Criterion Conferences has reduced its cost per lead by 86% and increased revenue by a quarter after aligning sales and marketing, and gaining deep insight into revenue sources. Criterion MD Andrew Savage explains how.

Leads are key to the success of Criterion Conferences – for each conference we run, we must find enough customers to fill seats. But legacy systems and a lack of alignment between the sales and marketing teams undermined how well we could find prospects, convert them into customers and nurture them into advocates. 

A homegrown CRM system and disparate EDM platforms meant leads were being lost or not properly followed up, or followed up too often by different people, frustrating prospects who then never became customers.
 

The vision for a single source of truth

 

With sales and marketing positioned as competing revenue streams, there was no single source of truth and data was poorly integrated. Instead of collaborating, the two departments ended up working against each other. 

Everyone agreed that the system was not working and it was time to restructure. In this sense, getting buy-in wasn’t hard. The imperative to change was strong. But we knew from a previous unsuccessful restructure that we had to come at this one differently: more collaboration, more consultation from key stakeholders across all departments and a sense of shared ownership that would drive advocacy across the business.
 

From cold calls to a curated customer experience

 

As it turned out, technology really facilitated organisational and cultural change – it was key to improving both customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX). With Salesforce and Pardot we were able to set up the single source of truth we needed for sales and marketing to work effectively together. Automation of more functions allowed greater efficiency and communication, while marketing and sales data were seamlessly integrated. 

We created two sales teams – inbound and outbound, with the marketing team there to keep feeding them leads from various campaigns. The inbound team worked on “warmer” leads, while the outbound team put their efforts into cold calling. 

Initially we thought the teams’ ROI would be equal, but our tech stack soon gave us great insight into where revenue was coming from – the warmer leads were delivering high-value sales. So, while most companies in our industry focus on cold leads, we’re taking a very customer-centric approach to nurturing our warm leads with dedicated sales reps who curate a communication strategy with a customer based on their specific interests and history. 
 

 

We eliminated the issue of campaign fatigue for customers by getting rid of duplicate calls and tailoring the customer journey. With 100 conferences a year and up to 30 running at any given time, the 360-degree view of the customer enabled by our technology meant we could automate a series of calls or emails to the right person at the right time about the relevant conference. 

Further, we recognised that our two sales teams used different skill sets and were able to develop employee education and experience accordingly. This improved EX by empowering sales reps in their roles and allowing them to see the real value they were adding.
 

From a cost per lead of $300 to $40

 

In the meantime, our marketing team integrated LinkedIn lead generation forms with Pardot to create more relevant data and leads the sales team could follow in real time and action at the right moment. The technology meant customers could find the information they needed in under three clicks, and leads could be assessed and graded accurately and efficiently. End-to-end visibility allows for the continuity and consistency of experience we had been aiming for.

Previously our cost per lead for conference attendees on LinkedIn was $300, with very little return. The integration of marketing and sales with the right technology was nothing short of transformative, reducing the cost per lead to $40 with a 4x ROI. And in the year since full implementation we saw a 25% increase in overall revenue. 

Far from isolated teams working against each other, sales and marketing now meet weekly to share feedback, ensure messages are being framed correctly, and review the data included in campaigns. This allows us to be highly agile and adaptive in a market that moves fast and has short lead times. The technology has elevated both roles so the sales and marketing teams are empowered to explore new possibilities and fresh opportunities while giving them the platform to stay on brand and customer-focused.

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