Note: Video of this talk is at the end of the post along with email samples you can download.
Early last year I did this talk at the DMX and GrowthHackers conferences alongside some great companies like Hubspot, Twitter and Spotify. I opened up the sales and marketing process after the first six months at the company WorkCompass.
In particular, I highlighted the outbound email prospecting process and the messages I was using that generated all our B2B leads and how much everything cost. I have finally written up that talk below. Enjoy.
Hello guys. How are you doing? Very welcome tonight. I’d like to say I absolutely love this event and a big thank you to Jason, James, Sasha, all the team and of course Blacknight for sponsoring. Over the course of these events I have learned most, not necessarily from the most successful companies and the successful speakers, but from the people who are just a step or two ahead of where I am. The people and companies who have just gone through the pains that I’m currently experiencing and I’m hoping that I can do that for you today.
Profile and history
My name is Alan O’Rourke. I started life as a designer and I ran a design agency for about 10 years. I absolutely love design but in the end it was time to move on and look for a change, look for something interesting, so I joined the dark side.
I found doing designs for clients over the years that once you handed over the design they then ask, “Well, what will I do with this.” So it was a natural progression to move into marketing. Unlike design, I do find marketing numbers hold you accountable at the end of the process and I like that.
But first a very quick overview of the last two businesses that I’ve been involved in, because they all had very different business models and used different marketing and sales channels.
Toddle, was a start-up of mine many years ago, it was selling email newsletters basically. It worked on a freemium model. It was a bootstrapped business, and because it was bootstrapped and I was running two businesses at the same time there was no budget and very little time. All the marketing was inbound marketing and it was a very very slow build-up over three years. I found blogs and resources were particularly successful channels for me. The sales process was pretty much non-existent. It was as automated and low touch as possible. Toddle ended up with around 30,000 users, and I ended up selling that business.
The next business I was involved in was a company called WhatClinic where patients find clinics and treatments online. Caelen, I know spoke at a previous event here, Caelen is the CEO, a very, very smart guy. I think some of his talks are recorded online. It’s well worth checking those out. I was mostly involved with the product there, but I had a good insight into how the business and marketing ran. Marketing was primarily SEO. The business model was pay per lead. Patients would contact clinics through the website and if a clinic responded to that patient, sales would then come along, pick-up the phone, and try and sell them. Your traditional sales and marketing model would not work in this company. It was very unique to the way they operated their business which brings me to where I am currently.
I work for a company called WorkCompass, which does online performance management and performance reviews. That’s performance management for people not applications. I’ve been working there for a little over four months. It’s a great position and I’m getting to build the marketing from the ground up. It’s an enterprise sales model which is new to me. There’s absolutely no freemium in this product. The sales cycle is around 3-6 months.
On a side note, when I started, like all new marketing people of course I had to make my mark and re-design the website. It’s something I always laughed at when I was a designer. New marketing people would start for clients and of course, they’d immediately try and re-design the website. Well, in fairness, the old WorkCompass website was terrible.
So I quickly mention these businesses to highlight how many different business types are online. They all have very different sales and marketing models. I found the more famous growth hacker stories that will make your company sky rockets to success, they only apply to very, very few businesses. I found very few that could ever apply to my businesses.
Stop Growth Hacking!
You’re very very lucky if you can get a growth hacking success story that will apply to your business. And when I joined WorkCompass I found many of my own marketing hacks from previous businesses also did not work. I needed to take a step back and I needed to stop ‘growth hacking’. The company basically needed to keep turning over, I needed sales, and I needed to be doing this while I’m running marketing experiments which brings me to Predictable Revenue. I don’t know how many people know the book? Very few, okay. How many companies here are start-ups, or early-stage companies? (Most of the room.) Alright, you really need to read this book.
Most businesses, if you’re growing, you’re making sales. Point A on the graph above is probably where you are as a growing start up. You’re finding success and things are going well.
You’re just about to hit B. And this is where I joined WorkCompass. The whole idea here is that round about A you’re heavily relying on your own network. These are your seed leads. It’s all word of mouth, people you know, people who know you and people in your broader network. You’ve already established trust here and you’re forgiven a lot of mistakes in your sales pitch and your marketing because of that trust and existing relationship. But B is a painful but important step. First it means you are growing which is great. But you’re about to run out of seed leads and you need to quickly discover or re-discover your customer pitch because you are about to run out of leads from personal network.
Our sales and marketing plan
I’m going to open up our sales and marketing process that I currently go through. It’s in two parts that I run side by side. I run inbound marketing which is predominantly content SEO and lead capture, and at the heart of this is monthly eBook publishing.
