Introduction to the problem
Over the last couple of months, we at Ladder have been experiencing the various degrees of impact the recent world pandemic has had on our clients.
Some have gone through periods of accelerated growth while some have seen their businesses suffer drastically. We’ve had E-commerce clients that have seen explosive, 3 digits growth, and clients for whom it was a much harder period.
In this article, we’ll explore one business in particular, EthosData, and how we adapted together to the new reality of its market.
Our attention will be focused on LinkedIn as a platform, which has always been one of our favorite platforms for B2B businesses due to its targeting capabilities and available audiences.
First, some context.
EthosData – The company and its industry
EthosData is a virtual data room provider. You can think of virtual data rooms as extremely secure online storage for highly sensitive documents. A bit like an ultra-safe cloud storage platform with a high degree of service if you’d like! These rooms are mostly used by industries where information needs to remain highly confidential, and extremely well managed. Some examples of typical clients include companies working on Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A), whereby a company looking to get acquired shares private information with a potential buyer, in order for them to perform their due diligence process. If that information were to be made public, it could have serious repercussions on either company, especially if those are traded on stock exchanges. Another example are board communications and fundraising processes, where a company needs to share information securely with the board and investors, or with potential investors when looking for new capital. A data room helps share confidential information fast and easily and track all activity.
In the case of EthosData, the M&A industry had been its main source of revenue since it was founded in 2008. You could very much say that the financial well being of the company is highly correlated to the financial well being of the whole M&A industry at this point in time.
The context of that industry amidst COVID 19
We had started to work with EthosData back in March 2020. Our objective: Developing over the next year a digital pipeline of deals that would eventually rival EthosData’s offline pipeline in volume and quality.
However, we soon came to realize we were going to have to get very creative. Due to the crisis, the M&A sector had been hit hard. M&A industry leaders were simultaneously dealing with their current clients halting deals due to the uncertainty of the market, as well as a shrinking pipeline of new deals coming in. The overall industry was slowing down to what would be its lowest pace in years.
Between March and April 2020, sessions dropped by almost 70% compared to the year prior. New users were down 62%. That’s almost two-thirds of your previous year’s traffic gone.
Now that traffic was mostly organic at the time, so we dived deeper to identify what has created such a drastic change in the account.
We confirmed our suspicions that there was a global drop in searches by looking at Google trends. We analyzed the trends in two key countries: the UK (EthosData’s home base) and India (a country where EthosData had a large share of the market and employed an important portion of its workforce). We looked at a few different keywords types to get an overview of the size of the dip over the course of the last 12 months. We took examples of primary and secondary keywords. The graph below highlights three key keywords to this trend:
Data rooms – A primary keyword
M&A – A highly correlated secondary keyword, showing interest in the market as a whole. Not specific to data rooms but gives a notion to the market’s shifting interest
Intralinks – A top Data room provider, and a secondary keyword, whose behavior can reflect in the top companies in the field.
In the above, you’ll notice a few things:
- An overall downward trend for every keyword researched
- A major dip around Christmas time, which is normal
- A not-so-normal dip in Data rooms, our primary and most important signal, starting in March
Though slightly different, Indian trends had a similar overall result:
Conversion efforts vs Nurture efforts
We kicked off our efforts early in our collaboration with bottom of funnel, conversion focused ads. Needless to say, we quickly saw they didn’t perform well.
Lead Gen campaigns on LinkedIn were yielding sub-par quality leads, at way too high a premium. Our initial tests there showed little traction to be improved upon:
So we went on to execute yet another bottom of the funnel campaign, this time in a different format. We were able to generate clicks with the above campaigns, the next logical step was for us to forego the lead gen form and try a conversion-focused landing page. With more contextual information and social proof, we might be able to capture more high-quality leads.
To no avail:
With those conversion campaigns, we went from bad to worse. We were still getting ad clicks, but interest was dwindling extremely quickly once visitors landed on page. No one, whether Lookalikes, US, India, UK/Canada/Hong Kong/ Singapore based seemed to be ready to take the plunge and speak to EthosData about getting a Data room.
Conversations were hard to start, and it was becoming increasingly urgent to pivot to more volume, at a much cheaper price.
After reviewing our options, we went for something a little newer for EthosData.
We had found out the following:
We knew there was a population out there ready to at least engage with our ads
-> That meant our targeting wasn’t at fault here
There seemed to be a reluctance to actually engage with the brand, at least when it came to having a conversation about needing a Data Room
-> We had to change our CTA and our content to align them with the market’s expectations at this time
What do you do when your main customer is a sector suffering a global slowdown, with little willingness to try your product in a time where their risk needs to be managed even more than usual?
You prove your worth.
Time to roll with some highly relevant, topical content. Our main objectives were to:
- Prove EthosData is a brand on which you can rely, that knows its markets through and through
- Provide value to our target audience
- Have a way to reach back out to the prospect reading our material to further engage with them
You’ll notice the immediate goal was no longer to sell as much as we could.
Rather, we adjusted our strategy to take into account the state of the market, and the position of EthosData within that market at this time.
Based on the above goals, we opted to develop a piece of content that could be shareable within the LinkedIn Lead Gen ad format. That would allow us to create an in-platform gated content piece, rather than having traffic navigate to an off-platform page to access the content. It was also a quick way to grab highly relevant emails from within the platform.
After going through a few formats, we landed on what could be most useful and quick to produce at this time (timing was critical): a whitepaper.
This would allow us to focus on research and great writing, with a splash of design to elevate the content and give it a professional yet modern feel.
After picking the topic with EthosData, we were on our way to writing “Preparing for a surge in M&A activity in a post Covid 19 World”.
You can check out the now published Whitepaper for yourselves here:
Upon launch, the results quickly showed us we were onto something. With the same audiences, we were now looking at the following numbers:
The audiences that had previously yielded 12 leads at £115 per lead, were now delivering 131 leads, at an average of £12.24 per lead.
You’ll be able to see above that there were strong regional differences amongst our audiences, but when comparing those results to the initial ones, you’ll notice an increase in Click Through Rate for every audience (on average almost a 30% increase for the same target). The conversion rate exploded.
This success led the EthosData team to spin up the white paper into a second language: Spanish. It’s still delivering to this day, and bringing in a steady stream of leads for the team to nurture, build a relationship with, and activate when business comes back to the industry.
With the economic and industry climate changing drastically around EthosData within the first few weeks of our collaboration, we had to rethink our bottom of funnel approach into a top of funnel/nurture combo.
The result was one of EthosData’s best performing content pieces of all time, at a time where the industry was slowing down globally.
We highly recommend that you read the report if you’re curious about the material, or are yourself employed/impacted by M&A activity worldwide.