Plan, Test, Research — Exceed Expectations

Today’s case study offers many lessons. One is to get something, you should give something away. Another is testing is critical. A third is you shouldn’t blindly send to a list. Do your research, then let recipients know exactly why they’re getting your message.

You could sum all this up just by saying, “Best practices deliver results.”

NetLine Corp. targets managers, directors, and VPs of marketing in small to mid-sized companies as well as in divisions of larger companies. It faced the same challenge many other business-to-business (B2B) companies face: generating leads. As an online expert, NetLine turned its attention to gathering leads on the Internet. Here’s what the company did.

First, it focused on the offer. As most B2B companies know, communicating with potential customers is more than throwing out a discounted offer on a product or service. It’s about building relationships. To build a relationship, a customer must be convinced you have something to offer him. So NetLine examined its strengths and created a free white paper.

Called “Email-Based Lead Generation: Marketing’s Magic Bullet?” the eight-page report was ideally suited for its target audience. NetLine had been getting questions from customers on the topic and had seen a great deal of misinformation circulating. So the company worked with a copywriter to create a useful, information-packed report.

Time to test the offer. In June, NetLine sent the offer to a small group of about 2,000 people. One primary test revolved around the landing page. NetLine created two landing pages. Half the recipients were directed to Landing Page A, which had a short form (name, title, company name, phone, and email) and one required question. The others were directed to Landing Page B, which had the same short form and three optional questions.

Before you read on — any guesses on the results of one required question versus three optional questions?

Answer: Landing Page A received a 70.5 percent conversion rate of the people who went to the landing page and filled out the form, while Landing Page B received a 48 percent conversion rate.

Now that NetLine had done its homework on the offer, it was ready to find a receptive list. Raechelle T. Drivon, vice president of marketing, is a regular subscriber to a number of marketing-related mailing lists. She has some tips on finding the right list.

“Anyone will sell you their list, so if you don’t know the list, go join it,” Drivon says. “See if it’s a good fit for you. With the right list and the right offer, you’re going to get response.”

She decided to send the offer to 4marketeers, a community for marketing professionals. One of the reasons Drivon chose the list is the owner, Ken Davis, always writes a small blurb at the top of each offer sent to his list, so recipients know why they’re getting a particular message and that it isn’t spam. Although Drivon didn’t see the blurb before her message went out, she was understandably pleased:

Hi [recipient’s name”, We’re seeing more and more tutorials and white papers on this subject. I downloaded this one from NetLine and read it cover to cover — it’s good!

The offer was a short description of why users would want to download the paper and a link to the landing page. The message, sent to about 7,000 recipients, was plain text. Davis always communicates with list members that way. (Drivon says Davis believes one should use ASCII text to enhance response. That’s a separate issue we won’t go into here.)

Results far outperformed Drivon’s expectations. The message received a 9 percent CTR (633 responders),a 70 percent conversion rate (percentage of responders who completed the form), and a 6.3 percent overall completion rate (percentage of the total list that completed the form). The total number of leads was 441.

Those are great results for a rental list, where industry averages are 1 to 3 percent CTR. (If anyone has definitive sources for this stat, please let me know.)

I hope to see some of you at the ClickZ E-Mail Strategies conference in Chicago on August 8. If you’re planning on attending, please drop me a line.

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