DM News' Essential Guide to E-Mail Marketing: Sonic Nurtures Leads With E-Mail

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Sonic Software is the inventor and leading provider of the enterprise service bus, which lets more than 1,000 customers integrate their organizations with a standards-based, service-oriented architecture. The company recently sponsored several ESB demand generation programs with online marketing partners, including Application Development Trends magazine, CMP and Fawcett Publications, offering white paper downloads and custom Web site access.

Because of the high volume of preliminary responses and responsibilities of its telesales group, Sonic faced a lead qualification bottleneck. It turned to an e-mail-based approach, using The Devereux Group's LeadMaker product, which automates pre-qualifying and nurturing responses and prepares them for sales follow-up. Sonic's objectives for the campaign included:

· Identifying the real sales opportunities for follow up.

· Filtering out responses that waste time and resources.

· Minimizing staff time required to manage responses.

· Gaining insight into each program's quality of responses.

· Gathering feedback on current and planned marketing activities.

The automated pre-qualification and nurturing campaign consisted of an e-mail series to 12 groups of the demand generation responses segmented by job title and marketing program. Offers were geared to steps of the ESB buying process for each response: market trends white paper, technical book preview, computer modeling icons and SOA interest survey.

Each e-mail in the series was sent at a predetermined interval driven by the response to the previous one, so recipients controlled their own contact schedule. Recipients responding to an e-mail automatically were scheduled for the next in the series. Anyone not responding to an e-mail got an automatic reminder at a predetermined interval. For this campaign, recipients not responding to an e-mail or the reminder automatically were scheduled for the next e-mail in the series.

Over 10 weeks, the campaign produced these results:

· Funneled 3,500-plus leads through the campaign.

· Identified 2,000-plus deliverable responses.

· Sent 11,000-plus e-mails.

· Generated 3,000-plus opens.

· Triggered 750-plus click-throughs (41 percent of deliverable responses).

· Pre-qualified 450-plus leads (23 percent of deliverable responses).

· Saved 3,000-plus wasted calls to no- or low-interest responses.

In addition, Sonic raised overall response rates by sending automatic follow-up e-mails to nonresponders and by sending an integrated series of e-mail contacts instead of one-offs. Automating response pre-qualification and nurturing also let Sonic reach early-stage responses faster and increase the profile data collected for each response.

All campaign responders were forwarded to Sonic's sales department, but only when they were ready. Because the automated e-mail campaign filtered out no- or low-interest responses, the sales team received only the real opportunities.

Besides strong campaign results, Sonic also experienced an extended payback from reducing the length of the sales cycle and increasing the productivity of its telesales group.

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