A Marketo Practitioner’s Guide To Improve Database Health And Grow Pipeline Using Reply Emails

October 16, 2018 2:45:43 PM | By Matt Benati

A Marketo Practitioner's Guide To Improve Database Health And Grow Pipeline Using Reply Emails

Before we begin, I want to give a huge shout-out to Jessica Kao, Digital Pi Director of Client Services and Marketo Champion, for contributing excellent Marketo workflow details (and screen grabs) for this article.

Now, let’s jump in….

You know the drill. You send an email campaign to your database, and your marketing inbox is instantly filled with email auto-replies like Out-Of-Office and Left-The-Company. While the unassuming Out-Of-Office reply used to be considered a “nuisance,” we now know they actually contain an invaluable amount of intelligence about your target accounts and leads. And with the average email campaign returning around 1.5% – 2% replies, and Out-Of-Office replies representing the highest percentage – around 87% – of auto-responses, it’s easy to see how quickly your inbox can fill up with loads of valuable intel!

If you know how to effectively leverage that data, you not only improve the health of your database, but also grow pipeline by adding net new contacts and increasing connect rates. (You heard that right: Out-Of-Office replies can help you increase connect rates!) Then, go a step further and apply the data to your Marketo Programs and Interesting Moments to automate tasks and close the loop on your reply email strategy.

Here’s how:

Example OOO & How To Leverage The Mined Data

This is a pretty typical Out-Of-Office auto-response. It tells you when your lead is back in the office and who to contact in their absence. But if we look below the surface, it’s really telling you so much more.

Let’s take a closer look at the pieces of intelligence from this OOO and specifically how it can be leveraged.

OOO Email Reply

Validate Email Addresses – The first part of database health is confirming your lead is in fact still a viable contact at your account. That you received an OOO, and not a bounce, validates the email address.

Improve Database Health – If you only had a name and email as the result of an inbound campaign, you now have your lead’s cell phone number and title. If you already had this information, you can compare what you have in your database to what’s in the current OOO, and update as needed.

Add Net New Referral Contacts – More than half of OOOs contain an alternate contact. These are new contacts being referred to you by the leads you’re already engaging, within the accounts you’re already targeting. Practice permission-based marketing and ask them to opt in to future communication from you, then add them to your database.

Increase Connect Rates – Your lead is telling you when they’re back in the office. Give them a day to get settled in, then reach out. Add a personal note about their vacation or seminar (if they mentioned it in the OOO) and ask if you can connect about the topic of your message. Leads will appreciate the personal touch and not just getting the same general email again.

Expand Into Target Accounts – New research from Gartner shows that the average number of people needed to make a B2B buying decision within an organization is 7. Every net new contact you add within a target account gets you that much closer to the magic number. Quickly map new contacts to your account and determine if they’re an influencer or decision maker that can help you close the deal.

Identify Trigger Events – Trigger events, or changes within your account, might not be apparent in an Out-Of-Office, but look closely and compare what you already know about your lead with what the OOO is telling you. Did your lead’s title change? They may have gone from a user to your buyer!

Example Left-The-Company & How To Leverage The Mined Data

Another popular auto-reply is the Left-The-Company email. You’ll see some similar trends in leveraging replacement contacts to improve database health, but there are a couple other things I want to highlight.

Left The Company Email

Let’s take a look at how to leverage this data:

Improve Database Health – First and foremost, you learn that your lead is no longer with the company. You should remove them from your CRM/email lists, and update the account with your new replacement contact.

Preserve Email Send Reputation – Learning your lead left from a LTC versus hard bounce allows you to immediately update your database and stop sending to the bad lead. Continuing to send to an expired email address can cause you to get flagged by corporate spam filters and damage your email send reputation.

Identify Trigger Events – A LTC is one of the most significant trigger events you can mine from reply emails because, 1) if your original lead was blocking you from reaching decision makers, you now have a fresh lead to engage who may be more receptive, 2) if the account was already a customer and the lead was your point of contact for renewals, connect with the replacement lead ASAP to ensure they’re happy and secure the renewal, and 3) in either case, you have a significant timing advantage over competitors by learning about the change via a LTC versus hard bounce. Be the first in and win the deal five times more often.

Follow The Leads – If you had a good rapport with your original lead, find out where they went and connect with them at their new company. Remember, people are more likely to buy from people they know and trust. Dig a little deeper and follow the movement of everyone involved in the change, and you could turn up a total of four potential new sales opportunities!

