LearnPad sells to schools and educational buyers directly and through value-added resellers. Marketing manager Cody Ward runs a lean team with multiple strategic objectives, including supporting the sales team directly and helping resellers succeed. Cody’s diverse background includes hands-on planning, managing, and optimizing multi-channel digital marketing campaigns, and executing on SEO, PPC, email, mobile, social, and CRM. This experience made him the right person to evaluate the company’s evolution into marketing automation technology.
“I’ve done research and been hands-on with marketing systems at previous companies, so I have a sense of both the cost as well as what you can do – and more importantly, can’t do,” said Cody. “We needed automation capabilities beyond just email batch and blast, and we needed the ability to scale our marketing efforts quickly and efficiently with a very small team. We looked at a number of marketing automation solutions and chose Act-On as the best value for the requirements we had. As I began to use the system, I became a huge fan.”
LearnPad already had an email marketing solution that managed batch-and-blast campaigns well, but couldn’t support more sophisticated efforts. The LearnPad team set up a ten-step email program intended to help buyers progress along a nurturing path. This allowed buyers to enter the program and progress through the same messaging, instead of new buyers missing our previously sent content.
“We had no way to tailor our previous email system,” said Cody. “If you signed up six months ago, you got all of our great content. If you signed up today, you missed it all. We were wasting a lot of opportunities as our list was growing and growing.”
Using Act-On, it took Cody two weeks to create and begin executing a ten-step drip email campaign that would engage systematically with every one of the subscriber email addresses. Now, everyone who enters the program receives the whole series of emails, in the right order.
“In the last six months, since implementing Act-On, we’ve put over 250,000 email addresses through a 10-email new prospect drip campaign that generated marketing-qualified leads (MQL) at every single step. We use a call to action at the bottom of each one, so people can engage when they are ready,” Cody said. “Some people want to engage with you right away; others want to learn more first. We’re seeing results across the board, at every step. We’ve grown from an average of a couple dozen MQLs per month to over 700 MQLs per month, within six months.”
Cody and his team look at the results of each email to see at each point how many people exit out of the program, and refine messaging constantly. They also observe whether a lead should go into a different email program. As an example, someone who’s getting the email nurturing campaign might register for something – in effect, raising their hand. “We program the system to notice that and automatically put them into another campaign that puts them in touch with sales for a more one-on-one approach,” said Cody.
The team has evolved into a content marketing model to nurture prospects and customers. “It’s similar to a B2B model, where there’s a long buying cycle, many decision makers and an unknown funding source,” said Cody.
The LearnPad content marketing nurture campaign begins with an email focusing on collateral and downloadable assets. The next emails address credibility and testimonials. The next steps are thought leadership around education, adding value with assets such as blog posts or content pieces that engage with videos. Near the end, the team adds a soft touch, asking the buyer to click a button to continue receiving LearnPad emails. The final email lets the buyer know they will be taken off the list if they don’t respond.
“We’re finding that those final touches are important in conversion. We’ve gotten a lot of people who engage at that point who haven’t opened or clicked previous emails by doing those last two touches,” said Cody. “We can focus on just the active contacts, which is more cost-effective.”
The marketing team also supports a sister company and resellers’ efforts as well, so Act-On’s ability to “send on behalf of” meant the team could support multiple brands from one application, in one account, in one dashboard.
“All that information is in one place and it’s all trackable,” said Cody. “We segment lists by customer types and relationships. We send on behalf of our sales reps to their own customers. We send on behalf of our partners and our value-added resellers.”
In the past six months, Cody’s team has launched over 120 digital campaigns that include new prospect conversion, current customer nurturing, local events promotion, on-your-behalf partner emails, and sponsored media thought leadership. “We’re sending an average of 1.2 million emails per month to our prospects and customers and on-behalf of our resellers to their prospects and customers,” said Cody.
Act-On’s website visitor tracking tool identifies known and unknown visitors by their IP addresses, and reports on their unique website behavior. Cody has automated this so that if a prospect meets certain criteria (such as pages visited) or if certain keywords (e.g., “school” or “district”) display inside of the company name, those visitors are loaded into the CRM, where a status can be put against it, and handed to sales who can then have a potentially warm call. “We’ve turned it into a useful touch point we can track, and see where it goes on the sales side,” said Cody.
It’s important for a salesperson to know how sales-ready the prospect is. If the buyer is making initial contact when they’re already well-educated and close to a decision, the sales rep shouldn’t treat the buyer like an early-funnel prospect. “We have all of our media tagged so that Act-On can show us when someone downloads it, and tie that information to that contact,” said Cody, “so the sales rep can look at the contact and see what they’ve been exposed to, what they’ve downloaded, what web pages they’ve looked at, which emails they’ve engaged with. The rep knows what to say, and can begin the conversation in the right place.”
LearnPad uses events such as trade shows and lunch and learns to facilitate channel marketing. Prior to adopting Act-On, registration for these and the communications around them was a difficult manual process. With Act-On, organized communication begins even before registration. “We typically promote by sending an email blast to a region, either on behalf of our company or our partner. And then they register through Act-On to attend, so we’re able to track who’s attending, limit the number of attendees, and use automated email for confirmation and follow-up,” said Cody. “We love that Act-On sends our partners alerts when someone registers for a particular event.”
When asked what advice he would give a marketer just getting started with marketing automation, Cody said: “Build the system first. Use Act-on as your base and then expand from there. Start off with simple drip campaigns and branch out into other areas of the system. We began with the drip campaign, which let us identify and engage with just the actives, which is more cost effective and also helps with deliverability. We expanded from there into using the forms more and capturing information off the website. Next we implemented scoring and bringing all that data into one place in the CRM. Take it step by step and keep building. The mantra ‘easy to use, a lifetime to master’ is really true with this tool. There are always more things you can do with it.”