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Northstar Systems doubles revenue with e-mails, "telenetworking'

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Last year, NorthStar Systems International, a provider of software solutions to financial services institutions, set out to increase brand awareness and generate sales leads among its audience of wealth management executives. The company, spun off from a technology incubator in 2003, had landed several key clients, but wanted to establish its brand in the marketplace, said Vicki Morris, VP-marketing. NorthStar's limited marketing budget presented a challenge, however, as did the fact that its target buyers are hard-to-reach, senior-level executives. NorthStar decided to use a series of e-mail marketing campaigns, as well as webinars and online advertising, with a strong focus on segmentation, to accomplish its objective. It began the marketing push in the second quarter of last year with a campaign focused on finding buyers for its integrated wealth management software platform. To do so, the company used a title-based segmentation strategy that targeted wealth management companies handling clients in the $5 million-plus asset tier. NorthStar e-mailed 893 executives at such firms an e-newsletter featuring relevant industry topics. The idea, Morris said, was to showcase NorthStar's thought leadership. “That was the low-cost, broad-brush way to reach the market,” she said. The company also used “telenetworking” in that first stage, Morris said. “It's like telesales, but it's a more relationship-oriented approach,” she said. “[We only contacted senior-level] people who are part of our network, so it's referral-based.” NorthStar's e-newsletters exceeded the average open rate for financial services e-mail marketing, drawing a 34% open rate. In the third quarter, NorthStar launched a follow-up campaign that added online ads, e-postcards, a webinar and public relations to the original e-newsletter. These efforts focused on compliance—an urgent topic for wealth managers, Morris said. NorthStar partnered with Infosys, a business and IT consultancy that specializes in financial services compliance, on this second campaign, targeting 2,934 wealth management executives. “Extra funding from Infosys was really critical; it enabled us to use other marketing vehicles,” Morris said. The second campaign drew twice as many leads, according to Morris. A third, launched in the fourth quarter of last year, focused on NorthStar's client acquisition solution, which helps wealth managers generate investment proposals and close new business. The campaign segmented the audience by company type and presented a different message to each group. The e-mail piece of the campaign, which targeted 4,470 executives, sent different e-postcards, custom case studies and white papers for each segment. NorthStar also used telenetworking as part of this campaign. The e-mail portion of the third campaign resulted in 60 leads, the telenetworking component, 46. To execute the third campaign, NorthStar had to upgrade its marketing systems. The company started using ExactTarget Inc.'s e-mail marketing software to integrate its e-mail efforts with its Salesforce.com CRM system. Overall, the three campaigns cost less than $75,000 and resulted in NorthStar doubling its revenue as well as the number of customer engagements. M
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