How conferencing service ReadyTalk got smart about delivering content and tripled its open rates

Last year, web and audio conferencing service ReadyTalk decided to implement a drastic, but much needed change to its  largely ineffective lead scoring and nurturing program. ReadyTalk’s director of marketing operations Mike McKinnon detailed the company’s efforts in a talk at Oracle’s Open World 2014 conference.

The problem

Like most companies, ReadyTalk had been delivering content to customers at regular intervals, regardless of which stage they were in the buying journey, or what actions they may have recently taken.

“Our content delivery model was basically throwing a customer into the program, and telling them they’re going to get six emails a month no matter what,” said McKinnon. “Those types of emails keep a steady brand presence, but they don’t spur action, and usually spur annoyance.”

In addition, McKinnon said the lead nurturing program was out of step with the lead scoring. Customers were scored by the incremental actions they took when interacting with the company’s content. Someone who just browsed a website would be rated a 4, someone who clicked on something would get a 3 and someone who downloaded content would get a 2 and so on. That score was applied to the prospect across all the lead nurturing channels, such as customer service, marketing and sales, instead of each channel having its own scoring system.

Finally, all the content being created by ReadyTalk was being churned out without being targeted to a customer at a specific buying stage, or with a unique problem.  That lack of optimization led to low conversion rates and a huge cache of content, most of which was ineffective at funneling a customer to a buying decision.

The solution

Organizing content around the customer journey

ReadyTalk decided to clean up and organize its content, so that each piece served a specific purpose in the buyer’s journey. To do that, the marketing team came up with the four main problems its customers could have. These problems were:

1)      Generating leads through webinars

2)      Cutting down the cost per lead

3)      Integration of ReadyTalk’s platform with other applications

4)      Time management

After that, the team identified three stages a customer would be in while dealing with those problems:

1)      Awareness,

2)      Research

3)      Evaluation

Here’s how they mapped it:

The criterion for keeping any piece of content was that it had to serve the customer at a specific stage for a specific problem.  This led to an exhaustive mapping process where the marketing and sales teams worked together to cull all the content that didn’t serve a very specific purpose. “So much of our content was old, off target, and didn’t fit into any stage,” said McKinnon. “We threw away anything that didn’t fit into a stage.” The entire process took five months to complete.  “It was a painful, tortuous process that I wouldn’t wish on anyone,” McKinnon said.

New lead scoring

The re-mapping also led to a new lead scoring system, based on which stage a customer was in, and not necessarily the amount of activity they were engaging in. Customers in the awareness stage were scored as 4, while customers in the evaluation stage were a 2 (with  a 1 score reserved for a customer who progressed to the buying stage or became a Marketing Qualified Lead.)

Better content

The content itself was edited to make sure the titles were simple and described exactly what was being downloaded. “I’m a huge fan of boring titles,” said McKinnon. “It’s best to avoid alliterative titles, puns or anything that ropes the reader in but doesn’t deliver on the content.”

After getting rid of unsuitable content, the team began a fresh approach to filling the gaps, gathering insights from all departments to craft new items. As a practice, all the departments of the company get together once a quarter to meet with the editorial board in order to pitch new content ideas.

McKinnon said the team had also begun experimenting with interactive content. McKinnon said they had recently put out three online calculators as content, and were seeing engagement rates go through the roof on them.

Website optimization

It wasn’t just the downloadable content that was revamped. The mapping process applied to the website, with each page being optimized to fit into a customer stage, whether it was awareness, research or evaluation. This made it easier to deliver the right content to the customer at the right time since the team could now see what stage of the journey they were likely to be in through their browsing behavior.

Instead of having a set number of fields in a download form for content, each customer would now get a different number of fields to fill depending on which stage they were in. Customers in the awareness stage only had to fill out four basic pieces of information on a form, in the research stage there were five, and finally the customers in the evaluation stage had to fill out seven fields.  This enabled the team to remove barriers to customers who just wanted to consume content, and at the same time, get more information about the ones who were closer to making a purchase decision.

Putting the plan into a platform

Once the extensive content mapping took place, ReadyTalk used Oracle’s Eloqua marketing automation to implement it.  By segmenting customers based on the buying stage they were present in, the team was effectively able to target them by setting up tags in Eloqua. The platform also made it easy for them to scale a new piece of content, easily adding it to the program and deploying it for mass consumption.

The team also used the Salesforce platform to track how long it took for customers to travel between stages, for example, by taking a timestamp of when a customer visited an “Awareness” page on the website to when they visited a “Research” page would give the total velocity of the conversion, an important metric to have for tracking performance.

Finally, the marketing team decided not to focus on metrics such as clicks or open rates but instead tracked only the content that was being consumed, and the forms that were being filled to get them.

The results

ReadyTalk launched its new program in June of this year and has since gone through three sales cycles with very promising results.

Before, the average open rate for content was less than 10%, but now it has tripled to 30%, with a best recorded rate of 50%.  Similiarly, click-to-open rates  are now 15% and form submission rates are 5%.

McKinnon says this is a huge improvement on previous efforts and it shows a healthy movement through ReadyTalk’s content tracks. Not to mention the better quality of content and a more organized mindset about delivering it to the right people at the right time.

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