“I’ve been so busy, I really need to update my LinkedIn profile to reflect what I’ve been working on over the past year” I said to myself as I drove home from my normal Saturday routine of playing racquetball. -- That thought right there is what inspired this post.
When I actually got to thinking about everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) I’ve worked on over the past year... my brain went into overdrive. I couldn’t get home fast enough to jot down everything that was running through my head. But before we get into what I’ve worked on and seen over the past year, let’s just have a quick recap of who I am, and what positions I’ve held at Bluleadz over the past 4 years.
My History With Bluleadz
I started working at Bluleadz about 4 years ago and was hired on right out of school as an Inbound Marketing Consultant. I remember sitting down with our CEO, Eric Baum, and having him share his vision for the company with me. I told him right out of the gate that I wanted to help the company in any capacity that I could (meaning I wasn’t married to the Inbound Marketing Consultant title). I would love to adapt and be able to fit into any position that the company needs. Boy, did Eric take me up on that offer. Here’s a quick look at my roles at Bluleadz over the past 4 years:
Inbound Marketing Consultant- Comprehensive Marketing account manager tasked with developing and driving marketing strategy to attract new visitors to our clients websites, and converting those visitors into leads.
Project Manager- Managed all of the one-off Design/SEO projects that came to Bluleadz. (New website designs, Inbound setup/buyer persona development) Worked closely with design/development team to keep our design projects on time while exceeding our clients’ expectations.
Inbound Specialist (Sales)- Diagnosed our prospects’ biggest marketing challenges and pains and recommended the appropriate solutions that would help them grow their business.
SDR(Aka BDR or Business Development Rep)- Monitors every new lead, or any lead that converts/reconverts on our site. Enhances their contact records in our CRM and matches each lead up against our prospect fit matrix.
Marketing Manager- Responsible for fueling the growth here at Bluleadz. From attracting the right visitors to our website, converting those visitors into leads, and supplying sales with a qualified pipeline.
Where Was Bluleadz 1 Year Ago?
I’d like to take a second to preface that exactly 1 year ago I was still in my Inbound Specialist role. That being said, let’s take a look (however ugly it may be) at where we were 1 year ago.
Surprisingly, Bluleadz was in the same boat that many of our clients come to us in. We were all so busy hustling to drive results for our clients, we failed to do so for ourselves. We failed to dedicate any resources to our own marketing efforts. It was always just an afterthought. We put ourselves on the backburner and only showed our company (the marketing side) some TLC if we had the time to do so.
That’s a huge red flag. We preach this to our prospects all the time. We needed to fuel the machine that was going to keep generating results on a continuous basis if we ever wanted to meet our growth goals. We would, as I like to call it, “Hodge Podge” our own marketing efforts and this was by no means sustainable for predictable growth.
Sales was running completely independently of Marketing, and believe me, it showed. We were struggling to bring in/close any of our own leads. Our marketing and sales departments were completely misaligned. A big part of that was due to the fact that we did not have a dedicated team to handle our own marketing efforts. Sales was struggling to work enough qualified leads each month to justify the resources we dedicated to the sales department.
Our sales team and CEO had a revelation. We have not been looking closely at any of the Marketing qualified leads (anyone who came to our site and downloaded a piece of content that was gated behind a form. Ex: eBook, tipsheet etc) that came through the site.
Sales would only interact with a lead that directly raised their hand and wanted to speak (By filling out the Contact Us form, Marketing Review Form, Or Web Design Consultation Form). We realized that we could be sitting on a pile of golden leads that nobody ever looked at! This prompted our CEO and I to make a decision… I would begin to work in an SDR (or BDR) capacity.
Let’s Take a Quick Look at My Time as the SDR/BDR for BZ
First thing’s first. My Boss piled a few books on my desk that he wanted me to read that would help me be successful in this role. The books outlined what the primary duties of a BDR was and how to fill your Sales team’s pipeline to help assist in explosive growth. One of the best books I read was The Sales Development Playbook by Trish Buertuzzi. You can check it out HERE, It’s definitely worth the read.
