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December 12, 2008

How B2B Marketers Can Monetize Social Media

If you've been trying to introduce social media and networking tools and create an online community centered around your company, products or services, there's a good chance that you've hit walls when it comes to explaining how exactly these new products can be monetized. While B2C has leveraged the power of social media and social networking with great success, B2B is still struggling to justify the investments required to develop, host, and manage social tools and communities on their websites.

In most companies, new product ideas are welcomed and products are developed when there is a clear path to ROI - if something isn't fiscally viable, it probably won't last long in many marketing departments. Since social media and networking is still relatively young, there isn't a vast repository of information that explains how social media usage can be measured, benchmarked, analyzed and monetized - especially in the realm of B2B.

This creates a catch-22 of sorts for many B2B marketers - all kinds of companies WANT to employ social media tactics in their marketing strategies, but no one has the cold, hard data proving that doing so will result in a positive ROI. Until someone takes the plunge (and reports on their findings) however, no one has the ammunition to prove the profitability of using social media as part of their marketing campaigns.

You can sense the impatience of some of the media industry's most influential players in this roundtable video produced by FOLIOMag. In this video, Creating Community media insiders discuss (and sometimes argue) why social media is so important, and how it can be monetized when partnered with existing lead generation efforts.




Some of the benefits of social media highlighted in the video include:

1. The ability to use social media to extend your content (by allowing users to create their own content, comment on existing content, and share your content via bookmarking/tagging tools), extend your reach (by breaking down your website's "walls" and connecting to users via widgits and sharing tools), and increase your site's stickiness (by giving users a reason to stick around and interact with your site's offerings).

2. The chance to give your customers what they want, all while gathering deeper information about your audience. This allows you to deliver content with greater relevance and selectively target users with the data they've openly provided.

3. The opportunity to grow your audience by attracting social-savvy users (and their friends), establishing deeper relationships with your users (by responding to their messages, comments and content), and moving away from the current "broadcast" method of communication (1-way communication from you to your users).

4. The competitive advantage of being able to deliver an increased level of depth, quantity, and quality with your leads based on the new kinds of information able to be gathered via the social tools.

5. The capability to reach new advertisers by offering social media as a product on its own merit, or as a part of an integrated marketing campaign.

If you're interested in learning more about how you can measure ROI and monetize social media as part of your overall marketing strategy, the resources below should help you get started.

Social Media ROI Resources
from Constructing Social

Online Community ROI: Models and Reporting - Research Study Posted
from Bill Johnston: Online Community Strategy

A Marketing Charts Study: Marketing Execs Must Realize and Learn to Use Power of Social Media

Frogloop's ROI Calculator: Is It Worth It? An ROI Calculator for Social Network Campaigns

The Online Marketing Blog post: Social Media Analysis and Tracking

November 18, 2008

Using Social Media to Shorten Sales Cycles

Social media and online communities have exploded over the past few years, but most B2B marketers still haven't figured out how social media can be implemented and monetized as part of their overall marketing strategies. With stable revenue sources already in place, insignificant budgets for developing and building new (and untested) marketing tools, and little data on the ROI of social media, B2B marketers are sticking with traditional online models (including lead generation and banner advertising) and resisting the inclusion of social media tools on their sites and in their campaigns. staircase.jpg

If your company is already running a website that, through email marketing, SEO tactics, and organic traffic, attracts return visitors regularly and requires users to register to view content, than adding social media and networking tools is a logical next step for growing your business. By providing loyal users with a website focused on serving their needs and hearing their opinions, you build stickiness into your site, encourage increased engagement with your content, and gain priceless insight into what your members are researching, testing out, engaging with, and most of all - thinking about purchasing.

B2B marketers already know that the buying process is lengthy, especially when big businesses are making the purchases, and everyone from the development group to the CFO is involved in making the final decision. This process means that B2B buyers seek out content, share their findings with colleagues, engage with various kinds of research materials, and consume educational materials until a consensus is achieved and a purchase is made.

