About Sree Vijaykumar

Founder and Managing Director of TradeBriefs, a business e-newsletter company that empowers professionals with industry expertise and jobs. Believer in Growth and Transparency.

How to run a successful lead generation campaign!

In this post, we take the example of a campaign we have been running for a client for the past several months, our experiments and our learnings from it, which have helped us deliver high quality inquiries on a consistent basis.
Objective: Lead Generation from a specific target segment – for example, Small Business Owners

Consider the 4 dimensions in Digital Marketing, which are important in deciding the success or failure of a campaign
1.Audience – Consider the data quality and the targeting capabilities that will help you go after the audience you desire. In our example, Small and Medium Enterprise Owners (SMEs) are a tough segment to target. Fortunately, we have over 350,000 SME subscribers in our email newsletter audience, so that’s a great starting point. Understand your target segment and look for specific publications that may have your desired target segment.
2.Channel – The second factor to consider is the channel or medium where you will target your audience. This works in conjunction with 1. above. You could consider 1. and 2. together if it makes things easier. While email works great, there’s only so many emails you can send to an audience in a given span of time. Now, the SME audience is also available on Facebook (most people use Facebook), but the targeting capabilities of Facebook are not very well equipped to target SMEs. However, Facebook allows you to upload a custom email list and target them. We can now target TradeBriefs SME subscribers on Facebook as well. Some of them engage better on Facebook than on Email, giving us more leads.
Update – Linkedin now allows custom audiences, which may work better than FB for B2B Lead Generation
TB , FB, Linkedin
Also, we have phone number data on many of our subscribers – SMS is a channel that can be used to target these SMEs. All SMEs have phones, and SMSs (text messages) still command good engagement and cost of delivery is low.
TB, FB, Linkedin, SMS
Targeting our audience on multiple channels gives us additional reach. By using features like FB lookalike audience, we can multiply the reach by more than 2000%.
3.Messaging/Creative – Once you have identified your audience and the appropriate channels, think of the messaging and creative. In the physical world, it all starts with the creative, but in digital, because each channel engages with customers in unique and different ways, it makes sense to think channel and audience first. Your FB creative and approach may not make sense on Linkedin and vice versa.
Direct Messaging
There are multiple creative approaches that can be used for digital campaigns. One can use Direct Messaging, where the product benefit is directly highlighted and a lead form is used to capture customer interest.
Case Studies
Case studies are useful for more complex business products where the business benefit is highlighted through a client success story or a case study (thought leadership). Some of the best leads will come in using this approach, but they may be early in the customer journey, so they will need to be nurtured (regular emails highlighting thought leadership, education through webinars, etc). At some point these leads become sales ready.
The broad formats of creatives are text (use this for email subject lines, LinkedIn text ads, FB bylines, SMS messages), image (use this within newsletters, on FB, Linkedin Newsfeed, etc). Each channel also has its unique format specifications in terms of size, what kind of images are recommended, etc.
In our example, we came up with 140 character text ads which are used in SMS, ‘Image + text’ ads which are used in Facebook and HTML creatives which are used for emailers. Different emailers and FB creatives were created with Direct Messaging and Case Study approaches in mind.
4.Flow/Lead Capture Mechanism – A lead form is a standard acceptable way to capture leads. However, in some cases it pays to be flexible and creative. For example, in ‘business letter format’ emailers, it makes sense to encourage recipients to actually reply to emails. Some of the highest quality inquiries come in through email replies or through the phone, rather than through form-fills. For SMS campaigns, missed call responses or callbacks can also be tested out.

Use the framework above to help you structure your experiments better. Then learn as you go and double down on the “Audience-Channel-Messaging-Flow” combinations that work best for your campaign requirements.

The Real Deal with Email and What TradeBriefs does right!

So, here’s the real deal with email. Yes, we all get too much email, but for those of us who check it, we do so over 15 times a day. One of the reasons we check email so often is because we need it for work, we need it for other important communication, including transactions and brand communication. Also, spam detection technology has gotten a whole lot better and email was one of the first ‘apps’ on our smartphones. Email is a habit. What about millenials, are they checking email? Here’s what summarizes their thought process – “Email is for serious business. Texting, Twitter and Facebook are for socializing.”