I aim to get one great piece of content out every month. I publish it as an eBook, and I try and bring as much value as possible. I did this because I have limited resources, a limited marketing team and limited time.
Our strategy is to write once, and publish everywhere and anyway possible. For example when I do an eBook, then it will automatically become a blog post(s), I tweet it daily, it will become a webinar, I send it out through the email newsletter, I both use the graphics that I use in the eBook and I produce infographics from it, the webinar will become a YouTube video, I produce a podcast from it, etc, etc. I try to bring as much value out of that one good piece of content as possible.
One month – Micro content marketing plan
I also work on a micro marketing plan every month on our eBooks. I’ll quickly walk through this. Over a month long period I publish the eBook, email subscribers and we’re finding that people tend to share it a lot so we’re trying to encourage that even more. I do PPC promotions for the eBook, I tweet quotes from the eBook daily, I ’ve got a weekly blog post that I just lift from the eBook.
I post the contents into LinkedIn groups and depending on how much I ‘ve establish ourselves in those groups, I either post the full content as a post, or if I have established ourselves and I ’ve build up trust and a profile in that LinkedIn group, I will post a link back to the landing page where people can download that and hand over their email address.
I use the content to answer questions on Quora, I track mentions and questions on social media where I can suggest the eBook as the answer. I share the document on document sharing sites. I even post the images contained in the eBook under creative comments on Flickr and just last week I got a link from Forbes based on this. It’s very, very simple but it’s a long play.
I do press releases, do the webinar, and post that presentation then on SlideShare, post recording on YouTube, etc, I call it a micro marketing plan because I produce a report on this at the end of every month. And then, as each month goes on, I can compare one month against the following, against the following, and hopefully I ‘ll see those numbers go up.
Everything I do should end in a lead capture and then into lead nurturing. I’m not saying I ’re fully successful on this, but this is our aim. Another technique that we’re using is I try to extend the reach of this content by working with a partner. For example, this eBook here was published with the IMI, the Irish Management Institute, and the only extra thing I do there is I put their logo on it. We’re producing the content for them. They are looking very good to their members, and sending new content out to their profile. But I ’re operating on a lead share basis. So every lead they generate through their websites, and every lead that I generate, I share with each other. In terms of what I write, I look at questions from our existing users.
See the infographic of this plan and more details in this blog post.
To help us decide what to write I looked at our competitors. This is an absolutely fantastic tool if you don’t know it, its BuzzSumo.com. You can put in all your competitors and it will list all the content from their blogs and will rank it based on how many shares that content got. I will put through a list of all 40 competitors add the results to a great big excel sheet. I rank all the most popular content topics and I essentially have our content plan for the next twelve to eighteen months based on this. Do not just look at competitors. Look at media sites, people who report in your industry, who write about your industry, even prolific bloggers. Look at what they write about and rank the most popular content from them.
Now, inbound marketing is absolutely fantastic, I’ve had great results from inbound. And it really does offer unrivalled return on investment, but it is damn slow. So it’s on to the second part of the plan that I operate.
Primarily, I focus on outbound sales and we’re using the Predictable Revenue framework. I don’t just hand this job off to sales because if I go back to the previous diagram section B, marketing needs to rediscover the customer profile. I need to find our own marketing voice, what works, what doesn’t work. And I need to adjust our sales and marketing pitch to this market.
There are some practical / process aspects that aren’t covered in the book. I will cover what I have discovered here.
This is our current prospecting flow that I operate.
Some people are going to wince here, but I go out and scrape the web for our target companies, I scraped our contact details, and I do some data cleaning on those, I pop them into the CRM, send them a prospecting message, and if they are interested I give them a call. I will go into that in a bit more detail.
I built a team of five people, based in the Philippines, using oDesk (now Upwork.com) Their job is to go out and get contacts for us in our target companies. I have five people. They each generate 200 leads each and this takes them each, individually, around sixteen hours. When interviewing for these people on oDesk this is the tool set (above) I would expect them to use. They use LinkedIn, data.com and zoominfo to get additional information on those contacts. They test the contacts through a MailTester and Rapportive. If you’re interviewing people on oDesk or general lead generating people they really need to be mentioning these tools and if they’re not then it’s a red flag.
Bonus: Download the original job description I used to hire suitable contractors on Upwork.com for this role. Also includes prospecting email templates and reporting template.
I found on average that for each 100 leads that are generated it takes one of our team 8 hours to do that and will cost on average 0.25 cent per lead. So that’s a good ball park if you’re starting up. Actually, just to go back again, when you are interviewing prospective lead generators for this, ask them how long it’s going to take. Say I need a hundred leads, how long is that going to take you? And if they don’t answer around about the 8 hours mark, then that’s a warning and you should probably move on. When you start using these people, when you start building a lead generation team, you probably want to check who’s actually delivering good leads and who’s not.
