How did SaaS startup Woopra increase lead to customer conversion rates while also shortening their sales cycle and improving the efficiency of the sales team?
This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Woopra Head of Partnerships Elle Morgan shares the company's product qualified lead model and breaks down specifically what a PQL is, how it differs from an MQL, and the specific behavioral indicators that Woopra evaluates to determine whether its leads qualify as PQLs.
Listen to the podcast to learn more about building a product qualified lead model, nurturing PQLs, and how this approach can improve sales and marketing alignment.
Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to The Inbound Success podcast. I'm your host, Kathleen Booth. And today I am happy to say, my guest is Elle Morgan, who is the Head of Partnerships at Woopra. Welcome, Elle.
Elle: Thank you for having me, Kathleen.
Elle and I recording this episode
Kathleen: Tell our audience a little bit about yourself. What do you do? What's your background? And what does Woopra do?
Elle: Yeah, absolutely. I lead our Partnerships Team here at Woopra.
I have, you know, been in some fashion of marketing for almost 10 years now, and have had my hands in really every aspect of marketing. So I've done a little of mid-management, corporate communications, to growth, some digital, and everything in between, primarily with start-ups, at least for the last seven years.
I realized I really thrive in that build versus manage stage of an organization. You know, in a small startup company, every single thing that you do makes an immediate and measurable impact. Even though there are no certainties or things to fall back on, there's the ability to really constantly iterate and try new new things without the red tape that you might have to fight through in a bigger organization.
About 10 months ago, I took on a Partnerships role here at Woopra, partially because of this PQL model that we're gonna speak about today.
But in my position now, Partnerships has really, for me, been a combination of marketing, while creating content designed around customer use cases, integration, best practices, and how to successfully combine different technologies to yield greater results, along with a taste of sales and the relationship-building aspects that kind of keep me challenged, and let's me learn from our customers in a way that really inspires my writing by their questions and the stories that I hear from them.
Kathleen: It's interesting that you say you really love the start-up environment because, you know, I was looking through your background on LinkedIn, and I noticed you've spent a lot of time in the San Francisco Bay area, and I feel like wow, that's ... What a great place for somebody who likes the start-up world to be. It's kind of like being a kid in a candy store.
Elle: It is. I, you know, started in the start-up scene in LA, in the little Silicon Beach area. I'd always been at bigger companies and that passed, but when I got my first taste, I realized that, okay, if I really wanna do start-ups the way that I'd like to, I have to be up here in the Bay Area to really feel like I've given it my all.
Kathleen: That's great. And what a great city to live in, even just aside from the start-up world.
Elle: No, I can't complain.
Kathleen: Yeah. It's such a neat place.
So Woopra to me is really interesting. And, you know, so many of our listeners are marketers, and I looked at the website and the platform, and was so intrigued because it's all about understanding the customer journey.
And I want you to talk a little bit more about that, but you know, that's the thing I think that more than potentially anything else, we as marketers talk a good game about customer journey mapping, but I don't think we really do it. Some people don't do it at all. And if most of us are doing it, we're not doing it really well and there's a variety of reasons for that. You know, it could be the amount of effort that has to go into it. It could be trying to get your head around all of the data.
In any case, tell us a little bit about Woopra and what it does, and then we can kind of get into some of the other goodies that we're gonna talk about.
Elle: Yeah. So Woopra is a customer journey analytics platform. Essentially what that means is we have our own tracking technology to understand who is on your website, where they came from, the pages they're browsing, the usual things like that.
We also track product engagement data. So from the minute they come to your site, sign up for your product, what different types of features are they engaging with? Where do they go from there? How many people become customers? And then, after that point, are they engaged or not? What does a healthy customer look like?
But another big piece to that puzzle is bringing in data from other touchpoints in the customer journey. So if we think about the journey outside of like the silos of MQL, are they opening your emails? Are they engaging with you in LiveChat? How many support tickets does a person answer?
