How Investments & Wealth Institute Pivoted with the COVID-19 Outbreak
Relying on conferences and webinars, the Denver-based Investments & Wealth Institute (IWI) provides continuing professional education and certifications for financial advisors, investment consultants, financial planners, and wealth managers throughout the United States, Australia, and Canada.
The outbreak of Covid-19 forced IWI to “pivot” from any reliance on face-to-face events, and to leverage its already-considerable experience in designing and delivering virtual events.
But doubt remained whether the Institute could attract its audiences—long accustomed to the Institute’s face-to-face events—to the vastly different online versions of those events.
“Before the pandemic, as a credentialing body and member-based association, IWI could reasonably count on its built-in audience of 13,000 members to read—and respond to—traditional event promotions like emails, brochures, and print newsletters,” says Chief Revenue Officer Tim Whiting.
But traditional marketing media’s effectiveness has waned with the outbreak of Covid-19.
“We’ve pulled back on direct mail altogether through Covid-19, because we knew people weren’t in their offices, and most of our members’ preferred mailing address is their business address,” Whiting says.
Without a way to connect with members working at home, “outbound calling has become critical for IWI,” Whiting says.
“Members need to be reminded of our events and need the extra touchpoint that outbound telemarketing calls provide,” he says. “The calls simply help us tell a broader story than emails can.”
To make the calls, IWI turns exclusively to Foundation Marketing Group.
“We’ve had, over the years, different telemarketing firms we’ve worked with, and not always received the results that we wanted,” Whiting says. “We first tested Foundation Marketing Group on one of our regional events and saw a seven percent conversion rate on the list we sent them. For us, that was a justifiable ROI for the expense.”
Not only does Foundation Marketing Group deliver results, Whiting says; it adds value.
“One of the primary reasons we like working with the firm’s people is they’re very outcomes-focused,” Whiting says.
“They don’t just take the baton and run with it. They let us know if they need to ‘block and tackle’ when they run into issues, and give us feedback along the way that provides us the opportunity to change our script—or even our whole approach. To me, that’s what a good partner does. A vendor takes your money and delivers whatever it promised, but a partner says, ‘Hey, maybe you could do something more efficiently’ or ‘Hey, here’s a suggestion: you have three conferences coming up in the fall, so why not have our folks talk about all three, instead of just one?’”
Foundation Marketing Group also provides IWI options “to fix something or leverage success in a particular area,” Whiting says.
“I appreciate their extra efforts, because there are people out there that just wouldn’t take the time for that. The fact that we can learn from each other, to me, makes our partnership especially valuable.”
How Information Today Fills Seats at its Weekly Webinars
Information Today, Inc. (ITI) serves the library, information and knowledge management communities by publishing periodicals like Information Today, Speech Technology, EContent and KMWorld, CRM Media and by organizing face-to-face conferences including Computers in Libraries, Streaming Media and Enterprise Search Summit. Like many business media companies today, ITI also offers lead-generation services to advertisers. One of its primary lead-gen offerings is a live webinar series.
Each year, ITI produces over 100 live webinars, each of which is sponsored by a large provider of software, hardware or IT solutions. Providers such as Dell, HP, IBM, Oracle and SAP participate in the webinar series routinely.
ITI sells webinar sponsorships with a soft guarantee: each webinar will attract qualified prospects from ITI’s house list—a bold promise in today’s market, where library, information and knowledge management professionals are time-starved and content-saturated.
“We don’t consider the quota a firm guarantee,” says DawnEl Harris, Web Event Director at ITI. “But it is an important KPI—key performance indicator—and a mark we must reach if we hope to retain sponsors.”
As you’d expect, ITI relies on email marketing to attract most webinar registrants. But that channel only goes so far. For assurance, ITI turns to Foundation Marketing Group.
Each week, Foundation Marketing Group contacts prospects on ITI’s house list by phone and invites them to register for the upcoming webinar. Week to week, the job varies.
“Week to week, call volume will vary significantly,” Harris says. “It’s a function of how successful the email promotions were. If email filled most seats, a low volume of calls is required to reach registrants. But if email didn’t fill the seats, a high volume of calls is necessary.”