Now, what does TradeBriefs do right?
TradeBriefs is all about serious business. TradeBriefs gets subscribers from its 14 industry-focused websites (Retail, Telecom, etc), or through industry association partners like Retailers Association of India (RAI), Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), Great Place to Work Institute, Franchising Association of India (FAI), Direct Marketing Association of India (DMAI), eTailing India and Locator. Our newsletters are daily and relevant (industry news from your sector), which builds a daily reading habit. This gives us 2 things – high deliverability and brand recall. Email providers are increasingly moving towards machine learning driven approaches to determine whether an email makes it to the Inbox or lands in spam. Gmail will even reward your email with visibility in the Primary tab if your reader engages with your email often. So, engagement is key.

High engagement gives TradeBriefs emails high deliverability. Also, most TradeBriefs subscribers subscribe from their work email addresses, which also gets higher attention. Our deliverability advantage, combined with work email address opt-ins get us 200% – 300% of industry averages in email opens and clicks.

TradeBriefs wins Technology Off Campus Award at IvyCamp Challenge 2015

TradeBriefs has won the Technology Off Campus IDG Ventures Award at the IvyCamp Challenge 2015 . The IvyCamp – Business Plan challenge is a multi-step evaluation process to select the best business plans among the business plans received which will be eligible for funding through IvyCap.

Watch the video footage

ivycamp tradebriefs award

TradeBriefs inks partnership deals with 5 new partners, including eTailing India and Great Place to Work Institute

TradeBriefs produces industry-specific newsletters for professionals. Last year, it introduced a partner model where opt-in members/prospects of companies and associations could take advantage of TradeBriefs’ content and technology expertise to create custom daily newsletters for their members. The first partner to sign up was Retailers Association of India. This was followed by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

Following this, TradeBriefs has rolled this model out to several new partners, including eTailing India (eCommerce) and Great Place to Work Institute (HR). “Each newsletter is carefully curated by an editor who understands the space,” says Sree Vijaykumar, Managing Director, TradeBriefs. This helps corporate decision-makers and professionals stay knowledgeable about their industry in just a few minutes a day.

Ashish Jhalani of eTailing India agrees. “TradeBriefs is a valuable partner for eTailing India. The daily briefs powered by them are something the entire industry looks forward to every day.We havereceived tremendous branding and leads for our events through this channel, as more and more industry professionals opt in to stay informed and knowledgeable.”

Here are TradeBriefs’s current partners. 

DMAI Great Place to work IAMAI
Young Biz Times Webvriksha CIM Global
Franchise association of india Select R and D Creativity

How Native Advertising helped Gartner double its lead count in 30 days


It started with Minaz Adenwala, Marketing Manager – Gartner (and a TradeBriefs Software subscriber), thinking about ways to attract new audiences to Gartner’s events in India. There are 2 role based summits in Mumbai and a Symposium/ITxpo conference in Goa that Gartner conducts in India every year. “The TradeBriefs Software audience seemed like a good fit, so we started with a partnership where we offered them branding at our event in return for promotional e-mailers to their audience,” says Minaz. “However, we soon realized that a deeper relationship was in order, to really take advantage of the audience engagement that TradeBriefs has.”

The result was a native advertising campaign within TradeBriefs newsletters. Readers were segmented to include CEOs, CIOs and the next level of reports.They were further segmented into 2 groups – top of the funnel and bottom of the funnel.

Top of the funnel

The top of the funnel folks were those who had heard of Gartner but had never really engaged with the brand. The way to get them into the Gartner funnel was by providing them access to exclusive content that added value to their job roles. The objective was educating them about Gartner. Once they saw value in the content, they were more likely to respond to offers to attend Gartner events (fyi – The annual Goa conference is priced at at Rs 73,650 plus taxes). Below is a screenshot of the content included in the newsletter followed by the lead capture form, most of which gets pre-populated since readers have submitted their profile information to TradeBriefs before.

Bottom of the funnel

The bottom of the funnel folks are already convinced about the brand, but needed more information about the specific event, pricing, etc. Here the approach was to gather their inputs on specific areas in IT (BI, ERP, Cloud, etc) that were of interest to them and create a custom agenda from the event and send it to them. Note that there are 9 parallel tracks going on at the Gartner annual conference at any given point in time, so it’s physically impossible to attend all sessions. Readers appreciate the customization and are more likely to actually attend once they see the specific value to them. This was enabled through native advertising again, but with a more direct approach. Below is a screenshot of the content in the newsletter followed by the custom lead capture form, which captured the reader’s preferences.

In either case, Gartner sales team members were told to educate these prospects about Gartner events, the speakers, the analysts and the whole package, through a series of emails, followed by phone calls to the more likely prospects. The native advertising within the daily email newsletters delivered several hundred leads, mostly CIOs and direct reports. We’ve analyzed why this campaign worked vs some other approaches and here are our conclusions.