Woopra has this, you know, integrations layer. The idea is that you can bring in data from essentially any touchpoint in the customer journey to build up these reports that show whether or not people who take these certain combinations of actions are more or less likely to both convert, become a healthy customer, that right customer fit. Also being able to leverage that data to drive more personalized interactions and communications, and campaigns throughout all of those different touchpoints.
Kathleen: Neat. And from what I saw on the site, it looks like you also provide a very visual interface. You know, you're able to deliver information on that customer journey in a way that that is super visual, and therefore very easy to digest and understand, which I think is just-
Kathleen: ... amazing.
Elle: Funny for me. Before joining Woopra, I'd never gone outside Google analytics for my insights, and the data that was at my disposal and like my marketing tool. So I knew clicks, conversions, like maybe who was opening my emails. But I wasn't able to say, "Okay, are people engaging with this product?" And then opening my emails, "And do those two have an impact on one another?"
So, for the first time, I'm certainly not a data analyst, but I feel like the platform makes it easier for me to go in and essentially ask any question, or have access to that little data to drive what I do.
Kathleen: Now, there's a clear use case for SaaS companies to use Woopra because you are able to provide in-app usage analytics, in the sense of like the customer's adopting the product to this extent, and here's how that influences the degree to which they, you know, maybe go from freemium to paid customer, et cetera.
What about outside of the SaaS world? I mean, are there applications there as well?
Elle: Yeah, absolutely. I would say like 50% of our client base is SaaS. Another, probably, 40% is E-commerce, and the rest is scattered. So it's really anybody who has a strong digital presence, who's looking to understand on the, you know, E-commerce side, what products are they purchasing? Where did they come from? Did they come back and make another purchase? You've got, you know, the on-demand companies like Uber who wanna understand are people making repeat rides? Are they canceling? What is the distance traveled?
Any time you're running your business with a strong digital presence, I think there's 100% an application to leverage data across the board to design a better, or more connected, customer experience.
Kathleen: Yeah, and the cool thing is there is so much data available to us as marketers. It's just making sense of it all, you know? Like I have all of that data in my various systems.
I mean, we use HubSpot, Google Analytics, SEMrush, Lucky Orange. We have so many different platforms, and it's all out there. But it's just tying all those various pieces together, and kind of extracting insights that I think is the real challenge. So that's really neat.
Elle: Absolutely. Great.
Nurturing Product Qualified Leads
Kathleen: Well, we were gonna talk a little bit about nurturing product-qualified leads, because you know, when you and I first talked, I was asking you with Woopra's marketing, what's really contributing to your success as a team? So I'd love to just hear a little bit more about that from you.
Elle: Yeah, absolutely. So before I took over Partnerships, when I first joined the company, I was leading our Marketing Team, and because Woopra runs on a freemium model, where essentially people can sign up for the platform and play around with it as long as they like up until they have the need for some more advanced analytics features, we realized that we were having tons of signups, organically, which is great.
We had about, you know, 1500 signups a month to the product, primarily coming organically through word of mouth, SEO, and a very small amount through some Adwords brand-name campaigns that we are running.
But we also only had two salespeople. And for two salespeople, 1500 leads, they didn't know where to start, they didn't know who was an actual qualified sales opportunity of those people who were signing up, and then testing out the product.
But we were tracking essential customer engagement metrics. So we knew where people came from, the content they engaged with, if they chatted with us on LiveChat, and I was trying to look at those top-level MQL metrics. Were they reading blog posts? Were they browsing our appraising page? But we felt like even with that, combined with the 1500 leads, was not enough to qualify these sales opportunities.
And even worse, when we ran the numbers, we found that just because somebody read six blog posts did not necessarily make them more or less likely to be qualified as a paying customer. We had a lot of students using the platform, a lot of small-time bloggers, who just were never gonna reach that point where they actually wanted for a full-blown paid analytic solution.
