Out of 500 speaking submissions and email case studies, the judging panel for MarketingSherpa Email Awards 2015 selected two Best in Shows and five finalists for the MarketingSherpa Award — Reader’s Choice Email Campaign that will meet the standard set by this campaign. This campaign exemplified the five key standards for this year’s judging process: transferable principles, strong results, customer-centricity, transformation and innovation.
by Erin Hogg
Precor, the No. 2 fitness equipment manufacturer in the U.S. and No. 3 in the world, caters to fitness clubs and consumers to help them find the best products possible for their unique needs.
In the fitness club customer segment, Precor aimed to nurture leads looking to purchase cardio and strength machines and equipment. However, Precor's lead nurturing cycle was unintegrated with the company's CRM system.
The 30-year-old company had "many different random pockets of small-scale email tools" and the marketing team decided "they weren't getting the most out of their investment," Jeremy Mason, Senior Manager of Marketing Operations, Precor, explained.
Mason, who has a background in marketing automation and CRM integration and dynamic webpages and SEO since the late 1990s, was brought on to help take Precor's digital marketing and lead nurturing efforts to the next level.
When Mason came on board, the company had several different global offices and some offices that were shared resources with other sporting good companies.
In the U.S., two teams managed the commercial marketing for Precor, with one team dedicated to the consumer side. All of these teams were using independent agencies for their email marketing campaigns.
At that time, the most that these marketers could see with email marketing data was aggregate clickthrough and open rates, a per-campaign clickthrough or open rates. In addition, spam capture capabilities were low, leaving much to be desired when it came to using email and data to nurture leads.
"It just was not a unified global approach. None of that data was in one place," Mason said. "So, at the executive level, they wouldn't see what was happening with inbound marketing, which really didn't exist since it was all list-based email marketing."
Lacking segmentation for personalizing email marketing efforts through automation, Precor was essentially using a "carpet-bomb approach globally," he added.
"There was plenty of potential for overlap and no way to restrict how many messages one person received or see whether or not they received the same message twice," Mason explained.
With Mason onboard, the marketing team at Precor set out to move toward full behavioral marketing that was adaptive without wasting any impressions.
More than 80% of Precor's business is commercial, divided between national brand clubs and independent local gyms.
In the commercial vertical, Precor caters to independent clubs and large national brands, such as Gold's Gym, Anytime Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness and similar companies. These companies, as well as local gyms, are looking to Precor for machines and equipment that would best fit their customers' needs.
The company also caters to hospitality, corporate wellness, medical and rehabilitation and multi-family housing industries as well.
Its consumer division consists of about 10% of Precor's business and serves as a premium high-end consumer fitness equipment supplier.
Overall, Precor's potential customers come from many different verticals, seeking various products and services from the company. Precor's marketing team has the task of identifying what unique needs each customer has and serving up segmented, relevant content and messaging.
Step #1. Educate the team
In 2012, the decision was made to integrate systems and data, "and go out and find all of these disparate data marks and bring it all together (under one system)," Mason said.
Internally, Precor went into education mode, where the marketing team attempted to teach all of the marketing team members and other affected employees about what the company could do with automation and what the plan was.
This was also to gain their buy-in and support for taking the data that was already collected on Precor's leads and customers and bring it into a new system.
"We said, 'We're going to take all your spreadsheets and all of your individual databases … and then we're going to put everything in one place, and we're still going to give you email capabilities," Mason explained, adding that these team members were incorporated into what Precor called its "learning organization."
This stage of the process involved discussions of all possible concepts and ideas for leveraging a new, more powerful CRM system integrated with the lead nurturing cycle.
During this time, Mason built a weighted feature matrix to select a vendor that would be able to allow Precor to leverage email to its full potential for nurturing leads.
Through this matrix, which helped Mason and the marketing team evaluate vendors, he and the Vice President of Marketing made the final selection. From there, they could begin training on the actual tool and automation was set up via the vendor.
By Q1 of 2013, Precor's marketing team was fully educated on the vendor's capabilities for automation and knew how to use the tool.
Step #2. Refine the CRM system to include personas
In 2013, Mason and Precor looked to build out the core set of processes and lead handling within Precor's CRM system.
"One of our other big focuses was to build 12 months of total situational awareness and a consistent methodology for comparative metrics," Mason said.
In 2014, Mason and the team started to flesh out personas and apply that customer knowledge to profile grades.
