April 07, 2015
Case Study

Email Segmentation: 40% average open rate via relevant content journey

SUMMARY: When you become a trusted advisor to your prospects, how can you deliver the most relevant content for them? TechnologyAdvice, a consultative service with a goal of helping businesses find the best technology solutions for their needs, appeals to a wide range of customers in different verticals.

Sending targeted content for specific industries, solutions and other customer factors would be an overwhelming task for any team to manually handle. Learn how the brand turned to marketing automation to set up various segments and created content to appeal to each buyer and their location in the sales journey.
by Erin Hogg, Reporter

TechnologyAdvice serves up just that to its customers: a service focused on advising and connecting buyers and sellers of business technology.

On one side of the business, TechnologyAdvice provides consultative service where buyers of business technology are seeking a new technology solution and want to find the best option for their needs. TechnologyAdvice also caters to the vendors selling its technology, helping them market products to their target audience.

"Our mission, in a nutshell, is basically to make connections, win/win connections with these two parties, both the vendor and the buyer," said Jordan Schneider, Director of Marketing, TechnologyAdvice.


In marketing to technology vendors, TechnologyAdvice targets marketing directors, VPs of marketing or CMOs within the vendor organization, as those people are typically the decision makers when it comes to signing a lead generation contract, Schneider explained.

In marketing to consumers of business technology solutions, Schneider explained that targeting is based on what industry a lead is in and what types of software they are looking for.

The focus would be decision makers in the workplace. For example, if a prospect is looking for a CRM solution, they would typically be targeting a sales manager or director. For a marketing automation solution, TechnologyAdvice would be targeting directors of marketing or even an email marketing manager. With a wide range of advice on many different types of technology solutions, TechnologyAdvice must address leads operating across many verticals.


The challenge TechnologyAdvice had was a good one: more and more inbound traffic was coming to the site. However, with an increase in the interest in what services TechnologyAdvice offered, the advisors found it difficult to keep up with the volume.

"They’re the folks that reach out to prospective technology buyers and walk them through the process of selecting the best software for their needs. We were at a point where we were getting so many of these requests that it was a little too much for them to handle on a daily basis," Schneider said.

When TechnologyAdvice's volume scaled, Schneider noted that the leads were widely scattered throughout the sales funnel in terms of their proximity to being Sales-ready. Therefore, the team needs to address leads wherever they are with content relevant to their needs.

"We might offer a buyer's guide to them or we might offer a research paper or we might offer pricing information on a specific product. You can imagine every single one of these people is going to be a completely different level of qualification," he explained.

For prospects higher in the sales funnel, they consume guides and research not exactly tied to a specific product, as they require more nurturing before they're ready to be connected to a vendor.

A big problem was that the technology advisors were trying to reach back out to these prospects to follow-up on their download — sometimes hundreds of these a week.

"The follow-up process can get really arduous. We decided there is definitely an opportunity to automate a lot of this follow-up," Schneider said.


This is where marketing automation came into play, especially to perform drip campaigns.

When a prospect downloads a guide, Schneider thought that maybe this action doesn't necessitate an advisor reaching out. It would make more sense to send prospects more content and information, walking them through the process from the early stages to a Sales-qualified lead.

"Typically the buyers, when they're more toward the top of the funnel, they don't really want to talk to anybody yet anyway because they don't really know what they're looking for," he explained.

Implementing marketing automation would take the heavily lifting off the advisors who were manually reaching out and provide prospects with more relevant information during the research phase of purchasing business technology.

Step #1. Choose a solution and gain buy-in

Finding a marketing automation provider that would have capabilities to perform drip campaigns to nurture prospects was key.

TechnologyAdvice already had some tools in place for SEO, analytics and other areas, but with a new automation technology, the team was hoping to consolidate some of those tools down to a single solution.

Schneider needed to gain buy-in to start leveraging a marketing automation platform. With a 50-person company, marketing automation is a large expense and investment, so he needed to leverage how this solution would be a profitable option for the company.

Schneider explained how a new marketing automation provider would eliminate three other software providers the team was already using by having those tools already built into a new platform. Furthermore, the amount of time advisors spent personally following up with leads would be eliminated as it would all be part of the automation.

"Then you can say, 'we're also going to convert a certain amount of business from these drip campaigns. Here is what we forecast. Here is when we forecast we'll break even.' And as long as the numbers make sense, it’s a pretty easy conversation," he added.

Step #2. Implement automation solution

When implementing the software, one of the biggest opportunities the team saw was the ability to segment the audience rather than dropping them all into one ubiquitous, all-encompassing list.

To tackle this, the team had to learn their way around automation rules within the suite, leveraging video tutorials and working with an implementation manager.

Then, once the team was comfortable with the technology, they began brainstorming how they would begin segmenting. Schneider and the team asked themselves questions such as:
  • How should we organize these lists?

  • What should they look like?

  • How granular and specific should they get?

  • What point is there going to be diminishing return of our targeted messaging?

  • How much time is it worth to spend upfront?

Concurrently, the team also needed to integrate the CRM system with the marketing automation software.

Schneider said that everything was up and running in about a week.

Step #3. Begin segmentation

For TechnologyAdvice, the method in which Schneider developed list segmentation was based on customer interest.

Prospects and customers would be looking for different types of technology, which also includes a wide array of industry verticals.

From there, Schneider could get even more granular based on meta data the team had for each buyer in the CRM.

This information included prospects who had downloaded a piece of content from TechnologyAdvice or when they chat with a technology advisor over the phone and provide detailed information about what they need.