Kathleen: I'm so glad you just said that, because I used to own a marketing agency, and now I head up marketing for IMPACT. And in both cases, when I've dug into the data, actually the people that wind up converting and becoming customers tend to look at less content prior to their conversion than the people who don't convert. And it's so counter-intuitive but it is the story that only good data can tell.
Kathleen: If you didn't dig deeper and really glean that insight, you could waste a whole lot of time on leads that were not likely to convert in the first place.
Elle: Yeah. And it's like an honest mistake. I mean, I was trained in marketing to look at those things and then to say, "Okay, they've read this much, they came in from this ad. Pass it along to Sales." But when you finally start to look at the data, you realize that content consumption is not indicative, necessarily, of what makes the right customer type for you.
Kathleen: Yeah. 100%. They could be job applicants. As you said, they could be students. They could be what I like to call DIYers, you know, people who are gonna consume everything voraciously and then figure out a way to do it by themselves.
There's a lot of reasons for that. Sometimes, if you're practicing ABM, they can be from a company that's a good fit, but they might not be the right decision maker, so there's a lot that plays into that. But that's neat.
Did you use Woopra itself to figure out-
Kathleen: ... behavior that led to conversions?
Elle: Yeah. So I was really lucky, coming into Woopra and having all this data already tracked. So I was able to look inside the product and build up these customer journey reports to see the series of steps that people took, and what made them a qualified, or potentially qualified, customer.
So we saw that, in our case at least, when they sign up with a product, added a new organization, added a tracking snippet and built their first report, they were 30% more likely to convert into a paying customer. So the question that I had from this was, how can I accelerate this process? How can we combine marketing and sales efforts to help new users navigate through these steps to really see the full value of the product faster?
And this is where, essentially what's called PQL, or the Product Qualified Lead model, was born for us.
Kathleen: So how does a PQL differ from an MQL?
PQL v. MQL
Elle: Yeah, so the PQL model essentially flips the traditional lead funnel upside down, starting instead with product adoption. It doesn't ignore content consumption or other tradition MQL metrics but incorporates them into a larger narrative that indicates not only for us prospective interest, but whether or not this user would truly be a good fit for your product.
Using that data we were able to test new methods in PQL and learn really what combination of behaviors and company attributes were indicative of a true new potential customer opportunity for our sales team.
Kathleen: So you're using that data to bubble up the most important indicators of likelihood for customer conversion. Do you then feed that into a lead scoring model and have some kind of a trigger? Is there a numerical value when that Product Qualified Lead exceeds it that's then passed on to sales? How does that work?
Elle: Yeah, so we did a couple of different things. We used a tool called Clearbit, integrated with our own platform for data enrichment. So even people who are potentially anonymous on our site, we could identify what company they were with, the vertical, the company size and pass that information along to our sales team so that when that person identified themselves, we'd have a little bit more information in terms of who they are before we even got to product engagement.
But my initial campaign was super simple, and I just wanted to test and see what would work. So we would send an email introducing a feature when we recognized that the user hadn't used it yet during their initial first week in the product.
Elle: 50% opened. Impressive, right? I was so excited.
Of those who opened, 25% of those went on to try that new product feature and after using that feature, we would then use a trigger within our own analytics systems to simply notify our sales team via Slack that we had this new, qualified, engaged user.
So for the first campaign that really helped narrow down that pool of leads, but we still found that wasn't enough to truly qualify these 1500 leads.
So the next phase of this was combining that with additional data points that were at our disposal. So we knew through Clearbit's company sized vertical, that combining that with companies that scored well on the company set level and product engagement level would be the first to push to our sales team.
So combining all of the information we had from Clearbit with "Are they using these product features? How often are they logging into the platform? Have they added their tracking snippet?" and all of these other key indicators was our way of bubbling those up to the sales team and either sending them through Slack, or just creating really nice reports for them in Woopra so they could go in every day and see, "Okay, here are my hot leads for the day."
