Marketing Automation: 200% increase in lead volume
Daniel Burstein, MECLABS, and Keith "KC" Lincoln, SmartBear Software
"We need to be the help department, not the marketing department," Keith "KC" Lincoln, Vice President of Marketing, SmartBear Software, said in this MarketingSherpa webinar.
Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS, sat down with Lincoln to discuss how marketing automation has improved the effectiveness of marketing strategies at SmartBear, as well as the process Lincoln went through to choose the right marketing automation vendor for his organization’s needs. MarketingSherpa is vendor-neutral, and Lincoln's strategies for choosing a vendor that provides tight integration with existing CRM systems are transferable.
Watch this replay to discover how Lincoln built the marketing program from the ground up, how the free trial and free software model played into the CRM and marketing automation system, the importance of lead nurturing at SmartBear, and much more. Most notably, learn how all of these efforts led to a 200% increase in lead volume.
"I'm a big believer in inbound marketing, and I'll admit content is king. The more we can develop value and help developers and testers do their job in a much more effective and efficient way, the more we can create Web content that can be found through organic search. That was step one," Lincoln said.
Hear Burstein and Lincoln discuss the live audiences' questions, including:
How Lincoln defines a lead and how he differentiates an opt-in from a lead
How marketing automation helps generate leads, before the leads get to the automation system
How marketing automation links with the new trend of solution marketing
How lead scoring affects marketing efforts at SmartBear
Burstein: Hello and welcome to a MarketingSherpa webinar. Today, we are going to be talking about marketing automation. We would like to thank Act-On for sponsoring this webinar, making it free for you, and also and most especially Keith Lincoln. My name is Daniel Burstein. I'm the director of editorial content here at MECLABS, and we have Keith Lincoln joining us from Boston. He is a VP of marketing for SmartBear. KC, thanks for joining us today.
Lincoln: Great to be here. Thanks for having me, Daniel.
Burstein: Absolutely. More than just being here today, first of all let me give you a little background of KC. Not only did he build the SmartBear marketing team, the marketing department, from the ground up, from being the initial marketer to his, now he has a team of 25 marketers.
He also has led the marketing strategy for two divisions at Bottomline Technologies, he's experienced with channel marketing, he's experienced with strategic OEM partnerships, and he's here to answer your questions today.
KC put a lot of work into being here, and so I really want to give him a big thank you. He did a written case study.
We've had several calls, tons of emails, and he's put in hours and hours of prep time to get to where we are today to answer your questions. You can ask those questions on #SherpaWebinar, if you have any questions about marketing automation for key.
You can also share your own experience with marketing automation. Let the community know what works for you. If you have questions, any technical questions, we're really, really fortunate to have the ReadyTalk team with us here today, the awesome ReadyTalk team. We've got Margaret on the line answering your questions through the ReadyTalk chat feature should you have any technical questions.
With that, let me also mention that we're going to be tweeting some key information, like the written case study that KC did with us, through #SherpaWebinar, so make sure to tune into that.
With that, let's jump into the results. KC, you've got a really impressive increase in lead volume here. Let's start with the first question from Sid. He wants to start from the very basics and wants to know, "Please define lead in your context and how you differentiate an opt-in from a lead."
Lincoln: Yeah, that's a great question. What we do at SmartBear is we have a high velocity sales model and we follow a typical waterfall methodology, and the definition of a lead in our vernacular is obviously a marketing qualified lead, and that is all north American trials that come in.
We're a trial-based company, and all the trials that come in from North America and 13 other key countries that we've identified qualify as leads. Then other leads outside of those other marketing qualified inquiries we put into our system as marketing qualified, and then we nurture those until we believe that they're at elite status.
Those might include ebooks. Those might include white papers. Those might include people who have downloaded our free software but are not yet on a trial-based version of our pay for software.
Burstein: When we're looking at these numbers here, you're generating 40,000 new marketing qualified leads every quarter. Not just inquiries. Do you want to tell us a little about those results?
