May 15, 2013
Case Study

B2B Social Media Marketing: DocuSign's targeted LinkedIn InMail strategy creates 3 large pipeline opportunities

SUMMARY: The topic for this B2B social media case study is familiar: LinkedIn. The overall strategy and goal are also familiar: Use third-party validation from customers for thought leadership and brand awareness, and build an online community around a specific target audience.

The twist comes in the actual channel used to execute this campaign. DocuSign took what might have been a pretty standard email effort, and instead of using its email database, it utilized LinkedIn to send a series of sponsored InMails from its webinar speakers. Read on to learn the results of this marketing effort.
by David Kirkpatrick, Senior Reporter


Meagan Eisenberg, Vice President of Demand Generation, DocuSign, an e-signature transaction management company, faced a very typical marketing issue — bringing new leads into the top of the funnel, and then once those leads are generated, building a pipeline through to that final conversion.

She said, "I think it is better if you’re able to build a relationship, and build a community of people coming to you for content."

Eisenberg added, "The goal of this particular project was to build out a sales guru community of people engaging and talking about the pain that they were feeling, and working with others to deliver solutions to those pains."

A very typical marketing problem is generating leads and then creating a Marketing/Sales pipeline, and a common goal is looking to build a community to draw new leads in and keep them engaged through the pipeline.

If you think this is going to be a typical lead generation case study, think again, because Eisenberg and her team uncovered a very novel channel to execute this campaign.

LinkedIn is considered the "B2B social media platform" by most industry thought leaders. What made this effort different was the novel way the team at DocuSign was able to leverage that platform.

This case study should inspire you to occasionally really think outside the box and find interesting angles to take advantage of within marketing areas where there might already be some ingrained practices in place.

Read on to find out how DocuSign used a social network to add more than 350 registrants to the online community, and led to three large pipeline opportunities.


This entire campaign was designed around leveraging knowledge about LinkedIn InMails.

Step #1. Find out about a new marketing channel and take advantage of that knowledge

Not long before launching the campaign, Eisenberg learned something interesting about LinkedIn InMails.

"I had always known that they had InMails, but I didn't realize that you could sponsor InMails in bulk and you could pick the audience you wanted to target," Eisenberg said.

Targeting included:
  • Geographic area

  • Company size

  • Specific job title

For this effort, DocuSign decided to target U.S. companies with more than 500 employees, and within those companies, only people holding the title of Vice President or Director of Sales and Field Operations.

After research, Eisenberg said the team found the Linked database held about 8,800 sales ops executives, and the LinkedIn campaign was able to reach around 7,000 of that group.

A bug, or maybe a feature depending on how you view it, with targeted sponsored InMail is each person could only receive one sponsored InMail every 60 days.

Eisenberg explained why this turned out to be a feature, and not a bug.

She said, "It was intriguing to think about doing a series of these InMails. So, you would send one, wait 60 days and send a second one."

The team decided to do a series of three sponsored InMails, perfectly timed to essentially "lock up" the sponsored InMail their target audience could receive for about six months.

Step #2. Use messages from third parties to increase the impact of each send

Instead of having the messages come from DocuSign, the team decided to use third parties for each message drawn from DocuSign's customer base.

"[To] take it to the next level, we know that peers would rather hear from their peers, and it would be more impactful if the actual InMail came from someone who was one of their peers that was also on LinkedIn," Eisenberg explained.

Step #3. Take advantage of early-stage marketing platforms

Eisenberg said this DocuSign campaign was the first for LinkedIn with multiple messages locking in a target audience for an extended period of time.

Previously, every use of sponsored InMail by other marketers had been a single message to the targeted group.

Because of this, the LinkedIn team had to work closely with DocuSign's team to manually lock down the targeted group over the three sponsored InMail time period.

Step #4. Execute the campaign

Executing the InMail effort involved several stages of development, including:
Eisenberg said DocuSign had customer success managers who work with the company’s accounts, and the team utilized those managers to find the third-party sources for the InMail messages.

For messaging, she said the call-to-action was based on three objectives:
  • Attract — compelling thought leadership, top-of-funnel content

  • Engage — peer-related

  • Convert — focus on roundtable and webinar discussion, elements that convert well for DocuSign

The draw for the chosen individuals serving as "sales ops gurus" was the opportunity to show thought leadership to their peers. These three people provided the messaging for the three InMail drops, and also served as the "from" field for their respective InMail.

She added it was key for the actual messaging to be general best practices in the sales ops area, and not about DocuSign.

"When you are trying to do top-of-funnel reach out to new people," Eisenberg said, "make sure you are engaging with them on a topic that is not product specific, [but] is more business pain point specific."

Landing page strategy

Each InMail featured a call-to-action to visit a dedicated landing page for "sales ops guru" featured in the InMail, and each landing page featured a video of the message sender along with other documents, such as a case study.

There was a registration requirement for the roundtable panel featuring each third-party guru. Along with a form, the page offered social sign-in through LinkedIn, a natural fit since the campaign was run through the LinkedIn social media platform, and Eisenberg said 25% of the people took advantage of social sign-in.

