“We couldn't tell anything about who we were calling for follow-up because we had huge stacks of names and no idea how interested they were in our products,” said Thompson, who was a member of the sales team three years ago and remembers firsthand how challenging it was to work with the leads they were given.
The company also wasn't testing its e-mail campaigns before sending them, she said.
In an effort to improve the e-mail component of its marketing program, USA Financial hired e-mail marketing services provider Silverpop to establish a mechanism for testing e-mail campaigns and to set up a sophisticated lead management system, which it implemented in the third quarter of 2008.
Now, instead of using a “batch and blast” approach, the company tests a sample of its financial-adviser clients before sending out a mass e-mail campaign and will tweak the message if necessary, Thompson said.
As a result, unsubscribe rates dropped from 25% in 2008 to an average of 5% or less in 2009, depending on the campaign, she said.
The lead management program scores USA Financial's prospects by getting those who open e-mail messages to fill out a Web form that asks a few critical questions before moving them on to the video or podcast that's attached to the e-mail, Thompson said. Based on the responses, individuals are given a score; anyone above 190, for example, is considered an “A” lead. Names in that category are assigned top priority and sent directly to the sales team for an immediate follow-up call, she said.
“Our sales team will call with specific advice about how we can help their business,” Thompson said. Because of its lead scoring process, USA Financial knows that roughly 17% of all leads generated in a year's worth of marketing campaigns will be considered qualified, or “A” leads, she added.
Someone who scores in the “B” category is in the middle ground and will get follow-up information at various intervals. A respondent placed in the “C” group might include someone who isn't interested in being called anytime soon and is sent even less frequent follow-up e-mails so they don't feel USA Financial is bothering them, she said.
Since making the changes to its e-mail program, USA Financial has seen significant improvements in its conversion rates.The conversion rate of qualified leads to sales in 2009 rose to 40% from about 20% in 2008.
Plus, the marketing and sales teams have a more positive relationship than they had in prior years, Thompson said. “Sales always wants more information because it makes them more prepared for the next phone call,” she said. “Now we're working together instead of butting heads like we used to in the past.”