Lincoln: Yeah. I love the free model. I'm a big fan of the free model, so I was really excited to join SmartBear and build a operations infrastructure that allowed us to take advantage of that. When I started, we didn't have a strong infrastructure that enabled us to process all those leads.
We had a pretty decent sales process, but just the CMO at the time that hired me to then build that operation, what we've really been able to do is leverage mostly inbound content at this point to drive a high percentage of the leads that our company qualifies. 85% of the leads that go to Sales are marketing generated leads, mostly done through inbound content.
As we've been able to grow the team, we've been able to mature in the kinds of content we produce, like I said, from ebooks to infographics to white papers and a lot of other different programmatic leads as well.
Burstein: Let's talk about that free model and how automation plays into actually getting those leads. We were talking in some of the prep calls, we were joking, because KC is joining us at Lead Gen Summit San Francisco to talk about lead nurturing, and he does somewhat of pre-lead nurturing to get them from marketing qualified inquiries to actually marketing qualified leads.
I wanted to ask you how automation plays into that. We have a question here from Jonathan. He's a marketing manager. "How can marketing automation help generate leads before the leads get to the automation system?"
Lincoln: The first thing with an automation lead is that there's anonymous lead, so with automation you'll have a tracking cookie. You know what people are doing at every step in the marketing funnel, but usually you only know that unfortunately after the fact in terms of them filling out some form.
We're very data driven here, and one thing we've done is really looked at, before someone is actually in the funnel as a marketing qualified lead, is we'll look at behavior and then initiate a tagging campaign to try to get them to download a trial or download an ebook so we then know who they are.
What we've done is some pretty sophisticated things like looking at behavioral data and saying, "OK, in our typical buying cycle, if someone buys, they might visit." I've actually had the team look at the top 25 pages before someone purchases and what webpages they are. A lot of times those will be pricing pages because the opportunity to go to purchasing or those will be comparison pages because they're looking at us versus the competitors.
If we see combinations of those pages which we've identified as a critical path, we know that someone is very likely to buy. In fact, we've had the CEO and the CFO come to us and say, "This data is so good, we're going to drive our forecasting model off of this."
Automation enables us to do all of that. Sometimes before we've identified who those people are, just as anonymous leads, then we can use, like I said, a tagging campaign based on that behavior to give them an offer that we feel would be highly likely that will to compel them to convert, identify themselves, and move through the process.
Burstein: It sounds like, and this really ties well into our next question, it can help you put together solutions at a macro level that might appeal to many different types of customers because you're getting a sense of what customers at a macro level are looking at.
That really ties into this question from Jai Min, who's an MBA. "How does marketing automation link with the new trend of marketing solution marketing?"
This is really interesting. If you look at the bottom of this slide, you can see KC's approach and SmartBear's approach. When I think of solution marketing, I think of my time with IBM where it was very based on solution selling. It was based on a very big sales force, a very big services organization to really get in there and really sell those solutions, but KC, you have a totally different model, right?
Lincoln: Yeah, we've kind of flipped that on its head. SmartBear serves testers and developer, software testers and developers, and it's a very discerning and difficult audience to market to. They don't like being marketed to.
When I first came here, even in the interview process, I said, knowing that market very well from my past, said, "We need to be the help department, not the marketing department. We want to just help these folks."
Really, part of our differentiation is we compete against companies like HP and IBM and they have those huge solution selling machines. We like to say in the hallway, "We'll never be selling on the golf course." We have a land and expand model where we very deliberately land with a developer who has a certain pain that he might need solved that day.
It might be automating his testing or it might be automating his testing so that he can get home earlier and not have to work over the weekend or something like that. If we can land with that developer, we've built a sales team, which is strictly inside sales, who can really understand what that developer needs.
Our pricing strategies are tied to that. Then word of mouth with developers and testers of any market is very strong. We're able to virally expand within an account.
It's the exact opposite strategy of some of those other competitors I talked about who might scope themselves out with a CTO at that level and then the tester or developer is forced to use the technology that they didn't choose on their own. Our strategy is very deliberate. We don't play any RFP games.