To meet ITI’s variable needs, Foundation Marketing Group dedicates a team of telemarketers. Team members not only understand ITI’s webinar offerings thoroughly, but can adjust their work-schedules to sync with the company’s changing demand for outbound calls. The team’s leader, in addition, monitors their results continuously, keeping close tabs on the number of webinar registrants they’ve acquired, and decides whether to continue outbound calling based on reaching the registration quota.
The team leader also closely manages ITI’s house list, to prevent list fatigue. “We provide Foundation Marketing Group with a master list to call,” Harris says. “The team leader then sorts the prospects’ names into buckets, based on their product interests. Each week, a bucket of prospects will be phoned based on their affinity for the webinar’s subject matter. That way, we can prevent the same prospects from being contacted again and again during a short span of time.”
Foundation Marketing Group’s phone calls, in effect, serve as an “insurance policy” against failure—in this case, failure to deliver the webinar audience ITI’s sponsors expect.
“I appreciate how responsive and proactive Foundation Marketing Group is,” Harris says. “Working with them on an ongoing basis as we have for four years has made the whole process of filling seats at our webinars a highly predicable one.”
Advanced Solutions International Drives Sales with Annual Surveys and Seminars
Advanced Solutions International (ASI) is the leading provider of software for nonprofits and the developers of iMIS, a software system that supports constituent relationship management, website management, eCommerce, and eMarketing.
ASI has a customer base of more than 2,500 nonprofit organizations. It wants to up-sell those customers on a regular basis, but has a limited field sales force and cannot contact every customer for that purpose. The company also wants to generate new leads routinely, but cannot squander sales representatives’ limited time pursuing ones that might be questionable.
ASI turns to Foundation Marketing Group to initiate the up-sell process and generate leads.
Each year, ASI conducts a telephone survey of its customers, retaining Foundation Marketing Group to make the calls.
“We identify a selection of customers and try to reach all of them,” says Edward Wendling, director of marketing. “We want to go into considerable depth in the questions and we want to be sure that the results of the research reflect the customer base accurately. Our goal is to reach everyone, not just a 20 or 30 percent portion of them, like most customer surveys.”
“We ask 10 questions, update all the contact information, and initiate the up-selling process. Not a simple telemarketing project by any means. And because Foundation Marketing Group is calling our customers, it’s sensitive—not like calling a list of suspects. Last year, we gave them a list of 1,000 customers to call. They were able to get complete results for more than 900 of them.”
“I like the fact that the firm is not only effective, but much more flexible than the large telemarketing companies. I gave them 1,000 names to call and said I wanted 250 contacted each quarter and the project to end by Thanksgiving, so I’d have time to analyze the data. They developed a program and make it work exactly the way I asked. We’ve done the customer surveys for three years in a row, and it’s been a very strong source of leads for add-on sales to customer every year. It’s well worth the money.”
“ASI also uses Foundation Marketing Group to support its seminars—a key source of qualified leads for us. This is another project that demonstrates the firm’s flexibility.”
“Our seminars aren’t a corporate program. Instead, they are driven 100 percent by our sales representatives, who are based all over the country. Corporate has to remain in a reactive mode to suit the needs of the field sales team. Understanding the situation, Foundation Marketing Group helped me design a process whereby they call prospects and feed us seminar registrations, which we in turn confirm by email. We know from experience that half of the prospects who register by phone will confirm, and half of those will actually show up at a given seminars. So we can accurately predict how many registrations we need to fill a seminar room and hold a successful event.”
“We’ve promoted seminars by direct mail and email, but have found that telemarketing really makes the seminars work. We want five different organizations and 10 people to show up at each one. Foundation Marketing Group makes is happen by scheduling and completing the outbound calls at just the right time.”
“Foundation Marketing Group provides me the customer service and attention of a boutique, but the results of a large telemarketing firm. They don’t turn your work over to a low-level project manager. You’re always monitored by top management and given a level of service that simply doesn’t exist with the large telemarketing firms.”
In addition to acquiring attendees for ASI’s live seminars, Foundation Marketing Group drives attendance for virtual seminars (webinars) that are produced by the company.
Knowledge Enterprises Boosts Trade Show Attendance by Medical Device Manufacturers
Knowledge Enterprises is a diversified business media company that, among other ventures, produces the annual Orthopaedic Manufacturing & Technology Exposition & Conference (OMTEC). OMTEC is designed to meet the educational and networking needs of orthopaedic industry original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
Knowledge Enterprises needs to attract a sizable audience of highly qualified manufacturing professionals to OMTEC to assure exhibitors’ and sponsors’ continuing participation in the event.
