Category Archives: Case studies

5 Problems that are Killing Your Results

This is about hidden or ignored problems that are killing your results..

Why is our campaign failing?

There are lots of reasons why a marketing campaign can fail to deliver the intended responses from a business audience. But over the last ten years, working with B2B companies on literally hundreds of event registration, lead generation and sales support programs, I’ve found that there are some incredibly easily resolved mistakes that continue to dominate the  “Duh.Whatever were we thinking?” list.

What makes these mistakes stand out? A few things.

  • They are brutally common.
  • Most clients are aware of these problems but underestimate the impact.
  • They’re easy to make and relatively easy to fix.
  • One of them stands out because it totally blindsided everyone.

So, here are links to 5 posts that talk about things that can easily be sitting in the background and killing your marketing efforts.

  1. Ignoring Bad Data is Very Expensive
  2. Your Premium Can Turn into a Nightmare
  3. Forgetting that Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder
  4. Sales Reps are Not Making The Calls For You
  5. Your Campaign is Running for Too Long

Timing and Event Invitations

When do you start to promote an event?  More specifically, when is “too soon” to promote a free event and how long do you have before your unaided conversion of registrants to attendees bottoms out?

A few years ago I was working with a publisher who, in addition to their periodicals also offered webinars as an advertising vehicle. It’s was a brilliant product extension for a magazine publisher since one of their most abundant assets is a massive database that costs them peanuts to reach out to.

But, the size of the base and the negligible costs associated with emailing are a license to abuseIthink . When that happens the response rates fall. There are many ways you can deal with falling response rates, but in this instance, caught between the P&L and certain attendance commitments made to the advertisers, the company elected to simply extend the invitation process over a longer period of time and keep hitting their market until the registration commitments were met.  The average invitation campaign ran for 10 weeks up to the webinar.

But, when only about 70 of 1000 registrants actually convert into attendees, its pretty obvious something is not working. To address that problem the client chose to add voicemail event reminders and it was effective in boosting the average conversions, quite significantly. In fact, the average percentage climbed from 7% to 17%.

While it was a huge improvement, the numbers were still pretty pathetic when compared to an average unaided conversion ( at that time) of 35-50% and aided ( with voicemail ) of 50-70%.

The root problem was timing.

What we found was not at all surprising. The earliest registrants, i.e. those who registered more than 8 weeks ahead of the event converted at less than half a percent unaided and given the very low number to start with, it wasn’t possible to measure the improvement a voicemail delivered.

In fact, any registration on the free webinars that was more than a month old was virtually useless. Registrants who were less than a week old converted well above the average and a strategy that concentrated the voicemail reminders to registrations that were 1-4 weeks old yielded the best return.

For many companies, particularly those using the raw registrations to drop into the top of their funnel, attendance might not be the most important consideration, but promoting a free webinar too far ahead of the date will artificially depress your conversions and reduce the apparent value of what might otherwise be very good leads.

Take the Time to Segment Your Messages

No one doubts the importance of personalization in both consumer and business to business marketing.  In fact, it seems to me that with the use of event triggered emails and entire nurturing programs that are created to provide just the right content for an individual during their B2B buying journey, our ability to customize content is pretty exceptional.

So why do so many companies fail to take even the partial  leap from one-size-fits-all to message segmentation by title or department, when they are doing outbound marketing?

A few years ago I was working with a client and as is often the case, the actual execution of their campaign was delegated to a relatively junior person.

Quick aside – This is something I don’t understand and see all the time. The development of the strategy is hummed and hawed over by Directors and VP’s and the new managers are then stranded with the details. Ideas are a dime a dozen – I have a million of them, just give me a call – but a brilliant execution is solid gold.

As is often the case, this campaign was to promote an event and happily, this client elected to run a total of three messaging waves to their invitation list of 2,000 contacts.  The list was targeted to a single vertical, but covered both managers and directors in Marketing, Sales, IT and Finance.  Both the voicemail and email messages were, as is often the case, a bland mix of easily communicated logistical information (please someone explain to me why registrants care about what you call your event) and a fairly generic attendance benefit.

