We asked a few dozen agencies to share their most painful client experiences, and more importantly, the advice they’d give to other agencies to avoid them.
Agencies | Nov 5
Kevin Kononenko on August 8, 2017 • 22 minute read
That is the lesson I learned after reviewing the top case studies from 22 marketing agencies.
I found the best results came from marketing leaders who were NOT looking to replicate the same old inbound formula. Instead, they looked at their client’s existing metrics, and delivered services based on gaps in the client’s funnel.
They looked at different levers they could pull, like:
Usually, leads were dropping off due to a single, persistent gap in the funnel. So, I decided to organize the strategies based on the metric they were able to improve. You can check out each category to help you identify solutions when part of your funnel underperforms.
Owner, Precision Marketing Group
Story: “In late 2015, it became obvious that Management Mentors’ audience wanted more of the good stuff they were already getting. That meant digestible, helpful articles that were easily understandable and sharable.
With inbound, we all write so much content but the key is making sure it gets eyes! Of course, you need best practices for optimization but those are getting more challenging so we chose to focus on increasing blog subscriptions to make sure their content is being seen.
Increasing blog subscriptions by 20% and, over an 11-week period, racking up over 31,000 views on blog posts were major accomplishments. Though it flies in the face of common long-tail keyword SEO advice, focusing on high-volume relevant keywords worked!”
Results: 31,000 views in 11 weeks, 20% more blog subscriptions
Elyse Flynn Meyer
President, Prism Global Marketing
Story: “Natera was seeking a way to better connect with their growing global audience. While they already had an engaged audience, Natera was looking for an email solution that allowed them to increase engagement further. The traditional “batch” email was not very effective because their global audience opened emails at wildly different times. For example, while sending one batch email at 12PM to a subscriber in the U.S. might seem like an optimal time, that same email could be sent to a subscriber in Asia during the middle of the night. Further, they saw that recipients even in the same time zone had very different email habits.
Email is a really critical channel for Natera, even as the company runs personalized and advanced marketing campaigns through other channels. So, continuing to innovate with email marketing, a relatively traditional method of marketing, was key.
By leveraging send-time personalization, Natera has also been able to re-engage contacts who had once been active, but went dormant. By personalizing email send times, Natera has re-engaged approximately 15% of their total contacts. These contacts, prior to re-engaging, had not been active in email communication since 2015.”
Results: “Re-engagement rate of 15% of dormant contacts by email marketing/automation using Seventh Sense & HubSpot in 6 Months”
Recommended Dashboard: Seventh Sense + HubSpot Email Marketing
Founder, Square 2 Marketing
Story: “When we first partnered with the client, we started by conducting persona research and laying out each customer type’s top pains and questions asked throughout the buyer’s journey.
We fine-tuned the company’s messaging with an updated look and feel that would differentiate its brand. Plus, we developed a keyword strategy that included keyword recommendations for core website pages and content.
Only after these initial strategy steps did we move on to choosing content topics. We created an editorial calendar with a set of new inbound marketing offers for the awareness, consideration and decision stages of the buyer’s journey, targeted to the personas’ pains.”
Results: The client increased web visits by over 1000% within 2 months. They closed a $1 million dollar deal that originated from the site.
Content Marketing Manager, Sagefrog Marketing Group
Story: “Recently, the client’s market opportunity was amplified after a federal healthcare mandate required all healthcare organizations to use Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) and move away from paper records. This led to an influx of content and information on the web about EMRs and EHRs, making it exceedingly difficult to not just produce unique content, but have it reach and subsequently influence the Company’s buyer personas to move along their buyer journey.
To effectively reach decision-makers, Sagefrog developed various buyer personas including:
The persona-based content featured blogs and webinar summaries as well as premium assets such as infographics, case studies and whitepapers. “
Results: 164% increase in web visitors, 600% increase in leads compared to previous year
Story: “Manufacturing businesses often “don’t do marketing.” They do really but often it isn’t measured. In an ongoing campaign with a packaging manufacturer in Greater Manchester we have seen fantastic results measuring organic search marketing metrics.
Using keyword research and mapping keywords to the buying journey we have been able to increase organic search traffic to key pages and blog content. The campaign saw a 57% increase in organic search traffic within the first month.
The site is now ranking #1 for keywords including “manufacturing packaging solutions” and “returns management solutions” which are highly competitive keywords within the packaging industry.”
Results: 57% increase in organic traffic in the first month
CEO, Kayak Online Marketing
Story: “We advised Omni Circuit Boards to do away with their industry-standard 90+ field quote form and replace it with a much simpler quote request with a file upload form. Fortunately, they agreed.
