A Simple Path to Victory: The Nonstop Signs Lead Gen Story

Sujan Patel is the founder of Mailshake, a sales engagement software used by 38,000 sales and marketing professionals. He has over 15 years of marketing experience and has led the digital marketing strategy for companies like Salesforce, Mint, Intuit and many other Fortune 500 caliber companies.
  • October 17, 2018

A successful business is never satisfied. Good enough? Average? Head above water? Those are fine for the “others.”

The name of the game is growth. Profitability is obviously important, but long-term profitability cannot happen without growth. What’s worse, “just” being profitable may end up hurting you in a variety of ways down the road.

You need to plan for and actively work towards growth. And there’s no better time than the present. Nearly 60% of SMB owners expect economic growth throughout 2018, and 84% of them are confident (or very confident) about the future of their business.

SMBs can achieve growth via a myriad of methods such as focusing on scalability, producing a high-quality blog, strategic planning, taking calculated risks, investing in employees, and more.

There’s a lot to do, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

But growth – as crucial as it is to lasting success – need not be crushing and confusing. It’s all in how you approach it.

Meet Our Hero: Brandon

Brandon Stapper knows a lot about simple but effective growth. An investor and serial entrepreneur, he started his first business in his garage at the age of 19 when he purchased a custom decal machine on eBay for $400.

That business – 858 Graphics – now serves 10,000+ annual clients in both Canada and the United States, and Brandon has won numerous awards and accolades over the years, including San Diego Business Journal’s Top 20 in Their 20s, and CEO of the Year from Entrepreneur Organization.

But he didn’t stop with just one growth success story. His list of companies includes Crown Growth, Las Vegas Printing Company, and Falcon Global Capital.

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One of his most recent acquisitions is Nonstop Signs, a printing and signage company with 26 years of experience in the industry. With a catalog that includes 1000+ products, and a reputation that boasts 2939 4 or 5-star reviews, it’s a successful business by any definition.

But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t grow and be better.

The Nonstop Signs Saga

When Nonstop was acquired in 2014, it had a good list of corporate clients.

Never one to rest on his laurels, though, Brandon immediately identified the website and lead generation funnel as two top priorities for the business.

Success is good. Growth is better. And his simple but effective strategy for growth? Email outreach.

Enter Mailshake.

The Weapon of Choice: Mailshake

Every hero needs their weapon of choice. While King Arthur had the mystical Excalibur, Brandon and the eight sales reps at Nonstop are all firm believers in the power of Mailshake for sending out automated cold email at scale, but with the personalization needed to get noticed.

There’s a lot of noise in email, so it’s about sending the right email to the right person.” ~Brandon Stapper

You can’t just send a blanket email to dozens or hundreds of recipients and expect a positive response. The content needs to include something about their company, their industry, their first name, and whatever else you can do to demonstrate awareness and effort on your part before making first contact. That’s the difference-maker.

The numbers back that up:

The Nonstop sales team relies on Mailshake to check those three essential boxes: segmented, personalized, and automated.

The Battle Plan

As far as the email messages themselves go, Brandon and his team adhere to a keep-it-simple-stupid philosophy.

Zero in on a Niche

Each “campaign” push will target a particular niche such as restaurants, retail, commercial real estate, and so on. That way, even the email template can be personalized with recent industry news or trends before the true individual personalization is added.

Next, they identify companies and businesses within that particular niche, and the individual decision-makers at those places. Typically targeting either the CEO, marketing department, or graphic design personnel, they do occasionally conduct a deep dig to find trade show or event positions when they know a big event is approaching.

It’s a targeted approach at scale, which is the holy grail of growth.

Keep It Short and Sweet

Brandon sees no need to get fancy or complicated with his automated campaigns: a basic template, some personalization sprinkled in, and a couple of follow-ups. That’s it.

The idea is not to sell at this point. It’s just about making contact and getting a foot in the door. Do that, and it’s a win.

To that end, the Nonstop Signs approach is simplicity itself: no sales pitch, 3 emails in total, and an offer that’s easy to accept.

First Email

The first email is the longest, while still staying short. It includes a very brief introduction to the company and what they do, an offer to send a free digital catalog, and a quick stat about others saving 20% or more to make it all that much more appealing.

The gentle “Are you in charge of this or do you know who I should reach out to?” question at the bottom is a great way to get the message forwarded to the appropriate person if you originally miss the mark. Instead of deleting it, your recipients click the forward button and send it along because you explicitly asked for that courtesy.

If you don’t ask, they’ll rarely if ever do it on their own.

Second Email

If the initial message doesn’t get a response, Mailshake automatically sends out a one-line follow-up five days later (always follow up).

Third Email

Seven days later, the final follow-up is triggered (always follow up more than once). Again, it’s very short and explicitly makes the catalog offer one last time.

One, two, three. About three paragraphs of text in total. Short, simple, and to-the-point. (And don’t forget to include irresistible follow-up subject lines).

According to Brandon, the key is to offer something of value for free, and ideally something to help them a) save money and/or b) grow their business. Their digital catalog approach hits both bullseyes: Nonstop saves their clients at least 20% (as mentioned in email #1), and their products help spread awareness (which is crucial to growth).

To the Victor Go the Spoils

Nonstop Signs has generated an open rate of 22% using this strategy and Mailshake, which is about the same as the overall email average of 21.8%, but several points higher than the marketing and advertising average of 17.81%.

That said, open rates don’t pay the bills.

Too many people focus on open and response rates, when it’s the sale that matters.” ~Brandon Stapper

Brandon and his team nurture the leads generated via Mailshake into dozens of sales. It’s a deceivingly simple system that consistently delivers results.

Who says email has to be complicated to be compelling?

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