

Before evaluating and testing different systems, Mason began by thoroughly reviewing the existing system and began making recommendations on the elements needed in the marketing automation solution.

He found that ECi’s automated programs were mature and fairly complex with around 150,000 email sends per month from a database of more than 250,000 records. The legacy system was over capacity in form processing, reporting, deliverability, spam compliance and bounce elimination.

Production time was slowed due to many manual processes required to integrate different campaigns into the system.

Other issues included:
  • No progressive profiling

  • Usability issues meant weeks of training for new users

  • No ROI reporting

  • Tech support was a pain point with up to three days for responses

To really see the legacy system in action, the team created an email, executed the campaign, and tracked the results. What they discovered was poor reporting and a sluggish marketing automation system.

Step #3. Select a marketing automation vendor

Mason said from the initial research, the team understood the volume and workload the new selection was going to face.

Pricing and volume the software could handle were both considerations, but the main criterion was integration with ECi’s CRM software. The new automation solution would have to seamlessly, and automatically, integrate with the existing CRM.

With these points in mind, the team identified 15 vendors that met the baseline criteria. Among the 15 was the legacy vendor’s latest upgrade that included a relatively hefty 28% price increase.

"There were only a handful of systems that provided that functionality alongside the automation that we needed," explained Mason.

Those 15 were winnowed down to the eight best candidates that then went through an additional competitive review and initial sales demo with the team. The competitive review involved comparing functionality versus pricing, keeping CRM integration in mind as well.

This group was narrowed to three vendors. Each presented in-depth demonstrations to the team. Two vendors provided a live evaluation and the third a virtual demonstration.

After this systematic approach to vendor selection, albeit in a tight timeframe, the entire team voted on the selected vendor.

The final synopsis findings were corroborated with the sales opportunities manager and then presented to the Marketing Sales executive team.

Step #4. Implement the new marketing automation solution

ECi worked closely with its marketing automation vendor during the implementation process to ensure a smooth integration with the CRM, and Mason added he was pleased with the support response because that was one major area of concern with the legacy system being replaced.

A challenge during implementation was ECi’s database included around 350 custom fields, which are 90%filled in and updated automatically. The lead’s behavior on the website, or information that could infer certain industries, helped to complete this large number of custom fields.

"The individual doesn’t really do anything to update their own custom fields," Mason said. "As they go through the opportunity process -- are they qualified or unqualified, or move to an opportunity or rejected -- there are different fields that are filled out."

Because this large number of fields was automated, the burden was taken off the prospective customer but placed squarely on the implementation of the automation solution and the CRM.

Once the new automation solution was implemented, ECi’s internal process changed in a number of ways where individual business units could:
  • Get more specialized and easily use the email builder

  • Use the system to create drip campaigns

  • Build their own lists

Because of this, Marketing could produce a higher volume of email and become more granular in taking segments of the database and breaking those down into smaller subsets than was previously possible.

Step #5. Segment the database to improve email sends

This ability to be more granular was part of an overall database segmentation effort.

Mason said the most basic segmentation was new prospects versus existing customers. He said that ECi spent time on repeat business, but as a growth-minded company, the key focus was on new system sales.

The basic segments were further broken down by:
  • Industry

  • Function, such as management or engineering

  • Influencer or decision maker

  • Where the prospect is within the buying cycle

He provided an example of how this database segmentation aided an email campaign.

The industry was manufacturing, and the specific customers targeted were refined to the defense and aerospace industries. The prospects were early in the evaluation cycle, and the ECi database had 18,000 people that fit all those criteria.

The team used existing data to create the subject line, and then sent groups of email to the list with a video. The email send was designed to capture information or, at the minimum, confirm the email address.

Anyone who responded to that email was then sent a whitepaper with general information about technology and ERPs.

Both emails were tracked to watch the behaviors of the recipients, and the most engaged prospects were then automatically served a product demo.

Mason said this highly targeted campaign created some "strong opportunities that would not otherwise have been in our pipeline from (where they were) in the cycle."

He added the process included the following steps:
  • Identify the key assets: the video and whitepaper in this case

  • Identify the audience through segmentation

  • Utilize a template to create an optimized subject line

  • Execute the campaign to the audience in sections

The team was also able to pause the drip effort, if needed, and make minor adjustments.

"Then blast that back out, and get a little bit more lift out of that campaign," explained Mason.
ECi’s email marketing using the marketing automation software has three basic elements:


One very noticeable result from the campaign to find and implement a new marketing automation solution that better fit ECi’s needs was a 50% reduction in the time taken to get an email effort from concept, through full production, and then to full launch.

Other metrics around the effort include:
  • Sender score went from 84 to a consistent 99

  • Deliverability increased from 81% to 99.6%

  • Hit 133% of the 2011 new lead target

  • 341% reduction in unqualified leads over 2011

  • 46% lead growth quarter-over-quarter due to stricter qualification criteria

  • 66% increase in email conversion year-over-year from 2010 to 2011

  • Open rate increased from 11% to 18% within first two months of new system launch

  • Email campaign response grew 242% as part of total marketing campaign responses, making email a very important area for sales leads

Johnson said a key part of this campaign was the team.

"I think you have to have the right people on board. I couldn’t have implemented this complex process three years ago because we didn’t have the right team in a lot of different places," she stated. "From a leadership perspective, you have to have the right team in place."

Johnson added another area of focus should be the asset strategy, and to have the fresh assets ready to take advantage of the increased functionality and efficiency of a marketing automation system that fits the business.

Creative Samples

  1. Email template

  2. Landing page

  3. Capture page for special promotions



Pardot – ECi’s marketing automation vendor – ECi's CRM vendor

Related Resources

Marketing Automation: SMB implementation improves lead generation 300%, reduces cost-per-acquisition 50%

Marketing Automation Case Study: One marketer’s 5 step process from vendor selection to a 178% increase in deals

B2B Marketing: 5 privacy factors to consider when using marketing automation

Email Marketing: The importance of lead nurturing in the complex B2B sale

Prospect Marketing: Nurturing leads lost to competitors

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