Responses were very poor. They had under 10 registrations for the event.

Taking another look at the list, we talked about the differences in the contacts they were reaching out to. Although the event featured sessions that specifically addressed issues of importance to Marketing/Sales, IT and Finance/Management, our vanilla messaging wasn’t honing in on what really mattered to any one group.  The client was not convinced that unique messaging was required since the briefing from which she was working did not specify that as one of the deliverables.  And so, the second wave of messaging went by and 10 more (I’m guessing rather reluctant) registrants signed up.

With failure looming on the not-at-all distant horizon, the manager took the briefing back to her boss, with a suggestion that responses might improve if they highlighted technical value to IT, profit implications to Finance and workload oriented benefits to their Marketing peers.

Long story short (too late for that you say?) The final wave of messaging was delayed for a few days while the list was split by departments and three recordings replaced the original one.  When the final wave of messaging ran, the value of this extra bit of work and expense was clear.  Registrations climbed from 20 to 81 for a total of almost 6% from the deliverable names on the list. they even had the opportunity to start to measure the relative appeal of the event against each of their target audiences.

The point is, people with different levels of responsibility respond to different benefits. No business challenge looks the same from every department and each has a unique perspective. Business people will only respond best to benefits (or pain points) that are meaningful to them as individuals. A single homogenous message is milk toast to everyone.

It might have worked in the past where the novelty of voicemail and email messaging alone could help to drive responses, but homogenized messages don’t cut it anymore.  Segmenting your lists into departmental and seniority clusters is not all that difficult or time-consuming to do.  But it is necessary if you want to give anyone a good enough reason to respond to your offer.

Terror of the Freebie Queen

No one in business is under the illusion that everything runs smoothly, all the time.  We do our best, but now and then things go wrong.  Sometimes it’s because we’ve messed up and sometimes the client messes up and sometimes everything goes to hell in a handbasket and neither side is at fault.

I’ve worked on hundreds of campaigns over the last ten years, thousands if I think of my whole working life and none of them were as miserable as the Tale of the Freebie Queen.

I had just secured this new client after about a year of trying and we were running their first campaign.  It was a decent size for a first campaign – around 3,000 records as I recall.  The name of the client?  Well I likely wouldn’t tell you if remembered, but honestly I don’t recall. I’ve blocked it out.

It looked like a great relationship was starting.  The client was pleasant and very professional.  They recorded a solid message and their list was a thing of beauty, (and even on time) which was really nice since it was actually a list that they had rented specifically to promote a special event.  It was a webinar, promoting a new product ( I think). The plan called for first an email invitation then a voicemail followed up by another email, followed up with another voicemail. To help promote registrations, they were offering a $10.00 Starbucks gift card to registrants. IT Directors and VP dominated the list.

We ran the campaign and the delivery rate was excellent, about 80%. Everything was looking good. The follow-up email and second voicemail ran and about 2 days after that I heard back from an ecstatic client.  Their response rate was at 15% and looking to get even better.  Which it did. The world was a wonderful place!

Problem was, the registration rate continued to climb, crossing 25%, starting to look questionable and – given the card redemption – a little pricey.  The client started looking more closely at the registrants and found a list bearing little – (actually no) resemblance to the invitation list. And now it got ugly as the only reasonable explanation that the client could come up with was that we had messaged the wrong list.

But that was not the case.  We tore through the call logs, looked at every single delivery and there were no mistakes. So, what happened?

Thanks to the magic of Google (now there’s a phrase I haven’t used in a very long time) we searched the event name, and date and found that this event had been posted on some freebie sites, promoted as “Get $10 worth of free Starbucks Coffee!” and the redemptions were hitting the site fast and furious.

With a little more digging we also uncovered that this posting was courtesy of a bottom feeding witch who will forever remain burned in my memory as Kimmie the Freebie Queen.  Looking back over the list originally provided by the client we found an IT Director – Kimberly McQueen.  Looked pretty suspicious.  Both identities listed the same smallish town as home and the original freebie posting occurred within an hour of receiving her first email.

