CenterBeam Inc. offers to small-to-midsize companies cloud-based applications that include Microsoft Exchange and Office Web apps, along with online storage, backup and security services. Like any other business, lead generation is important to the company, but the process is complicated somewhat in that CenterBeam sells horizontally, rather than to particular industry niches.
The universe of potential customers can seem immense, in particular for a company with a small marketing team.
“We're a small company with a small sales force,” said Karen Hayward, exec VP-CMO of the company. “What we're trying to do is focus our efforts toward those people who are in the buying window now.”
Hayward came to the conclusion that reaching out aggressively to prospects was key. Multiple touches don't irritate prospects, she said; rather, it keeps you top of mind. And since her marketing department consisted of herself plus two others (one of whom is part-time), she tapped prospect development company PointClear last November to handle lead-list development and to devise multitouch campaigns using telemarketing and email.
The process is based on taking qualified prospects and reaching out to them seven times in 10 days.
“Outsourcing was just the right thing to do,” Hayward said. “We did try to do it ourselves, with the outside sales people trying to generate their own leads; but that didn't work.”
Along with PointClear, Hayward developed a segmentation analysis process and an aggressive marketing outreach to fill sales' pipeline.
“We just completed a quarterly meeting with CenterBeam where we analyzed leads by sales region, SICs, employee ranges and disposition analysis compared with previous periods,” said Dan McDade, PointClear president-CEO. “From that come recommendations for the next quarter.”
He noted that a high lead rate deriving from the first two digits of the Standard Industrial Classification code may prompt a deeper dive using all four SIC digits.
“We had a lot of success in construction, which led us to commonalities with other niches,” McDade said. “We asked ourselves, who else is involved with construction sites? Well, engineers and architects look like that. We rerank the market continuously.”
While all this may appear to offer more leads, CenterBeam and PointClear made a point of actually reducing leads sent from marketing to sales—five years ago, CenterBeam identified 80,000 prospective customers, and today that list is down to 18,000.
While telemarketing is not often front-and-center in marketing discussions these days—it's generally about all-things digital—Hayward calls that part of her marketing plan “where the rubber meets the road.”
“We provide the content and PointClear does the outbound communications,” Hayward said. “They'll also take the inbound phone and chat communications.” PointClear conducts an average of 80 “dials” a day on behalf of CenterBeam.
Outbound telemarketing isn't all that CenterBeam does. In the past, the company has staged a Friends and Family referral program, targeting its own customers who may suggest leads.
“We also contacted every ex-employee we ever had,” Hayward said. “We created a website for them, where you could go and register. We said, if you bring us a lead, here's what's in it for you. We'd pay for a referral. And it worked marvelously well. After all, salespeople come and go, but they know us really well and know how to sell.”
CenterBeam also attends a few trade shows, but is struggling to figure out how to add social media to the marketing mix.
“I'm not sure anyone has cracked the social media code in b2b,” Hayward said, “and you can count me in that group.” However, she does run ads on LinkedIn, which features extremely fine segmentation and targeting.
“We're not using LinkedIn's display ads, but rather the little text ads with a small graphic on the side,” she said. “And we try to close the loop. We might post an ad on LinkedIn, and a prospect will follow it to a specific landing page. PointClear will either turn that into a lead for us or put it into their nurturing process.”
Hayward's other social efforts involve industry news posted on the CenterBeam home page. The company posts about 50 articles a month, she said, focusing on cloud computing, green IT, saving money and on-demand computing. Those articles are optimized with the company's key search words and are tweeted by an outside resource—content-marketing company Brafton Inc.
Sticking closely to its model of outsourcing marketing capabilities that don't exist in-house, Hayward uses video marketing company Pixability to create videos for its various landing pages as well as its YouTube channel.
Hayward is pleased with the ROI of her marketing efforts to date. She indicated that about 91% of marketing qualified leads become sales-accepted leads, well above the average of 67% as estimated by marketing consultancy SiriusDecisions. Her outsourcing of lead-generation tasks to PointClear has had a return on investment of 12 to 1, she said, “and that doesn't count other things in the pipeline I hope to close.”
For the future, Hayward wants to do much more video focusing on CenterBeam products and services, and will ramp up the company's outreach to its channel partners.
“Our channel partners are all trying to figure out how to get into the cloud business,” Hayward said. “With the CenterBeam solutions, we have a broad offering, we have a collaboration suite and a help desk for end users.