Last year, the company had a house list of prospect names it could use for attendance promotion, but recognized it needed to augment the list with significantly more prospects if it expected to draw an audience to OMTEC large enough to meet the expectations of exhibitors and sponsors.
The target audience for OMTEC includes vice presidents of R&D and directors of supply chain management.
“We needed to identify the names and position titles of people just like to ones on our database,” says Jack Detweiler, vice president, business development. “We had the semblance of a good database, but not every name in the universe. No list like that exists anywhere in the world. We didn’t have the internal resources to do what we knew full well needed to be done for several years, so we decided to fold the project into a campaign by Foundation Marketing Group to get attendees to the event.”
The telemarketing campaign was conducted in two parts.
First, Foundation Marketing Group updated the names and contact information on the house list. At the same time, it acquired new names, position titles and contact information and added it to the database.
In a second phase, Foundation Marketing Group dialed prospects in order to sign them up for OMTEC. The results of this effort were the real measure of the campaign’s success. The number of pre-registrants increased from 150 to 425.
“Foundation Marketing Group is a first class operation,” says Detweiler. “They were attentive and diligent and designed a thorough process both for building our database and obtaining OMTEC registrations.”
“We are a small, closely held company focused on the sales of many product lines. We simply don’t have time to cold call to identify prospects within our audience. We know who our audience is, but there are thousands and thousands of prospective targets and by ourselves we can only scratch the surface.”
“Our choice was either to hire more people or outsource the task. At one time, management was worried about outside representatives calling on our behalf and believed, ‘Nobody can do it better than us.’ But the demand for growth required a personal touch from us. Email and direct mail only pay off so much—it was critical to reach more people on the phone. Management realized we weren’t going to get the job done without outside support.”
“Compared to the previous two years’ attendance of OMTEC, the results were monumental.”
Produce Marketing Association Increases Member Renewal Rates
Produce Marketing Association (PMA) is the leading trade association for the buyers and sellers from every segment of the produce and floral supply chains. In addition to advocating for the industry in Washington, DC, PMA serves as the source of industry news, standards and research on consumer and other trends.
PMA has 2,100 corporate members whose memberships renew annually. Typically, as many as 300 members will neglect to respond to multiple renewal attempts by the association, including three invoice mailings and a fax reminder.”
“We don’t want even one member to lose out on the benefits of membership in PMA because of what is usually an administrative oversight by busy professionals,” says Paula Gonzalez, member relations manager. “Our challenge is to communicate personally and effectively with these people, remind them of the benefits of belonging to PMA, and let them know that access to those benefits is critical to their companies. In this day and age, emails simply don’t work, they risk getting captured as spam or overlooked along with the 1,500 other emails in the recipient’s in box. We need personalized contact. That’s why we work with Foundation Marketing Group to supplement our staff contacts.”
Each year, Foundation Marketing Group calls PMA members whose renewals are overdue to advise them that if they don’t renew their memberships their benefits will lapse.
The campaign’s success is measured by the number of renewals acquired as a result of the outbound phone calls.
“The campaign is really a ‘last resort’ following all our other efforts,” says Gonzalez. “With the sheer number of members involved and the price of membership, just two or three renewals pay for the campaign. Every year, we not only cover the cost, but increase our renewal rate—which is essential to us.”
“Telemarketing is extremely important to us because of the strategic direction PMA has taken in the past three years. We discovered that members had been bombarded by emails, so we shifted gears to become more customer-centric and community-based. To be a part of a community means applying a ‘personal touch.’ Foundation Marketing Group provides that personal touch.
“I appreciate the fact that the company takes the time to learn everything there is to know about us before making calls and understands how to make free-flowing conversation with our members. Other telemarketing firms just stick to a script, but not Foundation Marketing Group. It’s their skill in communicating that makes them effective.”
Renewals aren’t the only membership marketing activity that PMA assigns to Foundation Marketing Group. The association also relies on the firm to:
- Contact member organizations for routine membership database updating and cleansing; and
- Conduct member satisfaction surveys.
In addition, PMA turns to Foundation Marketing Group to promote its major educational events, including its annual meeting, the Fresh Summit International Convention & Exposition. The largest produce industry gathering in the United States, Fresh Summit draws more than 15,000 attendees each year, so keeping touch with key audiences is a big task.
