November 11, 2009
Segmentation, lead scoring and automated nurturing campaigns are crucial elements of a sophisticated B2B marketing organization. The benefits compound when all the parts come together in a fine-tuned lead generation machine.
See how a software company combined these tactics (and more) to develop robust prospect profiles, segment their database and deliver the most relevant information to prospects. Through better lead qualification, they’ve seen their sales conversion rates jump 190%.
Nick Halsey, VP Marketing, Jaspersoft, says his smaller software company has the house database of a much larger business. Visitors have downloaded ten million copies of the company’s open-source business intelligence software, and there are 105,000 developers registered on the company’s community site.
The company also has more than 11,000 paying customers who have bought a professional edition and support services. And then there are prospects who fall somewhere in between -- currently using an open-source version, but may transition to a paid platform at a later date.
"It’s a real challenge," says Halsey. "We need to communicate effectively to all those segments, and we need to be respectful of their desire to receive different categories of information based on different user profiles."
Open-source developers don’t want to receive sales promotions. But the team couldn’t ignore commercial prospects. They needed a better way to segment their database, and automate as much of their marketing communications as possible to deliver the most relevant information.
Halsey and his team undertook a major overhaul of their marketing strategy that involved new technology and processes. The goal was to create a powerful combination of:
o Customer profiling
o Database segmentation
o Automated/triggered campaigns
o Outbound promotions
o Lead scoring
Here are seven steps the team took to develop their new approach:
Step #1. Merge databases and systems into a unified platform
A lack of integration between existing marketing, analytics and communications platforms hampered the team’s ability to segment, personalize and automate marketing processes.
They were using:
o CRM software to deliver commercial leads to the sales team
o A separate database for their open-source developer community site
o An email tool to provide bulk email messaging about events and new products
o Web analytics to track visitor behavior
Before they could change their marketing communications strategy, they needed a new infrastructure plan:
- First, they implemented a new marketing automation platform.
- Second, they integrated their CRM and web analytics systems with their marketing automation platform.
- Third, they automated much of their ecommerce system and tied it directly to their accounting platform and marketing database.
- Finally, they upgraded their online community platform.
The result of this work was a single database that tracked and recorded all key customer, prospect and community activity.
Step #2. Segment database according to profile and activity
Working from that unified database, the team began to segment each contact based on their activities and demographic profile.
Halsey describes a two-phase segmentation process:
o Coarse grain
o Fine grain
- Coarse grain segmentation defined in broad terms whether a contact was a commercial prospect or an open-source community member. For example, users who registered on the community site were considered non-commercial prospects until further actions or demographic information indicated otherwise.
- The team also let visitors self-segment by specifying what type of application they were interested in. Website visitors were invited to click on three product segments:
o Standalone BI
o Embedded BI
o SaaS BI
Those segments helped the team decide what type of information was most relevant to a contact in their database. For example, a Standalone BI customer might be more interested in data warehousing information, while an Embedded BI customer might be more interested in how to integrate dashboards into a CRM or ERP solution.
- Fine grain segmentation occurred as contacts engaged in different activities on the website or responded to marketing campaigns. The team tracked each action and looked for behavioral patterns that placed contacts into a demographic segment.
o A contact who downloaded a technical whitepaper might be tagged as a developer
o A contact who downloaded a whitepaper on the benefits of building a BI system vs. buying one might be tagged as an economic buyer
o Further actions could specify contacts’ roles within organizations, such as IT architect or business manager (see section on registration forms, below, for more information on gathering profile information)
"Over time, we get a pretty good matrix of information about each contact," says Halsey.
Step #3. Customize outbound communications for contacts’ preferences
The team applied its segmentation strategy to a series of outbound email communications.
- They sent four editions of their quarterly newsletter, The Jasper Source, based on a prospect’s profile:
o Community member
o Corporate Europe Edition
o Corporate North America Edition
- They also sent a monthly events email that promoted:
o Conference schedules
- They sent a new products email roughly three times a year.
- Registered users could manage their email preferences through an online subscription management center.
Step #4. Create automated drip campaigns for specific actions
The team also created automated drip marketing campaigns that were triggered by prospect actions.