I think the final registration count pushed to almost 1000 freebie hunters. The marketing team was so overwhelmed with the instant barrage of “where’s my gift card?” emails after the event, that the few qualified registrants got lost in the shuffle.  I think at one point they made noises about lawsuit, but while the results of our investigation into the actions of the (I still think) despicable Freebie Queen made the lawsuit noises go away, we absolutely lost a promising client.  I think the marketing manager got fired, which just wasn’t fair either, but neither is life, or business, sometimes.

Moral of the story  – “Be very careful that the value of your premium isn’t too attractive to the wrong audience and always stipulate that it’s ONLY offered to QUALIFIED participants.”




A Client Testimonial

It is always welcome and heartily appreciated, when one of our clients takes the time to send in a written testimonial about their experience with our company and service.

Promoting Conferences with Boxpilot

 “We’ve used Boxpilot on several occasions to promote our conferences and have been absolutely delighted with the results. On any typical email campaign we send (without Boxpilot), we receive between 5-10 personal responses that are directed back to the sender. (Personal messages like “Thanks for letting me know” or “Appreciate the conference update”…) When we use Boxpilot, that number is always exponentially higher. In fact, for one campaign we received 45 responses!  Each time we use Boxpilot, it’s proven to be a fantastic tool for getting through the clutter. But it’s also helped drive conference registrations. For example, one campaign saw an increase in conference registrations around a particular incentive by 40% vs each of the two years prior. Boxpilot is now a regular part of our conference marketing plan!”

Brian Rosenberg, SVP Sales & Marketing

Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA)


Why Sales is Like Baseball

My first presentation of these test results was a total flop and it was very frustrating. The results showed the impact of adding a regular cold call voicemail program in support of a sales rep (who was also cold calling).  I was excited about the findings that showed- among other things a 50% improvement in responded messages and 33% growth in raw contact rates, but what my audience saw was a weekly total of 14 contacts growing to 18.5 – just a little more than one more contact a day.  She was totally unimpressed with one more contact a day and announced that it wasn’t worth her time. And that was the end of that presentation.

Now I’m smarter and gross up the numbers so nothing smaller than quarterly raw numbers show and put the real focus (where it belongs) on the ROI.  But still, if you want your sales team to get better results, there are some very important lessons to take away from the value of small daily improvements.

Let’s take some of the findings from our inhouse study to help make the point and I hope give you a way to encourage your own sales team of the incredible value of even a small daily improvement.


Like many sales teams, the Boxpilot sales reps also make cold calls -when necessary.  And given that our list of potential customers is pretty extensive we found that a large percentage of each territory was not receiving a personal contact on a regular basis. It was a perfect opportunity to measure the impact of changing that contact rate.

We had some starting metrics and they looked like this:

  1. Live connect rate on rep dialed calls ran from 5-7%
  2. Responses to a voicemail + email message from sales averaged from 1-3% – twice the response rate of  email alone.
  3. Average Marketing campaign response rates ran from 2-4.5%
  4. Regular contact is vital to database quality. Campaign delivery rates fall sharply when contacts are not called. At 90 days results were 25% poorer than monthly contacts and when left unmessaged for over 180 days- many campaigns had less than 40% overall delivery.
  5. When leaving voicemail messages and email follow ups it was realistic to expect an average of 40 contact attempts a day.  When voicemails were not left (as a rule ) the attempts increased by about one third.

For a three month period, 1600 contacts were selected and divided into two groups. The 800 contacts who ended up in group one were added to a monthly messaging program. Each name on the list received guided voicemail and synchronized email campaign messages “from the sales rep” with a message focus on providing interesting, relevant information with a call back request.  The remaining 800 contacts, we’ll call group two.  These 1600 contacts by the way did not represent the full territory count.

Because the contacts in Group One were receiving the monthly “rep” message, the sales rep did not leave another when working through the list, although a previously written email was sent.  The added calls increased the daily average contact rate from 2.8 to 3.7 – a little less than one more conversation a day. Responses to the emails averaged about 1 per week and created 2 additional live conversations a month.

