Lessons from Using a Smorgasbord of Approaches including Content Marketing, Social Marketing, Lead Generation, and Predictive Analytics
Social Tables is a high-growth company based in Washington, DC. It was founded in 2011 as a cloud-based event management software platform. Social Tables has helped venues and event planners work more collaboratively and efficiently together to plan over 1,000,000 events to date.
With our free mobile applications and 14-day free trial on our Website, we had figured out a way to consistently generate about 1400 leads per month. The Business Development team would pursue most of these leads, but they were often not great. They could be international leads (in markets we do not support), or leads from smaller event planners or venues where the transaction would be too small to justify an extensive sales effort.
In this blog, we will be sharing details about how we increased leads from 1400 to over 6000 per month, and then how we started managing those leads for maximum efficiency and impact. We used a number of techniques and technologies to achieve this, including:
- Whitepapers and new mobile applications on the content side;
- Facebook and Twitter advertising;
- Deep analyses with Excel’s Stat Pack to assess the value of different types of leads;
- Lead scoring and management with Infer (predictive analytics), Velocify (lead operations), Pardot, and Salesforce;
- A full Marketing Technology stack for improved operations, including C3 Metrics; and
- An online (aka, “low-touch”) sales model for smaller leads.
This blog is most relevant to B-to-B marketers, especially within high-growth companies.
GROWING LEADS WITH CONTENT AND SOCIAL MARKETING
In 2015, we introduced some innovative new content, including:
- A popular, free mobile application, Site Inspector, that collects and analyzes information on a potential venue during a site visit;
- A paper titled “Little Known Ways to Enhance the Site Visit Process,” co-written with PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association); and
- A paper titled ‘The 9 Ways Meetings Will Impact Hotels in 2016,” co-written with Meetings Mean Business and the Convention Industry Council.
We found that Twitter proved to be a cost-effective way to encourage prospects to check out and download our mobile applications. We also found that Facebook ads efficiently encouraged prospects to sign up online for a free 14-day trial of Social Tables. The combination of the new mobile application, the whitepapers, the association partnerships, and effective social advertising resulted in our monthly new leads quickly growing from 1400 to over 6000!
With this tremendous growth in leads, we experienced some serious challenges. The Business Development team became overwhelmed following up with leads, and the number of “unqualified” leads grew. We did not have enough business development specialists to pursue each lead. Opportunities were slipping through the cracks while we spent time pursuing leads that should have been directed to a low-touch/ online sales approach. Also, we were not purposefully de-prioritizing any leads. If business development could not actively pursue a lead, we continued nurturing that lead through ads and retargeting, as well as our marketing automation system. We were spending a lot of money advertising to unsuitable leads.
ADJUSTING TO MANAGING LEADS EFFECTIVELY
We identified some solutions to these challenges. Regarding the quality of leads and the lack of sufficient contact information, we expanded our registration forms to include fields like “Job Title” and “Phone.” We also modified the form to specify “work” emails:
While these changes were fairly small, they provided more information about the quality of the lead, the location of the lead, and contact information.
Next we initiated some heavy-duty analytics to improve lead quality and flow. We first agreed on goals with the sales team; there was consensus that fewer, higher quality leads would be beneficial to the broader team. We then took all data (in Excel’s Stat Pack) for the past few years, and analyzed the number of opportunities per our four verticals (event planner; and Small, Medium and Large hospitality venue), as well as the revenue generated per opportunity. We found that approximately 70% of revenue comes from hotels and venues. We also found that larger venues typically drive greater revenue and success for Social Tables. Working backwards, we could target the leads that Marketing would need to generate to meet revenue goals.
We then introduced an end-to-end systems approach to operationalize lead management. We already had Salesforce CRM, Pardot, and other elements in place for lead generation, management and marketing automation:
We added some additional data systems to our MarTech stack, including:
- Infer Predictive Analytics/ Predictive Scoring. We created a fit-based Infer Predictive Scoring model to identify and filter prospects based on how well-suited they are for our software. Using internal data from the company’s CRM (Salesforce) and Marketing Automation (Pardot) systems and trial usage, plus new external signals from a variety of outside data sources, like technographic signals and other public data like job openings and web presence, Infer now predicts which leads are most likely to convert to customers.
- Velocify lead management and workflow software. We use Velocify to manage the lead workflow, and effectively transform Infer recommendations into tactics for the business development team.
- C3 Metrics advertising attribution and Salesforce integration. We use C3 Metrics to link front-end advertising campaigns to back-end sales motions.
Now our Lead Nurturing and Lead Management systems look like this, with Infer scoring and categorizing leads, and Salesforce CRM acting as our leads “platform”:
We are making progress toward creating a well-tuned lead generation and lead management “machine,” where smaller leads are fed into a lower-cost lead nurturing and online sales model, and more promising leads are routed to Velocify and our business development team for “high touch” sales. With Infer, Social Tables redefined its definition of marketing-qualified leads (MQLs). We can now efficiently route smaller venues to an online sales model, but keep business development engaged with larger event production companies and larger venues (categorized as “Infer A or B” leads). We created the new MQL definition and the workflow rules within Salesforce.
GOOD MANAGEMENT AND SYSTEMS LEADING TO GREAT RESULTS
Infer, with its predictive scoring, has had a measurable impact on our bottom line. We are now able to save the business development team from wasting time pursuing weak leads. By accurately prioritizing leads, Social Tables has increased our lead conversion rate from 15% to 30%. Our Opportunity pipeline in Salesforce has likewise increased by $500K per month. The business development team is much more productive and happier.
Clearly the Social Tables Marketing team has work left to do. We have seen some big successes with our analytical, systems and process work. We continue to tune our models and systems to optimize performance. With our Infer predictive scoring, we have gained a better sense of high-value customers, and we are now targeting those prospects more effectively with our digital advertising and other marketing campaigns. Finally, Social Tables is focused on tying marketing performance entirely to revenue, and moving away from opportunity or lead volume. We look forward to growing our business further… and trying the rest of our marketing smorgasbord.
Ray Miller is the Senior Marketing Operations Manager at Social Tables. James Riseman is a Principal at MarTech Review.