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Awards case study: How Sage Pay created a £1.56 million pipeline

Find out how Sage Pay put MQLs back in the game with a £1.56 million pipeline while targeting SMEs


When your product has similar features and pricing to your competitors, how can you convince prospects to switch provider?

That was the challenge for Sage Pay, who had a pipeline gap for their payment gateway software and only held 6% market share among retail and hospitality SMEs.

Even if their payment gateway wasn’t optimal, small businesses didn’t see it as a priority issue to resolve. So, Sage worked with The Marketing Practice to show how small niggles from payment gateways can have a much bigger impact on key business drivers.

With an integrated digital media plan, helpful and relevant content, customer journeys and lead scoring orchestrated through Eloqua, and effective sales enablement materials, the campaign was wildly successful.

So far, Sage has generated 3,559 sales-accepted leads with ideal prospects in one year, to the delight of the sales team. Despite the average deal size being just £500 per year, the campaign has created over £1.56 million of pipeline.

Sage Pay@Table I Hospitality payment solution designed to delight your customers


Sage is the UK’s second largest technology company and is best known for its accounting software. However, Sage also has a wide range of HR and finance solutions which do not have the same recognition, including their payment gateway, Sage Pay.


All retail and hospitality businesses have a payment solution in place for online payments and bookings, and in-store. Even if the solution is clunky or unintuitive, SMEs rarely see it as a big enough issue for a business to make a change. They perceive it as costly and complicated to switch, for only marginal benefit.

The sales team at Sage were struggling to find a compelling angle to talk about the product. Sage’s service was similarly priced to competitors and had comparable features. The brand had a £500,000 pipeline shortfall for this business line, and needed to get people thinking about the impact a payment gateway has on their business. So Sage worked with The Marketing Practice to develop a proposition, coming up with an eye-catching creative campaign into mid-market prospects to get them to switch.

They focused on amplifying the niggles of a bad payment solution to help SMEs recognise how it has a bigger impact on business drivers than they thought. If slow payments impact customer experience, or the gateway is not secure from fraud, that has a knock-on effect on brand and reputation. 

If your company is trying to expand into other countries, but customers don’t have access to locally recognised payment methods and currency, that has an impact on sales and productivity.

Objectives of the campaign

  • Achieve a four month timeline (from brief to launch).
  • Deliver 1,000 qualified opportunities with ‘sweet spot’ accounts by May.
  • Achieve £500k pipeline.

The target audience

The campaign targeted business owners, managing directors, as well as IT and finance managers and directors in the retail and hospitality mid-market sector.

Sage targeted companies with a card payments turnover between £500k–£2.5m in the lower mid-market.

The target audience comprised 74,000 retail & hospitality businesses that sat within this criteria, where Sage only had 6% of the market share at the time.

Media, channels or techniques used

The messaging for all campaign materials followed the overall theme highlighted in the planning – that bad payment processes had a bigger impact on sales, growth, productivity and brand than you think.

This was used across display advertising, social media, paid search adverts, landing pages, and syndicated content on websites such as Spiceworks and Leadscale. Further down the funnel, Sage created materials to arm the sales teams and partners with a new way to talk about switching payment gateways.

As part of the campaign’s second wave, Sage created a video advert, developed to drive more interest in the proposition at a brand level.

All media channels directed towards the campaign content hosted on the Sage Pay site. There were two content hubs featuring end-to-end funnel content – including a bespoke 

‘Insider’s Guide to how businesses are making payments pain-free’

. The Sage Pay team also had unprecedented access to the Sage main website, allowing them to get the benefit of Sage’s SEO for the campaign, instead of sitting on separate landing pages.

The whole campaign was coordinated through the Eloqua marketing automation platform, feeding into Sage’s CRM system. This allowed the team to apply lead scoring to prospects and qualify the high volumes of inbound engagement. This qualification process ensured that leads passed on to sales were with ‘ideal fit’ prospects in relevant accounts – meaning the conversion rate to sales-qualified leads was more than double Sage’s average.

Timescales of the campaign

May 2017: planning and development.

August 2017: first wave delivery and campaigning.

April 2018 (ongoing): second wave delivery and campaigning.


In total the campaign has generated 3,559 leads so far, with an FY18 pipeline value of £1.56 million. This is impressive considering the average deal size is just £500 per year.

The messaging successfully changed attitudes among prospects, shifting their perception from “I have bigger fish to fry” to “I need to sort this now”.

Because our average deal size is low, we have to generate a lot of leads to hit target. If the lead qualification isn’t set up right, you end up sacrificing quality for quantity – and this just aggravates the sales team. This campaign has been exceptional at generating leads at scale, but what stands it apart is the consistent quality of the opportunities that have come out of it – truly hitting our target sweet spot.

Simon Frankum, digital marketing lead at Sage Pay

The sales collateral is some of the best we’ve ever had from marketing. It’s made a huge difference. And the opportunities are exactly the kind we’re looking for – normally we have to filter out a lot of mis-classified MQLs, but all of these are genuine leads.

Barry Stearn, strategic partnerships & key accounts director UKI Payments, Sage Pay

This submission won the award for 

Best SME-targeted campaign’

 at the International B2B Marketing Awards 2018. ‘Sage Pay: changing the conversation on payment gateways’ for Sage by The Marketing Practice.

B2B Marketing Awards 2019

Submissions are now open. 

We want you, B2B’s most wanted.

It’s time to stake your claim to stand among the most wanted in our industry. The mavericks, the pioneers, the titans of B2B Marketing. We want you.

Submissions close 12 June 11:59 BST

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