Let the Training Begin!
Luckily for us, our buddies up at HubSpot were putting on a 1 week extensive SDR training course (for some of their agency partners) just as I was making the transition into that role. Our CEO and I jumped all over the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business.
We booked our hotel, hopped on a plane and buckled in for what we hoped would be an extremely informative week. Boy, did HubSpot really utilize every second of every day they had their agency partners there for training. Every day was filled with presentations, learning centers, and group activities to help us really hone in on how to successfully implement an SDR/BDR system in each of our agencies.
Each individual “session” that HubSpot provided was packed with informative takeaways and actionable steps that would allow us to implement these great techniques that HubSpot has seen great success with since implementing. HubSpot gave us the framework and mindset of everything that we needed to do on a continual basis to monitor every one of our own leads. This included how to find out every piece of crucial information we needed to know, nurture these leads by providing value, and how to hand them over to our sales team to further the discussion.
On a side note, there was a little time for play during my first trip to Boston. I was able to catch a baseball game and visit the iconic Fenway Park. Even though I am a die hard New York Yankees fan, I always wanted to visit Fenway and just experience the history that ball park has. I was also able to visit the historic bar Cheers and very surprisingly, they didn’t know my name!
When we arrived back home to sunny Tampa, Florida, I was foaming at the mouth and ready to dig my teeth into our own contact database. I was ready to start implementing some of the techniques we had learned through our training course up at HubSpot, like rating our existing leads, enhancing their contact profiles, and begin working them! (By working, I mean providing them value, of course!) Believe me, we had more than enough leads in our database, that was never really touched, to keep me busy for months.
But, there was a curveball. When I sat down with our sales team and our CEO, we looked past the immediate future and realized that once we analyzed all of our older leads and followed all of the necessary steps to hopefully re engage them, provide value, and hand the over the “fence” to our sales team, we would eventually run out of leads because we had no sustainable way of bringing in new, more qualified leads through the front door (No dedicated marketing team).
Enter my new hybrid role: Marketing Manager / Sales Development Rep.
My 1 Year Journey
When entering this new position, I knew there was a lot of work to be done. I was able to sit down and map out everything that I would like to accomplish to reach our goals within the next year. It all started with implementing the process that we learned during our weeklong training up at HubSpot.
Fully Develop / Implement / Run an SDR Process
This was a very important step and one of the first initiatives that I wanted to tackle. 1, because it was still extremely fresh in my brain, having just got back from our training course, and 2 because I knew this system had to be in place for when I started driving and executing the marketing strategy that would bring new leads in through our website.
Build a Prospect Fit Matrix
This is such an important part of fully implementing a successful SDR process within your company. Basically, a prospect fit matrix is just what it sounds like. It's a series of business characteristics that you match each prospect up against to see where they fall and if they’d be a good fit. It helps you classify your leads to help you determine which leads are worth pursuing. The business characteristics that are in your prospect fit matrix will vary from company to company.
Once I determined what important characteristics our ideal prospects would have, it was time to look at EVERY lead that ever converted on our site, match them up against our prospect fit matrix, and classify them with a rating.
Leads - Anyone that took an action on our site that has not been analyzed by an SDR. (Our default lifecycle stage setting)
Other - Any Competitors, Job Applicants, Guest Bloggers etc.
Marketing Qualified Leads - Any lead that has converted on our site (ebooks, training videos, tip sheets etc.) that has been analyzed and rated as either a High, Medium, Or Low rated marketing qualified lead. (More on this below)
Sales Qualified Leads - Leads that directly “raised their hands” and wanted to speak to us through one of our forms. (Contact Us, Marketing Review, Website consultation forms)
Our MQL Ratings:
Low Leads are people/companies that:
- Don’t meet the criteria as a good fit client for us. Characteristics may include a low average sales price (hard to prove ROI), No sales team etc.
- We didn’t have enough information on the contact to make a determination of fit.
