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November 28, 2007

How Do You Serve Up Your Bacn?

For those of us engaged in e-mail marketing, what happens once our thoughtfully crafted eNewsletters and e-mail nurturing messages are sent is of the utmost importance. Optimally, subscribers receive our materials and read through them immediately - clicking on offers along the way. This scenario isn't always possible however, so the next best thing is that they become "bacn," and our users set them aside to read later in their day or week.

Bacn, for those of you who haven't been following the somewhat silly debate (though not too silly for NPR to chime in on in: Move Over, Spam: 'Bacn' Is the E-Mail Dish du Jour), is a recently coined term defined as "e-mail you want, but not right now." Where spam is e-mail you never want (think Viagra offers and anything with XXX in the title), bacn is e-mail that you've signed up to receive, but don't always have time to read.

By tagging e-mails as worthy, just not right now, users have established another tool by which they can take control over their buying process. As users save and file bacn, they are building their own mini research libraries that they can go back to and mine for gems once they're ready. Because of this, vendors (especially those who rely on 3rd-party marketers for their lead generation) need to recognize that a lead who responds to an offer a month after that offer has been sent is still a valuable lead.

Keep the concept of bacn in your mind as you send out your marketing materials, and remember that a lead deferred is still a lead.

-BH

November 26, 2007

Copywriting with Keywords for Improved Search Results

Adding SEO (search engine optimization) practices to your Web site is a multi-step process that can involve making changes to your site's architecture, who you link to and how (for credibility's sake), and how you market your site and site materials. While implementing some of these processes take time and the cooperation of most of your company's departments, there are quick and easy ways you can improve your search results.

One site you can send your copywriters to is Wordtracker.com, where they have set up free Keyword Suggestion tool. With this keyword suggestion tool, you can enter a keyword, find out how many times that keyword was searched (according to Wordtracker's formula), and see 100 related keywords that are being searched.

When writing headlines, titles, and abstracts or summaries, your copywriters can see which terms are generating the most searches online and use the more popular terms to describe your marketing materials. Using this tool, I typed in "virtualization," and found it to be the most popular of 1614 searches related to virtualization - this didn't surprise me. What I did find surprising, was that the 3rd most popular related search term - "virtualization software" was only searched 29 times.

Search algorithms are still somewhat a mystery, but this free keyword suggestion tool can take some of the guesswork out of writing copy for optimal searches. Check out a list of 12 keyword suggestion tools at The SEO Company.

-BH

November 19, 2007

Unify Your Campaign with a Strong Content Strategy

When you create materials to launch a lead generation campaign, ask yourself the following:

1. Is there a unified theme that runs through your promotional content? Can a user tell that each piece of content is part of a greater whole?

2. If your content is meant to be viewed in one place - such as on a Microsite or Branded Landing Zone - have you created it so that each asset tells a part of the "story" of your product or offering?

3. Have you created content that fulfills user needs regardless of where they are in their buying process? Does your content include varying degrees of technical and practical information for your users?

Your content is the engine that drives your campaign - and when marketing B2B technology, you need to provide users with a comprehensive array of assets that explain what you have to offer, what problems your offer solves, and why the user needs your offer.

While it may be difficult to create content that reaches Evaluators looking at the technical side of products, Recommendors looking at lots of different products, and Decision Makers looking at the fiscal side of products, you have to reach them all - and their coworkers!

Map out your content strategy before you begin creating white papers, podcasts and case studies. Start with the story of your product or offer and than decide who needs to hear it and how each player in the IT buying process is best reached, and when.

Remember, the IT buying process is long and involves multiple people for a reason - your users are looking to purchase expensive solutions that will solve their long-term business needs. At the end of the day, your content plays a tremendous role in getting your products and offerings sold - the least you can do is make sure it meets your users' needs.

-BH

November 14, 2007

Add a "Refer a Colleague" Link to Generate More Leads

If you can make one change to your eNewsletters and e-mail marketing materials this year, add a button that allows your users to "Refer a Colleague." According to MarketingSherpa's Business Technology Marketing Guide 2007-08, tech buyers are most likely to find out about white papers (and other marketing collateral) from colleagues or through e-mail invitations.

Your eNewsletter subscribers can't all be Decision Makers or C-Level executives with purchasing power (and if they are, congratulations). Rather, your subscribers are made up of professionals who occupy varying roles in the IT buying process. By adding a "refer a colleague" button to your marketing materials, you open up your chances of getting the Evaluators, Recommendors, and Gatekeepers who read your materials to deliver the message for you to Decision Makers and Purchasers.

While it's always possible that your subscribers will pass your marketing materials along without needing a "refer a colleague" button, why take that chance? By making it easy for your users to send their colleagues your materials, you do your best to ensure that any referred users will see your branding, your contact information (including the opportunity to become members), and any other details you include in your "refer a colleague" e-mail messages.

Think of your referral program as another step in lead nurturing - only this time you get the chance to nurture prospects before they become true leads.

