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.


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.

October 20, 2006

Branded Landing Zones - Demand Creation Monsters!

Branded Landing Zones [BLZs] are Demand Creation Monsters and can be designed to meet the most complex demand generation objectives – especially where product marketing is best served by encouraging buyer engagements with multiple educational assets that build a business case to accelerate the selling process. The BLZ helps to structure the seller’s online sales pitch and the IT buyer’s research process. The BLZ program is designed to engage IT buyers at all stages of the buying process and move them to the next logical step to accelerate the sales process and move prospects closer to a purchase.

In addition to targeted showcasing of your most compelling content assets, a Branded Landing Zone provides additional unique features that accelerate the sales process:

[1] Structure to the online sales pitch through the development of a dedicated microsite.
[2] Online Lead Nurturing to encourage additional buyer engagements through link maps and triggered e-mail follow-ups.
[3] Collection of additional Behavioral Data - critical intelligence to support any Lead Scoring Model.

If your solution-sell benefits from multiple engagements to prepare your prospects for sale - consider a BLZ program vs. any standard lead generation initiative. Below is graphical representation, but simply e-mail me at Barry_Harrigan@ziffdavis.com and I'll outline the strategy for you in detail.


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September 06, 2006

The New Direct Marketing - Structured Online Sales Pitching

An IT research revolution is upon us and it's a burden to both buyer and seller. IT buyers are seeking a more structured research process. And IT sellers must quickly adapt their online strategies [i.e. 'sales pitches'] to accelerate their selling cycles.

IT management is increasingly overworked, under staffed and under resourced. As buyers, they face, [1] the pressure to vet each purchase decision, [2] an increasingly unstructured network of information sources, and [3] a sense of information overload. The Web has provided a wonderful tool to facilitate research during the IT buying process. But, a senior IT executive at a Fortune 50 company recently summed up his new research challenge, "The Internet has opened up an enormous set of information options, but I don't run a research group, I run an IT group. The abundance of research is paralyzing our decision-making process."

Sellers are likewise challenged. Tom Rousseau, my Ziff Davis colleague who spends his days as marketing and media counsel to some of the world's most successful technology firms, sums up the current dilemma facing IT sellers, "We are a nation founded by lawyers - so we require evidence and data before making a buying decision. But we are also a nation of 'clickers' that seek instant gratification. Today's marketing solutions must appeal to both constituencies."

Today I announced a watershed marketing program that I call Branded Landing Zones. The program powers a new online direct marketing strategy that is designed to serve the most complex enterprise technology sales processes - where a comprehensive educational and information exchange is required by both buyer and seller to facilitate the transaction.

I have much more to share with you about Branded Landing Zones, structured sales pitching online and about the future of direct marketing as its being re-shaped by the Internet. So please stay tuned to my blog. Until then - Scot Brinker's September 5 article - Stuck in Traffic? Search Mode vs. Pitch Mode in Web Marketing - is prerequisite reading.


August 28, 2006

Google - Please Don't Click-to-Call, Click to e-Mail

Google and eBay announced today a new partnership that will power Click-to-Call ads.

The strategy is interesting and is likely to be a boon to drive up the cost-per-click average for many consumer goods products to a $10 'click per call' from an average of $1 cost-per-click today. I like the concept and I expect it will be very effective for consumer technology sales.

I'm much less optimistic about 'click to call's' potential for Enterprise tech sales, since so many IT marketers are realizing that calling is not the best first step in the lead nurturing process. In fact, tech buyers are increasingly interested in an e-mail dialogue at the outset of a relationship and appreciate IT vendors who respect their desires. That said; we have been experimenting for some time with a 'click to e-mail' function that is working nicely. Users of the Ziff Davis Web Buyers Guide, who download a specific sponsored white paper, will trigger an automatic e-mail message that is designed to initiate dialogue and launch the nurturing process. That approach works - and the e-mail may even invite a phone call.

Whichever approach you try first - Click-to-Call or Click to e-Mail - be very considerate of your prospects receptivity level. You have one shot to make a great first impression. And, you must establish and immediate level of trust with your prospects if you want to move them quickly through the buying cycle.


August 14, 2006

The IT sales cycle is getting longer

The graphic below illustrates the change in sales cycles reported by IT companies from 2005 to 2006. The fact that the IT buying process is getting longer is disturbing news and has much to do with the increased information that is available via the Internet and the number of key influencers that involved in these purchases. The phenomenon is likely to be temporary as marketers will adapt quickly and learn how to capitalize on their new tools. And buyers will adapt quickly as well- since a slower buying process will inhibit the ability for companies to implement new technology and realize gains from cost savings and productivity.

If you are targeting the Enterprise, expect sales cycles to become even longer. Big companies can produce large wins - but organize your sales plans to build a track record of smaller wins that can finance your way to the those big whales. IT marketers that are hyper focused on the big wins may find themselves brushing up their resumes - if firms lose patience with their strategies and lack of results. Be keenly aware of your company's patience level and tolerance for long-term marketing plans. Otherwise, Monster.com may be a nice site for you to visit in the near future.


August 06, 2006

Buying technology is a process

The sales cycle for Information Technology is getting longer.

From 2005 to 2006, IT sales executives overwhelmingly indicated that their sales cycles were increasing, according to MarketingSherpa's Business Technology Marketing Benchmark Guide 2006.

That is a very disturbing trend. Setting aside the macro impact on our national and global economies, the micro affect is even more curious to me. When you consider the inherent company benefits that are promised by the implementation of new technologies (i.e. increased productivity, speed and cost efficiencies) - I wonder why we aren't in more of a hurry to make technology purchases which can offer real gains for our companies.

The truth is, we are in a hurry - both as buyers and sellers

As buyers, we want all the benefits of the purchase - but the decision process 'pre-purchase' is getting more complicated, powered by online tools, flowing information and a more collaborative work environment. Companies (both large and small) report more people than ever are involved in the decision process.

As sellers, we are even more impetuous. Rather than recognizing a new dynamic selling environment - we are using our powerful new online tools to drive dated 'targeting' techniques - a wishful strategy that presumes that there is a single purchase influencer, neatly organized by job title, function and size of firm, who will immediately approve an order (so we can play more golf). We are, in effect, guilty of skipping the necessary steps, people and dialogues in today's buying process. And, by leapfrogging the natural order, we are actually slowing down a sales process that is ripe to accelerate.

Doing this blog is labor of love. For more than 25 years I've been a student of the buying process and a self-professed 'speed freak'. I've always used my analysis of the buying process to guide my marketing and sales strategies. And, with this blog, I'll be using that same approach.

I hope that my simple observations and the analysis of our many contributors will help you unlock the buying process for your products and accelerate your sales process.

Let's get started!