We don't play in bake-offs or custom coding. Strictly a land and expand strategy really impacts and is why it's a free strategy with the free trials. It's why we have a pricing strategy that you can buy at a departmental level with approval amount right about that level of person's authority and really then spread virally within an organization.
It's a very deliberate strategy and kind of works in concert and deliberately the antithesis of some of our competition.
Burstein: Be the help department, not the marketing department. I've got to say, KC, I love that. I am going to use that. That is awesome. Let's get into now a quick poll here. We want to ask you to get a sense of the audience. Are you using any marketing automation software? Yes or no.
By using we mean not just have you purchased, not just you have it on the shelf, but have you actually implemented it? Are you using it? Is it changing what you are doing in your marketing department? Because right now, next, we're going to talk to KC about how he chose the automation platform and implemented it.
If you have any questions and if you're thinking of implementing an automation platform, please use #SherpaWebinar, ask KC. He put in tons and tons of research before he found his automation platform. Has a lot of advice there.
As we look at the results we see it's split pretty 50/50. It's interesting. Some on the line are using marketing automation software, so as KC has already been talking about, we will get into some advice he has on using the actual software. Some are not yet.
I assume you are on the webinar about marketing automation because you are interested in perhaps purchasing and implementing a marketing automation solution, so that's what we're going to talk about right now, how KC went about and did that.
We have an interesting question here from Nigel. He's a marketing consultant. "Curious to learn what this means: without losing any unique messaging." That's something we talked about in the webinar invite. "Don't understand the implication that including your messaging in marketing automated program would somehow be difficult or challenging."
To be clear on that, KC, and we're going to talk about that right here, you had probably a bigger challenge than most marketers in that you were not just trying to find a marketing automation solution.
You needed the flexibility because you were bringing three brands together into one acquisition and looking for other possible acquisitions. Do you want to talk to us about some of that challenge in finding an automation platform and some of that flexibility you were looking for, for different products and brands?
Lincoln: Sure. The first challenge, as you said, was SmartBear is the aggregation of three acquired companies that a private equity firm had acquired and were operating as separate entities and wanted to pull together as one entity.
Outside of the branding challenge which was the first hurtle, we quickly moved to, because we are a high velocity model using free trials and free software as the engine behind that high velocity model, we wanted to bring those three businesses together.
When I got inside to do that, we quickly looked at what we had, and we had two different CRMs and a homegrown CRM system which was some homegrown software and basically Excel for reporting. In conjunction with choosing, while I was going through the selection process for automation, I had to actually bring those CRMs together.
That was actually advantageous at the time, because when you're scoping your marketing automation system you have a little bit of flexibility in how you're doing that, and it can drive the requirements of how you build your CRM.
I probably had a luxury that some people don't have in that I was able to say, "OK, this is what I want to do." I had a fresh canvas, if you will, in both CRM and in automation, although CRM, the sales process was fairly standardized, so we had to build and bolt onto that and around that.
The first thing I did was merge those CRM systems. As you can imagine, three small companies that had homegrown systems and their own systems, their data integrity habits, with no marketing teams, were not at the time best of breed, so we needed to bring those into line initially as well.
Then also, they serve similar markets, so there was your typical data hygiene exercises that we needed to go through. We were able to reset there. While we were going through the CRM merge process, we were also doing, as I said, the automation scoping process, which was actually an upside for us because we could then start building the two upon each other and kind of have them dovetail nicely.
Burstein: Let's talk some about that dovetailing between the CRM and the automation platform. We have a question here from Dave, a business development strategist. "Do marketing automation systems talk to internal CRM?" Let's talk about, what type of integration were you looking for there?
Lincoln: Yeah, we were looking for a very tight integration. One of the things that was very important to me, because I was the only resource at the time and knew we were going to build the business and the team very quickly but at that time had limited resources, it was to be able to do that in a very streamline fashion. It had to be tight integration and it had to be easy integration. Those were two things in our selection process that, of many hundreds, that we looked at very closely.