If marketers already know that the B2B buying process lasts anywhere from 3 - 18 months (depending on the size/revenue of the buyer & the costs involved), and that successfully navigating this process requires offering a range of content and content delivery methods that appeal to potential buyers, than creating a venue where users return regularly, engage with your content, and express their needs (via created content, forums/commenting, reviews, and content consumption) is an ideal way to identify and target users with appropriate and timely messages that ideally help shorten the sales cycle.

By implementing social tools on your site, the quantity, quality, and type of user data that can be collected and analyzed changes, and you gain access to previously unavailable information that can guide you in targeting, customizing and delivering content delivered to users right as they realize that what you've delivered is exactly what they need. While you may need to develop new ways of tracking and reporting how users interact with your site, your efforts will pay off in the form of new types of data that can be used for marketing purposes, included as part of your lead scoring efforts, or offered to clients in an effort to increase your overall cost-per-lead.

In these challenging economic times, vendors are looking for as much information about their prospects as possible, so they can leverage the data and reach out to niche markets, segment their leads according to their stage in the buying cycle, and arm themselves with a better understanding of each of their leads. Allowing users to express themselves via social media tools, self-submit personal information related to their buying needs, and engage with content on their own terms allows leads to fulfill their own research and education needs, and provides sales with a more complete picture of their prospect. Armed with this kind of full-bodied data, you can potentially remove yourself from having to nurture leads through parts of the buying process, and shorten the sales cycle.

Opening up B2B sites to social media has the potential to be a win-win situation: users benefit when they content more deeply, and engage with your content, and sales benefits when they are handed sales-ready leads who have nurtured themselves through the buying process by actively engaging and interacting with your marketing materials. People want their voices heard - and by offering social media on your site, you show users that you really are listening and responding to their needs.

October 15, 2008

The Role of Social Media in B2B Marketing

For those of us who keep an eye on trends in social media, it seems as if EVERYONE is jumping on the social media bandwagon. From Barack Obama and John McCain's use of the technologies in their campaigns, to major IT companies like IBM and SAP's social efforts, one might easily get the impression that social media is everywhere.

world_background_v-.jpgSocial media isn't really everywhere - only 35% of B2B marketers participating in a Forrester Research teleconference currently use social media in their marketing efforts. With so few statistics available to those looking to learn more about social media's effectiveness, and no real way to test social media without investing time and money on pilot programs, B2B firms have little motivation to change how they do business and embrace potentially risky marketing methods.

In B2B Marketers Eye Social Media, Web 2.0 Tactics, , Forrester Research's Laura Ramos addresses the various difficulties faced by B2B marketers when considering whether or not they should incorporate social media tactics into traditional B2B marketing campaigns. Using data gathered from 300 B2B marketing professionals, Ramos outlines the 4 main components of social media that challenge B2B marketers and prevent them from embracing social media:

1. Social Media is still only emerging in the B2B marketing space.

2. B2B marketers don't know how to measure the success of social media.

3. Without an easy way to measure the impact of social media, B2B marketers are playing it safe and sticking with what they know.

4. B2B marketers don't understand how their customers are using social media, how their customers might want to use social media, or how to reach their customers and learn about their thoughts on social media.

Do you have these same issues in deciding whether to incorporate social media into your B2B marketing campaigns? Has your company embraced social media as an effective marketing tool? Have you determined how best to measure the impact of social media on your users, your ROI, your sales and conversions? Do you even know if your customers are already using social media in other areas of their lives, or if they would welcome the introduction of social media tools in their B2B decision making process?

It's certainly important to ask yourself these questions when thinking about how social media might fit into your marketing strategy. At the same time though, you may not be able to answer all of these questions until you take the leap and present your users with social media in your marketing efforts. When people are given the chance to participate in that which interests them, they seem to respond by getting involved.

