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September 28, 2007

Using Complex Online Tools for Marketing, Sales and Service

A September 2007 survey from The McKinsey Quarterly, titled "How Companies are Marketing Online: A McKinsey Global Survey," discusses the importance of complex online tools in our increasingly digitized word.

The survey details not only how companies are using complex online tools in their marketing efforts, but also how organizations have started to digitize other aspects of their business - such as in their sales efforts and customer service programs. According to the survey, some online tools are already widely in use - such as the placement of service information on company Web sites (86% of respondents have this in place), and the use of personalized e-mails for reaching out to customers (78% have in place). In terms of managing sales, most of the respondents do so via their company Web site (79%), while 42% of respondents turn to external eCommerce sites for this purpose.

Less widely employed complex online tools include a Click-to-Call option on Web sites (29%), the sponsorship of User Forums for the sharing of information among customers (22%) and availability of Online Text Chat for customer service assistance (18%). The survey notes that the more an organization has integrated online tools into their marketing strategy, the more likely the organization is to have implemented complex online tools in their sales and service efforts. In terms of online sales efforts, 8% of respondents have a "store" in a virtualized world, and 6% of respondents sell via external auction sites.

Sign up for the report here and see where your company stacks up in terms of complex online tool usage.


September 26, 2007

Don't Scrub Your Leads Before You Start!

The traditional model of qualifying leads based on a prospect’s title or role in the buying process is losing ground. In a 2006 study, “Web Lead Evaluation and Scoring,” KnowledgeStorm set out to “debunk” standard lead scoring practices in the B2B market. By analyzing over 15,000 technology vendor leads, KnowledgeStorm found that vendors who “select-out” leads based on title or role in the buying process often eliminate qualified prospects.

[I have to admit that I first thought this study was simply a self-serving attempt by KnowledgeStorm to cover up what was otherwise a bad IT database - or at least an attempt to suggest that there was value on the fringe of the buying process.]

According to the study, leads with professional or functional titles are better prospects than those with C-level or executive titles. Prospects with professional titles (HR, Operations, Finance/Accounting and IS/Tech) are often tasked with researching solutions to company-wide problems and briefing other team members on their findings. These prospects have a better chance of becoming qualified leads than their C-level counterparts.

Highly qualified leads are also rejected based on the prospect’s role in the buying process. Instead of targeting leads that authorize purchase or select vendors, try targeting leads who are recommenders. In the study, KnowledgeStorm found that prospects who recommend technologies and solutions produce the highest number of leads that are the furthest along in the buying process.

If you want the most qualified leads, think outside of C-level executives. While a lead in the finance department or a lead who recommends solutions may not have final purchasing authority, what they do have are their C-level executives’ ears.


September 25, 2007

Don't Forget the Content

A well-developed content strategy is a key to running a successful lead generation campaign. Your lead campaign might reach hundreds of thousands of qualified leads, include appropriately timed and targeted lead nurturing messages, and drive traffic to well-designed landing zones or microsites that offer useful research tools; if your content doesn't compel your users to click however, your potential leads will never convert into qualified buyers.

In a complex sales cycle where potential buyers often spend months researching their technology needs, your content has to reach prospects at the right time, in the right format and with the right message.

In RainToday's compilation of B2B marketing articles, "The One Piece of Advice You Can't Generate Leads Without," B2B Marketing Strategist Ardath Albee of Marketing Interactions discusses content strategy in "Tales to Keep Them Talking." Albee stresses the need to establish the "Essence" of your company - the core idea that your company is founded upon - and build your content around that core essence. You can read Albee's article here, all RainToday asks is that you provide a valid e-mail address.


September 17, 2007

E-mail Marketing on the "Third Screen"

Mobile e-mail delivery is going to be a force to reckon with over the next year. C-Level executives – the sweet spot for most technology marketers – are increasingly accessing both e-mail and Web sites via mobile devices such as Blackberries and Palms. In a recent study, Marketing Sherpa found that a full 64% of decision makers view electronic content on mobile devices – a staggering number considering how few technology marketers are explicitly gearing their content for mobile distribution.

ExactTarget, an on-demand e-mail marketing software company, writes about the importance of scaling your e-mail marketing messages and newsletters for the "Third Screen." In its white paper, Email Marketing for the Third Screen: The Adoption of Mobile Email and its Impact on Email Marketing Deployment, ExactTarget outlines the rapid deployment of smartphones and PDAs for accessing electronic content, and what e-mail marketers can do to stay ahead of the trend.

In the past, e-mail marketers worried about text vs.HTML e-newsletter delivery – today however, e-mail marketers need to take the next step and begin designing e-newsletters and e-mail marketing messages for mobile devices. If we want to continue to reach the most influential sect of technology buyers and decision makers, we need to adjust to how they view the world – and our content.


September 14, 2007

Eyetracking Technology in B2B Marketing

Every year Marketing Sherpa publishes an updated edition of its Technology Marketing Benchmark Guide and provides insight into the lead generation business. The guide is packed with useful marketing surveys, case studies and tips for running successful lead generation programs.

A new component to this year’s guide is Marketing Sherpa’s eyetracking research. By outfitting business technology users and buyers with eyetracking technology from Enquiro, a search engine marketing company, Marketing Sherpa has given us a glimpse into the user’s perspective when it comes to viewing Web sites.

According to the guide, eyetracking technology measures how the eye moves over a Web page, and specifically tracks where the eye stops and when the eye moves to a different position. When the data is mapped, you’re left with a “scan-path,” which shows what users have been looking at, and with what intensity they have been viewing their screens.

Eyetracking data such as this can help technology marketers determine not only how to design their Web sites, but also what kind of copywriting is most effective in reaching users. For example, in looking at the scan-paths provided by Marketing Sherpa, it is clear that the first word of every headline and the first word of every paragraph on a Web page receive the most visual attention.

It is this kind of detailed, customer-centric research that can be used when developing and designing landing zones and microsites, when writing headlines and other promotional copy, and when organizing banner and skyscraper advertisements. By considering the patterns displayed by our customers, we can more effectively align our marketing efforts with our user’s experiences.