Marketing to the midmarket

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WebLink International provides chamber of commerce and membership management software to nonprofits and chambers across the country. The company uses “every marketing vehicle imaginable” to get its message out, said Mike Bryan, the company's VP-marketing and business development. Still, coming out of the recession, WebLink was fighting a tough battle for market share.

“In our space, we are considered the technology leader as far as brands. But what we found in a challenging economy was that people saw us as expensive, as a luxury,” he said. “Even people who didn't see our demo had great things to say about us, but they also thought they couldn't afford us.”

Last August, hoping to boost its market share, WebLink decided to target the midmarket.

The company changed its pricing structure and went after the segment “hard” via e-mail with help from its marketing research and data provider LeadJen. WebLink sent e-mail to more than 1,500 organizations and had LeadJen follow up on each with a same-day telephone call, Bryan said. These e-mails were highly targeted, and used segment and company information and data that LeadJen provided before the e-mail blast.

“We would find out what problems the company might be having and shape the e-mail so it reflected those issues,” Bryan said. “For example, a nonprofit might get an e-mail that said, ‘We know a lot of people in your segment report having problems integrating their [management software] with their financials. Are you having similar problems?' ”

The e-mails would also contain links to case studies of companies in similar situations, as well as details about other customers in comparable verticals, said Jenny Vance, president of LeadJen. “We'd give them information that showed the other, similar chambers WebLink worked with, the challenges they faced and how WebLink helped them,” Vance said. “People can't poke holes in the truth.”

The follow-up telephone calls that were made after the e-mails went out were as much for information-gathering as they were for setting up additional sales contacts, Bryan said. LeadJen's call center operators captured specific information about the types of problems or issues the prospect might be having. Obviously, if someone was ready to make a purchase he or she would go immediately into the sales pipeline. Those companies that expressed interest or reported problems with their existing membership management software would then be remarketed to at a later date.

“If we're smart and can integrate all of the data we get right back into the [future] e-mail marketing efforts we can get more specific in future e-mails and address their concerns or problems,” Bryan said.

The phone calls also helped with list hygiene, Vance said, since dead e-mails—addresses of people who left an organization or moved into a new position—were taken out of the database. “We're able to update the database with the new contact's information and capture the right e-mail, which drives efficiency for all other e-mail marketing efforts,” she said.

The combination of e-mail and telephone calls seems to be working. To date, WebLink International has “doubled sales volume and tripled the [contacts in the] sales pipeline,” Bryan said. “We've added 200 new contacts to the pipeline, and now we're winning against the competition 85% to 90% of the time we're up against someone for a share of the market,” he said.

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