Bridgeway Software, a provider of legal services management solutions, was a successful company that had never made a real investment in marketing. Its founder Pat O'Donnell believed that if you gave customers outstanding service, they would return the favor through loyalty and word-of-mouth promotion.
He was right... for a while.
But as Bridgeway evolved, Pat recognized the need for its marketing strategy to mature as well. For the business to grow, the marketing team needed to develop a strong brand, industry awareness, measurable processes, and most of all, leads at the top of the funnel.
In other words, the company needed marketing.
Putting the Pieces Together
Pat hired David Samia as Bridgeway's vice-president of Product Management and Marketing to meet this very need. When David joined, Marketing at Bridgeway consisted of two people (one being me) primarily focused on administration, partners, clients, and some tradeshows. There was little cooperation or alignment with Sales and no integrated campaigns, only ad hoc activities executed without any way to measure success.
Company leadership tasked David with making the function more strategic through initiatives like messaging, positioning, and competitive analysis. But he didn't stop there. To be successful, David knew we needed to establish foundational processes and controls that would justify our value.
"A Marketing Department won't be around for long if we can't prove its worth," David would often say. So the first thing we did was to get a handle on our budget. Together, we mapped what we had, where it was being spent, and used in-house tools, such as Salesforce, to start tying marketing activities to sales opportunities.
We began this process by tracking existing tradeshows. We used Salesforce to map leads from a show back to its costs, establishing an ROI model that proved surprisingly positive. With this foundation, we set our sights on expanding the marketing program in new directions which included creating valuable content that would boost awareness, increase engagement, and generate leads.
Creating a Content Team
My vision of next-gen marketing at Bridgeway began with a mission: to get in-house legal professionals who need a business solution to know, like, and trust Bridgeway.
We knew that, at its core, this goal meant developing content that our audience would love.
And so Bridgeway University (BWU) was born. We knew that education in corporate legal operations was scarce. So we decided to fill that gap, develop that education, and become the place for in-house legal professionals to obtain real-world know-how about running legal like a business.
We began with webcasts, featuring leading subject matter experts, including non-customers, as well as partners, clients, and in-house talent.
Soon, my blog was added to the platform, sharing both new and curated content relevant to the legal community as well as a wildly popular maturity model developed by David and a few in-house experts.
Around this time, David was promoted to lead Engineering as well as Product Management, and I began spearheading the Marketing team. We began producing whitepapers, e-books, and infographics on a wide variety of topics, building a library that has attracted over 3,300 contacts to date. (Other industries may consider this number to be small, but it is significant, given that our target audience consists of small, in-house legal niche market encompassed by the Fortune 1000 and a few government agencies.)
Fueling the content machine required and engendered other improvements to our Marketing organization. I created a marketing project manager role, aptly filled by my colleague Abbey Peckis. She helped me implement new project management processes, moving from a reactive to proactive model centered on an editorial calendar. In addition, she created a "brand bible," which allowed us to achieve greater consistency in visual and written communication.
Though Brandon Burkman was on staff for several months as our online specialist, we began ratcheting up his activity to include more frequent email communications, more effective list management, and better use of landing pages and the forms they used. I also asked him and Abbey to help increase collaboration with the Sales Team.
Meeting weekly one on one with Sales also meant greater alignment and coordination, which lead to a much better working relationship between the two departments.
Finally, a new market research function, manned by Eugene Schwartz, ensured that the over-all Bridgeway team was knowledgeable and up to date with the latest insights on prospects, clients, partners, and competitors.
Bridgeway University and CustomerConnect LIVE
Creating Bridgeway University not only provided the legal community with valuable content, but it also served to give the Bridgeway sales team much more targeted and worthwhile leads. My team harnessed technology, including Salesforce and Pardot marketing automation, to drive awareness, traffic, engagement, and conversion. But the process required people power as well as technology.
We worked closely with Sales to clean up and organize the lead database, then we defined and implemented the requirements that resulted in, not only a marketing qualified lead (MQL), but more importantly a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL).
With organized data and optimized technology, Bridgeway's marketing team ran integrated campaigns across search, social, email, and Web.
The same processes created as much success in person as they did online. For example, each year, the marketing team runs CustomerConnect LIVE, a client conference that has become a benchmark for the industry. Now in its 20th year, CustomerConnect LIVE provided Bridgeway clients with three days of training, thought leadership, and valuable networking that merges Pat's original vision of loyalty-driven marketing with cutting-edge strategy and technology.
More Leads, Better Opportunities, and a Bright Future
Five years ago, Samia was tasked with building the foundation for a real marketing function at Bridgeway. Since then, my team added to that foundation brick by brick, building the necessary elements needed to transform Bridgeway's approach to marketing.
The results spoke for themselves.
The business enjoyed a stronger brand, greater awareness, increased loyalty, more efficient processes, and most importantly, a thriving pipeline. KPIs, which were in place and measured consistently, were up across the board. Average marketing qualified leads (MQLs) rose 42% from 2014 to 2015, along with a 55% increase in demo and contact sales requests from Bridgeway's website. Marketing was credited for driving seven wins worth $2.07M in 2014, with another $4.07M in the pipe as of June 2015.
In addition, the content marketing strategy paid off tremendously. As of April 2015, Bridgeway University boasted over 1,000 downloads; 2,400 webcast views; 2,800 active companies; and 59 opportunities from leads with an estimated worth of $22.1 million.
Through my commitment to creating and promoting useful, meaningful content, our collective group increased each key metric of their digital marketing program, including:
- 55% rise in demo/contact sales requests
- 42% rise in average qualified leads/month
- 73% increase in content downloads
- 43% more follows on LinkedIn
- 25% more likes on Facebook
- 20% increase in Web traffic
- 9% increase in both email open rate and click-to- open ratio
- 105% increase in average monthly email send (All stats year over year, 2014-2015)
The qualitative results were equally impressive. Prospects began approaching Bridgeway proactively instead of being pursued. The sales team was armed with not only more leads, but better leads, qualified through hard stats like title and company size combined with more detailed information gleaned from webinar polls, website activity, and content preferences. This information communicated valuable insight into a prospect's pain points and motivations, and identified opportunities that might otherwise be overlooked.
* * *
We might have done our job too well as Bridgeway Software was just sold to Mitratech in July. So what's next? Well, Mitratech was smart to hold on to Brandon and Abbey, two excellent marketers. As for myself and David, Mitratech already had executives in our respective roles, so we were the unfortunate victims of repetitive roles in the combined companies.
So while we are both searching for our next adventure, I know wherever we land, we'll be marketing with a purpose, driving excellence, creating fans, and demonstrating the true value of an integrated marketing approach back to the business.
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