For example, the team created an automated email campaign for users who downloaded a 30-day trial version of the company’s professional software edition:
- The automated campaign featured five scheduled emails over the course of the 30-day period, which were designed to help prospects install and use their software.
o A thank-you/welcome email
o Links to tools that helped them use the software
o Links to online documentation and online forums to help answer questions
o A final email asking if the prospect would like to speak with a sales representative about the professional edition
- Recipients who clicked on a link or otherwise took action related to one of the five automated messages were sent into automated sub-campaigns that built on their previous activity. There were roughly 40 paths email subscribers could take based on their response to a given message.
- The team fast-tracked leads to the sales team if prospects took an action that indicated a readiness to buy. For example, a prospect in the 30-day trial campaign who purchased documentation or signed up for a training course might be immediately forwarded to a sales rep.
Step #5. Use dynamic registration forms to develop prospect profiles
Prior to implementing their new strategy, the team was using the same registration form for nearly every piece of content a prospect downloaded. But new technology allowed them to use a dynamic registration form system that asked prospects for different information depending on the action they were taking, or the information already contained in the database.
- Entry-level actions, such as joining the online community, only required users to submit a name and email address.
- Subsequent actions by community members triggered additional questions, such as:
o State or country
o Company name
o Business role information -- i.e., developer, project lead or executive
- Downloading high-value assets, such as the 30-day trial version of the professional edition, required more detailed information, such as:
o Company size
o Status of BI initiative
"We build out our knowledge base around prospects over time, based on specific behavior," says Halsey. "Now we know what you’re consuming, your profile, your sequence and timing."
Step #6. Implement lead scoring
The ability to track and record a host of online activities, demographic information and email response rates in one database gave the team a chance to implement lead scoring. The scores were especially helpful in identifying commercial prospects emerging from their developer community.
"We have hundreds of thousands of names of people just simmering in the background," says Halsey. "Scoring helps to make you aware when their behavior shows signs of life."
For example, a prospect may have entered the database by downloading the open-source edition of the software. These names were considered "community" members, and assigned a low score (Halsey declined to share specific scores for actions, calling those his "secret sauce"). But those leads were not placed into a commercial marketing or sales funnel.
Over time, the database would record other activities, such as downloading a white paper, attending a webinar, or purchasing advanced documentation. Each of those actions would receive a score that reflected the likelihood of becoming a commercial lead.
Only when a prospect’s score reached a set level would the name be forwarded to a sales representative for follow up.
Step #7. Route leads to the appropriate sales person
The team used a combination of factors to control the flow of leads to the sales team:
o Lead scoring
o Response to automated drip campaigns
o Clear indications of sales-readiness, such as calling or emailing to speak with a sales representative
When a prospect hit one of those thresholds, the team used the demographic information in their database to route the lead to the right salesperson, based on factors such as:
o Company size
o Type of customer (OEM or direct install)
Members of the sales team were also free to examine names in the marketing database for likely prospects, such as companies in their territory, or new contacts at companies that are already using the team’s software in another division.
"Marketing automation is a must-have for us, it’s not a nice-to-have," says Halsey.
- Since implementing the new strategy, the team has achieved a 190% increase in conversion rate from qualified leads to closed sales.
- Prospects who asked to be contacted by a sales rep represent the team’s highest close rate.
"What we’re able to do with marketing automation is manage people so far through the funnel, fulfilling product information and letting them evaluate their own needs, that they say, 'Yes, please call me with pricing information,' or 'I have a specific question about different versions of your software.'"
- Prospects who enter the automated drip campaign for the professional evaluation 30-day trial represent the team’s second-highest close rate.
- Prospects who have purchased something from the ecommerce store, such as advanced documentation, represent the team’s third-highest close rate.
The key for Halsey and his team is being able to monitor all those activities and deliver the best leads to their sales representatives.
"We’ve got this huge funnel. Plenty of people know us and use our software," he says. "My challenge is not to increase the number of leads, but to get improved conversion rates throughout the funnel."
Useful links related to this article
Creative Samples from Jaspersoft’s automated marketing strategy
Lead Gen Overhaul: 4 Strategies to Boost Response Rates, Reduce Cost-per-Lead
Lead Scoring: 6 Strategies to Partner with Sales to Rank, ID Prospects
Manticore Technology: The team’s marketing automation platform
Omniture: The team’s web analytics platform
Salesforce.com: The team’s CRM platform
Essentia: Platform for the team’s new community site
Drupal: Content management platform that allowed the team to create dynamic registration forms