Obviously, we also had some issues that we needed to dig into a little more deeply, because with three companies serving free software and serving thousands of leads at that time, not tens of thousands yet, but thousands of leads at that time a month, we needed to make sure that the license servers that served our software could be integrated into both the automation and the CRM system, and not just by the sync.
When people are looking at free software, we can't wait for a five to 12 minute sync on the CRM system and the marketing automation system if you use the automation system as the front end forms for someone to register for your software.
A software developer and tester may have a short attention span, and in five to 12 minutes they may be on to the next thing. We were talking seconds and needed to be able to enforce a sync that would allow us to deliver the software to them in an apparent instantaneous way.
Burstein: You mentioned that that included two factors of hundreds of factors you looked at, so I want to dive into that for just a moment. But I want to mention, as I said, the extensive research KC did in looking for an automation platform. I believe you took off two weeks and just focused on learning about automation platforms. Is that correct?
Lincoln: Yeah, when I got hired at this job I initially gave them a start date, when we were just verbally talking about potential start dates, and then I looked at the task at hand and I actually called back the CMO and said, "You know, I need another week. The reason is it will benefit you. I actually want to do a ton of research across a bunch of different areas, but particularly in automation so that when I come in we can really hit the ground running and really be moving quickly."
I took as much as I could from different organizations and as many articles from MarketingSherpa as I could on marketing automation and listening to webinars like this one on marketing automation so I could understand what I had to do. It's funny, I passed those documents down throughout our marketing operations group and they make fun of me of how much I had highlighted in all my notes. It was really worth it to have done that.
The other thing is I read several books. On the way to work, on my commute, I would do books on my iPod so that I could get background there. Then the one thing that really helped me a ton was to reach out to my network.
I had never implemented a marketing automation system before. I had a lot of experience in ERP systems on the marketing and sales side, as well as CRM systems on the marketing and sales side, but this was new domain for me.
I did have some past contacts and people who I had worked with in the past who really provided me with just great advice. That contact network via social media, even while on vacation, and then even when I started, just on the phone, was incredibly valuable to me in being able to not only select the right vendor, but also implement the tool as quickly as possible.
Burstein: That's great. If any of you are listening to this MarketingSherpa webinar and this helps you select an automation vendor or platform or get more leads, we'd love to interview you on a MarketingSherpa webinar as well. Just email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. Glad we could help, KC.
As we talked about, we talked about CRM integration was one of the criteria you looked at, scalability, ease of use, but this is something I think is really going to help a lot of marketers on the line who are looking for an automation platform.
This is just a quick snapshot of it. You had this spreadsheet with hundreds of factors and you looked at the different companies, and then you would look at which factors were desired, which you must have, and which were just nice to have. Let's take a look at what some of those factors were. You can see that on this sheet. These are just some of the factors KC looked at.
I think this is a good chance to answer this question from Phil. He's a president. He says, "What is the most cost effective combination of products to accomplish this?" As you know, in MarketingSherpa, we're vendor neutral.
We don't talk about the specific products that KC used, but KC, I think this is a great opportunity to talk about the factors that you looked at when you were looking at that mix of products and specifically that automation platform to choose.
Lincoln: Yeah, and it's to use your marketing talent and look at what is most important to your business. For our business, I was coming into, like I said, the free model, which was extremely high velocity. We can flood the engine with leads for our sales team. Things like lead scoring and lead routing was very important.
The other thing is our sales team, while they can meet the SLA of trying to reach every lead in one business day, that's a promise and your eyebrows may go up with 40,000 leads a quarter at that, but that's actually what we do with this inside model and how we can scale. That's an incredible sales team that we have.
That said, they still have so many leads that even thought they make that attempt and they live by the SLA and do a great job with it, they also need to throw a bunch of leads into a nurture bucket.
