About five or six months ago, our company reached an inflection point in our journey and faced an interesting challenge: Marketing had started to pass to our sales team a lot more leads but our sales team (Account Executives) had a low close rate on these leads.
As we had previously blogged, we decided to hire an SDR team to bridge the gap between the increasing volume of MQLs marketing was generating and sales-ready leads our AEs needed to fill their pipelines.
Below, we’ll share our journey on how we ramped up our SDR team. In the last three months, we implemented a new lead management approach that increased SDR’s appointment setting rate by 300% and increased the opportunity-to-close rate from AEs by 25%.
We’ll dive into the following topics to give a detailed view into our strategy and execution:
- Figuring out which leads should go to SDRs versus Account Executives
- Why timing is everything when reaching out to leads
- How we’ve increased the volume and quality of leads we send to our SDR team by sending leads who took real-time actions
- How we set up Marketo to flag real-time actions and follow up with real-time leads immediately
Where we were six months ago
For the first half of 2016, our lead management process was very straightforward. The Marketing team focused on activities that guided prospects into our free trial. A marketing qualified lead (MQL) passed to a sales rep was simply a person who either signed-up for a free trial of our product, or requested a demo or pricing information. Our sales team was consistently able to close these product leads in about 30 days.
But in order for us to grow and meet our revenue targets, the Marketing team had to send our sales team more leads. Marketing developed more content and started sourcing leads from a wider range of places. Marketing started to send to our sales team content lead – those who engaged with e-books and webinars – in addition to product leads.
However, our sales team was getting overwhelmed with the amount of leads from Marketing. They only had time to focus leads who had already shown an interest in our product – and were neglecting content leads. As a result, we started to see a decline of the opportunity creation rate (number of sales opportunities created divided by the number of marketing qualified leads).
To cultivate more sales-ready leads, we decided to create a team of Sales Development Reps (SDR) dedicated to nurturing leads and qualifying them for our team of AEs. Once a lead is qualified, an AE can take over and close that lead.
Figuring out which leads should go to our SDR team
It was obvious that leads who requested a demo or signed up for free trial were good leads for our AEs. We were not sure which leads our SDR team should spend time on. There were many options:
- Should SDRs be talking to leads who attended industry events we had sponsored in the past six months?
- Should they talk to leads who watched one of our webinars in the past month? Should they talk to leads who had opted in to receive our e-book promoted by one of our content syndication partners?
- How about leads who visited our website more than 3 times in the past seven days?
Are some of these leads too cold?
We had to start somewhere. We started by giving SDRs some of the older content and event leads in our database (i.e. these leads had at some point either attended one of our events or engaged with a piece of gated content in the past several months).
Marketing sent over these leads in batches. We delivered leads based on the SDRs’ workload and marketing activities (i.e. when Marketing got a new batch of leads from its content syndication partner).
Our SDRs would follow up with these leads via a series of emails and phone calls to try to get into a conversation with these leads. But the appointment setting rate on these older leads was in the low single digit.
After doing this for a few weeks, we knew that we needed to send SDRs more qualified leads. The leads we had been sending were mostly unresponsive to our outreach. They were too still early in their buyer journey and not yet interested in talking to a human about Socedo.
We realized that timing isn’t just one piece of puzzle. Timing is everything.
We knew that we had to send warmer leads. We decided to set up infrastructure in Marketo to 1) detect leads who were showing interest in real-time and 2) follow-up with these leads as soon as they’ve taken some sort of relevant action.
Like in many marketing organizations, our marketing automation platform was set up to track lead actions like email opens, email clicks, website visits, and form fills. However, we also know that the B2B buying journey does not start on our website. The journey starts on social networks, peer-to-peer software review sites, and industry publications.
To give our SDRs warm leads, we need to track a wider set of behaviors that indicate buying interest.
Using our own Lead Acceleration solution, we started to add real-time social behavioral data to our lead records. We added a few types of social actions, i.e. someone who follows @Socedo, retweets us, mentions a hashtag of an event in our space, mention of an influencer, mentions a technology partner, and more.
- We listen for relevant social actions taken by our leads and immediately add these social actions onto leads’ activity log. Right now, we’re tracking about 20 different keywords and hashtags on Twitter and have incorporated 8 different social actions into our lead scoring model.
For example, we’re tracking activities around Socedo (mentions, follows, retweets, clicks on our links), around key marketing technologies in our space like Marketo, Hubspot and others. One particularly relevant set of keywords is around Marketo. We’ve found success when we reach out to Marketo users who mention Marketo on social media.
- Certain social actions are scored in our lead scoring model. For example, we are giving a lead 15 points whenever he clicks on a link in a Socedo Tweet, 5 points for a retweet of a Socedo tweet, and 5 points for mentioning Marketo.