Schneider, in addition to taking that information to make relevant recommendations in terms of software solutions, can further segment lists with this information.

Another layer of differentiation of buyers is the request type on the website. Schneider looks into if prospective buyers requested information about a specific product, downloaded a white paper or buyer's guide or if they picked up the phone and called a technology advisor. This differentiates what kind of content TechnologyAdvice will send them.

If they are far from Sales ready, Schneider explained, they will just be sending surface informational resources to help a prospect understand what the category of software is and what problems it solves.

But, if they have a project in the works, then they will want to see comparison guides, feature sheets, pricing information — which TechnologyAdvice will send.

Another level of segmentation Schneider introduces is company size. His team takes consideration figuring out if the prospect seeking a solution comes from a SMB or an enterprise, as that has an impact on what software would work best for a particular company.

"That’s something important to take into consideration too because these people are often going to have different values and they're going to have different things that they're looking to solve. And they're going to have extraordinarily different budgets as well," Schneider said.

Another level of segmentation Schneider is currently developing involves personas. This will include:
  • What role does this person play within their organization?

  • Are they just doing research that was delegated to them?

  • Are they the actual end decision maker?

"At this point, if you're four steps in, this is really, really targeted content that we can create for people. What we have seen is every time we have made things more targeted, all of our conversion rates, they seem to jump at that point," he said.

Step #4. Create email content

To address the first segment of software categories, Schneider is careful to address the specific industry verticals with the appropriate software. For example, they will not send a prospect who requested information on gamification content about business intelligence solutions.

For those prospects that are simply requesting information about the category of solutions, the content will be more about familiarizing the prospect with the software solutions, not necessarily a singular product.

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Then, request type comes into play. If a prospect requests information on a specific product, they are asking TechnologyAdvice how much it will cost and how it compares to its closest competitors in that niche.

For these prospects, the team will send "listicles," which display the best in breed providers for a particular category. These prospects, who are more highly motivated, will also see information on how to get in contact with a technology advisors for a free 15-minute consultation.

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Step #5. Create content for segments

When thinking about all of the different segments and needs each prospect fits under, the need to create relevant content is a challenge.

"It’s a balancing act. It is really hard to figure out what are the priorities here, which one has a bigger impact on revenue, and that is typically the question we ask," Schneider said.

By taking a step back, removing personal opinions out of the decision, the team looks at an estimate value of each piece of content that needs to be created. This does not have to be an exact figure, as Schneider explained, but as long as "you're in the ballpark with an estimation, then that is how we typically prioritize things."

"We're looking to put content on the blog in certain categories so we can develop more expertise in-house and data and also resources for buyers. A lot of that content is going to overlap with the drip campaign content or the content we want to create specifically for a drip campaign," he said.

Schneider also advised that content creation to address many different segments does not happen overnight. The key is patience and to have content go through multiple iterations and editing to elevate the quality.

Step #6. Analyze results

Schneider and the team carefully analyzed conversion metrics of each email in all of the customer journeys through the sales funnel.

Open rates, clickthrough and what behavior they exhibited after the email is sent are key metrics that are tracked and measured.

"What we've seen so far is that almost unanimously, it has just been the more targeted that you can get, the more all of those [metrics] increase and move up into the right. I think when you take a step back it kind of seems like just basic, common sense marketing," he said. "It's really interesting to come to those realizations as a group and then implement them and then see them work right before your eyes."

To ensure that TechnologyAdvice is sending the most relevant messaging, Schneider performs A/B testing on email campaigns.

"If you’re in charge of email marketing or that is something that you oversee, why wouldn't you just constantly want to be improving something or at least constantly learning lessons? Because, obviously, every A/B test isn't always successful. But as long as you can take away the reason why it wasn't successful, then that's in and of itself is a very valuable moment and worth the time that you spent on it," he said.

Schneider tests subject lines and has been focusing on the length. Knowing that many users are viewing email content on mobile, the team implemented an approximate 30-character limit and saw improvements in open rates.

Body copy is also tested, looking at what the value proposition message is and what button design works best.

If a particular segment is not performing, "We will change up the content. We’ll change up where we put it in our emails, where we’re asking for a specific phone number or [where] we’re asking for them to reach out to us for a consultation," Schneider said.


Before implementing automation and email segmentation, Schneider saw open rates around 20%, while clickthrough was at 2%.

Now, open rates are at an average of 40%, with a clickthrough rate consistently at 6%.

"The key is, segmentation allows you to have a more thorough understanding of who these folks are and what they would be most likely to respond to. Segmenting is the hard part. Once that’s done, it’s really just a matter of applying common sense to the content you’re serving them," Schneider said.

To continue their efforts in 2015, Schneider and the team will be working to begin segmenting on personas, as it will provide more opportunity for alignment between Sales and Marketing.

"Sometimes it is really easy to get side-loaded. Sales is working on their stuff. Marketing is working on their stuff. Sometimes weeks go by and you haven't talked to each other. This is an opportunity for a collaborative effort, so that makes it exciting," he said.

Marketing will be sitting in on sales calls to learn more about customers that come through the funnel.

"It’s not just about sending people through a drip list. Sending them content that is helpful, that is great, that should be your first priority, absolutely. But try and think of ways that you can save other people and the organization time with this software because, at the end of the day, that’s going to be the best way to improve your margins overall as a company. [Your company] is going to be saving, cutting costs in certain areas," he concluded.

Editor's Note: TechnologyAdvice was one of our media partners at the recent MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 in Las Vegas.

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  2. Product information email



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