How a Viral Email Campaign Helped Juniper Networks Triple its Contact Base and Boost Advocacy

How a Viral Email Campaign Helped Juniper Networks Triple its Contact Base and Boost Advocacy
Stephanie Tilton - Tue Feb 02, 2010 @ 01:58PM
Comments: 98

In December of last year, Juniper Networks® announced that it had won the 2009 B2B Marketing Award for Best Use of Email with its Junos® Software campaign. Here Claire Macland, Senior Director of EMEA Marketing for Juniper Networks, shares a behind-the-scenes look at how the campaign came to be – and why it was ultimately so successful.

Q. What was the catalyst for the campaign?

A. Juniper Networks offers high-performance networking solutions, and one of our key technology differentiators – and key value propositions – is the ease of using our products due to our single operating system, called Junos. This OS runs on all of our products, be it our switches, security devices, routers, or any other offerings. To effectively market our solutions, it helps if there's a broad base of Junos skills within the organizations we're targeting.

The purpose of this campaign was to boost the number of Junos advocates within our target market. So in essence, this was a customer advocacy program aimed at making sure that technical folks who work with operating systems are aware of – and have positive feelings about – Junos.

Q. Was the campaign targeted at prospects, customers, or both?

A. We combined our prospect database and customer data and identified those already using our technologies, those who had certification in our technology, and those who had attended one of our training days. Regardless of the category, these people had two things in common: they were technical in focus and had at some point expressed interest in Junos.

Q. How did you cut through the inbox clutter?

A. We sent an email to this list of 4,000-4,500 contacts. The goal of the email was to understand what these recipients wanted us to develop so we could start an ongoing dialogue with them. We asked: "If you could have whatever you wanted from Juniper, what would it be?" And we offered them a technical book in exchange for their views: JUNOS Enterprise Routing published by O’Reilly.

Juniper email

This was a new, dialogue-based approach for us. Generally we take the traditional approach: we make an offer to our prospects and customers in exchange for their information so we can then target them with something else. Here we stepped back and said: "Since we want to build a base of advocates, we need to know exactly what our target market wants and deliver that so they'll have a positive experience and evangelize on our behalf."

Q. What was the response?

A. We got a virtually unheard-of response rate of 40%. An additional 10% of responses were from those who hadn't been original recipients of the email. In other words, the email had gone viral. We also became aware that the URL with our book offer was posted on blogs around the world. Though this campaign was focused on the EMEA region, people responded to us from all geographies, explaining what they wanted to learn about Junos. We aggregated all comments and distilled them into common requests.

Here's a sampling of what the respondents requested:

  • Virtual lab facilities to try out our equipment in a virtual setting
  • Online forum to chat with each other and Juniper experts
  • Webcasts and technical tutorials
  • Roadmap information
  • Education and certification programs

While we offer some of this as a matter of course, we don't necessarily offer it in a programmatic way. We designed the rest of our campaign around those interest areas, and created a portal, called J-Central, to serve as the main hosting platform for this Junos community.

Q. Content creation is often the most daunting aspect of a marketing campaign. Who created the content and portal, and what was the process?

A. Our EMEA marketing folks were responsible for finding and creating the content, and ultimately were pointed to our technical experts in the U.S. Based on responses to polls in J-Central, we found out which topics the program participants were most interested in. We then sent out invites for live events, featuring our chief engineering and technical experts. Our last event was oversubscribed by 200% within five hours of the invitations being sent.

The content was very compelling. We demonstrated our technology in real time, and participants in countries around the world could interact with the engineers behind our technology. The conversations went on long after the speakers had finished.

Q. The campaign ran from September 2008 through October 2009. How frequently did you reach out to the target audience?

A. We emailed alerts about site updates – such as online webinars, practice environments, online training, coding libraries, and software release updates – fairly frequently, sometimes every week. But remember, this was a strongly opted-in list because of the usefulness of the content. By the end, nearly all emails ended up going viral using the "forward-to-a-friend" mechanisms we embedded. We increased our contact base from 4,500 to over 15,000 by October 2009.