We’re lead scoring social actions, email clicks and website visits in our lead scoring model. So, if a lead mentions a relevant keyword on social, gets our real-time email and clicks on a link on that email, we would have added to her lead score twice. First, she would get a number of points for the social action (either 5, 10, or 15) and another 15 points for clicking on that email.
Even if someone has taken just a few relevant social actions but did not visit our website or click on our emails (we are lead scoring website visits and email clicks too), their lead score could still increase to the SDR lead threshold and become an SDR lead. For more details, see our lead scoring webinar.
- Meanwhile, Marketing has set up programs in our marketing automation platform – Marketo – to send socially engaged leads customized emails immediately following certain social actions. For example, if a lead just mentioned that she’s excited about attending Marketo’s upcoming Marketing Nation Summit this spring, we can infer that she wants to improve her skillset as a Marketing Operations professional. We will send her an email that invites her to read a blog post on lead management that we published on the Marketo blog.
Once the lead goes to an SDR, a personalized email is sent. Just like Marketing, our SDR team uses social actions generated by each lead as context for outreach.
Marketing makes leads’ social actions available as Interesting Moments in Salesforce so that an SDR can see what the lead has done on social and use that data to personalize the conversation. Additionally, our SDRs have access to Marketo, so they could access any lead’s Activity Log and see the lead’s history of actions with us.
- Because we’re now sending SDRs trickles of real-time leads (instead of batches of leads), they’re able to follow up with these leads within a few minutes of getting the lead. Since these leads were just showing interest in Socedo, their response rate is much higher than the older leads who have not taken any recent actions.
We’ve found that our effort has been worthwhile. First of all, when our SDR team worked with real-time leads versus batched leads, the appointment setting rate (setting an appointment for a lead to see a demo and talk to one of our Account Executives) of our SDR team went up 300%. In addition, after introducing the SDR team, we have seen the average win rate for our sales reps (or Account Executives) increase by about 25%.
This approach has also allowed Marketing to send to SDRs a much higher volume of leads.
In December 2016, 77% of all Marketing Qualified Leads delivered to our SDRs came from real-time activities – including social actions, email clicks and website visits.
We’ve kept a close eye on the opportunity creation rate of these leads as well as the opportunity-to-close rate these leads. At this point, it looks like these real-time leads are converting at a rate that keeps us on track to reach our pipeline and revenue goals.
While it’s good that we were able to get a lot of real-time leads, we also want to make sure that we have sufficient volume of real-time activities amongst our existing leads to send over real-time leads in the future. We decided to take a deep dive into our database, and ask the following questions:
- How many unique leads in our database have taken a relevant social action, visited our website, or clicked on an email across all time?
- How many unique leads have done this in the past 30 days?
- What the volume of these types of activities?
- What’s the distribution of these activities? In other words, how many leads have taken 1 social action in the past 30 days, versus 10 social actions, versus 20 actions? How many leads visited 2 website pages versus 5?
The results surprised us.
It turned out that 80% of all real-time activities added to lead records in the past 30 days came from our own lead acceleration product.
On average within the past 30 days, a lead took 6.4 social actions, but only opened 1.4 emails and visited 3 pages of our website.
What’s more interesting is when we look at the unique number of leads who took these categories of actions.
We found that it’s much more common for leads to take relevant social actions versus engaging with our website or emails. Almost 5 times as many leads took a social action than clicked on an email, and twice as many than visited our website. We also found that 64% of total socially engaged leads took at least 2 social actions.
Based on this analysis, we know that we have a good path forward to sending more real-time leads to our SDR team in 2017. Here are some of the key lessons we’ve learned through our journey to help you if you want to start using behavioral social data to understand your leads:
- When choosing which social keywords to listen to, start with the basics. Track engagements around your branded handles and executives. Do you integrate with any complementary technology? Users and fans of those technologies are good fit for your products. Additionally, track key conferences/events attended by your target audience – those who tweet about the event are likely interested in hearing from you.
- Over time, add other keywords. Perhaps you already have collaborated on content with certain influencers in your space. See which of your leads are engaging with those influencers and reach out to them with your joint content.
- Analyze lead activities in your database to determine how to add social actions into your lead scoring model. To figure out which social actions we wanted to put into our lead scoring model, for each social keyword, we looked into key metrics:
- Volume – how many leads in our database have engaged with this keyword in the last 90 days?
- How many leads who mentioned this keyword/interacted with this handle became MQLs in the past 90 days? How many became customers?
- Was this social action the first touch the lead ever had with us? Was it the last touch?
- Align your content to the interests of the leads
- Make it easy for your SDR team or Sales team to access contextual information on the lead. Here we use Interesting Moments in Salesforce.
If you’re ready to learn more about how to use behavioral social data in your marketing automation platform, check out our e-book.
If you want to see how Lead Acceleration solution works, you can contact us to get more information.