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Company: ShareBuilder401k
Contact: Stuart Robertson, General Manager
Location: Bellevue, Wash.
Industry: Financial Services, B2B
Annual revenue: Confidential
Number of employees: 16

Quick Read:

ShareBuilder 401(k) provides 401(k) retirement plans exclusively for small businesses, ranging from the self-employed to those with 50 or more employees. A service of online brokerage ShareBuilder Corp., ShareBuilder 401(k) offers services necessary for employers and employees to open and manage their retirement plans online or over the phone.

But retirement plans, which most people have a hard time understanding, are usually sold in person and are particularly hard to sell virtually. Sharebuilder 401(k) found that it needed help in marketing to this niche, and particularly in closing sales.

By implementing a new software system that allowed its sales and marketing team to know how often a sales prospect visited its Web site, how visitors arrived there, and what visitors looked at on the site, the sales team was able to target sales calls more efficiently and close more sales.

The Challenge:

ShareBuilder 401(k) services a niche market: very small businesses. The company estimates that 85% of such businesses don't have retirement plans for their employees. There is no human resources person for such companies: The business owner makes these decisions, along with the myriad other decisions involved in running a small business. Servicing these business owners virtually is a real challenge.

"We were very efficient in bringing in leads, but not as efficient in closing them," said Stuart Robertson, general manager of ShareBuilder 401(k). "We were trying to figure out—what is the most cost-effective way to reach these people?"

Robertson sought to take his sales and marketing integration to the next level to try to improve sales, while not adding headcount to his approximately 10-member sales team.

The Campaign:

ShareBuilder 401(k)'s marketing team wanted to automate lead development and tell Sales which prospects were most engaged with the Web site and had become "sales-ready." They also wanted to notify the  team of which specific topics each prospect was consuming and was most interested in understanding.

Prospects that were not "sales-ready" would be placed into an automated nurturing program so that, when they were ready to buy, ShareBuilder 401(k) would be the solution of choice.

To effectively address the business challenges, the marketing team needed to:


  1. Track individual sales prospect activity on the ShareBuilder 401(k) Web site.
  2. Identify which Web pages prospects viewed and educational materials downloaded.
  3. Understand the frequency and recency with which a prospect viewed the Web site.
  4. this information to the sales team via the company's CRM system,

For example, if a "hot" prospect visited the Web site and viewed a tutorial about how to setup and manage a company 401(k) program, the marketing team wanted to ensure that the sales rep was quickly provided with details of the visit as well as past visits to enable fast follow-up with insight to what the prospect is researching.

This data would also allow Marketing to help Sales identify which prospects to call each day. By feeding this information to Sales and creating a close working relationship between Sales and Marketing, the team was confident that close rates could be improved and the sales cycle could be shortened.

"We have found that if we wait three days to follow up with a lead, our ability to get to them is about 10%," said Robertson. "But if we can get to them the same day, the response rate goes up to 35%."

ShareBuilder 401(k) turned to Manticore Technology, a provider of demand-generation software. "The Manticore solution was easy to implement and work with," said Robertson, citing its integration with his company's existing CRM system.

The ShareBuilder 401(k) marketing team was able to prioritize follow-up calls for sales in using data streamed from Manticore Technology. With leads prioritized and Manticore data at hand, the sales team was armed with invaluable insight into prospect's interests, including whether it came to its site through Google ,Yahoo , or any other search engine.

"Now our sales team knows who to talk to—and what to talk with them about," said Robertson. "By knowing when they last visited the site and what they downloaded, that intelligence has been very helpful."

The Manticore system replaced an older Web analytics system that ranked the sales pipeline based on information voluntarily put in by the prospect, such as when the individual said he or she planned to buy a plan.

"That system didn't really tell us who was most interested in our programs. Now I know every time an individual is on our site, unless they clear their computer of cookies—it is much more relevant information," said Robertson.

The Results:

Since implementing Manticore Technology's solution early this year, the ShareBuilder 401(k) marketing team has dramatically improved the effectiveness of its sales team's efforts. From February 2007 to June 2007 vs. the same period the year before, ShareBuilder 401(k) was able to...

  • Increase deal volume closing within 30 days by 12%
  • Increase revenue per sales rep by 9.3%

"In the last two years, we have sold 1,400 plans, which is quite good for our industry. We are beating our sales numbers for this year," said Robertson.

Lessons Learned:

Empower your sales team with a good CRM/email solution.

"Whether it is Manticore or another company, at the end of the day your sales people will be happier and more productive if you put the product in their hands," advised Robertson. The product has helped them prioritize the hundreds of leads a day they were getting.

Improve communication between Sales and Marketing, and sales will likely improve.

This is particularly important for a small company. "Without good communication, it would have been more difficult" to figure out the most efficient way to improve closing sales leads, Robertson said.

Related Links:

NOTE: As of Nov. 15, 2007, Shareholder Corp. and Shareholder 401(k) were acquired by ING Direct bank.

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