-BH

November 12, 2007

Turn Off Filters and Start Scoring Your Leads

Increase your sales opportunities and build your relationship with prospective buyers by changing how you approach leads once they've been generated. If you run lead campaigns and only accept leads once they've been geographically, demographically or otherwise filtered, you may be hurting your chances of catching leads while they can be nurtured and turned into sales.

Instead of limiting which leads you'll accept, try purchasing all of the scrubbed leads generated through your campaign. Once you have these gross leads, you can then apply filters and score the leads accordingly. By grabbing all of the leads generated in a campaign, not only do you get a handful (or more) of sales-ready, fully qualified leads to hand your sales team, but you also have less qualified leads that can be nurtured and moved through the sales pipeline.

Scoring leads from A-D (with A leads being sales-ready and D-leads being "cold") helps you sort out which leads are ready to be telemarketed, which leads require personalized e-mail follow-ups, and which leads can be "drip-marketed" over time. By holding off on filters and fences until you have all a campaign's leads in hand, you expand your marketing reach to leads that would have otherwise been scrubbed out of the process.

-BH

November 08, 2007

The Process of Managing Leads

According to Wikipedia, Lead Management is defined as "the methodologies and systems to manage customer prospects and inquiries, generally generated by a variety of marketing techniques. Lead management can be considered the connectivity between advertising and customer relationship management that facilitates the acquisition of customers."

In other words, lead management is the series of steps undertaken from the time lead data is captured, until the lead is passed along to the sales team and moved into the sales funnel. For those engaged in generating leads, lead management is an integral part of our jobs - and involves everything from scrubbing junk leads to scoring leads, to delivering leads for your client or sales team to close.

According to Brian Carroll's B2B Lead Generation post, Lead Management is Far From An Easy Task, lead management should be viewed as a process that includes the following steps:

1. Lead Generation (generating inquiries)
2. Lead Qualification (are they a fit? Are they sales ready?)
3. Lead Nurturing (cultivating early stage leads)
4. Lead Distribution (hand off from marketing to sales)
5. Lead Pursuit (sales process and pipeline)
6. Lead Tracking and reporting (closed the loop between sales and marketing)

Do you have lead management procedures in place at your organization, or does lead management involve minimal lead scrubbing and delivery? While automated lead management software is available to help marketers with this process, successful lead management procedures can be implemented without the purchase of these automated systems. If you want to start managing your leads, start with Brian Carroll's six steps above, and ask yourself what you're doing to address each step.

-BH

November 06, 2007

Multimedia Content: The Basics

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With the ability to easily create content delivered via multimedia channels (podcasts, webcasts, videos), it seems obvious that you should go ahead and record a podcast, shoot a video or present your offerings via a webcast. And while technology buyers are becoming more comfortable in turning to multimedia content when researching their technology needs, challenges persist in developing and delivering multimedia content.

In creating multimedia content, make sure that what you produce is compelling. Technology buyers may be more likely to view an online video or download a podcast than they were a year ago, but they won't watch your content if it's boring. For the added expense it takes to produce a video or podcast, your investment is worthless if your message fails to excite your users. And while B2B technology marketing doesn't need to be sexy (and probably shouldn't be), it should be interesting, provide factual information, and present your offerings in such a way that your users will reach out to learn more.

When trying to deliver multimedia content, try to limit file sizes for downloads, or better yet, provide URLs that link your users directly to podcasts, webcasts and videos on your company website. By providing direct links instead of files, you ease your users' download fears and prevent them from having to save (often large) multimedia files on their hard drives.

If you are hosting multimedia files and driving traffic to your company website, make sure you have enough bandwidth to accommodate a multitude of users visiting your site and viewing/listening to your content at the same time. The availability of multimedia content does little good if your site crashes every time users try and access your content.

-BH

November 01, 2007

Have You Considered the "E-mail Insecurity Factor?"

If you spend most of your time generating leads by e-mail, chances are excellent that some of your recipients have stopped opening - or never started opening - your messages. According to a recently published study from Habeas Inc. - an e-mail Reputation Services Provider, the growing lack of trust in e-mail correspondences is having an increasingly negative impact on businesses. Sixty-two percent of study respondents are concerned about being victimized online, and 60% believe that spam is getting worse.

The study results suggest that users are taking this "e-mail insecurity" into their own hands by setting up multiple e-mail accounts (using personal - not work - e-mail addresses) to receive e-mail offers. Habeas Inc. CEO, Des Cahill, describes how users are managing their e-mail accounts, "Given the ease with which individuals can open e-mail accounts, sending and receiving e-mails has become an issue of navigating a landscape of inboxes set up on the basis of trust."

Maintaining a trusted e-mail reputation is integral to maintaining your overall online reputation, and is difficult to repair once sullied. In his article, "Mind Your Email Reputation," iMedia Connection's Spenser Kollas offers basic tips for making sure your messages stay out of the spam filters. You can also learn more about the Habeas Inc. study at their upcoming webinar - How Web 2.0 and Online Reputation Changes Strategy and Results.

-BH