When we first met the Solverboard team, we were confident we could deliver on the targets they set. What we didn’t know was just how far we’d overshoot them.
Then again, when Solverboard co-founder Charlie signed up for Future Content’s own newsletter back in 2015, we didn’t know just how effective that would be in getting him and his incredible team around to our way of thinking.
This is a case study with a focus on results. It contains the key steps that helped us land over 360 leads in just 6 months (the target was 10). It’s the story of how Account-Based Marketing and inbound marketing combine to deliver oh-so-many incredibly high quality leads. It’s a testimony to the power of starting with the numbers that matter and building a plan from there.
By reading this case study you’ll see how a clear strategy led to good creative ideas. And we’ll show you how Solverboard doubled down on a good start to really get the most from just a few great pieces of content.
“I was initially sceptical about the content marketing approach and just how much Future Content could deliver but I can see the impact this is having. These results are the best I’ve seen and I think it’s the best marketing investment we’ve ever made as a group”
Sales has Salesforce. Finance has Xero. Marketing has HubSpot. Innovation has Solverboard.
(That’s our copy, BTW)
Solverboard is an enterprise-grade innovation platform. The product that they have built provides an “all-in-one workflow for enterprise innovators”. It’s an incredible piece of technology. It’s beautifully designed and created by a team that cares deeply about the innovation process and the value that they provide.
We began talking with Solverboard in the summer of 2019 as the platform was still being developed. Initial conversations around inbound marketing tactics quickly gave way to a bigger discussion about results: What did the launch need to achieve in the first three, six, 12 months? Where do we need to be in three years?
Their answers to these questions were big; big blue chip accounts, large user numbers, extremely high customer satisfaction scores, big-big-big revenue growth. It was clear that the stated need - inbound support - was not going to deliver the results required in the time allowed.
“What separated Future Content from the other agencies we’d spoken with was their results-first approach. We’d got so used to “we can do this cool thing or that cool thing” that when they came along and drilled us on the numbers we needed to hit and then put a plan together for how to hit those targets, it was clear that we’d found a partner we could trust.”
Solverboard needed to get 10 accounts onboarded, piloting the product by Christmas 2019. We started working with them on Oct 1st 2019, giving us just 3 months. Clearly we needed to hit the ground running.
An Account-Based Marketing (ABM) approach was the obvious choice: no other approach stood a chance of delivering the accounts needed in the time allowed (not to mention within budget). ABM has many benefits for Enterprise B2B SaaS marketing; it streamlines marketing activity by focusing on a few target individuals, aligns sales and marketing through weekly collaboration and it provides a very clear return on investment (ROI) by being so simple to measure. (Did we land them or not?)
Co-founder Charlie and Head of Marketing, Aaron, know a thing or two about lead generation and had a list of 100 ideal clients and a few friendly companies who had been testing the product as it was being built.
Our focus was entirely on those target 100 accounts - who are they? What are they talking about online? What do they need? We combined our research with Solverboard’s ongoing product user testing feedback and spread it out on the table. What could we create that would be so useful, so interesting, so well-produced that they couldn’t help but request a demo for the platform?
Alongside the ABM approach, Solverboard would need to build a strong brand image and identity. Through the sales process we had identified a lot of similarity among the competitive set. Solverboard needed to be distinct in their tone of voice and their content - web copy, blogs, emails, reports and social media - needed to become synonymous with innovation.
The strategy was clear. Create something that’s so good it can’t be ignored and promote it heavily in the right places. Don’t worry about publishing X number of blogs or target keywords or whether it’s video or slides. The best strategy is always the simple one.
The winning idea
Despite the tight timeline, we allowed a month for research and ideas to percolate. After all, having an extra month to promote half-baked content doesn’t win the Great Lead-Generation Bake-Off.
The winning idea was the Innovation Blockers Report, an interview-led guide to the key issues innovation managers face. The report was created through collaboration with the target list - we surveyed and interviewed the prospects - before coming back to them with the completed guide. We call this “editorial-led distribution”.