Consider starting small - here are a few ways to get started with social media without completely overhauling your entire marketing strategy:

1. Add tagging or bookmarking capabilities to your website so users can tag, save and share your content.

2. Start a company blog and encourage user participation through comments.

3. Allows users to access your marketing content (new whitepapers, enewsletters) vis RSS feeds.

4. Create a presence on social networking sites and invite your users to add you to their networks.

5. Incorporate multimedia content (such as videos and podcasts) into your marketing efforts.

If you want to learn more about how companies are implementing social media into their marketing campaigns check out this Social Computing Magazine article, 130 Social Media Marketing Examples from Major Brands. You can also find useful information on social media marketing in SEOmoz's article Social Media Marketing Tactics, or in Marketing Pilgrim's Social Media Marketing Beginner's Guide.

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.

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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 29, 2008

Pushing Prospects through the Pipeline

A recent Marketing Sherpa report addresses lead nurturing best practices, and is a helpful update on how to best reach prospects once they've engaged with your content, but not independently returned to your site. By applying the practices outlined in Lead Nurturing Best Practices: New Data, Charts, Tips to Put More Punch in Your Cultivation Tactics, you can align your lead nurturing program with what's shown to be working industry-wide. In compiling this report, Marketing Sherpa partnered with Eloqua (a lead management & demand generation powerhouse) and On24 (a leader in the virtual event and webinar space), to survey over 1000 marketing professionals to learn about their lead nurturing methods.

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According to the report, lead generation isn't what's difficult - with the general thinking being that most lead generating companies already have plenty of leads, they just don't have plenty of sales ready leads. In order to deliver high-quality, sales-ready prospects to your sales team, you need to put your energies into nurturing your existing leads over the long term, and expect that it will take up to 24 months for some of your leads to turn into sales. To effectively nurture leads over the long term, your lead nurturing programs need to be elevated within your organization, and given the same kind of time and energy that's put into generating leads.

The Marketing Sherpa report touches on a few key concepts that I've examined and explained in further detail below:

Best Practice #1. Use multi-media touches to nurture leads

In order to effectively reach your prospects, you need to use more than email newsletters or triggered email messages to move leads through your sales pipeline. While email marketing is a tried-and-true method of nurturing leads, you need to do more. According to the report, a combination of email messages, direct mail, and telemarketing efforts works best when trying to segment your leads.

If you really want to reach people where it counts, you can look to telemarketing as a tool to help increase your brand awareness, determine where in the buying cycle prospects are, and offer educational materials to help further their awareness of your company, products and services. Direct mail is a great way to invite people to virtual and face-to-face events, and remind users of new content or marketing materials they might want to check out on your site. Email marketing is a good tool for drip-nurturing, and can be employed when you have a group of prospects that are actively involved in researching solutions, and want to nudged along with new content or new information related to your offerings.

Best Practice #2. Quick response to Web leads can maximize conversions

With our always-on world, it's no longer good enough to wait 24-hours before making contact with a new prospect. With so many competitors vying for the same sets of eyes, it's crucial that you cement your relationship with new leads inside of an hour (!). And according to the Marketing Sherpa data, "calls placed within five minutes of receiving a Web lead have the highest likelihood of making contact."

To achieve this kind of real-time responsiveness, you need to move toward automating your lead generation and reporting processes, so that leads land in your CRM system as soon as they're generated. And while moving from weekly lead reports to automated reporting processes might require an overhaul of your entire lead management practices, doing so may also significantly improve your overall sales.

Best Practice #3. Use a lead scoring system

Lead scoring is a great way to segment your leads and determine how best each prospect should be nurtured through the pipeline. By rating leads based on a series of filters, such as their location, their time frame for implementing a solution, or their role in the IT decision making process, you can place your leads in separate silos, and nurture each group according to their specific needs.

Scoring is also an effective way to separate the "wheat from the chaff," and figure out how long any given lead should require nurturing before they reach sales readiness. While some leads may enter your sales pipeline with low scores, you can develop strategies for nurturing those prospects and keep your pipeline full as each group of leads receives your messages and moves through the buying process.

By scoring leads, automating reporting so that leads are contacted immediately upon entering your CRM system, and nurturing your scored and segmented prospects with a variety of tools, you should be able to accelerate your sales as you continuously move leads through the pipeline.