When failing to connect with the contacts in group Two, a voicemail and follow up email was sent by the sales rep – one at a time, and this messaging generated about 4 responses a week, 2 of which turned into another live conversation

The voicemail+email messages left by the sales rep had the same response rates as the voicemail+email messages left in the reps name via the guided voicemail and synchronized email program.

It was also noted that the marketing campaign responses against both group one and two were almost doubled compared to the untouched portion of the sales territory.

So lets compare group one and group two.

Group 1 – Rep cold calling + Campaign messaging-  accounted for an average of 4.2 daily live conversations

Group 2- Rep cold calling only –  accounted for an average of 3.2 daily live conversations

One more sales conversation a day might not sound like much, but this is where the baseball analogy comes back into play.  Do you how many hits separates the #1 all time best batting average from the person who is ranked at #1000?  One in ten at bats. Think of it this way, if you miss the ball 8 out of 10 tries you’re just another guy  but if “You only fail 7 out of 10 tries you could be the greatest hitter in the game.” Ted Williams (#7) said that.

So although one more conversation a day doesn’t sound all that awesome, think of the impact that 20 more conversations in a month or 60 more in a quarter will have…… and just for the record, you ought to know that you can sustain those 800 monthly messages for about a dollar a piece.  Would twenty more sales conversations be worth more than $800.00 in sales to your company? If you doubled the campaign size you could double those metrics and you can do more than that if you choose.

The Sales Testimonial – A Cautionary Note

We use them in our voicemail messages, early in new conversations and in our emails.  We do white papers on them – all the time. But is it possible that our testimonial approach is turning prospects off?

Apparently, yes. It is possible.  And I was surprised, because I’ve been thinking about and “hearing” testimonials from my own side of the fence and that side is based on my intention for using this approach. My intention in using a testimonial approach has always been to create a bridge between my prospective client and current clients for whom we have worked successfully.  In my mind, the emphasis has always been on the potential similarity between the problems or situation that both current and potential clients are facing.  So where you might ask, is the danger in that?

According to an article I just read, the problem is that many people will interpret that testimonial approach as me talking about my company and how wonderful we are.  Reading that article made we want to immediately comment that it isn’t true and that’s not what that approach is about. But, that would be a mistake because you can never be totally sure that what you think you’re saying is what other people are hearing.

Being aware that some people might take that testimonial bridge building sales approach as a lot of horn blowing, it becomes more important to rethink exactly how it is presented.  I think that its doubly important to frame as much of the wording as possible to talk about their issues, concerns, problems, obstacles and eventually – happy solution and keep the “what we did”part to a bare minimum.

With that thinking in mind, I just reread a few published testimonials from different sites and since I understand that some people will take it to be a lot of chest thumping, think there might be a lot to be said for re-thinking just how we present testimonials – not only on a hard copy, but even more importantly in our early, rapport building sales dialogue and the voicemails and emails we’re leaving to get the appointments in the first place.

Live Message and the Sales Appointment Call

Recently I talked with a long standing client about a service that they had never used called Live Message. It was a great way to remind myself that as clients needs and our services continue to evolve, it’s necessary to review both our understanding of what we can do for them and their understanding of how our services fit.

For example- take the client. They have used us almost exclusively for event promotions in the past because all other parts of their lead generation have been outsourced up until recently.  However, they now have an inside sales team who not only follow up any inbound leads, but also cold call potential clients with an objective of setting a phone appointment.

Now take Live Message.  This is a service we originally introduced to manage a few industry verticals our clients wished to target, with a lower than average development of voicemail. We’re in the business of delivering messages to help our clients push their sales and marketing goals, so we chose to expand our service to ensure that we could still do the job when our call center agents enountered the response, “We don’t have voicemail. Can I take a message?”

So originally, live message allowed us to take a shortened version of our clients voicemail and deliver it directly to company receptionists and personal assistants, who would in turn pass it on to the original contact.  And it worked very well indeed.  Maybe its just something about the corporate culture in an organization that still writes down messages on litle pink slips, but the returned call rate has always been excellent and so the service thrived.

