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Jun 19, 2007
Case Study

How to Convert 11% More Prospects in Final 72 Hours of Buying Cycle

SUMMARY: If you look at the budget plans of most B-to-B marketers, you’ll see that email still lacks respect as an important part of their marketing mix. According to MarketingSherpa data, 46% of those surveyed planned a 0% increase (yep, zilch) on their email spending this year, while 8.6% predicted they would actually reduce their email investment.

Some marketers may change their tune after seeing how a music biz manufacturer increased conversions by 11% with automated email in the last 72 hours of the sales cycle. Includes test results and easy-to-copy emails.
“Our audience always has a tight deadline. If they are asking for a price quote, they are usually going to make a purchase decision within a two- or three-day period,” says Kate Sullivan, Online Marketing Manager, Disc Makers. “We wanted to be able to effectively communicate with them during this time-critical juncture. If we don’t meet their needs then and there, they could go a different route.”

Indeed, Disc Makers is competing against not only other traditional CD/DVD manufacturers, but also the increasing phenomenon of “Craigslist startups” who burn discs on their home systems. The 61-year-old firm, which targets recording and film studios, music labels and independent film companies, as well as weekend hobbyists, realized they needed a better CRM system to cash in at the end of the sales cycle, with email a more active agent. And Sullivan wanted to make their multichannel experience more efficient to accommodate prospects in the 11th hour.

First, Sullivan and her team segmented their database into five major divisions and numerous smaller files. After studying behavior of site users and quizzing her call center product specialists on what they needed to close sales, Sullivan instituted five steps about 18 months ago that would get reps more involved in the customers’ post-quote decision cycle:

-> Step #1. Price quotes in real time

To increase the speed of service, one of the first strategies they executed was to install a system that allowed prospects to get price quotes in real time. The “Quote-o-Matic” was designed to let even the less-than-technologically savvy receive a price quote in two to five minutes.

To use the service, prospects had to register with an email address, postal address and telephone number, which was crucial for follow-ups. For the prospects’ records, an email with the price was sent immediately.

-> Step #2. Personalized specialists

Next, they set up a cross-channel CRM system so the prospect received consistent attention from the same rep. (On average, Disc Makers has an eight-seat call/email/live-chat team taking orders and helping prospects and repeat customers.)

If the original quote was given over the phone, all emails after that were “from” the rep whom the prospect spoke to -- encouraging them to reply to the message or place a direct call to that salesperson. If the quote was given online, the prospect was funneled to a rep who became responsible for that account.

“All in all, we had to try to tip the scales in our favor because the action of the quote says that they were shopping around,” Sullivan says. “Our goal was to have the product specialist seem as close to the friendly face that they might see at our store outlet. If you can establish trust with people who are about to make a purchase decision, you mirror the customer service.”

-> Step #3. Timed follow-ups

Once the quote was given, Sullivan set up automated email follow-ups. They tested several times, including:
o 12 hours
o 24 hours
o 48 hours
o 72 hours
o 96 hours

They also implemented a “Ready to Order” button that alerted a product specialist to immediately email and/or call a prospect to instruct them on the remaining steps in the ordering process.

“This isn’t an impulse buy,” Sullivan says. “People plan these out many months in advance. But we’re usually the last step, and they are typically on deadline, so we couldn’t sit on the leads for a week.”

-> Step #4. Allow reps to fine-tune the communication process

To keep the product specialists updated on all communications going to their accounts, they were notified whenever a follow-up email went to a prospect. The system also let the specialists change the time schedules for the messages according to the information they had personally gathered from the prospect.

In all cases, the messages consisted of only a pair of sentences and included a link to finish their order. Since deliverability was ultra-important, Sullivan didn’t want to get fancy with HTML images; instead, they sent text-only messages.

-> Step #5. Final customer incentive

Finally, they added a *potential* ongoing offer as one final sales nudge for the product specialists to offer. If the rep thought the prospect needed another incentive, they could email a printable, prepaid UPS label, letting the prospect overnight their audio or video master copy for free.

Through a deal with United Parcel Service, the cost was within Sullivan’s budget.


Well, Disc Makers has certainly experienced the benefits of targeting their “72-hour” demographic with an email-based strategy. Sullivan credits the one-two punch of the Quote-o-Matic and the timely email for lifting their conversions 11%.

“It’s allowed sales people to focus on providing excellent customer service to the hottest of leads,” she says. “We’ve gotten our email to be smarter -- into a more-personalized stream.”

More granularly, two of the timed email definitely saw a splendid response. The 48-hour email is getting a 62% open rate, while the 72-hour comes in at 39%. Most importantly, the email is engaging recipients, as 25% of the prospects who receive them reply to at least one of them.

“When you factor in the dynamic abilities for our specialist to use the email replies as hot leads in this kind of time-critical juncture, it’s certainly helped us close sales in that 72-hour window,” Sullivan says. “Ever since seeing the results and ROI, we’ve made the timed email a permanent part of our closing strategy.”

As for converting more prospects with prepaid shipping labels, the emailed UPS labels have been receiving an off-the-charts redemption rate of “around 40%.”

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from Disc Makers' Quote-o-Matic email series:

Disc Makers:

See Also:

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