How Ladder Rebuilt Their Sales Email Automation from the Ground Up


As a growth marketing agency focused on driving ROI for businesses of all sizes and industries, Ladder is constantly focused on building and optimizing campaigns for our clients.

From ads to emails, CRO to list building, and beyond, our focus is always on looking at performance and making data-driven decisions on what we do next.

But for the longest time, the same couldn’t be said of our internal marketing and sales efforts.

Compared to the impactful growth marketing process we built to power our client services team, our internal efforts were slapdash, disorganized, and without guidance.

So at the beginning of 2017, we decided to take our own medicine. We took a deep dive into following the process that’s helped us grow startups and enterprises alike.

And here’s the thing — it’s worked tremendously well… on the marketing side.

But what’s missing from this equation?


Our sales processes were cobbled together over time, but never by someone that handled sales exclusively. At the time, we were a small team and had to be scrappy and dynamic. Today, we’ve doubled in size and invested deeply in our marketing efforts. Now it’s time to do the same with sales.

In revamping those processes, we had to take a step-by-step approach of laying the groundwork so that we can capitalize on the leads we generate every day via marketing channels. That groundwork will enable us to grow a star-studded salesforce in the near future.

But we had to start somewhere, and that somewhere was exactly the first bit of messaging a new lead gets when they convert on our homepage.

That place was our sales customer journeys.

Here’s what worked

Data-driven scientific decision making is our bread and butter at Ladder. We never just get rid of something without having a hypothesis, testing, and iterating. And that goes beyond just marketing strategy for our clients and ourselves. It also deeply applies to our sales processes.

To properly evolve our sales automated emails, we first had to look at what was working in our old campaign.

First off, we found that including meeting booking links at every step of the drip was critical for getting a lead to book a call with us. Rather than forcing awkward back-and-forth to set up a call, we provide a link to book a meeting up front and let leads self-select into introduction calls. This is something that’s worked tremendously well (we have a 40% meeting booking rate across all leads), so we committed to keeping it in our new drip sequence for qualified leads.

Another thing that’s been tremendously impactful is how we’ve baked content into every step of our sales cycle. Content from our blog, press mentions, guest posts, and more gets plugged directly into our sales automation and outreach, enriching the experience of a lead and driving up meeting booking rates.
Finally, we’ve found that a personalized approach, from a personal work email, with a friendly and casual tone, has worked well with our audience.

Those are the three pillars upon which we built on what has worked in the past to create new, better sales drip sequences.

Out with the old

Beyond what’s worked, there’s a lot that hasn’t been as effective as we’d like it to be. While there’s much iteration that’s needed in the future, however, we decided to focus on a single major issue with our old drip series.

That issue? Our old series treated all leads as equal.

But not every lead is a qualify, qualified lead.

Here’s the result of that approach:

Our sales team was slammed with intro sales calls. Seriously slammed, and with no time to breathe, take notes, or follow up. And a sizable chunk of those calls was with businesses that we weren’t a good fit.

We’re still in the early stages of building out our in-house marketing and sales processes, so it makes sense that we hadn’t built out proper lead scoring until now. But since we’re doing well enough that we can turn away businesses that can’t afford to work with us, we can no longer nurture every lead through the same flow.

Knowing that we couldn’t afford to have our sales resources stretched by unqualified intro calls, we patched together a hacky solution before diving into creating new workflows.


This sales qualification email was sent out, either manually or automatically, a day before any scheduled call. It transparently showed businesses interested in Ladder what our pricing structure is and enabled them to self-select out of the process if they couldn’t afford our service fee, while also offering up our self-serve SaaS platform as an alternative.

But this was a temporary solution. In our new automation system, we now score leads, and those that don’t fit our criteria receive a completely different customized workflow specifically for their needs.

In with the new

So here’s what’s new in our updated sales email drip series:

I’ll go through each below.

Lead Scoring — The most important sales and marketing undertaking we’ve gone through is creating a lead scoring system where we’ve begun actively asking for more information out of leads before they are segmented into different buckets in our CRM.

Those include asking for things like industry, monthly revenue, and monthly marketing spend. Each factor in our lead workflow gets assigned a number value, with a maximum possible score of 10, and then enters our CRM.

And while we still retain the email address of anyone that doesn’t fill out those details, we’re putting different leads into different buckets based the score they get.

Those buckets are exemplified in our…

Drip Campaigns — We built out two drip campaigns based on the lead scoring workflow above. Those are for unqualified leads (any lead that scores lower than 5 out of 10) and qualified leads (any lead that scores 5 or above).

The unqualified leads aren’t ignored, however. In reality, many of the startup companies we work with today could be considered “unqualified leads” but are tremendous growth partners for us. For this reason, we place any unqualified lead into a pricing qualification workflow.

Based on that workflow, they either are confirmed unqualified and continue down the workflow towards downsells and eventually make their way to our newsletter, or they’re immediately placed in our qualified lead workflow.

Which then leads to our second workflow. Any qualified lead, or any lead that passes pricing qualification after signing up, gets put into a workflow fully dedicated to getting an introduction meeting booked with sales.

We’ve structured this email system out of a logical sales process flow chart, which you can see below.

Workflow Logic — The most important part of each email drip series is the logic behind each step of the process.

Our unqualified lead workflow has one major piece of logic — is the lead pricing-qualified? If yes (i.e. they click a specific link within the original email), they are immediately placed in our qualified lead workflow. If they opt out of our services, they’re then either given the opportunity to demo and trial our SaaS platform, or they’re put into our newsletter email list.

Our qualified lead workflow gets a bit more complex. Here’s how it’s structured:

As with any sales cycle, it’s important to have as many touchpoints as possible, which is why this workflow is long and seemingly aggressive. Closing deals doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s important to be persistent throughout, which is the philosophy we designed this workflow around.

And each step of the way, the intent is to get a qualified lead to set up an introductory call with sales so we can properly talk about how our strategy, processes, and technology aligns well with a potential client’s growth needs.

Goals and next steps

This is our first go at rebuilding our sales automation. We’re fully implementing this email automation over the coming weeks, and we have two major goals and one stretch goal in mind.

Our first goal is to increase introduction call quality, where we no longer have nearly as many misaligned first calls. We want to make sure that we’re no longer stretching our precious sales resources when we don’t find true alignment with a potential growth partner, but we also need to be sure that we’re giving every interested business a chance to chat with us if they need our marketing strategy services or access to our marketing planning software.

Our second goal is to increase the percentage of introduction calls that result in demos booked. This is a key metric for the new lead workflow as it will tell us whether we have high-quality calls that result in actionable next steps with potential clients.

Finally, our stretch goal is to have a great solution for every business that inquires about our software and services, whether that’s self-serve SaaS access or a full-blown marketing services engagement. Anyone that comes to and submits an inquiry deserves our full attention, and creating personalized, customized email automation flows is critical for that goal.

As far as next steps go, we’ll be closely monitoring how the new workflow performs based on the KPIs mentioned above. From there we’ll either iterate or double down where things are working, and we’ll make changes where performance is lagging.


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