April 11, 2012
Case Study

Marketing Automation: SMB implementation improves lead generation 300%, reduces cost-per-acquisition 50%

SUMMARY: Most B2B marketers are either using, or looking into, marketing automation software, and for good reason. This technology solution makes the job of tracking, nurturing leads and qualifying leads for Sales much more potent than attempting the task manually.

One issue for small- to mid-sized business is that many automation solutions are expensive and require an extended contractual obligation. This case study looks at how one SMB found a viable automation solution, and was able to immediately implement the technology and see positive results, such as a 300% increase in lead gen and a customer acquisition cost reduction of 50%.
by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter


B2B marketers who work for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) could benefit from utilizing marketing automation software, but might not like the expense of a full-blown implementation.

Post.Bid.Ship. enables transportation providers to compete for business by bidding to haul loads posted by shippers of commercial freight. The shippers are able to get their freight to its destination, and carriers get to fill their trucks, vans, refrigerated units and flatbeds and take up space that otherwise would have gone unfilled on that trip. Post.Bid.Ship. acts as an online middleman to get the two parties together.

Micky Thompson, CEO, Post.Bid.Ship., knew he wanted to add marketing automation to his CRM system, but also understood he didn’t need all of the bells and whistles, not to mention the cost, of a full automation solution.

This case study includes a look at Post.Bid.Ship.’s marketing plan, how it found a working marketing automation solution, and how the company implemented the technology in a short period of time to gain almost immediate benefit from the software.


Post.Bid.Ship. launched last September with private investment and a grant from the state of Arizona, and initially got its sales team going by purchasing lists of shippers, brokers and carriers, and then importing those lists into the CRM and assigning account managers to each lead.

Since there was no automation system in place in the company’s first months, Thompson said Marketing also began conducting what he described as "spray and pray" emails to the lists as well.

Step #1. Create the initial marketing plan

The basic marketing strategy at Post.Bid.Ship. is a series of touch points.

Using a purchased list, or a new lead that signed up on the website, that lead would receive:
  • A direct mail piece to introduce Post.Bid.Ship. to the prospect

  • A phone call from a sales rep following up the mailing in a “timely manner”

  • Once the lead received these touch points, a follow-up email was sent as part of the "spray and pray" effort

Thompson immediately found a problem with the early marketing effort.

"We didn’t know who was using the site; we had no analytics on our site other than Google. It doesn’t tie back to the person, so we knew things like the last log-in date, but you have to look that up manually and see that user," he said.

The issue was that the early marketing efforts were based around lists as large as 2,000 people, and it just wasn’t feasible to manually look at website logs to see who was using the site.

Along with the organized activity reaching out to known leads, Post.Bid.Ship. also conducted banner advertising and ran pay-per-click campaigns.

These online ads led to a registration form for lead capture.

Step #2. Choose a marketing automation solution

Thompson was aware of marketing automation software, and because Marketing could not easily track lead activity on the website, and email sends were not as organized as he would have liked, Thompson began looking into automation options.

His first call was to his CRM sales rep to get advice on options, and what solution different clients of that company with a similar size to Post.Bid.Ship. were using.

At his CRM’s major trade show, Thompson had the chance to meet a number of different marketing automation vendors, but he realized most of the offerings required an upfront contract agreement and a fee structure that he found hard to justify for an unproven technology with his marketing and sales arrangement.

While pondering his options, Thompson noticed a press release from one of the vendors he reached out to and found out that company began offering a scaled down automation solution designed for SMBs, with a more manageable fee structure contract-wise and in dollar amount.

This made the selection process easier, and allowed Thompson to take the software on a "test run" for one or two months without being obligated for an entire year of fees.

Step #3. Implement the automation solution

With the decision made, Thompson was ready to fast-track implementing the software and integrating into the CRM and entire Marketing/Sales function.

He said at the time he decided to buy marketing automation he hired a new employee, Matthew Kennedy, to serve as Project Director, and told the new hire, "We are going to learn (this marketing automation solution) together."

Fortunately for the two, the vendor offered online training recordings to learn the basics of the software, and both Thompson and the new hire took the entire training course over Thanksgiving weekend.