Even though the campaign was initially built off an email approach, we made great use of Web 2.0 technologies and social-media platforms, including YouTube, live chat, forums, and Twitter. While we were already involved in those channels, we had extra incentive to use them once we saw how much our audience grew due to viral activity. We made sure the right mechanisms were built into our communications to make it easy for recipients to pass them on. It was an opportunity to use these channels in a creative way. Plus, it was measurable – we could see how many contacts we had and how quickly they responded to various promotions.

We also offered the email address of one of our employees so program participants could submit feedback. While it was extremely time-consuming for this employee to respond, she ultimately built up a large Twitter following. It was a prime example of how these social-media platforms work – if people see value, they'll use them.

Q. Did your channel get involved in the campaign?

A. Our channel got involved because it's interested in learning about Junos. While we facilitated different ways for the channel to participate, we haven't passed on contacts as leads – that's not in the spirit of what we originally promised to the audience. Plus, the fact that a large number of prospects and customers responded so enthusiastically to our events and content doesn't mean we have lots of hot leads for our channel reps. After all, in an advocacy program, you're not selling anything. But you're building ongoing advocacy, respect, and appreciation for the Juniper brand within the hearts and minds of those people, which goes a long way. That said, if the channel is involved in the same events, chats, real-time polls, and other activities as the program participants, they have an opportunity to engage with potential customers.

Q. How did you measure the success of this campaign?

A. If we measure campaign success based on whether or not we're building advocacy, we can clearly see that we've been successful. We've heard from prospects, customers, and partners how pleased they are with their experience of the brand. That's like gold dust for a marketer. And these are just the ones we're aware of. Out on the Internet, we're confident when people talk about their experience of this campaign, they'll say it has been very positive.

Q. Have the results of this campaign changed Juniper's approach to marketing?

A. It hasn't altered our approach but it has given us the extra incentive we needed to build a program that helps expand our technical advocacy programs. What we did with this campaign is what good B2B marketers know they should be doing. Having said that, I know it's easy to lose sight of this best practice. When you sell technical solutions, it's easy to get lost in details about speeds and feeds and have one-way communication with your audience, telling them what they should be interested in, and that if they fill out this form with 15 fields, you'll send them a white paper. The great marketing happens when you step back from that. I'm not claiming we don't fall into this mindset from time to time, but we do step back once in a while to think more strategically about what the customer wants to hear. With this campaign, we managed to deliver on that.

While this is a great approach for building advocacy, a different approach is needed when you are trying to market and sell your solutions. Monetizing your marketing efforts and driving leads is still crucial. On a conceptual level, social media has changed that. Juniper actively embraces a number of social media efforts that are not about lead creation but are about conversational marketing and going on a journey with prospects and customers. Ideally you want to bridge the different approaches.

Q. What are your plans for building on the success of this campaign?

A. Because the number of advocates enrolled and involved in this program is so large, the campaign and program has been adopted globally within Juniper. Now Juniper's U.S. headquarters is responsible for nurturing the program, delivering additional resources, and finding more interactive ways to engage with advocates, such as via live chat, Twitter, and YouTube.

Q. What lessons can you share with other B2B marketers?

  • It's all about the content – give people what they really want, not what you want them to have.
  • People want their voices to be heard so provide a platform to allow this dialogue to happen.
  • Build your activities so that they can easily be passed on – encourage your customers to take your messages viral.
  • Once you have a solid group of advocates, don’t be tempted to start selling hard to them. They will unsubscribe super-fast!

About the author: Stephanie Tilton is a freelance marketing writer who helps B2B companies craft content that nurtures leads and advances the buying cycle. You can follow her on Twitter or read more of her posts on Savvy B2B.

Read more Savvy B2B posts from Stephanie.

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