Sophos, a developer and vendor of security software and hardware, was eager to gain new leads, cut cycle times and support increased sales activity, but it didn't want to add to its head count.
Sophos decided to upgrade both its sales and marketing automation systems to better manage the lead-gen and customer life cycle processes. Activities such as streamlining the means to stay ahead of customer communications (automatically sending out renewal notices associated with upcoming license expiration, for example) and keeping track of multitouch reporting and attribution were considered key elements of the new approach.
“We're a channel-only model, selling exclusively through our resellers, although we have an internal sales force that assists the channel in the selling cycle,” said Rob Schlansky, IT director-marketing product management at Sophos (the company is headquartered in Oxford, England, with U.S. headquarters and most marketing operations run out of Burlington, Mass.).
To internally garner leads for an ultimate handoff to resellers, Sophos had chiefly relied on its website and also used email promoting a webinar series. The company is also active socially. Its blog, NakedSecurity.sophos.com, is a hub for news and solutions concerning cyber attacks on social sites aimed at certain industries, IP address security flaws and other topics.
Search marketing also plays a key role, Schlansky said, in particular when the latest computer virus makes the news.
“The sad reality is, the more bad things people attempt to do, the better for our business,” he said.
Still Sophos doesn't rely on that, as it provides more than a consumer anti-virus service. The company offers businesses a variety of spam and malware protection, including network and database protection and other security services that go well beyond individually infected PCs.
“Our challenge is one of brand recognition,” Schlansky said, citing such better-known competitors as McAfee Inc. and Symantec Corp. “Everyone knows their names, but unless you're in the security market you may not know Sophos. Our challenge is to help businesses interested in protection be aware of our offerings.”
To augment its lead-gen process and integrate it with its current system, Sophos has implemented a new CRM system from Salesforce.com along with a marketing automation platform from Neolane Inc.
“A successfully integrated and personalized brand experience will drive prospect engagement and ultimately conversion rates,” said Kristin Hambelton, VP-marketing at Neolane.
“For example, marketers must make intelligent decisions about the types of content offered to prospects browsing a website,” Hambelton said. “If a contact signs up to attend a webinar on new regulations impacting [your] industry, he may also be interested in a related white paper or case study on the topic. He may then be a good prospect to attend an upcoming lunch and learn in his local area where the brand message and experience is reinforced in a personal setting.”
Hambelton said key aspects for solving Sophos' needs were analyzing a huge database that covered 150 countries “in that they have subscription-based products and they're touching people a lot, both before and after they buy.”
As is common in the channel-partner scenario, resellers benefit from leads generated by Sophos but also are fed leads from Sophos itself. The back-and-forth can be complicated.
“We have partners who will refer their leads to our website via their own websites, or offer to configure free tools on their sites, which refer to our sites,” Schlansky said. “And when they do, we're aware of the referral. And when we capture the lead, we make sure to distribute it back to the partner.”
Schlansky said that a major issue is engaging in dialogues with customers and prospects, understanding their needs and providing information to help them make intelligent choices about security issues. But it hasn't been as sophisticated as he'd like.
Traditionally the company analyzed prospect activity and divided potential customers into two major buckets—hotter leads, for sales and channel-partner follow-up, and cooler ones, passed along to a teleprospecting team for further qualification.
Also in the past, Schlansky said, sales was not able to adequately identify and group all the various activities a prospect might engage in that could boost a score. For example, a single prospect might on separate occasions download a white paper, attend a webinar or request a demo; however, Sophos viewed those as three separate so-so leads instead of a single, strongly interested prospect.
Now, the new sales and marketing automation tools are able to consolidate all of an individual's behaviors across time, which provides a more accurate picture of true interest.
Sophos is also working to segment this process more finely, with leads based on distinct types of prospect activity (some activities are more indicative of interest than others) and further move prospects in a more nurturing way, perhaps by suggesting a white paper or a webinar related to an earlier request.
“We don't yet have concrete metrics but, with these improvements, we're already able to do the intelligent, multitouch marketing that we had hoped for,” Schlansky said. “We're at the beginning of major improvements now, and we're excited about the possibilities.”