How Cirrus Insight brings automation to sales teams and grows referrals with giftcards

Miss one follow-up and your deal may go up in smoke. How can sales professionals stay on top of their opportunities? How can they track their efforts and find out where to improve?

Enter Flight Plans from Cirrus Insight. Best known as the first product to integrate Gmail with, Cirrus Insight has brought automation capabilities to the sales force.

Brandon Bruce, Co-Founder of Cirrus Insight, shared his marketing lessons learned in growing the company and launching a new product.

1) What is the Flight Plans product and how does it help customers?

It’s like a travel itinerary for salespeople and sales teams. For years, it’s been popular to talk about the customer journey. Flight Plans is our way of organizing each step of the journey. Flight Plans takes marketing automation, adds more personalization and control, and brings it to the sales team.

Cirrus Insight’s Flight Plans continues to send out customized emails according to your sales playbook until you see a response. If there’s a reply, great – you engage in that conversation. If there is no reply, there is a follow-up message ready to go, or a call script for a phone call, or a social step like reaching out on LinkedIn. Unlike purely email-focused products, Flight Plans also brings in phone and social follow-up. Ultimately, we are making sure sales people never let opportunities fall through the cracks.

For the individual sales professional with a steady volume of prospects and opportunities, Flight Plans enables you to keep track of your progress in each relationship. From a sales manager’s standpoint, the product helps the team and the organization track activities and align them with target outcomes. We also have teams of users in customer support, account management, and related customer-facing fields like customer success.

Instead of focusing exclusively on traditional metrics, like email opens, number of calls, and emails sent, Flight Plans focuses  on the outcome. We want to track the sales results that matter like the number of people who schedule a call, attend a demo, start a trial, or make a purchase. Once you understand what activities are working, you can focus on those activities.

2) How did you acquire the first 100 paying customers for Flight Plans product?

We had an existing customer base from the core Cirrus Insight product which was the first application to connect Gmail with Salesforce. In serving those customers, we saw high customer demand for a sales enablement solution that was a force-multiplier for sales teams. We started getting more and more demand from non-marketing groups – specifically sales,  account management, and customer success seeking the automation and systems that marketing departments have had for a decade.

These non-marketing departments wanted to control the cadence and the content of their messaging. We’ve found that marketing emails tend to be designed and focus on company-level messages. In contrast, sales emails tend to be shorter, be in plain text, and be highly personalized to the recipient. Plus, by sending the emails from the salesperson’s own email address (rather than through a third party server like marketing automation platforms), the deliverability rate is much higher. Consequently, engagement rates (replies, forwards, hyperlink clicks) are much higher as well.

3) Cirrus Insight has an extensive resource library (e.g., ebooks, case studies, infographics). Which type of marketing asset are you focused on publishing more of this year and why?

We’ve seen content marketing approaches ebb and flow in popularity over the years. For a time, webinars were popular, and then they went out of fashion, and then they came back. We have seen the same pattern occur with event marketing, infographics, social outreach – you name it

This year, we are getting more into podcasts – we enjoy telling our story and learning from hosts and other guests. So far, We’ve also been guests on dozens of podcasts that focus on sales and entrepreneurship. Last year, we also launched our own podcast with about 50 episodes. This year, we’re also focusing on influencer marketing: connecting with people who can spread the word about Cirrus Insight to folks who make a living in their inbox and calendars where we can save time and add value.

Note: The podcast concept is a good take on the business podcast genre:

About “Love/Hate Sales”
We love sales (the money, obviously, and the hustle). But we also hate sales (awkward cold calls, pushy tactics). Join us (Kenneth Herring, James Buckley and special guests) for each episode as we talk about one thing we love and one thing we hate about sales.

4) At the time of this interview, the homepage has a referral offer: “Refer your colleagues and friends and earn a $5 Amazon gift card!” Can you share details about the results of this campaign?

Over the years, we have tried a variety of different referral campaigns. We have had successful “point in time” referral campaigns with Amazon gift cards and Starbucks customers. Our goal is to get that flywheel going with that referral. So far, we’re happy with the return on investment with this campaign. We’ve sent out many thousands of Starbucks and Amazon gift cards.

Through this process, we’ve observed that referrals exist on a spectrum. The best referral is a direct recommendation from a customer who understands the product to a prospect (in-person is best followed by phone and email).   In the middle of the spectrum, we send out personalized messages from our company with something valuable (a useful piece of content or invitation to an event) along with a coupon code. And then you have people sharing our offer to get Amazon and Starbucks codes. Many of these referrals are to friends and colleagues which are top tier referrals while others are sharing out to the wide world – casting a wide net that helps boost brand awareness and drive demos and trial starts. We want the whole spectrum of referrals – each type has value.

5) What role did the Salesforce AppExchange play in your marketing?

Cirrus Insight was the first application to integrate Gmail with Salesforce in 2011. We’ve had a very positive symbiotic relationship with Salesforce from our early days on the Salesforce AppExchange to direct referrals from Account Executives and Account Managers. . More recently, we’ve also expanded beyond the Salesforce platform. Cirrus Insight is now available to anybody who uses Gmail and wants email open tracking, personalized templates, Flight Plans drip campaigns, our meeting scheduler (my favorite feature), and follow-up reminders..

6) What marketing metrics are most helpful to marketing Cirrus Insight?

The top two most important metrics for us are the number of free trials and demos. In the past, we had a 30-day trial. We found that most purchases happened in the first two weeks of the trial. If they tried the product and liked it, they would purchase, so we switched to a focused 14-day trial a few years ago which has been good for us and our customers.

7) What online publications and communities do you regularly visit for insights on the SaaS industry?

I read anything and everything by Seth Godin. I also follow Jason Lemkin; he is a leading authority on building SaaS companies and runs the SaaStr website and conference. Most importantly, in-person conversations with other SaaS founders are always the most helpful..

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