Grow PipelineALL of this ultimately comes together and results in real and measurable pipeline growth!

  • New and fresh intel about your leads keeps your database healthy and allows you to more effectively segment and personalize content.
  • New contacts allow you to more quickly penetrate target accounts, create advocates, and close more deals.
  • Increased connect rates builds rapport and results in more meaningful and engaging conversations.
  • Trigger events allow you to learn about changes in a timely manner, be the first in, and beat the competition.

Applying Data To Marketo Programs & Interesting Moments

Now let’s take a look at a specific example of how to use the mined data from email replies and how to implement them in Marketo.

Use Case: Demand Generation Program For Webinar Attendance

Step 1: Send an email campaign to prospects inviting them to attend a webinar.

Normally, the slew of OOO replies containing a gold mine of data you get back would end up in your inbox that gets deleted or ignored, or in a generic inbox that no one is monitoring. But when you’re mining replies, you can circle back to your original lead, while at the same time engaging new alternate contacts found in OOOs that might also warrant an invite to the webinar.

Step 2: Create a smart list in Marketo with new alternate contacts.

Send a secondary email to the new alternate contacts inviting them to the webinar. Add a personal message, such as “I didn’t want your organization to miss out!” Then, circle back to the original lead that was out of the office.

Demand Generation Program For Webinar Attendance

Step 3: Create another smart list in Marketo with the leads that were out of the office.

Using the dates that each lead will be back in the office, send a secondary email inviting them to watch a recording of the webinar. Again, include a personal message that you’re sorry you missed them but wanted to make sure they had a chance to view the webinar now that they’re back in the office. This opens up another opportunity to connect with your original lead, and another opportunity to boost your connect rate.

Create another smart list in Marketo

Set the above campaign as a recurring daily batch for the duration where you want these folks who are out of office to receive an email to watch the on-demand webinar. You can have this reoccur for a duration of 2-3 weeks. In the above example, leads with an OOO related to your webinar email invite will receive an email exactly 3 days after their return date. The idea is to give them time to clear out their inbox.

Use Case:  Preserving Your Email Sender Reputation

As a marketer, you want to decrease the number of emails sent that end up in invalid email inboxes. And in some cases, continuing to send to invalid email addresses can cause you to be flagged by corporate spam traps. A Left-The-Company (LTC) email tells you a lead has left the company before you receive a hard bounce. With a Marketo smart campaign, it is very simple to automate the process of removing these emails addresses from your lists.  

Set up a smart campaign as shown below.

Left The Company Marketo

Left The Company Marketo Pt2

Use Case:  GDPR, CAN-SPAM, and Unsubscribe Compliance

Buried in the slew of automatic Out-Of-Office and Left-The-Company replies can be human responses requesting to be unsubscribed. Not processing these in a timely manner can be problematic for staying compliant with email spam laws, and in general against best practices.  However, processing these requests can be automated in Marketo by creating the following program. This provides peace of mind knowing that these unsubscribe requests are being automatically handled.

Unsubscribe Requests

Marketo Unsubcribe Requests

Use Case: Updating The Latest Contact Information To Help Sales Connect

You can take two approaches when updating data. Usually, we would not recommend overwriting data that is already existing, but with the OOO emails, the chance of that data being valid is close to 100%. The smart list for the campaign would be the same regardless of the approach taken. However, the flow steps would differ as shown below.

Update Office Phone

Append info but don’t overwrite – The below method will only write the phone number if the Person’s phone number field is empty. This is the most conservative approach.

How to update office phone in Marketo

Append info and update – If you are confident in the data coming from the OOO, then you can take a less conservative approach and write the data regardless of existing values.

Phone number updating

It’s pretty incredible the information you can squeeze out of the email replies sitting in your inbox! Adding Marketo to the mix is the icing on cake as it allows you to automate tasks and processes, reaching thousands of leads with targeted content, and closing the loop on your reply email mining strategy.

If you’d like to learn more about LeadGnome’s capabilities, click below and sign up for a free demo. For more info on reply emails, check out our free eBook Revolutionary B2B Marketing Operations:

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Marketo Champion, Jessica KaoJessica Kao is Director of Client Services and Marketo Champion for Digital Pi. She is a Marketo certified, passionate, high energy, marketing professional with a focus on global marketing programs, lead generation, demand generation, and optimal use of marketing automation. She’s also a frequent speaker on all things marketing automation and marketing technology.

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