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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.

May 01, 2008

Taking a Page from Online Newspapers

If you want to shake up IT marketing, consider taking a page from online news sites such as the Washington Post or the New York Times and expanding your use of graphics, interactive tools and customizable options when presenting your marketing materials. Instead of designing landing pages and research libraries simply as repositories for digital assets, consider how you can use these spaces to grab users and engage them in a meaningful online experience.

Take for example this Washington Post multimedia module called Forced Out. This investigative piece examines the DC real estate boom, and how it's given landlords the perfect opportunity to force poor tenants out of their homes in order to make way for expensive condos. The Washington Post effectively employs rich media, including a narrated slide show, videos, an interactive map and tabs that take the reader through the Post's 3-day investigation. Social media is also used in telling this story, and the Post provides a forum for readers to discuss the articles and share their feelings with one another. This cross-pollination of audio, video, photography, the written word and interactive tools allows the Post to engage several of the reader's senses when telling their story, and encourages them to get further involved with what they've learned.

When you are able to tell the story of your product or service, you are more likely to convince people to pay attention to your message, regardless of what you're trying to sell. Marketing technology may not be as sexy or glamorous as marketing couture or alcohol, but it doesn't have to be boring either. With the increased access to rich media tools, such as videos, interactive graphics, and audio, you can develop a variety of resources that appeal to all kinds of users. At the same time, you can position those resources in a way that while their messages overlap, they also each tell your story in different ways.

While many IT marketers are already developing content using a variety of media types, their assets are often segmented by type when you visit the company websites. Even when you have the ability to search for solutions or products, the supporting assets are generally presented as a list, and not as a cohesive unit. Landing pages and Microsites are more likely to group assets by product or topic, but even they lack the storytelling effect that you find when reading online news sites.

Social media plays a role in this new kind of storytelling too, as users want to know not only what a product's story is, but also what their peers think about the story. By adding user forums, reviews and comments to your marketing zones, you express an overall confidence in your product by allowing unsanctioned voices to contribute to its story. While a landing zone, Microsite or product page on your website may not seem like the best place to allow user-generated commentary, plenty of well-known businesses are already effectively employing these techniques.

Check out news sites around the web and think about how they generate interest in their stories. And remember, even though most newspapers are designed primarily to deliver the news, most of them are probably in the lead generation business too. We can learn from each other, and learning how the media employs rich media and social media practices in their business is a good place to start.

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

October 05, 2007

Landing Pages & Landing Zones Work Together

Landing Pages are essential tools for bringing people into your Web site and providing them with the best experience possible to convert them from browsers to buyers. Landing Zones are great vehicles that can be set up on a partner's site for educating users on your products or services, nurturing users throughout their entire buying processes, and providing users the information they need when they're ready to buy. These are two tools that work extremely well together.

Lee Odden of Online Marketing Blog and Jon Miller of Marketo sum up how best to build a successful Landing Page in Ten Tips for Lead Generation Landing Pages. In addition to the 10 excellent tips in the paper, I recommend providing users with a variety of content and content delivery methods to nurture leads throughout their entire buying processes. The best way to get site visitors to return to your site is to offer content that matches their research needs.

By building a Landing Zone on a partner site that includes white papers, research reports, case studies, product literature, and seminars as PDF files, podcasts, webcasts, demos, and videos, you can appeal to first time visitors gathering basic information, to techno-geeks looking for detailed product specifications, to C-level executives on the verge of a decision, and to everyone in between. Plus, you get the added credibility of the partner's brand being associated with your company.

-BH

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.

-BH

November 17, 2006

Lead Generation Campaigns vs. Branded Landing Zones

One point of clarification for my followers...

The Lead Generation Showcase Program that I designed will meet the lead generation goals for clients with a limited set of marketing assets [1 or 2], or where the client’s marketing objective can be met by a single engagement with a content asset. We provide targeted online campaigning within WBG, across the ZDE online network and through our network of targeted newsletters to showcase specific assets and meet the required lead generation goal.

The Branded Landing Zone program is designed to meet more complex demand generation objectives – especially where the product marketing objectives are best served by encouraging buyer engagements with multiple educational assets that build a business case. 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.

The Branded Landing Zone Program actually includes all elements of the Lead Generation Showcase [i.e. we provide the same targeted campaigning to showcase key assets and to meet the lead generation goal]. In additional, the BLZs also provide the following unique features:

[1] Structuring to the online sales pitch: through the development of a dedicated microsite

[2] Lead Nurturing: Effective online strategies designed to encourage additional buyer engagements [link maps and triggered e-mail follow-ups]

[3] Additional Behavioral Data: additional intelligence to support any Lead Scoring Model

As always, send me your questions at barry_ harrigan@ziffdavis.com.

BH

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.

BH



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October 05, 2006

Branded Landing Zones are White Hot!

Just came back from three weeks of client meetings throughout the U.S. [I'm counting three days at Pebble Beach which was a total boondoggle with a dozen special clients], and the Branded Landing Zones with Lead Nurturing is among the hottest programs in the online Demand Creation market. Here's why.

We are building on our Ziff Davis success by developing thematic microsites and powering them with our Web Buyer's Guide registration system that allows us to gate key content elements and direct navigation that encourages multiple content engagements - throughout the IT buying process. [We use link maps and 1-to-1 event-triggered e-mail efforts to encourage prospects to move from content engagements to the next logical step in the buying process]. The net result is a more engaged set of buyers who are being accelerated through the buying process. For our sponsors, they get all the critical data [firmagraphics, demographics and behavioral] to help them score the sales leads and prepare them for further nurturing or direct follow up by their sales teams.




Left to right: Me; Bob from Xerox; John from Adaptec; and Dan from DLink after a hard day of meetings [solving all the industry's marketing challenges] at the Spanish Bay course. I'm not including their last names since their colleagues may not be aware of how much fun we were having [but you know who you are!].

BH