The training allowed the team to get the software integrated with the CRM, and part of the training included actually setting up the first campaign using the software. To follow up the online training, the team also had additional help in the form of calls with their consultant from the automation vendor.

"On the last meeting, (the vendor) wanted for you to put out and send your marketing campaign to be kicked off, which I really liked," explained Thompson. "It forced you to learn the product quickly and learn how you are going to use it effectively."

Within two weeks of making the decision to use marketing automation, Post.Bid.Ship. ran its first campaign through the software.

Test marketing campaigns

Kennedy said the system allows for testing with a number of marketing material elements, including:
  • Effectiveness of links

  • Popular subject matter based on clicks in the online video

  • Links within email

  • Length of email

He said for Post.Bid.Ship., a "medium" length email outperformed both a very short email and much longer email.

Kennedy added, "We have gotten to know pretty quickly what we send and what’s working."

Step #4. Set up a lead scoring system

While engaged in the product training, the team also worked to establish a lead scoring system to have in place when the first campaign ran.

Kennedy described the process as an internal debate that combined the suggested scoring methods provided by the vendor along with what the team determined was most important on the company website to uncover qualified leads.

Thompson added that lead scoring is an ongoing process at Post.Bid.Ship. For example, he said the scoring threshold to pass a lead on to Sales might be 40, but when the company added new sales reps, the threshold would be lowered to maybe as low as 20 to ensure all the reps had enough leads moving through the pipeline.

He also mentioned one aspect of lead scoring he likes is the system tracks leads even when they are anonymous. Whenever that unknown lead ends up providing more information, such as a name, company and email address, all their previous website activity automatically becomes part of their profile.

That way the company knows when someone has been heavily researching the company anonymously, but is now probably ready to buy based on the Web content they’ve been consuming.

He said specifically there is video demo on the site that is a key indicator of buying behavior, so once that lead provides a name, Sales can call and ask if they’ve watched the video already knowing the answer will be yes. Then the sales rep can be prepared to answer questions the prospect might have on the different website content they have already viewed.

In essence, the sales rep can save time by not having to go through a standardized pitch, and actually begin solving each prospect’s individual problem.

Step #5. Prove value of the solution to Operations

Thompson said he likes technology and tends to "fall in love real fast" with tech products. He described Jarret Hamstreet, Chief Operations Officer, as the opposite, where Hamstreet wants to see results and have the new tool prove itself.

With the launch of that first automation campaign, Thompson said it was closely monitored, and the team wanted the sales reps "only calling those leads that get on fire."

They began regularly hitting "refresh" to see if any prospect’s score was increasing, and it became clear the solution was working the way Thompson envisioned.

Hamstreet stated, "We sent out the beginning email campaign, people did catch on fire, and so we were able to prioritize those phone calls for the sales reps. That was the first time I really saw the value in the program."

He added that he actually stayed up all night that first night tracking the newly scored leads and making sure those were called the very next day.


In explaining how marketing automation was going to fit into the overall company process, Hamstreet told the marketing and sales teams that automation was going to be the "air force" that supports the "infantry," or sales force -- the actual boots on the ground who directly interact with Post.Bid.Ship.’s customers.

In the several months Post.Bid.Ship. has been using marketing automation, it has already seen effective results:
  • Lead generation increased by 300%

  • Monthly costs have gone down more than $6,000 due to automated lead nurturing campaigns

  • Customer acquisition costs are down 50%

Technical fluency helped

Thompson added that he felt that his team didn’t require a lot of training for new technology products.

He said, "We just need an introduction of the product and a little bit of training, but we can pretty much go on our own after that."

One major takeaway from this entire process for him was how quickly the team was able to implement the marketing automation solution, and see positive results immediately. He added that his particular solution has an active user community that helps him answer any usage questions that pop up.

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Useful links related to this article

  1. Email

  2. Lead dashboard


Marketo -- Post.Bid.Ship.’s marketing automation vendor

Getting Sales and Marketing into the Same Room: Marketing automation implementation spurs successful integration process

B2B Marketing: 5 privacy factors to consider when using marketing automation

Marketing Automation Case Study: One marketer’s 5 step process from vendor selection to a 178% increase in deals

Lead Generation: Testing form field length reduces cost-per-lead by $10.66

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

The Complex Sale: Lead scoring effort increases conversion 79%

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