December 16, 2014
Case Study

Marketing Automation: 2,500% email list growth for B2B cloud enterprise solution

SUMMARY: Small marketing teams with huge goals are a challenge for many email marketers. The task of increasing engagement with limited resources was a challenge HighQ, an enterprise cloud solution, faced, especially because there were no team members dedicated to email marketing.

Read this case study to learn how bringing on a dedicated marketer to own the email channel in coordination with implementing marketing automation led to a 47% average open rate, a 18% average clickthrough rate and driving more engagement from prospects.
by Erin Hogg, Reporter

HighQ, a U.K.-based enterprise cloud collaboration company, provides services to some of the largest law firms and corporations in the world. Used by 98% of the Fortune 100, the company has a lofty goal: to change the way businesses operate.

"We want to enable companies to run more smoothly and efficiently through the use of our collaboration software. This kind of approach promotes knowledge sharing, cooperation and communication within organizations," said Arham Khan, Senior Digital Marketing Executive, HighQ.


Popular with legal and banking industries, HighQ targets personas in its marketing. These personas include:
  • IT professionals

  • Marketers and business users who will use the software itself

  • Knowledge managers who roll out information about various solutions in the market

  • Big business users

"It's a mixture, but we're usually targeting mid-to-senior-level employees with our messaging," Khan said.


HighQ faced a challenge many marketers can identify with: small team with huge responsibilities. The enterprise collaboration software market can take up to 18 months to complete and requires relationship marketing as opposed to transactional marketing, according to Khan.

The team looked to automate its business and email practices so the team could focus on other projects and tasks.

Before Khan joined the HighQ team, no one at the company was dedicated to email marketing. Khan was brought on to increase email marketing efforts and use the channel to its fullest potential.

At the time Khan joined the team, when a prospect filled out a form on the site, they would receive an email thanking them for their interest and including the offer they requested. Beyond that, they would receive a monthly newsletter, but that send was not automated.

"Someone would go in, create a newsletter on a monthly basis, update it and send it out manually," Khan explained.


With a small team and no automated email marketing, HighQ adopted email automation to aid in the team's workflow efforts, allowing them to not only improve email communications but also free up valuable time.

In choosing an automation solution, the team focused on finding a provider that would have an easy-to-use platform and a solution that would encompass the various marketing platforms already in place at HighQ.

The automation was deployed in April 2014, and when Khan joined the team the month prior, one of his first duties was to work on setting up automated emails and creating workflows to target different audiences.

The goals for implementing automation were to increase email metrics, including open and clickthrough rates, build the list, improve the content download process, increase website visitors from email marketing, provide more timely and relevant messaging, and finally, sustain communication with clients and prospects for brand awareness.

Step #1. Implement automation

In the first implementation Khan set up, the team decided that an existing e-book the team had put together would be the first test of using automation.

The team hosted the e-book on a newly created landing page, offering prospects the opportunity to download their copy of the content.

Once the prospect downloaded a copy, they would receive one or two emails after that engagement, which would offer another piece of content to the prospect. Another email was sent that would push the prospect down the funnel, offering a product demo to the lead.

Open rates for this first test of the automated system were as high as 75%. The team deemed it a success and used it as a model to further implement automation for specific targeted personas.

"Why not create some more emails behind each offer, each landing page? Each workflow is targeted at a certain persona and has its own follow-up emails," he said.

Users were targeted based on the type of form they submit on the HighQ site, which allowed the team to provide relevant content through the use of predefined workflows.

Step #2. Create targeted messaging

To create unique messaging for each persona, the team looked to their in-house content writer to create communications relevant to each prospect.

In creating content for prospects to download, the team's content writer meets with the marketing team on a monthly basis to come up with ideas for content.

This content includes e-books, white papers and webinars. For webinars, the team brings in thought leaders within HighQ to run a webinar, typically doing this once a month. The webinar is broadcast live, and the recording is used for future campaigns.

For example, the content writer worked in coordination with the marketing team to produce an e-book, titled The Practical Guide to Legal Management, which was targeted to the legal knowledge managers at an organization.

Once a knowledge manager downloads the book, they receive a follow-up email offer for a webinar that is highly targeted to that particular persona.

Finally, another email is sent offering a product demo from HighQ if that prospect has shown interest in the solution though content engagement.

Another follow-up email that prospects receive after downloading a piece of content will speak to the lead directly, reaching out to them and stating, "We'd be interested to find out what you're interested in or the purpose for which you downloaded this."

According to Khan, many leads have been responding to this direct approach, indicating prospects prefer a personal touch to email communications.

"So, what I'm working on now is creating some more workflows, but rather than emails coming from me, they will be coming from the sales team so they can assess and decide how to proceed with each individual prospect. They'll have a better idea of whether they need to be nurtured further or if they're ready for a product demo," Khan said.