Kathleen: Now, it sounds like you have a combination of behavioral data as well as demographic data, because you've got Clearbit there to enrich. Are you using any of that, particularly on the behavioral side, to do negative lead scoring? Are there certain behaviors that are red flags that you know, this person might meet the threshold but it's a tell that they're not a good fit or is it really mostly just positive?
Elle: Yeah, it's a little hard with a company like Woopra, and especially in San Francisco, you could have a 10 person company that's a start up, just got around to finding funding and they are very intuitive with their data. They know they need a full fledged analytic solution.
So were we to simply look at something like employee headcount, we would have no idea which customers might actually be a true fit for Enterprise. So we have probably at least 15 to 20 Enterprise accounts where the company sizes are 10 to 20 people. Very small, very agile, but they know that they need access to this level of data.
So we do look at that. But again, combining that with what are they doing when they sign up, which different features are they using -- for us there's no really negative lead score, it's just an indicator of whether or not the sales team should be reaching out immediately, or if we should wait longer and hope that this person pre-qualifies themselves through further usage.
And in those cases we are still adding those people to different Drift campaigns to help nurture those leads. But it is a great way for our sales team to instantly log in every day and know, "Here are the hot leads I should reach out to immediately."
Kathleen: Now, going back to the email that you said, your first pass at trying to use that data to improve conversions, you did that email which has the goal of trying to get the user to adopt a certain product feature that they have not adopted yet. To what do you attribute the really high open rates that you got on that?
Elle: I think, you know, consumers today expect a much higher level of personalization and any time you can take something that they've done or who they are and better personalize that campaign, then you're going to hopefully get higher open rates.
I think it was relevant for them. It was recent because it was something they'd just signed up for and hadn't quite used yet. So all of those aspects certainly helped. We've tried to do a lot more since then.
But for us, I think it's easy, maybe not easy, but, people can find something small like that to test out. A small campaign, just to see if it makes an impact or not and then expand from there.
Adopting PQL does not have to be this six to nine month program, it's something that for the most part marketers can start testing today with different elements of product engagement data that they're collecting to see what might stick and what might not.
Kathleen: Now, if I understood you correctly, you have this premium model and there's no time limit on how long somebody can use the premium version. There might be a volumetric limit as far as the number of records that it will process. Given that there's no expiration date on premium usage, how far into somebody's adoption of your premium product do you hit them and nurture them?
Elle: It really depends on what we're learning about the customer initially. We on Friday released a much more full fledged PQL system. We're calling it a "pressure point."
Not only are we collecting the company size, company fit vertical information like that when they sign up, but we have strategically placed pressure points throughout the platform where if people are trying to use a feature that's maybe an advanced analytics feature, it's something that only is included in a paid subscription, that pressure point will pop open it'll say, "Okay it's time to upgrade to use this feature."
Now we're counting every time somebody hits those blockers and on what feature they hit those blockers and how often over the course of the week. And what's funny is, like on Friday we launched it, I came in on Monday, I ran a report and I said, "Okay, show me everyone who's hit at least five of those blockers." And I was blown away to see that there were people over the weekend who had hit it at least 200 times.
So for me, that's a really great indicator of these are the people who are 100% fit for a paid subscription or more advanced version of our product.
And now that we're collecting this level of data, not only can I see what features or integrations they were most interested in to feed that to the sales team so they have a good basis for that conversation, but we can also use that to personalize email campaigns going forward and tell them off the bat, you know, this person was really, really interested, it's time to tackle them and get on it.
Kathleen: Have you found that there's a certain degree of frequency with what you can reach out to your users and is there any limit to that? In other words, do you need to limit it to once every three days, once a week? I mean, I imagine you could potentially wind up in a situation of email overload.
Elle: Absolutely. We are definitely still learning a lot in terms of how often to email and the types of content we should send.
Right now, we're basically sending two emails in the first week, two emails in the second week for nurturing. And then based on that, it'll either be sent to the sales team, or we'll follow back up with something like a product update.