It was unbelievably important and critical for us to have the number one thing be the ability for us to have a healthy, vibrant nurture path that includes both behavioral information as well as time-based information that we could deliver to our prospects who are using our free trials specifically, but sometimes free software as well, so that we could provide them additional information.
And like I said, give them that help, not that marketing, that help that they need to make their experience with our software a very positive one.
Burstein: Dave asks, "Is the selection process spreadsheet available to us listeners?" Dave, we have the slides on SlideShare. We'll be tweeting that link out through #SherpaWebinar. You can see on this slide a lot of the different factors KC looked at. You can see on the previous slide how he set that spreadsheet up, and hopefully that's helpful to set up your own spreadsheet.
Let me also mention that, as I said, Lead Gen Summit in San Francisco is coming up in just two weeks and KC will be joining me to talk about lead nurturing. Right now we're talking about how they chose an automation vendor and that automation vendor, and lead nurture was very key to their success. I look forward to talking to KC about that in San Francisco. I hope you can join us there.
Also wanted to thank Act-On marketing automation for sponsoring this webinar. They have a helpful checklist that you can download. You can see right there. A buyer's checklist for marketing automation, bit.ly/actonchecklist.
Act-On software is integrated marketing automation suite is the foundation of successful marketing programs from simple and direct to sophisticated and globally executed campaigns.
Act-On is a cloud-based marketing platform that enables marketers to tie inbound, outbound and nurturing programs together in a single dashboard. Scalable and intuitive, Act-On supports sales as well as marketing, and it's fast to implement, easy to use, and powerful.
If you're looking for an automation platform, you can check out that buyer's checklist, bit.ly/actonchecklist.
Let's get to another question here. We have a question from Dana, and she wants to know, "Is he doing lead scoring? If so, what are the criteria for ranking?"
Lincoln: Yes, we are. It's somewhat interesting. I'll talk about our lead scoring approach, and you can kind of use it as background for how you make automation fit your business. Obviously one of the biggest and most important things we wanted to do was lead scoring, but what's interesting is even with the volume of leads we bring in, every lead is qualified.
Like I said before, the definition of a lead for us is a trial in North America or 13 other key countries. All the other leads are nurtured until we can get them into that leads status.
What's interesting about that is once we got lead scoring up and running, it wasn't the catalyst that it is for a lot of companies that have a longer funnel, let's say. In that funnel, they may say, "At this point, now you can call this person." Our sales process works off the trial. Many of the questions that our sales team asks are related to someone's trial experience, if they've got it up and running on a trial.
We really didn't use lead scoring as a catalyst to actually deliver the lead or qualify the lead. When it met 100 points, it didn't become that catalyst that sent the lead over to sales. We had a different catalyst. It was funny because that sounds contradictory to what I said to what was one of the most important things. I said when we flood the engine, we have that many leads.
What we do is we use the lead scoring for identifying the quality of leads for people obviously, which is very easy to do using lead scoring in automation. The other thing is we really have opened sales eyes and been a good partner to sales by explaining to them that that's more important because a product, since we've implemented marketing automation with three businesses, we've acquired two additional businesses, we have around 17 products.
So what we've been able to do is, by product based on the volume through the free trials, we've been able to emphasize scoring for certain ones where we do flood the engine and make it a much more granular way for them to qualify and prioritize their leads and put time into how they want to look at those leads.
Yes, we've used lead scoring since day one. We've used it in a little different way, which even raised the eyebrows of some automation people that I've talked to, is that we don't use it as the catalyst, but it's no less important for our sales guys to use it as a way to judge the quality of the leads in a very granular way.
In fact, one business unit came to us and said, "We've got to get even more granular because you're flooding the engine so much with these leads." We want to be able to make sure we hit the ones that are hottest first and give those the most priority.
I think also we've had to make some adjustments along the way because automation as a platform doesn't really consider your unique business scenario and say, "OK, you've got 17 products and you've got to score each one differently, or you've got five sales teams, so you need to have five scores because each sales team wants to see what their score is particularly on that either product or for that product group.