Medium Leads are people/companies that:
- Meets most of the requirements of a good fit client for our company. One characteristic for example would be Job Title. A low fit for this category might be intern, where a medium fit for this category would be a Marketing Manager.
High Leads are people/companies that:
Met all of the requirements for a GREAT fit for our company
- We could deliver the highest set of results for these companies
Companies that fall in line with specific verticals we target that we can achieve the best results for
Already on the HubSpot platform (This lets us know that they are bought in on and understand the Inbound Methodology)
Immediate Marketing Changes
I wanted to immediately start bridging the gap between our Marketing and Sales departments. It was important for me to fully understand what our sales team wanted to know about their prospects before actually hopping on a call. I had a meeting with our sales team and jotted down all of their responses.
With these questions in hand, I went through our site and started utilizing progressive profiling. Progressive profiling allows us to serve up different questions to a lead based on what we already know about that lead.
For example, If visitor A comes to our website and downloads our Ultimate Blogging Checklist and we learn his name is John Smith, and works for Acme Corp. The next time he downloads something on our site, the form will automatically pull in from a list of queued questions if we already know the default information about this contact. It allows you to continually learn more information, the more a lead converts on your site. If you want to know more about progressive profiling, check out this awesome blog!
I went back and modified all of our Landing page forms to make sure all of the questions I gathered from sales were queued up in order of importance. The information we saw come through in the year to come, would greatly assist us in the SDR/Sales process. The old saying is Knowledge is Power, and it’s no different when it comes to Inbound Marketing!
After classifying all of our leads in the SDR process mentioned above, I was faced with an issue. We weren't utilizing progressive profiling in the past and we did not have a ton of information on a lot of our “Low Rated” leads. (even if they converted multiple times… tsk tsk… shame on us!)
This prompted me to create a 14 week lead nurturing campaign with the intent of re-engaging old leads. I wanted to provide our leads with value and drive them to some of our landing pages in hopes that they would re-convert. Once they re-convert, it would serve up different questions that would hopefully give me enough information to better classify the leads.
Re-Visiting the Up and Running SDR Process
I began monitoring every form fill across every page on a daily basis, including reconversions. Not a form was filled out on our site without my eyes on that contact record, enhancing the leads, and matching them up against our Prospect Fit matrix.
In addition, I built a template of Sequences for our sales team to begin using to initially make contact with our Medium and High rated leads and HELP them in their journey. Our sales team would tweak these sequences over time based on the results they saw in the field. Every single email was personalized and themed around a specific pain point for each prospect.
We would gather what these leads were interested in, determined by the content they downloaded via our website and provide actionable tips to help them along. For example, if a High rated lead downloaded our Ultimate Blogging Checklist, one of the emails might be targeted around what that company can begin blogging about, based on SEO opportunities, what pains their personas might have, and what their competition is talking about. This method, without a doubt, helps develop relationships and truly HELP our prospects in areas they have expressed pains in.
Back on the Marketing Train
Now that we had a process of handling any new leads that came in through the site, the real work began. (Driving those qualified leads to the site, and converting them!) To start this process, one of the first things I wanted to do was to sit in *silently * on as many sales calls as I could. By doing so, I would be able to hear all of the questions and understand all of the pains of each prospect that came through.
I wanted to start creating content around some of the most FAQs that kept coming up time after time on our sales calls. This would allow our prospects to find the answers to their questions on our website without talking to anyone! I began plugging these recurring questions and topics into an editorial calendar and made sure that we created amazing content that would help answer all of our prospects’ questions.
If You Build It, Your Personas Will Come.
Next up on the list, I wanted to take a deep dive into our personas and rework our keyword strategy based off of what I found. When digging into our personas, I found some immediate opportunities in terms of keywords and persona pains. The plan was to start creating valuable content around these pains and tie them into opportunity based keywords.
Getting a strong content strategy in place is essential when building your Inbound foundation. We all know, Inbound takes time to generate results. It’s not a light switch, but it works! By implementing this content strategy, along with a few other changes, it would start providing sustainable results, and the qualified leads would start flowing in.
