headshot.png

Main

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.

August 22, 2008

Optimizing Organic Search Strategies

searching_revised.jpgWhile site subscribers are the bread-and-butter for all kinds of B2B organizations, building a strong subscriber base over time is essential to maintaining and growing your pool of leads over time. Organic Search, defined by SEO-Space is the "process by which web users find web sites by a keyword query and click on an unpaid search engine listing," and is increasingly being used by B2B marketers as an inexpensive and highly efficient method of building an audience using existing infrastructure (search tools like Google), and their own content.

When making a conscious effort to increase your search rankings and drive traffic to your site via organic search methods, it's important that you consider all of the different tactics required to create a successful strategy. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a relatively complex field, and implementing search tactics that work requires that you do more than simply tag your content with keywords. Search experts, such as the folks at Search Engine Land, have taken the time to compile a list of common mistakes made by marketers when attempting to optimize their sites to generate (unpaid) search traffic.

In their article, Six Mistakes B2B Marketers Continue To Make With Organic Search, Search Engine Land outlines the most common mistakes made in terms of getting a great organic search strategy up and running. With a focus on the mistakes of B2B marketers, Search Engine Land offers tips on how these generally tech-savvy organizations can get their organic search strategies straight. And while inadequate site architecture (which is difficult to correct if you don't have a site redesign planned) tops the list of errors, the other errors commonly associated with optimizing organic search can all be remedied without having to rip apart your entire site.

Inadequate Site Architecture - if you're trying to drive traffic to your website based on specific search terms, you need to make sure that there are landing pages on your site to increase traffic to your site, and "welcome" traffic once it lands. If you simply drive traffic to your site, without tagging specific pages for specific search terms, not only do you lose out on an opportunity to push your site up in the search rankings, but you also lose the ability to effectively track your visitors once they hit your site.

Lousy Meta Descriptions - according to the article, many B2B marketers fail to fill out their site meta descriptions, and when they do fill out meta tags, they often either leave the task to the IT department, or write tags that they understand, but which don't resonate with users. Instead of taking a casual attitude to crafting meta descriptions, it's important to consult with (or hire) someone who understands how to write meta descriptions and which descriptions will attract the most search traffic.

Not Analyzing Organic Landing Pages
- In order to successfully implement a search strategy, you need to make sure that your organic landing pages are attracting the appropriate traffic. It's important to analyze your organic landing pages for, "for all significant, ranking keywords," and ensure that any organic traffic is, in fact, landing on the pages you want them to land on!

Not Monitoring Analytics - While pay-per-click search results are generally analyzed at length, organic search results don't always get the same attention. To capture the effectiveness of organic search however, it's crucial that you look at all of the statistics related to your search campaign and analyze your traffic, where it originates from, its bounce rates and so on. By understanding the path that organic search traffic takes to your site, you gain a better understanding of how you can better attract more of it.

Failing to Optimize Printed Marketing Assets Before Converting them to the Web - Before starting a campaign that's heavy on white papers, case studies and technology briefs formated as PDFs, make sure you optimize those materials for search. While the casual web surfer might not click on a PDF link, a tech-savvy B2B buyer may be specifically searching for these types of materials, and will be more likely to click on them if they come up towards the top of their search.

Duplicate Title Tags and Meta Descriptions - If you haven't optimized your site content for search, chances are excellent that you have duplicate title tags and meta descriptions associated with your site. Because of this, your search rankings will be lower, and users won't necessarily be able to find your valuable content.

While these 6 common mistakes represent just the tip of the organic search iceberg, they present a good place to start when evaluating your organic search strategy. If you're interested in learning more about optimizing your site (and/or content) for search, you may want to visit Search Engine Guide, Search Engine Journal, SearchEngineWatch, or any of these other sites compiled by SearchRank.

July 24, 2008

So What is a Widget Anyway?

By now, you've probably seen and heard of widgets (like the ones above), but do you actually know what they are, how they're used, and how you can use them to attract site visitors and build your brand? As users demand more customizable and interactive online experiences, web-based businesses have to meet that challenge by developing sticky tools, such as widgets, that allow their users to take their online experiences to the next level.

According to Wikipedia, a widget is:

...an element of a graphical user interface (GUI) that displays information that is changeable by the user, such as a window or a text box. The defining characteristic of a widget is to provide a single interaction point for the direct manipulation of a given kind of data. Widgets are basic visual building blocks which, combined in an application, hold all the data processed by the application and the available interactions on this data.