By eliminating the fields and asking the customer to upload their file, we shifted the task of gathering technical details to Omni’s in-house team, drastically simplifying the quote process for the buyer.
Instead of being confronted with dozens of questions, interested buyers only needed to answer a few questions to receive a quote. And, given that Omni received the artwork files (the source of technical data previously gathered via the form), the project could go into production almost immediately upon quote approval. The new site and improved lead capture approach ballooned leads by 600% almost immediately, converting at 50%. Within the next 3 months, leads increased an additional 250% and conversions leapt to 70%.”
Results: 800% more leads, 70% conversion rate
Recommended Dashboard: HubSpot Marketing
Partner, Adhere Creative
Story: “Our client produced incredible research in the multifamily apartment industry but did little to generate new sales leads for their software as a service called ‘Ratings Tracker’.
We took their most recent research and turned it into a lead generating e-book and webinar presentation. It was promoted through their email contact list, through social media, and via industry trade publications. The campaign was a huge success resulting in 502 total new leads and 9 new customers with an ROI of 756% on marketing spend.”
Results: 756% ROI over 3 months
Head of Content, Strategic Internet Consulting
Story: “As an infrastructure training specialist, the client was already seeing a good level of site traffic: 9,000 organic visitors per month. However, the challenge was: ‘How to turn this traffic into an increase in conversions?’
To achieve this, work included:
In a 3 month timeframe, through LeadFlows we saw 1238 leads, 21 MQLs, and 19 customers, with a top Lead Flow conversion rate of 16%.”
Results: 2000 contacts & a 16% Lead Flow conversion rate over a 3 month period.
Marketing Automation Specialist, Denamico
Story: “The client lacked clarity and direction when it came to online lead generation. They knew they needed to rely on their website more, but didn’t know how to develop a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy.
That’s when our inbound marketing blueprint made sense. The blueprint is a strategy for inbound marketing and a specific plan for execution.
Results: Our efforts over the past 19 months have increased their contacts by 625%.
Partner, Cos Design Studio
Story: “The client had considerable marketing assets (interactive calculators, samples of panels) which worked excellently in bringing in visitors, but failed to work as conversion points.
The client was worried that when its assets were turned into conversion elements, they would not be as effective and the users of its calculators and panel samples would not want to share their data.
The final results show that this was not so; with the new design completed, the visits stayed level and the conversion index became spectacular.”
CEO, Jaxzen Marketing
Story: “When we started working with the client in 2015, we conducted in-depth persona research, which has helped guide our content creation from the beginning. This information continued to prove useful in our efforts to increase lead generation.
Armed with a clear understanding of our audience, we were able to narrow down the audience who would see our advertising on LinkedIn by identifying the correct job titles for various kinds of HR professionals. We were also able to exclude ads from employees who worked for competitors, which allowed us to get the best results out of the ad budget.
The LinkedIn ads presented useful content offers on topics such as ACA and FLSA compliance and best practices for time and attendance management and record-keeping.”
Results: “LinkedIn advertising boosted existing inbound strategy to increase leads by 236% in one quarter”
Director of Multimedia, Revenue River
Story: “Previously rooted in traditional marketing techniques like print and mailers, we supported our client’s transition to digitally-focused initiatives.
From their website registration and outreach to their promotion and fulfillment of the annual seminar series, we created and helped implement a refreshed strategy that included:
Results: “Improved lead conversion rate for an annual seminar series by 90% from 2013 to 2017”
Digital Marketing Manager, Madison Marketing
Story: “We began an inbound marketing campaign to help the generate generate the volume of sales leads needed to meet their 2016 revenue goal.
Results: “Marketing ROI – achieved 30x Marketing ROI in 2016”
Senior Digital Strategist, Bonafide
Story: “Our client was looking to break into the oil and gas landman niche. They knew their product could help this targeted audience, but this old-school group was hard to reach from a digital standpoint.
We identified that there wasn’t a lot of educational content online that didn’t come from industry associations, so we created both an infographic to feature on the client’s blog and a 30+ page eBook with helpful information for people in the landman industry. We also created supplemental blog content designed to push landman contacts down the funnel to ultimately download our eBook.
Using inbound tools, we were able to generate thousands of views and over 1000 niche leads that helped our client break into the segment and to this day it generates a significant amount of monthly contacts.”