New Pretty and Shiny Website
Knowing that I was going to start making these big changes that were going to start compounding on themselves over time, bringing in a ton more traffic, I wanted to make sure our website was awesome… and functional. I was able to work with our super talented team of designers and developers to create a brand new website with the users in mind. We wanted to figure out where the users are in their buyer's journey and wanted to be as helpful and informative as we could throughout the website.
One of the components of the new website was a new Modular Pricing Page that allows our prospects to plug and play with the different modules based off their needs. This allows our clients to receive the packages/plans they need, and since we have month to month contracts…. WHEN they need them. No company should every be squashed into a one size (or choose from 3 packages) fits all approach. Every client we have is unique… and we understand their needs are too. Again, common theme here if you couldn’t already tell throughout this article… Be Helpful. (I may be a little biased, but our pricing page is pretty freaking awesome, check it out and play around with it HERE)
During the redesign process, we wanted to increase our conversion rates on all of our landing pages. I worked closely with one of our rockstar designers to design, build and implement these new landing pages throughout our site. During this process, I made sure to update our SEO on all of our landing pages with our new Keyword strategy.
The results you ask? We saw a LARGE tic in our conversions throughout our landing pages on the site. Our current conversion rate across our 30+ landing pages fluctuates between 45-65%. Those numbers are phenomenal. The average landing page conversion rates according to our friends at WordStream falls between 2% - 5%. (Check out this awesome article for everything you need to know about conversion rates!)
When circling back with sales, we found that our efforts were beginning to pay off. Our organic traffic started moving in the right direction. We were now getting more qualified traffic coming to the site, and converting!
Further down the sales funnel, however, we were facing an issue many companies face. “Unsticking” opportunities that were in our pipeline. (Our opportunities all have proposals in their hands) We wanted to figure out a way to increase our closing rate, once one of our prospects reached the “proposal” phase. How could we do that? How could we stand out from the competition if our prospects were vetting multiple agencies? The answer was right under our nose.
We leaned heavily on our terrific video guy (Internally and soon to be globally known as the “VideoMasterChef.”) We wanted to start creating awesome videos for our sales team to start utilizing in the sales process. For us, sales is usually done over the phone, and by incorporating video, it allows us to put some faces to names, adding a nice personal touch.
For example, we started sending our opportunities a Prospect Video. Basically, these videos gave our opportunities a peek behind the Bluleadz curtain and introduced them to the team members they would be working with if they signed on.
Once we started implementing videos in our sales process, we saw a huge spike in our closing rate. We now have a 70-80% closing rate of opportunites who receive prospect videos! Talk about a killer return on investment. We definitely found a way to differentiate ourselves from the competition. Don’t just take my word for it, check out this awesome article our friends over at Wistia wrote! (It showcases some examples of these videos as well!)
In addition to using video in our sales process, we also wanted to help educate all of our Sales Qualified leads of what they would be receiving should they sign on. We created customized sales documents breaking down every team member that would be on their account, and what their responsibilities and specialties are. Check out our Video Specialist document here.
Ok So That's All Great… But What Are the Results?
Year over year, (last June, compared to this June) the results are as follows:
133.97% increase in Organic Traffic
153.13% increase in Organic Leads
111.89% increase in Blog Views
52.03% increase in Blog Subscribers
76.17% increase in Total Visits
47% increase in Total Leads
At the end of the day, I’m happy with those results, but I know it’s only been a year and there is still a ton of work left to be done.
Let’s face it, it wouldn’t be 2017 if I didn’t include a TL;DR for this realllllly long article. Here’s a few of the takeaways:
Help your visitors and leads and offer real value every step of the way
Dedicate the resources (to whichever department that needs it) to fuel your company on its road to success
Aligning your Sales and Marketing teams is more than a cliche. DO IT! The results you will see will be incredible, and both departments will be ecstatic
Check out the original “Cheers” bar in Boston…. It’s wicked awesome.