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September 25, 2008

Scrub Your Leads For Job Security

Email list hygiene - and the specific practice of scrubbing out bad email addresses - should be of the utmost concern for any of you out there who actively distribute marketing materials via email messages or enewsletters. When sending your marketing materials to huge lists that have not been scrubbed for junk, you run the risk of destroying your company's reputation and losing business along the way. And while it would be easy to sit here and cite statistics about email bounce rates, blacklisting and silent deletes done by ISPs, I think the issue of list hygiene can best be explained by putting yourself in your clients' shoes.

scrub.jpg

If you are a third-party email marketer, your clients have placed their trust (and their money) in your business model - they provide you with content, you market their content with a variety of email messaging tools, and you send them a list of names (or leads) who have responded to their content. This method of generating leads is used by all kinds of companies (both consumer and B2B-based), and helps all of the involved parties in achieving their business goals. The client is presented with a list of high-quality, (hopefully) sales-ready leads, and the lead generation company is well-compensated for their efforts.

While mutually beneficial however, this relationship relies on the lead generation company's maintenance of their email lists. When working with a reputable lead generation organization, you should feel confident that the leads they deliver not only meet your specific requirements (such as being from certain geographical locations, or from companies of particular sizes), but that they also come with correct contact information. It's easy to generate 1000 leads, what's more difficult is generating 1000 qualified leads!

At the Web Buyer's Guide, we have developed a lead management system that allows us to scrub out junk leads on the back-end, and therefore remove junk from our lead databases. Before this system was in place, we would unintentionally sell those tricky-to-spot, but poisonous leads with titles like "None of Your Business," and names like, "Mickey Mouse." Since gaining the capability to scrub lists of new subscribers before they even become potential leads however, our rate of delivering junk leads has plummeted.

When we do occasionally deliver a random junk lead, I always feel bad, and worry about how our clients might respond. And while we never charge for junk leads, I also fear that some clients won't bother reporting their findings (and receiving a refund), and will instead simply choose to stop doing business with our company. After all, if a client purchases 100 leads and 5 are junk, they've potentially been gypped out of a couple hundred dollars worth of leads!

From years of experience in delivering leads, I've learned that it's easier to scrub lists when you're not under immediate pressure to deliver your product. By building some sort of system into your business practices that allows you to clean your lists before you're faced with the pressure of generating leads, you are more likely to remove junk that's both obvious (Mickey Mouse) and less obvious (Bart Simpson). Personally, I would much rather ditch the leads on the back-end than lose business by delivering junk.

September 22, 2008

BtoB Online Goes Interactive with the Lead Generation Guide 2008

bb-logo_revised.gifThe recently released the BtoB Online Lead Generation Guide 2008 provides a comprehensive overview of the B2B lead generation industry's recent innovations and upcoming trends, and is published in an interactive format that puts their own suggestions regarding content usage into action.

The interactive guide has a range of features that allow users to search, bookmark, customize, and generally manipulate their experience with the content within. To explain all of the features, the guide contains a narrated tutorial that points out and explains each of the features available.

The fact that BtoB Online published the guide as more an interactive tool than as a document is interesting, and could signify a change in how content is distributed online. In the past, most similar publications have been offered as PDFs, or made available via a website. In choosing to distribute this guide as a tool however, BtoB Online is signaling the need to produce and distribute content that users can tweak to meet their needs.

By selecting any number of navigation options from the top-of-page navigation bar, users can select exactly how they want to view and use the content. In addition to deciding how I want my pages to appear (thumbnails or full-size viewing, 1-or-2 pages visible), I can select the "Links" option and see a list of all of the URLs on the page or in the guide! The publication also contains a fairly in-depth search feature, the ability to bookmark pages and have the bookmarks appear in my browser bookmarks/favorites, and social networking functionalities.

The inclusion of a "Share" option in the navigation bar is a big step for the B2B crowd which has been slower than the consumer sect in the full adoption of social networking within the industry. By addressing social networking in the very make-up of this guide however, BtoB Online is acknowledging the momentum that social networking has gained in the past year, and invited the use of social networking across the industry.

The guide can be embedded into blogs as a custom widget, shared with friends via an easy-to-use message containing the URL, or submitted to social networking sites such as Stumbledupon, Newsvine, and digg, among others.

In addition to the new interactive format, the guide also contains a host of valuable information for anyone working in the B2B lead generation industry. From advice on lead scoring and lead nurturing to resources for those looking to find out more about lead management vendors or understand the industry through statistics, the guide is packed full of useful tools.

September 09, 2008

Keywords, content and tag clouds

Have you seen or heard of tag clouds, yet never been too sure what they are or why they're on so many sites? Have you ever want to see what your website or blog would look like with a tag cloud? I was curious about tag clouds myself - so I did a little research and created a few tag clouds to share on this site.

According to Wikipedia, tag clouds are "...visual depictions of user-generated tags, or simply the word content of a site, used typically to describe the content of web sites." Flikr, the photo sharing site, was the first high-profile website to use tag clouds, while the origins of tag clouds can be traced back to Douglas Coupland's 1995 Microserfs.

The first site I found was TagCrowd. TagCrowd is a web service that allows you to use their technology to create a tag cloud for any website, grouping of text, or uploaded file. I went to the site and created a tag cloud for this website, and (after a little tweaking on my part to remove some irrelevant words such as "comes" and "permalink," was rewarded with this nifty visualization of the content on this site:

created at TagCrowd.com


Tag Cloud Generator is a free site that lets you create and customize your own tag clouds by adding specific tags, changing the font/background color and the size and alignment of your tags. I like this site - it was easy to use, didn't require that I register, and created a visually appealing cloud tag for this site:


MakeCloud is another free service that lets you create a tag cloud from any RSS Feed or website.


tag cloud


The cloud created using MakeCloud doesn't have the same formatting as the Tag Crowd option, but it still expresses the site content visually, and, while there are fewer tags, I thought that most included were highly relevant to the content on this site.

I also made a really neat looking tag cloud using Wordle - you can view it in their gallery here. Wordle images are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license, and can be used for any purposes. Keep in mind that if you use a Wordle image on your website or blog however, you must attribute it to Creative Commons.

I found yet another cool site in ZoomClouds. After an easy sign-up process, I was able to create and customize a tag cloud for the Accelerating IT Sales RSS Feed. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the cloud to preview in this post after pasting in the code, so I'm unable to show you the ZoomCloud output, which was pretty cool. You can check it out on their website here.

If you're interested in learning more about all of the different kinds of tag clouds you can make, check out this highly information article from Smashing Magazine, Tag Clouds Gallery: Examples And Good Practices. I had no idea that so much went into tag clouds, or that there were so many kinds of tag clouds that one could choose to put on their site until I read this article.

Tag clouds are an interesting way to quickly scan a site to figure out if its content is relevant to your needs. You can use tag clouds to search for topical information without having to come up with specific search terms on your own. Personally, I find tag clouds to be helpful, especially when I'm doing research this this blog. Since I write about so many different topics (social media, lead generation, IT Sales, multimedia content, etc), I don't always know what I'm looking for when I set out to find ideas for new blog posts.