But, it also evolved in a very important way and it started, as many of the best enhancements do, with a client request.  “If you get a live answer, (that’s when the target contact picks up the phone. (Yes, it does still happen.)) can you deliver a live message directly to them?”So, we gave it try and after fine tuning our senior call agent training, made it a regular part of our add-on service line up.

Our call center agents have, in the past few years, routinely relayed information directly to our clients’ contacts, related to event invitations and reminders, down load opportunities and mail follow ups and confirmations.

So, going back to the beginning of this post, we now have a service that has evolved to fit with a client who is looking to do campaign types that they never did before.  When their inside reps call and don’t make a connection, they leave a message based on fairly broad opportunty categories, to intro themselves and line up a pain point with the potential for a solution and a phone appointment suggestion. It’s certainly not a one-size-fits all message, but with some intelligent list sorting the tactic works.

What they couldn’t see (at first) was how any shortened version of their basic voicemail message could potentially be delivered directly to their target contacts, since even the best trained callers, would not be properly prepared to do a really good job of fielding that “Tell me more” request.  Live message is, afterall, still a very clean and simple service.

The solution is a little counter-intuitive and a great example of how a flexible approach can help take advantage of any possible opportunity.  The live message version, when delivered directly to the target contact, makes no mention of an appointment request. Instead, it is used to ask permission to forward one of several possible case studies/whitepaper combinations.  Confirmation or denial provides a level of feedback that a delivery failure could never do.  Naturally, an agreement to accept the information is followed up by the inside team to further qualify the contact. The call pick up time is recorded to help guide the clients inside team to a good time to make a connection.

Services change.  Client’s needs change. When we keep track of both, new opportunities are presented for everyone.

Case Study- Sales Help from The CEO


Not too many marketing or sales people can point directly to the company CEO as the one who personally made the first connection with a prospect and introduced them into the sales funnel. Indeed, the company CEO is an almost universally untapped marketing and sales resource – for many obvious reasons.  Still, if your sales team needs to crack the C-Suite of your prospects in order to achieve any possibility of a sale, a peer to peer outreach by your own CEO can smash through clutter and gain attention and responses.

Here’s how a one retail software marketer created a personal outreach by their own CEO to drive peer responses from their target accounts.  This company provides retail analytics software to some of the major names in North American retailing and in keeping with the business impact of their software and the investment to purchase, C-Suite buy in is a non-negotiable requirement for the sale.

Unlike several industries, the retail segment still has a strong trade show -the NRS Show which runs annually each January.  Unlike many shows, this one enjoys high attendance by C-Level retail executives. One of the main attractions for this event for exhibitors and vendors is the timing. In January, many potential prospects have requirements and budgets in place and are ready to begin to evaluate possible purchases.

The Objective-

Scheduling in person appointments with prospect executives attending this event is a key priority project for the marketing/sales team.

The Program-

It was determined that the best opportunity to generate a response from CEOs would be created by their own CEO. Therefore the marketing team created a program consisting of 3 rounds of email supported with two rounds of direct mail from their CEO to the prospect counterparts. 

The Challenge-

The event timing, which is a strength, is also a challenge. Falling close on the heels of the Christmas holidays and many corporate year ends, there is an extremely small window to gain the attention of the C-Level audience.  There is also a high concentration of vendors competing for their attention.

Finally, after the first rounds of the email/direct mail campaign, results were not on target. 


It was decided that to gain responses from the target audience an additional touch using a different medium was necessary. With it’s personal touch- telephone was a natural choice for the appointment/meeting invitations 

Supporting personal emails and letters from the CEO with a personal call from the CEO would have been ideal – but totally out of the question, so it was planned for the inside sales team to make the calls.  They appeared to be the only option. But even for them, reaching 400-500 C-Level contacts judged difficult to reach at the best of times within a very small window of 1 post holiday/pre-year end week was a tall order.  Worse, the calls were needed during a peak sales activity period.