"Now, we're looking at the scores, what people do and tell us about themselves, and then we started to build out personas and profile grades," he said, adding this data was combined with other general behaviors and asset preferences.
Mason explained this process helps Precor identify certain people in certain roles and find where they are in the funnel of the buyer's journey.
Mason built a matrix alongside that funnel
for asset planning for content marketing, which is created based on where that person is in the cycle.
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This strategy allows Precor to discover if prospects are potential customers as well as where they are in terms of their readiness to learn more about Precor's products.
The CRM system also allows the marketers to find out if that prospect has ever previously bought from Precor, if they were a lost deal, who else in their company is on that account and if that prospect is an influencer or decision-maker.
"We're never just pulling a list and doing a blast out. We're looking at whether or not they went to our tradeshow booth and went to a product rollout. Were they at any special invitation parties? All the way down into what they consume on the webpage," Mason said.
More or less, Mason explained, the team figures out what these prospects do and who they are.
From there, content is mapped along "all of those identifiers, and then we look at what they consumed and when, against their roles," he added.
Step #3. Plan and execute email automation
According to Mason, everything in the content nurturing process comes down to email, even though the team is working to become more inbound triggered and working with behavioral marketing.
"It's behavioral marketing beyond the webpage. It involved engaging trade shows, webinars … but in the end, it's all about email." he said. "It's all about being really strategic on when you trigger what email to whom and how that thing adapts."
Mason refers to Precor's email marketing content programs as a "dynamic interface layer" that can change an email's messaging to be tailored to a specific user. The Precor website and social media are also elements of the dynamic interface layer.
While many of Precor's efforts involve dynamically adjusting webpages and social posts, Mason explained ultimately the point in which his team engages with someone is email.
Precor also uses email marketing to set up teleprospecting and interactions with Precor's account executives.
"We've been helping them there so that they're empowered to use email templates that we pre-built for them … while alternatively, we do air traffic control with automated emails as well," Mason said.
For an example of a prospect's email marketing lifecycle, that marketing automation system is sitting in the "dynamic interface layer," where people are telling Precor about themselves and where the team can also make associations based on cookie-level behaviors as well.
Mason explained that Precor respects an individual's right to be treated as a new lead by entering forms with their personal email address, although this information can already exist in the database.
"We do not merge the email address, unless a rep gets confirmation from the prospect or lead that they are OK with consolidating their [contact information] to one email. This would only be advised once the rep opens an opportunity," Mason said.
Otherwise, Precor observes a "Stay Alive" method, allowing a prospect to be in the database and receive automated messages to their personal and corporate emails.
"This has proven successful and has been very productive when an existing customer returns to investigate a new product category but doesn't wanted to be pinged by a rep," Mason explained.
Progressive profiling forms
As someone goes through the pipeline, if they're on the surface level of the funnel, and they consume a piece of content on Precor's site, all of that behavior pushes that prospect toward a progressive profiling form.
This progressive profiling form exposes form fields only when Precor doesn’t have piece of information on the prospect or lead.
As a prospect moves through asset, message and content progressive disclosure, the team gathers as much information as possible in an effort to pre-populate location, industry and general demographic data.
"Once the person gets to the stage wherein they encounter an offer for a sales inquiry form, we only ask them to complete blank required fields and confirm their email address," he explained.
For example, if a prospect arrived on the site and submitted a catalog request form, the team would match all existing behaviors tied to that email address — the only required field for the catalog — to the prospect's cookie.
"We would then begin updating your profile based on behavior, e.g., if you went to a specific vertical market section only, we would update our industry to match," Mason said.
Reverse IP tracking
Precor's system for reverse IP tracking can help the team discover the prospects’ state and country, and the system can look for a brand in the email domain to narrow down company name and industry type.
"When you finally come to our form, we don’t ask you for anything that we've already gathered, and we find, in most cases, that we capture everything, and our prospects need only confirm their email address to move into our selling dialogue," Mason said.
"Either they can choose their level of readiness and bypass everything and go to the end of the funnel, making the funnel more or less just one thing that goes straight to the deep end of the diving board if they want to."
Simultaneously, this drip campaign is structured to move the prospect along in a steady, known path that's "choose your own adventure," he said.
"They're always going to have the option to reach out [to a sales rep]. But at some level, we're going to say, 'OK, you're at this point. Are you ready for a product demonstration?'" he explained.