For me personally, I would like to see if we can find a way to either expand the number of emails that we're sending or leverage this new pressure point data that we're collecting to better personalize those emails and see what happens, but I would 100% say if you're trying to send at least the marketing emails more than two to three times a week, it could be overwhelming.
Kathleen: Yeah, I would agree with that. Now, a key part of this whole process for you is to hand off to sales. Can you talk a little bit about how you're working with your sales team? Not just through that hand off, but are you communicating with them well in advance of that around customer fit and the data you're finding and how that feeds into the leads they're getting. And then what kind of data do you pass them when they eventually do get that lead?
I would love to know more about your sales and marketing alignment.
Woopra's Sales and Marketing Alignment Model
Elle: Yeah, so we're lucky in that we're all kind of leveraging the same platform to learn about our customers, to run reports to ask questions.
During the onboarding process, we introduce our sales team to the companies that we believe are a good fit for Woopra based on those that have been with us for years. So they have a good understanding that people who are in SaaS who have these types of integrations will probably fair well in this company size.
From there, we do build a certain number of reports for them. So things like if they're running in a different territory, here are the top leads in your territory, here are some other important engagement metrics that we're gonna incorporate from you.
There's definitely a lot more that we could do, but we do have weekly alignment calls where we're walking through those reports with them and making sure that the data that we're sending them is actually driving results, that they're not drowning in unqualified leads, that we didn't get something wrong.
It's all iterative and testing like, yes we might think that somebody installing an integration makes her more likely to convert him and maybe the numbers show that today, but that doesn't mean that's going to continue in the long run.
So it is a constant iteration and evolution and the way that we work with this team to ensure that everything that we're doing in the marketing side is bringing, not the right opportunities today, but the right customer types in the long term. Because it doesn't do anybody any good if they're signing on people today who are going to churn three months later.
Kathleen: Now who's on that weekly call? Is that the whole sales team and you? Or do you have additional people from your team?
Elle: Yeah, so we bring myself, the sales team, we have a sales engineer there, and that's the gist of it.
We pass along some of the information to our CFO, we're a smaller team, a little more agile. It is nice to have both the marketer's perspective in those meetings to help drive the content for them and help them look at the data, but also having that engineer in the room.
So if perhaps they're doing a demo and something's not quite right, or they're customer requests that come up during the POC phase that aren't quite in the product, we can help to build those into the product roadmap and keep everyone aligned.
Woopra's Marketing Results
Kathleen: That's great. So tell me a little bit about the results you've seen from implementing this product qualified nurturing.
Elle: Yeah, so through the initial email phase and then a couple other PQL campaigns that we ran, one of which was using Drift's live chat feature to incorporate the data that we had about that customer and then automatically, for example, pop up when a Drift live chat message when somebody had installed integration and we wanted to share a piece of content.
So we've tried a bunch of different things over really the last year. Since then we have found that 50% of the leads now coming through the PQL model -- so these high qualified ones that the sales team are reaching out to -- make it through the demo request phase. And of those, 25% of them are at least getting to the POC phase before closing.
So that in and of itself, for me, out of the 1500 leads, being able to allow them to hone in and really target on those that are going to make it through that phase has been great.
Kathleen: That's especially important if you have a smaller team, just not to be wasting the limited bandwidth you have on poorly qualified leads.
Elle: Exactly. And you would think it would matter even more for a bigger team, but I think it's probably harder to test and integrate different types of campaigns like this when you do have hundreds of sales team members to work with.
Kathleen: Yeah. Now has your freemium to paid customer conversion rate increased?
Elle: It has. So it was 30% before, freemium to paid, and we're at 35% now. My hope is that with this pressure point system we'll be able to jump that up to closer to 40% or 45%. But even then, I'm pretty happy with the results overall.
Kathleen: Yeah, that's great. And do you find that the length of time from adoption of the freemium product to conversion and to a paid customer is speeding up?
Elle: It definitely is because our sales team isn't wading through as much in the pool to identify who to reach out to. I think when I first started at the company it was about six months to close from a new sign up, from the day they signed up to an actual enterprise deal.