  1. Native advertising is less intrusive than direct email marketing, which although more effective in the short term, cannot be used too frequently. Native advertising on the other hand can be used daily, since the ad content is interspersed with news and jobs content that the reader finds direct value in.
  2. Targeting and context are important. Native advertising content cannot be too removed from the rest of the content as the reader is in a certain frame of mind and is reading your publication with a certain purpose. For TradeBriefs, it’s typically B2B advertising that works well.
  3. Understanding of the funnel is important. Like with any form of advertising, some readers will be exposed to the brand being advertised for the first time, others would be closer to making a purchase decision. As long as marketers understand how to handle these different types of leads, it’s fine. Top of the funnel folks need more education and hand-holding. Bottom of the funnel folks need specifics and perhaps an offer to convert quickly. So, don’t waste time educating bottom of the funnel folks or giving offers to top of the funnel folks.


How you can get an extra hour in your workday every day aka ‘Solving the Curation Problem’

Let’s analyze your daily content consumption habits. You are spending way too much time on Twitter and Facebook! Sure, you read that great blog through Twitter last week and that inspirational quote on FB, which got you all fired up and productive. But at the end of the day, you feel like you’ve not done much work. The fact that your likes and comments have earned you ‘favourite cousin’ status in your family and you know exactly what Richard Branson was thinking a few minutes ago don’t seem to help.

So you’ve decided to filter your tweets and removed a bunch of acquaintances from FB who are not really your friends. Good for you!

Now, subscribe to TradeBriefs. It’s work-related stuff – News, Insight, Jobs. It will keep you smart (think promotion! think raise!)  and it’ll save you an hour every day; from roaming the corners of the internet, looking for content.

Our editors (aided by our curation algorithms) read everything that’s important, then pick the articles that really matter, package it into a nifty newsletter and deliver it into your Inbox every day.  If you are in India, we have 7 sectors that you can deep-dive into right now (www.TradeBriefs.com). Since you love infographics so much, here’s one that explains how we do it. The individual personalization is limited to jobs right now, but soon we’ll be able to tell if you care about macro-economic fundamentals or cross-channel merchandising and help you become an expert at either.

TradeBriefs Content Curation Methodology


Entrepreneurs and Wantrapreneurs: Keep these things in mind when receiving feedback!

One piece of advice every early-stage entrepreneur will get is to get feedback from a lot of people on your business. This is indeed important, especially customer feedback, to improve your product and business model; but also investor feedback, mentor feedback and feedback from anyone who could potentially add value to your business. However, one of the challenges with going out and getting all this feedback is dealing with NOISE. Noise is feedback that should NOT be included in your decision-making process, because it is, well, noise; not useful information! For various reasons, people don’t always give useful feedback.

A real challenge is avoiding the tendency to dismiss negative feedback as noise because you don’t like what you hear.

So, how does one figure out what is useful feedback and what is noise?

I had an opportunity a few months ago to go through this process, as I met with several mentors at 500 Startups as part of the accelerator program. We also went through several weeks of modifying our investor pitch, getting feedback and going through that cycle again and again. The people giving us feedback were investors, ex-entrepreneurs and others in the startup scene. I got feedback from well over 50 people in a period of 3 months. Here’s how I went about separating the feedback from the noise.

Is he good at giving feedback?

Where I had an opportunity, I observed the person giving feedback to others before I formed an opinion on that person’s ability to give good feedback. You watch someone giving feedback a few times and it becomes clear to you if the person understands the objective of the process and is actually giving good actionable feedback – something the entrepreneur can use to improve the pitch/business model. Observing as a third-party helps you be neutral and not let your own pre-conceptions cloud your opinion of that person’s feedback-giving skills.

Does the person understand your space?

Somebody who might give excellent feedback to an entrepreneur in the real estate industry may not be the best judge of online media. Industry knowledge and experience matter, especially when diving into the details. Give more importance to feedback from someone who has done something similar before, more so than from someone who is a celebrity but has never dealt with your space before.

Un-bias yourself, be statistical in your approach

If 10 people who are good at giving feedback and understand what you are doing tell you something you don’t like, it is more likely that you are biased in your opinion. Don’t kill the dream, but take something constructive out of every feedback and incorporate it. Intuition is great, but bias towards something as personal as your own venture is a real thing. So, when in doubt, get statistical. Are many ‘credible’ people telling you the same thing? Use it!

Take something positive out of every interaction

While we like to read stories about how successful entrepreneurs beat the odds by defying conventional logic, remember that the untold story is one of the mentorship and feedback they got from others who tread that path before.