More simply, a widget is an online tool that can be embedded into websites, blogs, and social networking profile pages to share information - such as the weather or news, stream music or movies, display photos, play games, or set up quizzes, countdowns and other time wasters. You can find widgets that allow you to create yourself as a Simpson's character (The Simpsomaker), make your own Zen Fish Tank Aquarium, and even create your own Cyber Pets to hang out on your site.

Organizations can also use widgets as part of their marketing and branding efforts; a well-designed, easy-to-use widget can be implemented all over the web, but tracked back to your site and made recognizable with your corporate branding. Social bookmarking sites such as Furl and Multiply have their own widgets that can be embedded in blogs, you can subscribe to various RSS feeds using their respective widgets, and you can link to popular social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace using their widgets.

By creating these sticky tools, you make it possible to increase your web presence without having to do much actual work. When users have the ability to add your site to their blog with your widget, your branding is on their site, and you benefit by gaining access to your users' networks. These little icons are a good way to get your logo on your users' mobile devices too - as people use widgets to organize their online experiences. When you build a widget that links people back to your site, you are never more than a click away from your users.

And by building widgets, you also build the potential to engage and re-engage your users as they navigate away from your site and back to your site using your widgets. According to a BusinessWeek article, Building a Brand with Widgets, widgets are potentially better from engaging users than are more traditional online ads such as banners. By providing a tool that is actually helpful to people, you give them a way to accomplish their objectives and connect back with your brand.

If you do develop widgets that lead back to your site, you have to acknowledge that you will not have any control over where those widgets live on the web. People might place your widgets on websites that you would not necessarily want to be associated with, but at the end of the day, the traffic from that site might find its way back to yours and increase your overall audience. Just remember that the more sites your widgets live on all over the web, the more your brand will be recognized and the more traffic you will drive to your site.

July 17, 2008

Saying Hello Sets the Stage

welcome_revised.jpgEmail marketers are constantly working to attract new subscribers, but maintaining lists, developing relationships with new members, and retaining users is equally, if not more important when it comes to creating high-value, sales-ready leads. To determine how companies welcome new members, Return Path, an email services company, signed up for 61 email programs and examined how they were treated once they expressed interest in a company's offerings by handing over their personal information.

In their recently published research study, Creating Great Subscriber Experiences: Are Marketers Relationship Worthy?, Return Path analyzed their email subscription experiences, and concluded that most email marketers don't appreciate the timeliness and value of welcoming new members to their sites.

While best practices suggest that marketers should send a welcome email to new subscribers (preferably within 24-hours of attaining the new member), Return Path found that 60% of the companies they tested failed to send a welcome message, and 30% failed to send new members any messages within the first 30 days of the subscriber's registration.

By ignoring these new members, companies lose the opportunity to engage prospects early in their buying process, and immediately after expressing interest in the company. The fact that someone has taken the time to register for an email program is indicative of a high level of interest, and suggests that they would be receptive to starting a dialog or relationship. Ideally, you want to strike while the iron is hot and send a confirmation/welcome message to new subscribers within the first 24-hours of receiving their data.

Sending welcome messages so quickly benefits both parties too. New members will know that their information was properly submitted and received, will have their subscription data (or a link to their subscription data) for future reference, and will know that their interest in your company has not gone unnoticed. At the same time, email marketers benefit by confirming that their new users have entered deliverable email addresses, by increasing their brand awareness with a branded email message, and by giving the new member an opportunity to immediately engage with additional marketing materials.

According to the Return Path study however, it took an average of 9 days for companies to send their first messages after obtaining new subscribers. Once a new member has hit the "submit" button on your site, you have basically been invited to send them a message and welcome them to your site. When you overlook this crucial step, you lose out on quickly segmenting, qualifying and engaging some of the most interested prospects on your email lists. You also fall behind in keeping your brand first-and-foremost in front of these already-engaged eyes, and could lose the lead altogether if they're more effectively courted by your competition.

So the time is now to put in place an automated email message welcoming all new members to your site.
To learn more about crafting effective email marketing welcome messages, check out this compilation of articles and best practice guides from Email Marketing Reports. While implementing a process to welcome new members may seem simple, remember that the first message most of your users receive may be the only one they ever read.

June 24, 2008

Wireless Social Networking Poised to Take Over by 2020

129490_cell_phone_tower_2_revised.jpg

According to iSuppli - an applied market intelligence firm - a revolution in technology is afoot!! In a June 4 article titled, Wireless Social Networking Revolution Poised to Reshape Tech Industry, iSuppli indicates that wireless social networking technologies are poised to generate $2.5 trillion over the next 12 years, and that those companies who jump aboard the wireless social wave now stand to "lead in the technology business," while others may fall behind or become irrelevant.