Results: “Leads, 1,045 niche leads generated since the eBook launched”
Internal Marketing Associate, New Breed Marketing
Story: “Pwnie Express started with our Digital Onboarding workshop to define their primary buyer personas. Once we understood who we needed to attract to the website and target for conversions, we needed to understand what made these leads more qualified for a sales conversation.
The new configuration of their revenue operations via HubSpot tools has generated tremendous efficiency improvements and true visibility into their pipeline. Now, leads are actually progressing through the funnel as they should. Previously, they were jumping right from lead to customer. In the six months prior to working with New Breed, Pwnie’s funnel had huge holes:
Subscribers – 219
Leads – 2,486
MQLs – 0
SQLs – 0
Opportunities – 0
Customers – 0
In the six months following our implementation of MQL criteria and all of the corresponding assets, we were able to bring Pwnie’s funnel to life:
Subscribers – 2,609
Leads – 27,416
MQLs – 1,015
SQLs – 260
Opportunities – 81
Customers – 12″
Results: 90% increase in leads generated over 6 months.
Recommended Dashboard: HubSpot Pipeline Performance
CEO, Web Canopy Studio
Story: “Our revenue grew from $90,000 in 2014 to over the $1mil mark in 2017. We bought into the idea of inbound marketing and searched for gaps in the market that we could fill. Once we found an opportunity for collecting a steady flow of leads (in our case, it was the HubSpot Agency Marketplace), we decided it was time to build a nurturing funnel around these leads, segmenting them into different channels based off of their interest and engagement.
From there, we started selling small, introductory services rather than trying to feature a 12-month $75,000/yr agreement. We turned those small starter services into trusted relationship, and eventually landed the retainers because of our service team. The rest is history.”
Results: 1000% revenue increase from 2014 to 2017
CEO, Nextiny Marketing
Story: “We worked with a retirement community in Sarasota, Florida. Typically the demographic groups associated with retirement communities are presumed to not be tech savvy or to have a high interest in technology. Because of this, the obvious challenge was determining whether the community’s ideal customers were even online.
We began a full inbound marketing strategy including:
As it turns out, while we were both pleasantly surprised by the results of our inbound marketing success, there is other research supporting that older adults are spending more time online. This is partially in thanks to the addition of the tablet to the smart device family.
Pew Research has determined that older adults (ages 65+), who are affluent, are more likely to use the internet. In the case of the client, a retirement community whose costs average $750,000 per resident, this is precisely their Buyer Persona.”
Story: “Six months into our partnership with Clare Controls, after the processes were set up and things were moving in the right direction, we were asked to sit down with some of the top salespeople to show them how things were going so far – leads generated, processes established, etc.
Just as we would start any normal client meeting, we started with the Sources report (now Analytics tool). Little did we know that would be our first foot in the grave for this meeting. This high level view of performance for the last 6 months was way too much information for them to take in.
We knew we needed to change the way we presented data. Instead of providing that 10,000 foot view of all visits, all leads generated, etc we changed the conversation. We tailored the data by creating a custom report using Databox, that represents the numbers that are most important to them.
Their dealer onboarding process has three steps. A dealer must complete their application, make their first purchase, and complete training before they are considered an authorized dealer. For us, it was important to cut out the noise and show clear data. It was no longer about how many leads have been generated in total. It was about how many leads have been generated vs how many have actually been closed following the correct process.
When we first produced this report, the number at the bottom of the funnel was 9. Nine dealer leads out of the hundreds had made it all the way through the funnel. This was no longer data to question, but data that sparked action.”
Results: “With all of these combined efforts, in one month we have seen the number of Opportunities converted into customers who have gone through the three steps of the onboarding process go from 9 to 34. All of this was done with opportunities that were already there in the system.
By establishing a process, providing education and tools, and creating custom reports, almost 4 times as many dealers were closed within one month of this custom report being presented.”
Story: “The client faced several challenges online:
While the client website was functional, it was not built to support inbound marketing initiatives like lead generation.
We began to create premium content assets at every stage of the funnel to generate leads. These took multiple formats, such as webinars, eGuides, videos and interactive micro sites.
Our premium content assets were supported with strategic campaign fuel in the form of blog content, and videos -each with a call-to-action to a relevant landing page, and each amplified using HubSpot social tools.
We created email workflows with sophisticated branching logic to nurture these leads down the funnel with supplementary content offers and calls-to-action.”
Blog Manager, LeadG2
Story: “While the client did have leads coming through the website, they wanted and needed more qualified leads in order to make a dent in their new revenue business.