You can learn more about Lead Nurturing by listening to this podcast from The Innovative Marketer, What is lead nurturing and why should you care?

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 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.

July 09, 2008

Nurture Leads by Segmenting your Subscribers

email_nurture_revised.jpgA recent MediaPost Email Insider article, Elongated Sales Cycles Require Stronger Segmentation by Stephanie Miller talks about the ever-lengthening sales cycle and suggests that the way to handle this is by segmenting users and marketing targeted messages to small groups. In the article, Miller states the need to pay attention to subscriber behaviors, and direct messages to small groups as they reach different points in the buying process.

To develop a segmentation strategy for your organization, first consider how often users are visiting your site. Miller suggests sending segmented messages to first-time visitors, active prospects and lapsed members, but you can break up your member groups in any way that works for your sales cycle. With IT marketing, you may want to segment according to the number of, or the kinds of engagements members have had with your content. If a group of users downloads two related pieces of content - regardless of the products being offered - you might develop specific category-based marketing messages that provide education on specific technologies.

When segmenting your subscribers, it's essential that you understand user behavior throughout the buying process. By knowing, for example, that users are more likely to purchase a product if they've checked out a trial download, you can respond to user behaviors with the right kind of messaging. For basic insight into B2B marketing guidelines, industry reports such as Marketing Sherpa's Business Technology Marketing Benchmark provide a host of insight into user behavior during the B2B sales cycle.

Once you've determined what your users' behaviors mean in relation to their place in the sales cycle, you can develop lead scoring that examines engagements and assigns a score to each lead. Once your users have been assigned scores, you can start marketing to small groups that have shared scores. In using this kind of approach, you are able to automate the process of segmenting users according to their online behaviors, and create messages that meet their targeted needs.

By sending highly targeted messages to small groups of users, it may seem as if you're wasting your time (clicks = revenue), but you actually increase your changes of catching users when they're in need of technical data, a compelling case study or an interactive presentation. Buyers want their buying processes to run according to their own schedules. By paying attention to where your leads are in their buying processes, you come across as being responsive and mindful of your buyers' needs. This kind of responsiveness is highly valued, and users will trust those sending the emails when they feel they aren't being bombarded with ill-timed and inappropriate messages.

Once you've gained the trust of the user, you can continue to nurture them through the buying process, and hopefully turn your prospect into an actual buyer.

June 13, 2008

Content Delivery Methods Matter

mobile_rewvised.jpgAs the digital world changes to incorporate social communities, mobile devices, rich media, and user-generated content into the mainstream, marketers must evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of their users. While many B2B marketers have already heard this call and responded - consider how many podcasts, webinars, eSeminars and even Virtual Tradeshows exist that were unthinkable several years ago - there are advances that still need to be made, especially in how content is created and delivered.

1. Think Niche. Instead of reaching out to mammoth groups of users who may be interested in the topics you're presenting, give your users the change to sort themselves into small, category-specific groups that can be targeted with highly relevant content. Instead of letting users select from a few general categories related to your offerings, give them sub-choices within those categories. Once you know that a user is interested in learning about highly specific solutions within a larger category, they become highly qualified prospects when it's time to really promote your solutions. Users want to personalize their online experience, and offering them the option to define their interests in-depth allows them do this while giving you insight into their needs.

2. Mobile devices will as important as computers for content delivery. As it already stands, 64% of IT decision makers use their mobile devices to access electronic content. This number is only expected to go up as mobile networks become faster and are able to deliver content quickly and to a range of devices. If you're not already developing mobile versions of your website, landing page and marketing materials (enewsletters, email marketing messages), you need to start doing so now. When users try to access your website or open your enewsletter on their mobile devices, do you really want to lose them as a lead because their platform doesn't support your message?