After registration, there was a redirect to thank the person for registering along with providing information for joining the roundtable.

For the InMail from the LinkedIn and Yamaha DocuSign gurus, the redirect went to the DocuSign sales op guru community. For the guru, the redirect went to DocuSign page on the Salesforce AppExchange to take advantage of the brand tie-in.

With all the elements in place, the first sponsored InMail went out, and Eisenberg described it as a success with "a ton of people" going to the landing page and signing up for the roundtable.

After 60 days, the second InMail went out, and it "wasn't as successful" according to Eisenberg.

Step #5. Hit a snag and understand the nature of the problem

"The second [InMail] drop wasn’t as successful as the first one in that we had less people open it, and less registered from it," Eisenberg said.

The difference wasn't dramatic, but there was a drop off in InMail open rate, and registrants for the roundtable featuring the second guru.

In trying to determine the problem with the second of three sponsored InMails, Eisenberg realized the problem was timing. The second InMail went out the second to last day at the end of a quarter.

The target audience was sales operations, a group of people who are traditionally very busy at the end of each quarter.

Eisenberg said she was relieved to uncover that detail because there was initial concern the audience was tiring of the DocuSign sponsored messaging with one more InMail to send.

"The challenge with InMail is the audience 'unlocks' every 60 days, so you have to hit the time [when] it unlocks because if you don't, they can give that audience away to someone else," she explained.

In hindsight, Eisenberg said she should have noticed the timing element and begun the series two weeks later to avoid the last week of a quarter.

Step #6. Maintain the online community

Beyond the dedicated landing pages for each sales ops guru featured in the campaign with video and case studies, and each guru's online roundtable discussion, each roundtable registrant became part of DocuSign's online sales operations "guru" community.

Eisenberg said the team continued to foster that community after the initial series of three roundtables with additional content.

She said, "We continued to post information and content, and have future webinars and roundtables."

Part of this ongoing community outreach involved bringing in additional third-party gurus to present to the community.

Eisenberg said the idea was to build a platform and an audience that could bring new members who are part of the targeted segment into the community beyond the sponsored InMail campaign.


Even though the campaign was run through LinkedIn, the community DocuSign created was on its website rather than through a LinkedIn Group.

This campaign brought the DocuSign Sales Guru community involvement from around 550 to more than 800 participants.

Here are results comparing the first two InMail drops (both about 7,000 recipients):

The first drop had more than 1,700 InMail's opened and more than 140 clickthroughs.

The second, less successful, drop had more than 1,100 opens, and more than 100 clickthroughs.

Overall results from the LinkedIn InMail campaign:
  • More than 350 registrants for the Sales Guru — Sales Ops Roundtable

  • Three, what Eisenberg described as "large" pipeline opportunities

  • Around 25% of registrants opting for social sign-in to register for the roundtables rather than filling out the long-form on the landing page

Eisenberg said there were three elements with social sign-in:
  • Make registration easy and lower abandonment rate. The less visitors have to fill out, the more likely they are to register and boost conversion rates.

  • "They were coming from LinkedIn, so we assumed they all could use LinkedIn social sign-on."

  • "We wanted to use modern social tools — like sign-on — [as a] technically savvy company."

From the InMail sends, the team learned more people clicked on the video graphic than the ad or the "learn more" button.

Eisenberg said enlisting DocuSign customers as the messengers for this effort was tied to the community building and brand awareness aspects of the campaign.

"You have to sponsor thought leaders, you have to sponsor influencers," she said. "You invite them to come and speak about topics that are hot. Social selling is a hot topic, so if we want to hit the sales audience, we need to bring topics that they want to learn about.”

LinkedIn InMail was chosen for this community building to "get through the noise of the email inbox."

"Even though you can buy targeted lists, accuracy is off and [the] email channel is still busy," Eisenberg explained. "With LinkedIn, you have validation of the user — even if they change jobs, their profile still exists."

She added InMail is also a much less busy channel and compared her 500 email each day against 130 InMail received over the lifetime of the platform.

Another aspect of this campaign was no community members went into DocuSign's lead nurturing efforts without a further raise of the hand in the form of downloading additional white papers or registering for other Docusign webinars.

Eisenberg said the end result of this campaign was learning the LinkedIn InMail channel was worthwhile and will remain part of DocuSign’s overall marketing strategy.

As an added benefit, she said DocuSign's senior leadership team was "thrilled with the program."

"They loved that we were being very targeted in our approach and marketing spend. And, they loved to see the innovation," Eisenberg explained.

Creative Samples

  1. Sponsored InMail

  2. Ad appearing in InMail

  3. Landing page

  4. InMail drop



Related Resources

Using LinkedIn for Lead Generation: 6 Lessons

Social Spam: Why you should clean out your LinkedIn and Facebook communities

B2B Lead Generation: 6 social media tactics from 7 experts

B2B Social Media: Cisco’s Kathleen Mudge shares her perspective on different networks

Social Media Marketing: Social login or traditional website registration?

Call for Speakers: Lead Gen Summit 2013 in San Francisco

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