September 11, 2013
Case Study

Marketing Automation: 200% increase in lead volume for software company after implementation

SUMMARY: In the complex sale, lead generation and lead nurturing are key components in finding and moving people down the pipeline. The best and easiest way to accomplish both of these objectives is taking advantage of automation software that can handle some of the early and mid-stage marketing, and also tie into the sales CRM to provide lead-gen-to-closed-deal visibility for the marketing team.

This week's B2B Marketing Newsletter looks at the process SmartBear, a software company, went through to add marketing automation software to its business process while growing at a rapid pace.
by David Kirkpatrick, Senior Reporter


SmartBear Software provides development, testing and deployment tools for cloud mobile software solutions, and this B2B company recently implemented marketing automation for its marketing and sales pipeline.

This case study covers how SmartBear implemented and managed marketing automation across its different product groups and marketing campaigns.

Read on to get the steps SmartBear implemented to add automation to its marketing program.


One challenge according to Keith Lincoln, Vice President of Marketing, SmartBear, was utilizing the efficiency of marketing automation, but not losing the unique messaging for different products, product groups and campaigns.

Step #1. Set clear objectives

"We knew we wanted to be a fast-growing company," Lincoln said. "That was our goal. What we wanted to be able to do was build a scalable infrastructure so that as we grew [and] acquired more companies or merged products together, we would have the ability to take advantage of what automation provided us while still being able to market to each one of those individual groups."

To accomplish these goals, the team brought three product groups together under one umbrella and clearly articulated business needs as well as service level agreements for both Marketing and Sales for everything from lead processing to reporting.

These processes were put together through a series of meetings including C-suite as well as employees actually doing sales or directly handling the marketing automation and CRM solutions.

Lincoln said he was the marketing lead, and he met directly with the sales lead to knock out these agreements, and the C-level audience was brought in for approval and to provide transparency and visibility across the company.

The key objective for implementing marketing automation at SmartBear ended up ensuring there would be a scalable infrastructure that could match the expected growth of the company.

Because the team was integrating three separate product groups, the decision was made to put a new CRM database that tied into the automation solution.

"We had the opportunity to reset the CRM system," Lincoln explained.
He added the CRM was selected, and then the MA software was selected based on how it tied into the CRM choice.

Step #2. Choose the marketing automation software

With the objectives in place and a CRM package chosen, the next step was choosing the automation vendor.

Lincoln said he reached out to his list of personal contacts, reached out directly to different automation software vendors, and performed online research.

"I used all the marketing resources I could possibly get my hands on," he said. "Before I started the job, I took two weeks off to do as much outside reading as I could on marketing automation. [That way] I could come in hitting the ground running in terms of what I thought we wanted to do even though I had no bias towards a solution."

To make that choice, Lincoln said business needs were identified and he created a spreadsheet comparing and contrasting the features of each vendor under consideration.

The key criteria for the final decision included:
  • Ease of use

  • Scalability

  • Integration with the new CRM solution

These criteria whittled the choice down to 10 vendors, then seven and then to five. From there, Lincoln said the final choice came down to "people and company fit."

Step #3. Utilize an outside consultant to expedite the implementation

After securing the automation software vendor, Lincoln said SmartBear found an accelerator program that provided a consultant who was able to get the entire program set up over a five-day work week.

In this case, the company had funding in place to hire a third-party expert.

"It was a great way to get trained on the solution [and] to see the way [the consultant] did things," Lincoln said. "There are minor surprises that you might not find yourself, or things where you need to move down a learning curve, but a consultant has already moved down that learning curve."

Step #4. Start slow and build from that base

To get started using marketing automation, Lincoln said SmartBear began with a couple of email campaigns, and then cloned those to "extend functionality."

He added the process was mostly trial and error, and given the head start there wasn’t any of what he considered "catastrophic errors."

Lincoln also said there were many aha moments where the — at the time — two-person team asked themselves, "What if?"

The reason for that was the large amount of data marketing automation collected was creating these questions.

"When you dig in, data begs more questions," Lincoln said. "When you start to understand how to automate things, you build more capabilities real quickly."

Step #5. Find and understand the roadblocks

For SmartBear, the main roadblock was handling multiple product groups within marketing automation, and at the same time, maintaining visibility and the ability to cross-sell within the system.

Lincoln said there are multiple ways to deal with this particular issue. The trade-offs for solving this challenge are reporting versus processing.

For SmartBear, the choice was processing for the revenue-tracking ability and reporting was a secondary consideration.

Lincoln said his team implemented custom objects within the marketing automation solution to see the processing across product groups and be able to track those interactions down to revenue.

Step #6. Create nurture paths within the automation solution

"It became a ramp," Lincoln said.

He continued, "You can't be afraid to ramp pretty quickly. One of the biggest advantages for us was to do some nurturing. We're a trial-based company. Most of the people who purchase our software have trialed, and we have trials of every one of our products so we generate quite a lot of lead volume."

To take full advantage of marketing automation software, and to nurture the high volume of lead generation, Lincoln's team created nurturing paths for each product group.

Previously these email campaigns were manually pushed or custom coded. With automation in place, different paths had from six to 25 emails that led those people down the complex sale pipeline.

Lincoln said the next step was adding webinars to the marketing mix, and integrating the automation system with the webinar platform.

Step #7. Hire automation rock stars

SmartBear is growing, and began to add employees. Because automating some of the marketing functions was so successful, Lincoln was able to add team members who specialized in particular areas, such as:
  • Demand generation

  • Lead automation

  • Reporting

  • Social media

At the same time, these team members are active in training new hires.

"It's almost like a baseball team, we have a farm system where we have automation experience at every level," Lincoln explained.

He added, "Not just the people who report directly to me, but the people who report two layers and three layers down, they're able to get exposure, learn, and be cross-trained enough that we have bench strength."

"Some of them will become the automation experts of our future, and there's enough automation work for us, as we grow, that we'll have multiple specialists," Lincoln said.


This marketing automation campaign led to these results:
  • Lead volume has grown 200%

  • 80% of global leads are generated with automated trial downloads

  • 85% of SmartBear's revenue is generated by the trial download leads

  • SmartBear's marketing operations integrated five separate entities into a single workflow

Lincoln's key takeaway from the marketing automation experience was fairly simple — take the time to put the process into place.

"The turtle will win the race, right?" he asked. "If you try to take on too much, you'll end up confused and frustrated, and it will go a lot faster than you think, but just break it down into manageable bits, and manage those bits, and then move on to the next."

Keith Lincoln will be answering your questions on September 18 at 2:00 p.m. EDT during the MarketingSherpa webinar, "Marketing Automation: A look at one company's path to a 200% increase in lead volume."



Related Resources

Marketing Research Chart: Automated emails sent by organizations

Lead Generation: Revamped marketing automation and CRM technology drives 75% more leads

Email Marketing: 3 overlooked aspects of automated messages

B2B Marketing: 7 tactics for implementing marketing automation from a fellow brand-side marketer

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

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