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Apr 23, 2008
Case Study

How to Turn Old Leads Into Hot Prospects: Before & After Newsletter Revamp

SUMMARY: Old leads and past customers can be cultivated and made into hot prospects again with a tuned-up newsletter that's designed just for them, especially when you deliver better, more relevant content on a regular schedule.

See how a technology marketer increased conversions with better open rates (up 52%) and clickthroughs (up a whopping 1315%). Includes before and after samples.
Quincy Faison, President, Netsirk Technologies Inc., and his marketing team had a pile of names of aged leads and old customers -- some as old as three years -- they wanted to convert into brand new prospects with their monthly newsletter. But to keep up with their competition, they needed to deliver more relevant and higher-quality content in a newsletter targeted just for those prospects.

“We had to look at the newsletter like it’s not just a sales driver but also a content driver,” Faison says. “We had to do a better job with information-based value-adds that would interest the recipient.”

With a newsletter clickthrough rate of under 2%, they knew they had their work cut out.

Ultimately, Faison’s team decided to scrap just about everything with the monthly newsletter and start over. So, they reviewed several top B-to-B newsletters for creative ideas and followed these six steps:

-> Step #1. Redesign the template

Improving an overly busy layout was a top priority. The team chose a basic two-column template “because the last thing we wanted to do was make readers scroll a lot,” Faison says. They made the column on the left nearly twice as wide as the right-hand one.

In the left column, they vertically stacked two regular features:

- Six hotlinked headlines in 10-point type and a sans-serif font that led to six business articles selected to fit their target audience of wholesalers, manufacturers and retailers.

- Underneath these teaser headlines were 40- to 55-word summaries for five of the same stories in 10-point type and ending with a “Full Story” hotlink. The headline above each summary was in 18-point type to stand out and was hotlinked to encourage clickthroughs.

In the right-hand column, they featured:

- A headline advertising their product of the month, which sat atop a 40-word description of their business-management software. Directly below this was a blue-hued “REQUEST A DEMO” button (165-by-31 pixels) that linked to a dedicated landing page.

- Underneath the button was their “About Us” section with a longer description (just under 100 words) of the company in 10-point type and a toll-free number in bigger, bolder type and colored blue.

- Another button the same size and color of the “Request Demo” button, but with the words: “SET UP A MEETING TODAY.” Again, clickthroughs were sent to the dedicated landing page.

-> Step #2. Improve the content

Because Faison and his team wanted to give readers more than just house ads and an article or two, they invested in content that positioned their brand in front of old leads in a more meaningful way.

Faison's email services provider connected them with a business-information content supplier (see hotlinks for each vendor below) to deliver six articles for each newsletter. Sometimes, the content included video stories.

“If someone hadn’t expressed interest in quite some time, it didn’t make much sense to have a paid employee reach out to that particular prospect. We were not going to hit their buying cycle very often with that potentially annoying approach. With a newsletter, we hoped to [ping] them once a month with a low-cost vehicle, and, when they were ready to buy a product like ours, they’d hopefully think of us first.”

-> Step #3. Incubate old leads

Faison took the idea of targeting old leads a step further and had his team create what they called an “incubator program” for prospects that had requested information in the past three years but didn’t purchase.

“What we didn’t want to do, in trying to create more sales, was rent a list and send email to people who hadn’t heard of us before.”

Those in the incubator file began receiving the monthly newsletter, which Faison rebranded as the “Business Insights” series. To avoid annoying their paying customers, they did not send the newsletter unless those customers requested it. Instead, they received check-up phone calls from accounts and support reps.

Leads were sent directly to Netsirk's sales team minutes after a prospect clicked on the “REQUEST A DEMO” or “SET UP A MEETING TODAY” links, and a daily report was generated indicating who clicked and read which articles.

-> Step #4. Shorten the subject line

Next, they shortened and standardized their often-lengthy subject lines. Essentially, they tried the idea of sending the same subject line each month.

Every subject line started with the newsletter’s brand and then the month: “Business Insights - January” (only 27 characters with spaces).

-> Step #5. Establish regular frequency

Instead of sending the monthly newsletter whenever it was finished, as they had in the past, they set up a regular schedule. They distributed the newsletter during the last week of every month on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.

-> Step #6. Pre-populate the landing page

Faison had read about the benefits to pre-populating landing pages so he had his team follow this tactic. (Indeed, according to data in MarketingSherpa’s Business Tech Benchmark Guide, pre-populated forms increase white paper downloads as much as 80%.)

After readers clicked through the email, they saw the company name and the newsletter brand, “Business Insights,” at the top of the page. Below it appeared four entry fields with the required email address and prospect’s first name already filled in.

They chose to leave the prospect’s last name and phone number fields blank. The recipients did not have to fill those in; rather, they just only had to click the “submit” button directly below it to request a demo or meeting.


Since the redesign, everything has worked like a charm: from the newsletter template overhaul and content upgrades to the incubator program and pre-populated landing pages.

On the email-side alone, they have seen:
- Open rates have increased 52.3%.
- Clickthroughs have gone from 1.3% to 17.1% (a 1315% jump).
- An average of 18.3% of prospects clicking through have requested either a demo or meeting via the landing page.

Best of all, their sales almost immediately bumped 2 percentage points, and Faison and his team have increased their leads by "10% or more" over the previous six months.

“[Prospects] are now more apt to open our newsletter because they know that there could be financial or business content there that they are interested in, and that sustained interest is leading to more sales,” he says. “The pre-populated landing page and consistent subject lines, in particular, have had a big impact as well.”

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from Netsirk:

MarketingSherpa: Top 12 Newsletter Mistakes Everyone Makes:

iMakeNews Inc. - Netsirk’s email services provider that also supplied the "meeting request" functionality:

SAP - provided business content for the newsletters:

Netsirk Technologies Inc.:

See Also:

Comments about this Case Study

Apr 29, 2008 - rickey gold of rickey gold & associates says:
Major improvement in branding as well. The original newsletter didn't even include their logo (unless I missed it). Thanks for a timely case study!

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