In the article, iSuppli suggests that, as mobile devices become more embedded in our every day lives, their use as content delivery devices will skyrocket. At the same time, the availability of increased processing power, the expansion of wireless networks, and the ease and speed of wirelessly downloading content will turn the ever-present smart phones, PDAs and cell phones into our primary content viewing devices. And with so many people already turning to their iPhones to download videos from YouTube and following friends via Twitter and Pownce on their cell phones, it's no big leap to think that these devices will soon become central to downloading ALL of our electronic content.

According to iSuppli, the impact of wireless social networking will be felt across all areas of the industry - from semiconductors and processors to memory/storage capacities, devices and software. According to the article, as mobile devices are designed to better accommodate social networking needs, "...semiconductor companies will be compelled to deliver highly integrated processors that combine numerous high-performance, multi-threaded special purpose cores." This means that the expansion of social networking into the mainstream of society and business will generate new business opportunities as companies strive to meet the technological needs of this ever-evolving segment.

So how are businesses that haven't even integrated mobile content-delivery into their business models supposed to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to building wireless social networking into their organizations? The adoption of new technologies can be painstakingly slow, even among technologically-savvy industries; because of this, companies will have to develop a method that simultaneously incorporates mobile marketing and social networking into current business models.

In order to effectively implement wireless social networking, organizations that are currently dedicated to producing, managing and delivering online content need to take social media and social networking with the utmost seriousness. By ignoring the drumbeat of social networks, corporations signal a lack of understanding in regard to the future of technology. After all, social media and social networking are going to go away. The early adopters have already incorporated these technologies into their business models, and it's time for the rest of us to wake up and start letting our users connect to one another on their own terms and via whatever devices they so desire.

March 25, 2008

Have You Visited a Virtual Tradeshow Yet?

exhib_hall_225x147.jpg Ziff Davis Enterprise Virtual Tradeshows are 1-2 day live events that bring analysts, consultants, research firms, business decision-makers and vendors together in a virtual environment where they can learn about and discuss enterprise technology. In addition to expert speakers, live presentations and virtual "booths" staffed with vendor representatives, attendees have access to a full-service virtual environment packed with social networking and research tools.

Part of what makes these events so compelling - for both vendors and IT buyers - is the interactive nature of Virtual Tradeshows. When signing up for a show, you can create a personalized profile, upload an avatar and have your data transfered to a "Vcard" (a virtual business card). Once inside the event, you can reach out to vendors through their booths, network with other attendees in the Virtual Lounge, and chat with Ziff Davis Enterprise representatives at the Help Desk.

Each VTS is packed with resources to help you learn more about the specific topics being presented. You can add research materials to your virtual Briefcase, view live or archived webinars, or watch keynote addresses by industry experts. Because the focus of these events is on educating users, there are links to vendor websites and forums where you can further discuss the technologies being presented.

By presenting so much information via this virtual platform, Ziff Davis Enterprise has placed the user at the center of an educational, interactive experience. And with so many ways to reach out to vendors, industry experts and other interested users, you are given a chance to truly investigate new technologies in these pressure-free, collaborative learning environments.

To see the full list of Ziff Davis Enterprise Virtual Tradeshows, click here.

March 18, 2008

Engage and Re-Engage Users via Behavioral Targeting

829961_target_revised.jpg

Behavioral targeting has a bad reputation - there is a common perception that once marketers have your personal information, they know everything there is to know about you, and will use it to intrude upon your privacy. For reputable online marketers however, the use of personal data for marketing purposes is much more focused, and, when applied correctly, actually respects user privacy by only sending messages targeted to their needs.

By signing up for or subscribing to an eNewsletter or website, users "opt-in" to receive marketing materials and thereby give marketers permission to send communications directly to their inboxes. When marketers take this data a step further, and analyze their users' engagement with their content, they are looking at information to which they already have access. Once user behaviors have been analyzed, marketers are able to send targeted messages to those users who have expressed an interest in very specific topics, instead of marketing the same materials to their entire subscriber lists.

When marketers have the capability to track how, and how often, their users are engaging with their content, they can use that data to segment, and further segment their users into niche groups. This kind of data - how often a user has downloaded a white paper, whether they've participated in an online forum, or the fact that they only watch the first 20 minutes of webinars - is useless when taken out of context. But by examining this kind of data to anticipate their users' needs, it becomes a powerful tool in determining which materials will help users move through their buying processes quickly.