They not only aimed to generate new leads and revenue, but they also needed to find ways to shorten and strengthen their existing sales process. In the words of the client’s Director of Sales: ‘We know that the majority of people are doing research online before ever calling or making a purchase. Having resources on our website that they can go to and learn about on their own time was huge for us.’
We set them up on HubSpot as step one. We integrated this tool with their existing website, making it easier to create a blog and landing pages for lead generation. Using HubSpot also allowed the client to have their entire database in one centralized location, while having access to tools for email marketing, social publishing, forms, keyword tracking, reporting, database management, and much more.
After surveying their existing customers to create a detailed Target Persona Profile, we were able to then develop a customized content strategy which included blog posts and premium content which would be gated for our lead generation efforts.”
Founder, g2m Solutions
Story: “Prospective customers would approach our client and say “Wow, you are fantastic, how come we have never heard of you?”
We ran 2 workshops and developed a full plan than linked their business revenue goals to their specific campaign tactics allowing them to precisely measure daily, weekly and monthly campaign results to revenue goals”
Results: “In terms of new business acquired that is directly attributable to the website, we have covered their costs for the next 12-24 months.”
President, Weidert Group
Story: “We created a new inbound-focused and persona-optimized website with aggressive use of CTAs.
Results: “We improved SQLs. They went from virtually zero to 100 (cumulative) in first 5 months of program”
Dir. of Client Services, SparkReaction
Story: “At first, the client felt like they needed some extra help with content creation to drive the organic traffic results they were looking for. This became the first goal for our partnership with the client: producing excellent, engaging, innovative content to reach and educate more church leaders and ministry minds.
Our results after 3 months were phenomenal, but we soon reached a pivotal point in our work: No matter how much blog and social media traffic we drove, we knew we needed to nurture and guide these new leads through the buyer’s journey.
When the client’s marketing team came to us seeking more visitors, we responded with lead generation strategies and nurture techniques that would ensure a consistently fed funnel full of qualified, marketing-ready leads.”
Results: “Before working with SparkReaction, the client had no comprehensive lead conversion process. They generated leads but strategy to move these leads through the marketing and sales funnel.
We established nurture workflows stemming from premium content offers, like eBook redesigns and other helpful guides tailored to the client’s buyer personas. Soon, the client increased marketing qualified leads by over 10% per offer, and top-performing landing pages began seeing a 45% conversion rate. In just the first six months of our partnership, we increased the client’s MQLs, SQLs, and opportunities by 14.9%.”
Fernando Coimbra Lopes
Partner, Nivel Horizontal
Story: After 2 years working on content, blogging, and SEO, we developed some new offers, one of them was a big hit. It was a bottom of the funnel offer very aligned with the customer needs that jumped new customers in 565% in a one year period.
Results: Improved New Customers per Month from 6 to 40 in 1 Year
New Business Coordinator, Adept Marketing
Story: “This client had always been a B2B marketer. They asked us for a strategy that could address a new, consumer audience. They knew they needed one website that could do both—but our data exploration revealed additional growth opportunities with outstanding ROI potential.
We first built a website, using persona research and qualitative data to ensure that it supported the user journey for both B2C and B2B buyers. Once the website was launched, we drove traffic to the site using paid search, shopping ads, remarketing, and ongoing search engine optimization to attract relevant traffic.”
Results: Increased revenue by 48% over 18 months.
Business Development Manager, SPROUT Content
Story: “We discovered a new persona during our strategy process: Customer Success Steven. The client had never focused on it, but we found out that this person played a key role in decision-making.
By discovering this “new” persona, we began to create content that appealed to a non-technical buyer. We also recommended that the client create a non-technical blog to sit alongside the technical version they had been writing for the previous 3 years. This opened a whole new segment of content and focus to another potential buyer.
Since we implemented this persona in Dec 2014, more than 6,000 leads identified with this persona over a 2-year period (to Dec 2016) vs. 1300 for Marketing Mike and 1000 for Data Scientist Dan, which were their original personas. The client, Wise.io, was eventually purchased by GE (late 2016)!”
Results: Over a 2-year period, 121% increase in generated leads with 550 new contacts from a top of funnel guide specific to their Customer Success Steven persona.
So, here is the million-dollar (at least) question:
How do you know when you have a marketing issue that is significantly affecting your business?
For every case study in a post like this, there are probably 10 other cases where businesses think everything is going just fine. In reality, they are shooting themselves in the foot with a broken marketing + sales process.
Here are a few ideas for where to start:
After that, you can determine whether you have the tools in-house to solve the problem, or if you need to consider a digital agency. Obviously, this is a good list to start your search.
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