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Prudential division ramps up lead-gen with e-mail ads

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Prudential Annuities, a Prudential Financial division, sells its variable annuity products to consumers via financial professionals. The company has an e-mail database, which it uses to reach out to those financial professionals, driving them to a landing page where they can read more about the product. But a problem with this list exists, said John Przygocki , VP-marketing at Prudential Annuities. “Prospects don't open the communications from us,” he said. “They don't know the salesperson.”

Hoping to find a better way to make a connection, Prudential Annuities reached out to its in-house advertising staff, asking how it could boost leads via online advertising. “Our internal advertising said we needed to do more digital advertising. We did outside research and found out that financial professionals are really heavy users of the Internet and spend time on specific sites,” said Tom Winer, director of marketing communications.

Prudential Annuities purchased dedicated e-mail blasts from sites that are popular with its target financial professionals audience, including BankAdvisorMagazine.com, Morningstar.com, Onwallstreet.com, Researchmag.com and WealthManagerweb.com—sites on which Prudential was also purchasing banners. The blasts, which go out two or three times per week, have a message from Prudential Annuities but come directly from those specific companies. All prospects on the lists are financial planners who said they would be willing to receive e-mails from advertisers.

At the same time, the company changed its landing page, switching from a branding focus to one with a strong call to action, asking people to request a brochure.

The e-blasts had an immediate impact on the company's lead-generation program. “All of a sudden we were getting explosive sales leads coming in,” Winer said. When the company first tested the program, it had 50 to 70 leads coming in from the blasts. One blast in August saw 150 leads coming in from a single blast.

To date, Prudential Annuities has generated about 1,300 leads for its sales desk, and fulfillment requests per visit to the Web site—those who are clicking through—are about 20%. Previously, that number was 0.06%, Przygocki said.

In addition, when the company started the program in June, about 65% of the people who clicked through and asked for more information were new customers. Over time, that number has dropped to about 40%, Przygocki said, which means Prudential is reaching people it may have already done business with but who, for whatever reason, had not been opening its e-mails.

The program has been so successful that Prudential Annuities is cutting back on it for a short period due to the volume of leads generated. Salespeople need time to catch up, Przygocki said. It's only a brief pause, however.

The success of the program has convinced Prudential Annuities to increase its overall b-to-b marketing spending by 25% this year.

“The beauty of this type of marketing is that we can instantly see which sites are generating more productive e-mails for us,” Przygocki said. “We never expected to see what we're seeing from the e-mail blasts, so we're changing the way we want to spend our b-to-b money.”

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