The Solution-

Having worked with Boxpilot earlier in his career, the VP Sales and Marketing recommended exploring Guided Voicemail from Boxpilot.  The service offered some unique advantages that were a perfect solution to the challenges presented by the program:

1.      Guided voicemail delivery created an opportunity for the CEO to record a message and create the effect of a personal contact from the CEO which could not have been achieved any other way.

2.       The program could be set up within 48 hours of contact.

3.      All the calls could be made well within 24 hours of starting with both on hours and off hours calls to maximize voicemail deliveries.

4.       The cost to outsource the delivery of a higher-quality-than-otherwise-possible-message was considerably less expensive than the man-hours cost to redeploy the inside sales team.

5.       Detailed reporting available verified the exact contact details on the list and confirmed message delivery.

6.       Dial in recording allowed the CEO to record at his convenience and also to listen back to a series of recordings before making his selection of the best message.

It was decided to deliver a message from the CEO immediately ahead of the final email appointment invitation to allow both communications to work together and use the voicemail to ensure that the follow up email was more visible within overcrowded executive inboxes

The Results-

The initial email/personal letters generated 1.4% responses.  The final email, led with a personal peer-to-peer voicemail from the CEO produced a 6.1% response rate, a whopping 435% improvement.  While some responses declined the meeting, they allowed the sales and marketing team to better concentrate on the best prospects and stream the declines into nurturing programs for much later follow up.  Improvements to the list quality also allowed for more focused follow ups.  Brand recognition was noticeably improved among the prospect group.

Case Study – Solving a Small Account Renewal Challenge


A North American security software developer, selling to business organizations of all sizes, was concerned about the low rate of maintenance agreement renewals from its base of smaller customers (under 50 seats).  Because they already knew that a call from the sales reps at 90, 60 and if necessary 30 days, was the major contributor to the better renewal rate among larger accounts, the sales force was mandated to begin calling on the smaller customers as well in exchange for a commission on the sale which had not been paid in the past.

Challenge– It proved to be a bad plan for a number of reasons.

  • Unlike the large accounts, records for the smaller customers were inconsistent and required a combination of different contact methods to reach them.
  • The sales team was not large enough to make all the necessary calls with voicemail and email follow ups to the full base of smaller accounts and so began to cherry pick the easier call backs to gain extra commissions.
  • While renewals increased, the smaller invoices offered a poor ROI relative to the cost of sale.
  • The time consuming calls generated short term renewal sales, but at the expense of more difficult new account development. Additionally, the calling for larger account renewals was becoming inconsistent.

Alternatives  – Considered and rejected

  • High end outsourced telemarketers could manage the different types of contact needed but were more expensive than the in-house resources. Low end outsourced service providers were affordable, but lacked the management support to deal with the many different messaging alternatives needed to reach the accounts with any significant penetration.
  • Email only reminders provided some lift and a positive ROI, but used alone the overall impact was insignificant.
  • Increasing the telesales/telemarketing group was not cost effective.
  • Status quo was not acceptable, given the potential revenue.

The Solution

A fluid combination of services from Boxpilot was used to reach this market and renew the agreements.  Three unique voicemail messages were pre-recorded by the actual sales rep for the account and delivered at 90, 60 and if necessary 30 days prior to the renewal date.  The first message was delivered using the guided voicemail service.  For some companies, after the contact and direct dial information was verified on the first call, the 60 and 30 day messages were delivered using Boxpilot’s auto-guided service as a cost savings measure.

Each delivered message was followed up with a synchronized email – again from the individual sales rep. The emails offered additional information and an easy method to respond directly to their sales rep representative.  Boxpilot’s Live Message service was used for the segment of the list without fully developed voicemail systems and in cases where the desired contact actually answered the phone.


Using the combination of four delivery methods and campaign management services from Boxpilot – Guided Voicemail, Synchronized email, Auto-Guided Voicemail and Live Message – the renewal rates of the test group were 18% higher than the control and the cost-per-sale was well within acceptable limits.