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HP division takes long-term lead nurturing seriously

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By January 2006, PolyServe, a Beaverton, Ore.-based software maker, had reached a point at which, according to Senior Marketing Manager Jeff Day, "People felt things could be improved."

It wasn't that the company, acquired last year by Hewlett-Packard Co., was in crisis. Just the opposite: PolyServe had grown nicely since its founding in 1999, and its storage solutions for clusters of computers was aimed at an industry segment on the cusp of explosive growth. But the company determined its Internet presence was not delivering enough meaningful leads and that it was performing poorly in helping customers understand its products.

Noting that "first touch" sales conversions at b-to-b companies are often little better than about 4%, Day said: "My team calls on the leads, and they say they're interested, they like our product—but they're just not ready to buy yet."

Working closely with Kevin Joyce, CEO of Portland, Ore.-based marketing automation consultancy Rubicon Marketing Group, Day overhauled the PolyServe Web site. This work included implementing search engine optimization and analytics (using Google Analytics and WebTrends) to determine how potential customers were behaving online.

Day and Joyce analyzed each stage of customer readiness: product awareness, knowledge of product features, intent to buy and so forth. Beyond the few who converted quickly, 30% downloaded some piece of information, 25% were merely browsing the PolyServe Web site and 40% visited one page but went no further. The Web site was continually tweaked based on this feedback.

Analyzing prospect behavior online, Day and Joyce deployed an automated system that set up customer "tracks," sending follow-up communications (e-mails, white papers, webinar and podcast invitations, etc.) based on specific interactions with the Web site. While cheap e-mail communications went to tire-kickers, when a prospect moved to a higher level of interest, the automated delivery of information was enriched, as well. For example, these prospects would be sent an invitation to a webinar, offered a demo with a presales engineer or even given a phone call from sales.

"You can slice and dice your customers by tying specific actions to specific people at specific times," Day said. "We created a grid based on this, and it worked extremely well in increasing conversion rates and making overall lead-qualification more efficient."

Eight months after initiating the program, the company experienced a 70% reduction in Web site "bouncers" (those who visited a single page but then left) and a 500% increase in online leads. The visitor conversion to leads improved fourfold, while the overall conversion rate went from the 4%-to-7% range to a current 20%.

"Lead nurturing far outstrips trying to get new customers, and the money now coming in far exceeds the money we spent on the program," Day said. "My ROI is double-digit."

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