According to Phil Leggiere's post, BT and Lead Generation, in the MediaPost's Behavioral Insider blog, this kind of targeting can bring real value to users. He cites the Amazon and Netflix implementation of behavior targeting as examples of behavioral targeting done well. When looked at from this perspective, it seems logical to think that when marketers start paying attention to their users' movements online, they are better able to respond to their users' needs in real-time and give their users what they want.

February 14, 2008

IT Marketing and the Economy

financial_resized.jpg Are you concerned about the current state of the US economy and how an economic downturn will affect your business? Have you wondered what will happen if businesses across the country scale back or cancel big-ticket IT purchases because they fear an impending recession? With the Federal Reserve Bank's recent rate cuts, the continual decline of the NYSE and NASDAQ, it's easy to see why so many people are concerned about entering a recession. At the same time, it's important to stay positive, hope for the best, but as always, plan for the worst.

While business remains strong in this first quarter of 2008, it is clear that more and more IT marketers are concerned about the effects of a recession on the overall industry. In reading through my weekly line-up of marketing Websites and blogs, I stumbled upon a few resources that address the economy and its impact on IT marketing and thought it might be useful to present them here.

In his February 6 white paper, Strategies For Interactive Marketing In A Recession, Forrester Research's Josh Bernoff addresses the impact of an economic downturn on interactive marketing initiatives. According to Bernoff, the inherent nature of interactive marketing makes it a relatively safe place to invest, even with a looming recession. Interactive marketing applications tend to be inexpensive to build and maintain, and traffic is driven via user interaction and word-of-mouth. These unique aspects of interactive marketing programs make them affordable to build, implement and maintain, and they provide a high return-on-investment. Read Bernoff's paper here and find out if including more social media and interactive marketing strategies in your 2008 marketing campaigns could actually be the more cost-effective way of doing business.

In this free podcast, The Economy and IT Initiatives, the Burton Group outlines what enterprises learned through strategic planning during the last economic down-turn in the scope of data center management, security initiatives, and identity management projects. If you are concerned about the economic impact of a recession on IT buying in the enterprise, listen to this informed account of how organizations respond to down-turns. This podcast is available on the Burton Group site through February 28.

BtoB Online is also offering free webinar titled How Marketers are Planning & Budgeting for 2008. Scheduled to air on February 28, this webinar will address the following:

• How marketers are measuring success in 2008;
• Where marketers are spending their online budgets; and
• What marketers think about current economic conditions, and how these are affecting their plans and budget.

The good news, according to the 2008 Marketing Priorities and Plans survey (BtoB Online), is that in 2008, B2B marketers plan to increase their overall marketing budgets.

-BH

January 23, 2008

What is Engagement Marketing?

According to Wikipedia, Engagement Marketing campaigns elicit consumer participation in the evolution of a brand, and stimulate users to be actively involved in the production and co-creation of marketing programs. By encouraging the consumer to act and comment on your blog, submit a product review to your site, chat with your online sales team or join your web-based community, you stimulate the consumer's desire to participate in your marketing programs.

Once your consumers are participating in your marketing programs, they begin to feel more connected to your company and often remain loyally involved with your brand. A great example of engagement marketing can be seen in the popular Fox TV show American Idol. By asking audience members and at-home viewers to vote each week for their favorite contestants, the show has created an engaged audience that feels connected to the contestants and keeps tuning in to find out if "their" contestants are going to win.

Online social networks such as MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn also illustrate successful engagement marketing initiatives. In order to be a part of these networks, users must take the initiative to sign-up, create detailed profiles, and connect with friends, co-workers or other like-minded individuals. Once a user is part of these communities, they have opportunities to write blogs, upload photos, join niche-communities, share recommendations, and keep building their networks. And while social networking communities differ from traditional marketing ventures (in that users tend to join for networking or entertainment purposes as opposed to joining for educational reasons like they do with sites such as the Web Buyer's Guide), they still receive and respond to marketing messages while engaged with the sites.

In order to attract and retain customers, IT marketers need to reach out and offer more ways for their users to actively participate in their marketing efforts. While not all IT marketing efforts need to include Engagement Marketing strategies to be successful, there is a need to create more options that allow users to meaningfully connect with your brand, and engage with your message while they educate themselves about your products and services.

Check out what IBM is doing to engage their users on their "Executive Interaction Channel" that is part of the widely publicized IBM Innovation campaign.