We've had to really have some advanced development inside of our CRM and integration with our automation, which is the easy side of it, provide that information to our sales team. Definitely use it. We started the plain vanilla approach right out of the gate, and then we evolved it to the changing needs and the advanced needs of our business.
Burstein: Excellent. You talk about flooding that engine with leads. We're going to ask you to answer this question from Danielle in just a moment. "Can KC review more specifically the tactics for a 200% increase in lead volumes?" I'm going to ask you some of your top tactics, but first I want to answer this question from George.
He said, "Since Act-On is sponsoring, should we assume that is what SmartBear uses?" Just so you know, at MarketingSherpa our editorial department is totally independent from our sponsorship department, so make no assumptions. With that, talk to us about that 200% increase in lead volume. What were some of the key reasons behind it?
Lincoln: Yeah. A big believer in inbound marketing, and I'll just admit, like, our content is king, and the more we can develop a value ad and help developers do their job in a much more effective and efficient way, the more we can create Web content which is through organic search can be found.
That was step one, and that really was the cornerstone of what we did to drive that growth. Really, automation has helped with that incredibly because it's given us time in the marketing team to focus on that in a very effective way. That was the low hanging fruit.
Then we just moved up the tree and we did things like create better content via white papers, via ebooks, and better outbound programs via email using automation and better nurture programs.
In fact, before we had automation, our conversion rates were much lower than they currently are. Before we had automation, our conversion rates from marketing qualified inquiry to marketing qualified lead were much lower.
We've done a ton of belt tightening. If you have a one-point increase in a conversion rate, that translates to quite a lot of money when you're even a $10 million company or a $50 million company, and those are the ranges we've been in since we've seen this growth.
For a medium sized, small to medium-sized company like our own, really having your marketing operations processes down, using automation to do that can really move the needle through your business.
Then that extends to looking at what you have for resources and time to be able to then look at how you apply to the resources of your marketing team to create more and more content, reach further up the tree and keep that snowball effect going actually right to community.
Everything we do is really trying to, like I said, be more in the help arena than it is in the marketing arena. If we were selling to marketers, it might be another story, but really we've got to be able to just provide great community content.
We've tested a lot of different content, syndication programs and a lot of outbound programs that haven't been as effective. They are in certain pockets, but some of the traditional channels don't work particularly well for us with testers and developers.
The other thing we've done on conversion is really, when I started we had no ability to test. We do a lot of A/B testing. Typical marketing tactics. Just always be finding your bottle neck, fixing the bottle neck. That will expose the next one. Fix that one and move on and keep making sure that you can do all those different things. Automation will help you find time that you didn't otherwise think you had on your team.
Burstein: We have just one minute left, KC, but I definitely wanted to show this lead nurturing example you have because I love it. Anthony is looking at the screen. He's asking, "Is there a reason why he put the opt-in link in the first paragraph?" In the last minute you have remaining, can you just tell us? I just love this idea of putting the opt-out link so high for a drip campaign.
Lincoln: Yeah. It was very deliberate, and it resulted from an A/B test that we did. This is one of our, a nurture path, the first tip we give as part of help for our free software. The reason we do it there is a software developer or tester is pretty sensitive with their time, and the last thing we wanted was to have this be perceived as a marketing email.
If they didn't want to be helped with these tips during this time that they had the free software, we just wanted them to have the software and go use it. It comes with support so they can always call us.
What we did was we put the opt-out link right in the first paragraph because we basically wanted to say, "We understand the way you think. We understand the way you value your time. We want to be respectful of that." It did lead to a higher opt-out rate, but through some surveying that we did, it also led to higher satisfaction. It was the preferential way that they wanted to be dealt with.
Burstein: Excellent. Thank you, KC, so much for your time today. I look forward to seeing you in San Francisco.
Lincoln: Great. I look forward to being there. It's going to be fun.
Burstein: It's going to be a lot of fun. Thank you to everyone who invested 30 minutes to us today and attended. Please, when you leave, fill out the survey. Help us improve these webinars. Help us serve you better. Thank you.
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