In the area of event promotion, the association taps Foundation Marketing Group to:
- Contact, qualify and prioritize leads for exhibit space (exhibitor lead generation); and
- Contact, qualify and pre-register attendee leads (attendance acquisition).
“Promoting PMA-sponsored events through telemarketing is another visible way we use the ‘personal touch’ to build community,” says Gonzalez.
Reuter Exposition Services Boosts Event Pre-registrations
Connecticut-based Reuter Exposition Services (RES) is an independent show management firm that provides services to associations. The company manages B-to-B events for its clients in a variety of industries, including retail, entertainment, food, construction, electronics and manufacturing.
For many years, RES has included telemarketing as a regular part of its marketing mix. The firm uses telemarketing as a complement to direct mail, email and exhibitor-based promotions, in order to increase attendance at its shows.
“We’re always trying to increase attendance of our events by encouraging people to pre-register,” says Susan Reuter, president. “We want them to fully commit to attending.”
Before 2008, RES handled telemarketing in house with temporary staff. But while the results were impressive, the disruptions caused by temporary workers appearing on the company’s premises every few months were becoming a sore point.
To eliminate the problem, RES turned to Foundation Marketing Group. “We’re a show management company, not a telemarketing company,” says Reuter. “We outsourced our campaigns, so we would no longer have to worry about strangers coming and going in our office while they worked on them.”
But Foundation Marketing Group’s performance more than helped reduce annoying disruptions. In the two-year period since the agency was retained, show attendance has jumped 40 percent.
“It’s obvious from the increased numbers that the effort has produced excellent results,” says Reuter. “We do a ton of pre-show promotion in addition to telemarketing, and I don’t isolate it from all the other things we do. It’s part of an overall program that effects growth in attendance. But I do know telemarketing definitely contributed.”
In addition to results, RES values Foundation Marketing Group’s professionalism.
“We projected how long it would take Foundation Marketing Group to accomplish the task of contacting the 13,000 retail buyers and wholesalers on the list we gave them,” says Reuter.
“They were very organized and finished right on schedule. I’d certainly recommend Foundation Marketing Group to anyone who needs to contact a certain number of people within certain timeframe.”
RES plans to continue outsourcing attendee telemarketing to Foundation Marketing Group, according to Reuter. “I know we did all the right things in past two years, and working with Foundation Marketing Group was one of those right things.”
National Defense Industry Association Promotes Specialty Conferences to Suppliers
“The National Defense Industry Association (NDIA) facilitates growth, innovation and technological advances for all facets of the defense industry. Its membership includes over 1,400 corporations and 40,000 individuals. Among many activities, the association products 25 trade shows annually.
“Time is our biggest challenge,” says Luellen Hoffman, director of exhibits. “We must have the resources at our disposal that will let us turn around work in short periods of time.” With a lean internal staff and an intense schedule of trade shows, NDIA has to conduct numerous attendance-acquisition campaigns simultaneously.
Topping the list of needs are building attendance for new shows, the Ground Robotics Symposium; the Homeland Security Science & Technology Stakeholders Conference West and the Missouri Science & Technology Summit 2008.
To add to the challenge, the defense industry is vast and complex. Defense industry companies tend to be large and decentralized, with multiple divisions and multiple decision-makers. Reaching the right people at the right time is a challenge.
NDIA’s needs to acquire trade show exhibitors and attendees for its key events are fulfilled in part by outbound telemarketing campaigns conducted by Foundation Marketing Group.
“I have found Foundation Marketing Group to be a great resource for supporting us,” says Hoffman. “They can accomplish more in terms of reaching out than we can in house, given that 90 percent of our time is taken up by trade show operations. We have found that, as effective as email is, people in the industry still need to be touched. Picking up the phone is the smartest way to contact them to stand above the competition. And if they won’t come to our shows, we want to learn what their objections are.”
“We provide Foundation Marketing Group a file of suspects and prospects before each show. For the suspect file, they identify the key contacts, capture information and verify the receipt of show literature. For the prospect file, they deliver a ‘commercial’ and work to drive the prospects to our Web site. We measure the results of their efforts by monitoring for up-ticks in registration and for inbound calls and inquiries. This business model has been very successful.”