When this happens, if that lead hasn’t scored up or if they are not in touch with a Precor sales rep, the marketing team will push that lead over to the sales team and initiate the contact.
"Then, we're going to initiate other emails, which is quality control feedback, especially if it goes to a dealer, that says, 'Hey, wanted to make sure you talked to somebody and you got what you need. And if you don't, let us know and we'll put you in contact with someone else,'" Mason explained.
The marketing team will continue monitoring that lead's progress through the funnel, all the way down until they purchase and are engaging service.
Step #4. Use content to nurture
All along this journey, the depth of the content is developed to align with where a prospect is in the funnel
"The emails are just the vehicle for that content. And typically, based on what they engage in the webpage, we'll dial in what specific product piece they get when they get deeper," Mason said.
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Content nurture example
At the top of the funnel, prospects are served up buyer's guides and infographics, according to Mason. Much of the content, except for product rollout videos, is created in-house.
"We try to write content that's for people who are first time gym users. So, someone who just graduated from grad school and inherited $100,000 and they’re going to open a gym as an investment," Mason explained.
Mason has found these visitors to Precor's site are not long-term fitness industry people, and they are more likely to engage on social media.
These prospects are at the top of the funnel and are viewing blog posts and video content.
As these potential prospects are defined as leads, Precor serves up more buying tools, such as how to select a treadmill and how to plan a facility.
Then, as the lead is warming up, Precor shares research on helping them compete against their competitors via whitepapers.
"We see in this in the data, where you're going to want to help them identify with someone else who is basically them — doing what they do and doing it well by using our product," Mason said.
At this stage, when these leads become more Sales-qualified, Mason explained that some of the dynamic content turns off, and the team markets more on the service level.
"We get more in detail about, 'OK, how do you want to bring this together? How do you add service, maintenance? How can we help you as a total partner,'" Mason said, adding this type of communication moves into positioning Precor as a trusted advisor and solution.
Once a prospect becomes a client, Precor has more content to help continue the relationship.
This content includes information on planning equipment and parts replacement and how to receive customer service. Precor also uses content at this stage to share available upgrades for clients.
"Once they're deep in the funnel … they're more document-oriented. Less video and infographic-oriented, less social posts," he said.
"If you orient people toward a target and empower them in a learning organization, they will succeed. We've more than doubled our lead volume. In the first year, added 70% back to the lead volume," Mason explained.
By giving the marketing team the tools they need to effectively nurture leads with relevant messaging, Mason has learned that "the return on investment is just beyond comparison if you've been doing things the old-fashioned way."
Other results of this effort include:
- 90-day life cycle from MQL to SQL shortened to under 25 days
- 45% increase in annual MQLs
- 74% increase in raw leads
- 67% increase in MQL to SQL velocity
- 2:1 annual prospect-to-MQL ratio, up from 5:1
- 35% increase in relative frequency of record-breaking days for lead conversion
In generating more leads, the team is careful to pass only the most qualified leads to Sales. According to Mason, Marketing passed roughly 45% of those new leads to Sales and nurtured the remaining 30%.
The nurturing database has grown one-and-a-half times larger, compared to the size of the overall total historical database.
Also, the total lifecycle from prospect all the way down to Sales-qualified is now less than 60 days.
"That means we can be super adaptive, super agile and 2015 will be our year of agility. We can actually change what we're doing within a selling period and see the effects in a measurable lifecycle," Mason explained.
In this upcoming "year of agility," Precor and the marketing team are moving toward a complex behavioral marketing model, inclusive of trade show and Web interactions.
Precor's automations wait for behavioral indicators, such as badge scans at trade shows, to decide on what assets or content to present at the right time.
The automation system also gathers data from the dynamic interface layer, which is the website, email or social platform, and can dynamically change the appearance of the interface layer, based on existing profile data.
Simultaneously, the automation system is selecting assets, messages and images for subsequent automated emails from behaviors captured by the interface layer, on Web forms or changed in the lead profile data.
All of these efforts are leading to a more personalized, one-on-one experience for Precor's potential customers and to help Marketing work smarter — not harder — to achieve their goals.Precor will be speaking on this campaign at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015, held February 23-26 in Las Vegas.This case study has also been selected as one of five finalists for the MarketingSherpa Award — Reader's Choice Email Campaign.Keep reading MarketingSherpa newsletters to see case studies from other finalists, and then in a few weeks, we'll ask you to vote for your favorite on the MarketingSherpa blog.
- Asset matrix
- Automation execution
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