September 16, 2009
Case Study

Investing in Marketing Automation: The Benefits of Pilot Testing

SUMMARY: Investing in marketing automation software is a tough decision if you aren’t sure how it will benefit your company and affect your team’s marketing processes.

See how a marketing team in the UK used a series of pilot campaigns to gauge whether a marketing automation package was right for them. The process of setting up automated email series and multiple landing pages opened their eyes to a more efficient marketing strategy. And the results got executive buy-in for a purchase.

Lawrence Mitchell, Marketing Director, Reed Business Information, needed a better way to nurture, qualify and manage the leads his team sent to the sales department. They often were generating thousands of leads a month for the company’s business information products, but had no system to prioritize those leads for the global sales team.

The team was interested in using technology to help qualify leads, nurture those that weren’t sales ready, and automate key elements in their marketing process. But they needed to prove to themselves -- and to the financial executives that had to sign-off on a technology investment -- that a marketing automation system would deliver results.

"In theory it makes sense, but we had to see whether there was a commercial benefit in using marketing automation to do more demand generation campaigns," says Mitchell.

With that goal in mind, Mitchell and his team began a testing program to determine how a marketing automation package could benefit their company.


Different teams within the company tested different marketing automation solutions. The cornerstone of their vetting process was a series of pilot campaigns that put the technology through its paces. At the same time, designing and running those pilots challenged Mitchell’s marketing team to adopt a new approach to lead generation.

They ran roughly 12 campaign pilots, which featured:
o An automated email communication series, typically using 10 or more emails
o Multiple landing pages or calls to action, such as downloading a white paper, registering for a trial offer or signing up for an email newsletter
o Lead scoring that assigned a value to each action
o A specific marketing goal, such as converting new leads, or reviving cold leads

Here are two examples of campaign pilots the team conducted:

Pilot Campaign #1. Reviving "dead" leads

This campaign was designed to generate subscriptions for ICIS Heren, an online information service for the oil, gas and energy industry. But the target audience for the campaign was previously-qualified leads that had been deemed "dead" by the sales team.

- Marketing goal: Re-engage and convert dead leads

- Campaign elements:
o 10 emails, including offers to sign up for a newsletter, view a sample report, or take a free trial
o One form
o Six landing pages/one Thank You page

- Lead scoring applied:
o +12 points -- Form completion
o +3 points -- Click on newsletter sign-up
o +5 -- Click to view a sample report
o +8 -- Click on Trial Link (Landing Page)
o +8 -- Click on Trial Link (Email)

Pilot Campaign #2. Cleaning the database and enhancing relevant records

This campaign used white paper offers to generate leads for XpertHR, an online information resource for HR professionals.

But the team also wanted those offers to help refine their database: The information collected on the registration forms would identify the most relevant prospects, and weed non-HR professionals out of the database.

- Marketing goal: Nurture leads by demonstrating industry expertise through white papers; collect data to qualify leads and eliminate irrelevant records from the database.

- Campaign elements:
o 14 emails, including white paper and demo offers, and lead alerts for the sales team
o One form
o Four landing pages/Four Thank You pages

- Lead scoring applied:
o +2 points -- Click on white paper
o +50 points -- Click on demo link
o +70 -- Completes demo form
o +10 -- Job title (HR/Personnel Manager, Head of HR, HR Director)
o +5 -- Job title (HR/Personnel Advisor, HR/Personnel Officer, HR/Personnel HR Assistant)
o -100 -- No HR department
o -200 -- Unsubscribe


The process of pilot-testing marketing automation software, by itself, helped Mitchell and his team improve their lead generation strategy.

"It’s changed the way we think about campaigns," says Mitchell. "The emphasis moves away from just sending things out to really planning campaigns -- setting up communications, optimizing them and analyzing results."

Even though the team hasn’t finalized a contract with a marketing automation software vendor, or rolled-out a company-wide system, they’ve put their lessons into action. They’ve already reduced the number of monthly leads sent to the sales team from about 4,000 to 3,000, thanks to better qualification efforts.

The pilot campaigns also showed the potential positive impact of using marketing automation and lead scoring. For example:

- For the ICIS Heren pilot campaign aimed at reviving dead leads:
o 14% of recipients downloaded a sample report
o 4.8% requested a trial

- For the XpertHR campaign aimed at nurturing leads and cleaning the database:
o 3.2% of recipients requested a demo
o 20% provided additional information about themselves, enhancing the database and creating a cleaner list

Now, all the key divisions -- marketing, sales, IT, and finance -- are on board with making the technology investment. But the potential value Mitchell’s team demonstrated through their pilot campaigns encouraged them to explore a wider role for the system. They’re continuing their test, but bringing in more departments and piloting more complex, cross-channel campaigns, such as integrating email and online advertising.

Useful links related to this article:

New Research: Lead-Generation Automation Use, Challenges, Benefits

Lead Scoring: 6 Strategies to Partner with Sales to Rank, ID Prospects

ICIS Heren


Reed Business Information

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