For a more generic piece of content such as The Cloud: A buyer's guide, the prospect is most likely at the information-gathering part of the buying process.

"As a result, they're automatically entered into the top of the workflow, and each subsequent email they receive is crafted to provide them with some more information, thus enabling them to proceed further down the process," Khan said.

Step #3. Achieve Sales and Marketing alignment

Up until recently, the sales and marketing teams were working in their own ways, siloed from each other's efforts.

"But now, we've started to integrate all of our actions, and we have monthly meetings with Sales. They can tell us, 'We’ve seen these offers going out from you guys or these emails. Maybe we can send another email with this type of content in there,'" Khan said.

Then, the marketing team takes Sales' feedback and will create something more targeted to Sales' way of thinking and include that in the persona-targeted content strategy.

Currently, the marketing team is also working on creating some lead scoring processes, nurturing leads to a certain stage according to Sales' criteria and making the Sales handoff more efficient, allowing the right communications to occur when a Sales rep reaches out to a lead directly.

One of the components Khan set up recently is that if a contact or lead visits the pricing page for HighQ, the sales team will receive an automated email indicating that a specific person has visited that highly important page.

Step #4. Track performance and share results internally

In implementing automation, Khan also turned to A/B testing emails to ensure the right messages were being sent.

"I create variations of the same email and send those out to separate workflows. And then, depending on the results from those sends and their targeted personas, I'll decide which email variation to proceed with, and then I'll create another test. I'm always A/B testing," he said.

In looking at results, Khan noted that he is constantly viewing reports to ensure the team's metrics are in line with what they are looking to achieve.

Variations in Khan's testing include testing one email with a button and another one with a text link. Subject lines are also tested, identifying personalization in that key moment of a potential client opening an email from HighQ.

"One subject line that seems to be increasing open rates includes the prospect's first name within the subject line. I think because it comes off as more personal, people tend to open them more often," he said.

The metrics reported that Khan utilizes analysis live in the automation platform as well as through Google Analytics. Khan will tag links in the email with an "email" source, so he is able to track which traffic is coming from email marketing and exactly what links are being clicked on the most.

In the past, Khan used the same link twice in one email: a link at the top at the send and one provided at the bottom. Through testing and analysis, he noticed no subscribers were clicking on the link at the bottom of the email.

"So, I decided, I'll change the format of the email around, so we don't need the link at the bottom and try to get all of the important information at the top of the email," Khan said.

When it comes to sharing results from these email marketing efforts, Khan and the marketing team meet once a month. In these meetings, he will present the successes of the campaigns. Through another meeting with Sales, Khan will present the various campaigns that have run and the results of those campaigns. This is done through a simple slideshow presentation, instead of bombarding the teams with an overflow of data.

As for feedback from the team, Khan reported that Sales has received communication from clients who are impressed with the content and offers HighQ has available.

Also, the better alignment between the two departments has increased coordination and communication.

"I think because the sales team wasn't getting the support they wanted initially, they are a lot happier now, and a lot of the feedback is directly impacting what we do as well as what our focus is," Khan said.


After implementing automation into HighQ's email marketing efforts, Khan has achieved:
  • Average email open rate of 46.97%

  • Average clickthrough rate of 17.90%

  • Unsubscription rate of 0.2%

With an increase of content offerings on the site, the team has also increased their list size by 2,500%.

"Now that we know the process is working, the next step is to scale it up," Khan said.

Through another effort to segment the list, providing even more relevant content to recipients, Khan has seen a 7.5% increase in open rates.

Also, since implementing automation in email marketing, the team has seen that email traffic is as high as the cumulative traffic levels to the HighQ website.

"I tend to read a lot about marketing best practices and so on, but one of the main things I've learned is what works for one business doesn't necessarily work for another. So, it's always about trying to test what works for you. User behavior is constantly changing, so continuous testing enables me to stay ahead of trends and make changes before our messaging loses its effectiveness," Khan said.

A/B testing has been a huge advantage for Khan and the team, allowing them to truly discover what messages resonate the most with their audience.

"It's always good to just start off slow and start small. Keep it very targeted. Once you see a good result from that, expand slowly," Khan advised.

In the future, the team is looking to create more smart lists and segment visitors according to various criteria.

Also, the company is looking to cross the pond and expand in the U.S., achieving this through separate messaging on the HighQ online presence that would resonate with U.S. audiences.




Arham Khan

Related Resources

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B2B Email Marketing: How a publishing company used marketing automation to increase CTR 1,112%

Email Marketing: Segmentation, integration, automation and personal interaction

Marketing Automation: 25% more engagement, 0% unsubscribe in 4-email series

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