Network security company Q1 improves lead process

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Q1 Labs sells network security management products to a variety of vertical markets. Over the years, the Waltham, Mass.-based company has used many different lead-generation tactics, from trade shows to direct mail. While these practices have been effective, the company recently changed the way it nurtures leads.

Today, Q1 taps into a combination of live events, social media, organic search and pay-per-click search advertising to find new prospects for its products, which are sold direct and through channel partners.

Live events now include sponsored partner breakfasts and “lunch-and-learns,” as well as webinars—private labeled for its resellers—that feature Q1 Labs content and speakers.

Meanwhile, its paid search strategy, which helps bring leads for its own inside sales team as well as channel partners in specific regions, now includes more obscure search terms gleaned from its Web logs, as well as PPC placements for more competitive industry terms and phrases.

“We always do local PPC where it makes sense,” said Tom Turner, senior VP-marketing and channel sales. “There are countries in Europe, for example, where we don’t have direct sales channels but we do have channel partners so we’ve tuned PPC for those markets.”

The reason for these changes, Turner said, was to help Q1’s sales force boost productivity and achieve higher conversion rates.

“Three years ago we’d do a trade show or sponsor a white paper on a third-party site, and we’d get a set of leads, which were allocated to a salesperson in a specific territory,” he said. “But they weren’t always great leads. There was no visibility into what was going on. We weren’t doing the salespeople any favors.”

The combination of extremely targeted placement and vetting—all the leads the company generates through its many marketing efforts go through a business development team first—is improving those results. Once a lead comes into the queue, it is segmented via marketing automation and then touched at least four times over a period of 10 days, Turner said, through a series of e-mails and direct calls. This allows the development team to get a better understanding of where someone falls in the sales cycle and how serious a prospect is about making a purchase.

“We want to know where they are in the awareness phase so we can deliver a prospect to our salespeople who is actually qualified,” he said. “We’re now able to deliver prospects who we have been able to define for the buying time frame, the use case and the pain points, as well as who in the competitive landscape they might also be considering.”

The results have been overwhelming, Turner said. “Opportunity conversion rates have increased 50%,” he said. “It also means I have a much better visibility into the marketing vehicles I am investing in. Plus, although it’s hard to quantify, sales and marketing actually have a shared conversion rate.”

Along with a revenue boost last year, Q1 doubled its customer base from 2008 to 2009.

Finally, the new scheme has improved relations with the company’s sales operation, Turner said. “We’re trying, as marketers, to deliver qualified opportunities, and the salespeople appreciate that,” he said.

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