This is a good tool to use. BriteVerify, and basically you upload a list of emails and it will test them all for you and will give you back whether they’re good quality or not. At which point I have the leads, and I pop them into our CRM, where duplicates are removed. Duplicates are unavoidable with a team.
The leads are tagged to track the source of who created the leads and what are the details of the lead generators. So then once I start measuring I can go back and see what was the cost of the success. Also, I can see who the low performing members of the team are and I can perhaps move on to others.
This is a real example (above) of our current prospecting message that I send out. The beauty of Predictable Revenue when creating prospecting mails is not asking for a sale, it’s actually asking for a referral in your target in the company. Once you get that referral, it turns a cold prospect into a warm referral. At which point the sales guy gives them a call. Because they have been referred, internally in their company, they’re a lot more likely to listen and respond to you. The mail, as you can see is asking for help and people by default really want to help so it’s a great foot in the door. For examples of prospecting messages (they’re not covered in the Predictable Revenue book) go to blog-close.io, breakthroughemail.com and hubspot . Hubspots examples are more geared towards a fremium model where the prospect has used some aspect of your business or downloaded resources beforehand.
The emails would be sent from the sales team using a tool like Yesware. An alternative to try is Outreachplus.
Bonus: Download the cold cold email templates I use and see when to send them. Also includes the Upwork job description to hire your team and a reporting template.
Prospecting message results
This is our actual results after a few weeks using using this process. I sent 870 prospecting mails in one week. Very low Bounce Rate: 13%. Pretty high Open Rate, I actually have 40% in one mail. Pretty low unsubscribes. This is the killer, absolutely 0 abuse complaints from sending this prospecting message. I’ve had marketing mails where I haven’t got that low, just incredible. I got an interested rate of 1.57%. It’s low but it’s actually pretty good for what we’re doing. Next week we’re aiming for 2.5%, and I have an overall target of having up to 30%. Whether I hit 30%, I have no idea, but that’s our overall target.
Bonus: Download the spreadsheet reporting template I use to track the success of a campaign. Also includes prospecting email templates and the Upwork job description for hiring your team.
And then it’s over the sales guy, and Colm is a brilliant sales guy. The goal is to get a demo of the product, and I find that for every two demos I do I get one sale which is a pretty good return.
Overall our goal in about two years is that inbound marketing will overtake sales prospecting in terms of lead generation. I want to lead with inbound marketing but at the moment outbound sales prospecting is the reality, and I don’t see us doing away with that totally.
Followup questions from the audience:
- Q: My question is about the the conversion rate. Was that on the email open rate or the total sent?
A: It was on the email open rate. I sent through MailChimp and its based on the open rate.
- Q: How many leads do you need per sales person or how many presentations are you scheduling?
A: I are aiming for six presentations a week. Which I think is quite good and will hit the target that I want to get to. I did not mention the split testing I do with the prospecting messages. We’re going through a high number of prospecting messages at the moment, almost 1000 a week. This number will drop as I become more targeted. I split the message to try and bump our numbers up.
- Q: What is the most successful message that you sent out?
A: At the moment it is the one that I featured here. That is our current message and we’re testing against that.
- Q: Eventually you’re going to hit the end of the barrel, so what’s your next step with this?
A: At the moment I target UK companies of 50-200 people, and we’re prospecting with the title Managing Director. There are over 20,000 results in the UK at the moment. So I ’ve a little while to go and there’s a lot of emails that aren’t opened which you can still re-target again. Next stage I ‘ll be targeting companies a little bit bigger in size. We’re finding at the moment that I ’re getting a lot of responses that say, “No, we’re not interested.”, which means that we’re actually hitting the wrong people. I should be getting “I’m not the person you should be talking to, and be referred over to the right person”.
- Q: Have you tried re-targeting pixel messages in your email?
A: Re-targeting pixels? I’m going to have to talk to you after to find out more. We’re tracking open rates. That’s it.
- Q: At what point would you go down to paid advertising?
A: Paid advertising? At the moment it’s all experimental and until I find traction, I can’t tell you right now. If I can prove which channel works, I ‘ll chuck as much money as I can at it.
- Q: What’s your subject line in the email?
A: I have it in the mail above and its “Quick request”.
And that was it. Alright, thank you very much guys.
Watch the Video (18 mins)
Download the email messages & job description to build A Prospecting Team.
In this spreadsheet you will find the following:
- The 5 prospecting emails to send and the best timing to send them.
- The job description posted to Upwork.com to find the lead scraping team.
- The report template to track the success of each prospecting campaign.