The guide was published in the first week of December. The Solverboard marketing team went directly to the target 100 with the report via email and Linkedin inmail. (We of course provided them with all the necessary materials and support). This direct outreach was aided with regular supporting blogs and social media content which their freelance PR and social media whizz, Hannah, used to attract a wider audience.
Hitting the first set of targets
Did it work? Yes. We not only landed the 10 accounts needed, but had 16 more waiting to be on-boarded. Co-founder Charlie expands…
“In terms of the hard measures…
- Did we hit our targets? Tick.
- Do we have a full pipeline for January? Tick.
And for the softer measures which are arguably more important to us at this early stage…
- Is everyone in the company proud of the webcopy and content you’ve created? Tick.
- Are our investors and the group we’re a part of impressed? Tick.
- Are industry specialists sharing and commenting on our content? Tick.
- And are prospects telling us how impressed they were with the report and the other content we’ve sent them? Tick.
Literally every objective that it was possible to set you was surpassed.”
From the list of 100 ideal accounts, 37 had responded to outreach, read the report and requested a demo. But this was just the starting point, both for the target list and the broader audience that was building nicely.
From good to great
It was clear that the Innovation Blockers Report was going down very well with the senior innovation leaders that Solverboard wanted to speak with. Rather than start thinking about the next campaign, we focused on getting the most that we could from the report.
Some simple tactics proved highly effective.
- Adding an exit intent form and optimising the copy to promote the report led to another increase in new contacts and brought in big, blue chip accounts - from tier one banks to national infrastructure firms.
- Linkedin was proving a highly effective channel for outreach and organic reach. Leading from personal accounts with well-crafted copy continued to deliver new leads.
- Blogs that referenced the report went down well, increasing traffic and conversions.
We had a well-documented and interesting plan for Q1 2020. That went out of the window as we doubled down on the innovation report. We decided to produce fewer pieces of content, of a higher quality, with plenty of focus on the distribution of each blog. This approach has worked very well for Solverboard and others. Our mantra of Less-is-more for content marketing in 2020 was bearing fruit.
Solverboard’s Head of Marketing, Aaron, expands…
“The strategy you set at the start of our engagement has proved exactly right. The maturity and quality of the content has really set us apart. It’s not stuffy. It’s collaborative but we’re not too reliant on others. Your expertise in inbound has really developed all of the metrics I’m looking at on my HubSpot dashboard. I’m looking for continuous improvement and each week, everything is lit up green.
I haven’t had to sell Solverboard at all. I just connect them in with Charlie, they download the report and the natural next step is they request a demo of the platform.”
What follows are the results as of May 2020, 6 months after the Innovation Blockers report was published.
- 362 leads
- 37 out of 100 targets account engaged through ABM approach on the platform
- 100% increase in traffic to the site
- Session to conversion rate of 5.5%. Up from 2% and above industry benchmark of 2-4%
- New contacts per month up 500% in 6 months
“The quantitative results are good but they don’t really tell the story. It's the qualitative that’s making the difference.
When you have the Innovation Director at a FTSE 100 company on a call explaining how they can use the platform before they’ve even seen it! He’s talking about it based purely on the report and the blogs he’s read. Well, I’ve never known anything like it.
And it’s not a one off. It’s happening with Global tech firms, major-major banks… Outstanding.”
We cannot claim full credit for these extraordinary results. The Solverboard team has built an exceptional product, the founders and marketing team are committed to excellence and their freelancers, who we work alongside, have worked tirelessly to get these extraordinary results.
Credit must also go to Solverboard for being open to an unstructured working relationship with their agency. The leadership and marketing team prized flexibility over control, so we’ve been working together on a contract that does not specify deliverables or time, but instead focuses on results. This has left us all free to do what works best, rather than what was agreed 6 months ago.
Leading with an ABM approach has done more than land 37 leads. By focusing on the target list and starting with high quality research we understood the audience and created something that has added value to a much broader, relevant audience.