As of our last all-hands, we're down to three or four months now.
Kathleen: Wow, that's great.
Elle: So it's ... yeah, doesn't seem huge, but it really is a significant difference when you're a startup, in the long run to be able to accelerate that process. And for me, that was kind of "proof is in the pudding." It showed me that something that we're doing is working and that we just need to, maybe not double down on it, but try to find better ways to improve this existing model that we have.
Kathleen: Absolutely. Those are impressive numbers. Well all good stuff.
Kathleen's Two Questions
Kathleen: As somebody who's been in marketing for a while and who's, especially in the startup world, which I think is so interesting and so fast moving, I'm curious to get your answers to the two questions I love to ask all of my guests.
The first is, company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?
Elle: Let's see. HubSpot obviously leads the forefront in terms of really setting the stage for what inbound can be and validating it's use through numerous different types of campaigns from different free offering features as teasers to powerful content to having a very lightweight version of their product that different teams can use for free.
But I was researching this question and going through my emails and every time I get a really good email or a very personalized campaign when I sign up for a new product, I add them to a folder called "Good Emails." And one that stuck out in my mind was Appcues. I'm not sure if you're familiar with that company.
Elle: Yeah, they do in-app onboarding software and I guess you would expect them to be really good at this since they're collecting all of that PQL data that we just talked about.
But what I noticed was that all of the campaigns that I received from them for my first two weeks of signing up were based on both the company that I was in, so my vertical, they targeted SaaS.
They knew the integration tools that I was using that integrated with theirs and they spoke to those. And they also based those emails around the different features that I was using.
So it felt personal, it was relevant, and the emails were light enough that they caught my attention without drowning me in sales calls or overwhelming me with too much content.
Kathleen: Well, that tracks very well with what you said earlier about recency, relevance, and personalization.
Kathleen: That makes a lot of sense.
The other question is, digital marketing changes so quickly and I'm always fascinated to learn how people like yourself stay up to date and educate themselves on all of those changes that are happening.
Elle: Isn't your podcast the only thing people listen to?
Kathleen: Well I know we're definitely one of them, that's for sure.
I'm not sure if you've read "Open View Partners." They have a blog called "Open View Labs," which is really great content for all things startups from fundraising to success stories.
There's also a venture capitalist from Red Point called Tomasz Tunguz, who writes content from product strategy to compensation to startup culture development.
But yeah, I've noticed that personally I prefer bloggers who provide insight into every aspect of running a startup because I've found the more that you can learn about how different departments run and should collaborate and integrate with one another, the more you're able to design marketing campaigns that are really harnessing that collective knowledge of the organization to deliver more personalized or long-term results.
Kathleen: Yeah, those are great suggestions.
One of the reasons I like to ask this question is I feel, myself, that there is this bubble that we as marketers live in and it's very easy to stay within the bubble and we're all listening to the same podcasts and reading the same blogs and it's dangerous because if you do what everyone else is doing, you're going to get results that everyone else is going to get. And really what you want are better results than everybody else. So I like those suggestions a lot and I'm going to have to check those out.
So if people have questions about product qualified lead nurturing or about Woopra or anything else that we've talked about today, what is the best way for them to find you online?
Kathleen: Fantastic. I will put all of those links in the show notes.
Before we close out for today, I have an ask for anybody who's listening. If you listened to today's episode and you like what you heard or you've been listening and you've gotten value out of the podcast, it would mean a lot to me if you would just take a few minutes and go into iTunes or Stitcher or whatever platform you listen on and leave a review.
It makes a huge difference in terms of getting us in terms of more interested marketers. So take five minutes out of your week and leave a review for the Inbound Success podcast.
And if you know somebody else doing kick-ass inbound marketing work, tweet me @workmommywork because I would love to interview them.
That's it for this week, thank you so much, Elle, it was a lot of fun.
Elle: Thank you, Kathleen. Have a good one.
Kathleen: You too.
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