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Disaster recovery software vendor fixes its lead process with marketing automation

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Challenge: Businesses come to AppAssure when they need disaster recovery and protection software, but up until last fall the company’s own marketing program could have used a little protection itself.

Until then, AppAssure’s marketing consisted of buying call lists for its 15 inside sales reps. In total, the reps made more than 1,200 calls daily, but about 95% of those calls weren’t very productive, said Melissa Voitenko, AppAssure’s marketing director.

“At that volume, most of the calls had our salespeople wasting time educating leads who we were calling too early in the education process,” Voitenko said. The problem was compounded because, after the initial contact, those leads were put into a follow-up pool where they languished in AppAssure’s contact database of 150,000 names.

Along with the cold calling, the software company used monthly e-mail campaigns to reach its prospects and customers.

Solution: Looking to get better traction in the market and improve its often dismal response rates, AppAssure in the third quarter of 2008 started working with Marketo, a marketing automation and lead management software provider based in San Mateo, Calif., to make some changes.

The first such change involved AppAssure’s e-mail marketing program. Today, prospects are sent an e-mail at least once a week; current customers, on the other hand, are contacted twice monthly. The focus for both groups, Voitenko said, is nurturing relationships rather than trying to make a quick sale. In addition, e-mail content is now based on a target’s previous interaction with AppAssure. For example, if a target requests a white paper, they get it delivered in parts. If the requestor opens the first part but doesn’t open the second, they don’t get the third part e-mailed out the following week.

“If they don’t open part two, we might e-mail them and say, ‘Can you give me 10 minutes and I’ll walk you through it.’ Or, ‘Here’s part two again. If you don’t have time to read it, we can have someone walk you through it,’ ” Voitenko said.

AppAssure changed the focus of what it sends, too. For instance, Voitenko now looks to social networks for some of her newsletter content and will often point to discussions on the company’s own Web site or to interesting, external blog posts.

Lead generation has also become more targeted. The company advertises on sites where its potential customers spend time—such as technology news sites.

Meanwhile, all these marketing data are tracked by the Marketo platform and analyzed; then AppAssure scores each behavior—reading a white paper, opening an e-mail or clicking through from a paid search ad. Engaged prospects are fed more content and information based on behavior, which results in far better conversion, Voitenko said.

Results: Before working with Marketo, AppAssure’s e-mail response rates were about .05%. Today, e-mail campaigns are up to a 2% response, Voitenko said. More important, the company knows who is opening its messages and who is clicking through, so it knows who to reach via telephone. This means salespeople (who can see the specific Web activity and past sales data from the same database) receive more qualified leads.

“We know if someone is hitting the ‘Buy’ page, they are interested enough to come to our site, even if it’s only to rule us out,” she said. “We let the salespeople know that they might want to give those people a call.”

Given that the average lifetime value of an AppAssure customer is $8,500, adding 300 customers over the past year is a significant achievement—one that is linked largely to its work with Marketo, Voitenko said.

“My sales guys aren’t having to do as much cold calling,” she said, adding, “They have a much better conversation with the people they do call. They are having more valuable conversations with people who are engaged with the brand.”

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