3. Content needs to be convertible. Buzz Marketing (also known as word-of-mouth marketing or viral marketing) is how people are increasingly finding out about your content. People gather data from trusted sources, and their friends and co-workers fall into that category. Because of this, content needs to be packaged so it can be easily passed from person-to-person, regardless of the device they're using. While forwarding a white paper or emailing a URL that points to a video is easy, users will eventually need to be able to pass webinars, podcasts and product demos from device to device without considering that the file won't transfer. If you want your podcasts, webinars and other rich media to play, regardless of the device it's being accessed from, you need to develop these kinds of content with that goal in mind.

As a B2B marketer, one of your goals should be to make content as accessible to as many people, and with as little ease on their part as is humanly possible. This may mean re-tooling your product offerings to include mobile content delivery options, offering instant updates via micro-blog messages, or developing content that is accessible regardless of the device on which it's played. You may need to refine your focus when it comes to building eNewsletters, and consider sending more newsletters to fewer people so you get a smaller pool of more highly-qualified leads at the end of the day.

Developing new strategies for delivering content is challenging, but is essential to staying current in this evolving digital marketplace. When you do develop new products, you'll be better suited to meet your users needs and you may even attract new users when they see the cutting-edge content-delivery options that your company offers.

May 27, 2008

Users "Stick" Around with Interactive Tools

tools_revised.jpgIf you spend a lot of time moving around online, you've probably noticed an increase in the use of interactive tools on all kinds of websites. As people embrace the concept of interacting with online content, organizations are building more tools that engage users by encouraging their participation. In terms of usability, interactive tools pull users into an organization's offers and offer a kind of "stickiness" that is difficult to find otherwise. And from a marketing and lead generation standpoint, interactive tools have the potential to qualify users as high-level leads.

Users want control over their research and buying process, and it's crucial that their needs and behaviors are considered when designing marketing materials. Part of putting users in charge of this process is to provide interactive tools that spur user participation and help people feel engaged with your brand, your website and your offers.

In Redesigning Web Sites to Put Customers in Charge of Their Experience, from MarketingProfs, Jeannette Kocsis stresses the importance of designing websites with user behaviors as a guide. She lists the inclusion of intuitive and relevant tools as a key component to achieving a site that is based on user behaviors and needs. Interactive tools can also be used to convert users, and when implementing interactive tools, you have the ability to track deep, user-driven behaviors and use that data to qualify high-level leads.

Consumer marketers use interactive tools on all kinds of websites, and seem to have discovered the stickiness that comes when these kinds of tools are offered on their sites. MyShape is an online shopping site with a tool that lets users enter their physical dimensions in order to find out what "shape" they are and what clothes look best on that body type. They link their users to clothes that match their body types and allow them to shop right from there. FitDay, an online food journal site, is set up so users can enter the foods they consume and the exercise they do over the course of a day. Users can set weight loss goals, create reports based on the data they've entered, and write journal entries about their weight loss process.

What's key about these kinds of tools is that they keep the user coming back time and again. When women are shopping for clothes, they know they can find styles that match their body types on MyShape. For people trying to loose weight, FitDay gives them a place to enter their calories after each and every meal. From a marketing and lead generation perspective, this kind of stickiness is invaluable, and makes it easy to qualify and convert high-value leads. Tools that allow users to track their processes, calculate their needs, discover, compare and customize potential solutions are tools that will keep a user coming back to your site until they are ready to make a decision.

By taking a page from B2C marketing, B2B marketers can build tools that provide a deep level self-submitted user behaviors. These behaviors can be used to nurture users through their buying process and present them with relevant materials at appropriate times. Instead of responding to your marketing messages, users are now able to submit their own lead data (in their own timeframe) when they make the decision to work with your interactive tools.

May 12, 2008

Presidential Campaigns and the B2B Buying Process

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The Presidential candidates seem to have adopted the same marketing techniques used by online marketers, specifically B2B marketers. As strange as it sounds, it's possible to compare the Presidential electoral cycle to the complex sales cycle.

While the Presidential election is a high-stakes race for control of this country's government, candidates still have to rely on marketing techniques to get their voices heard and their faces in front of the masses. The Presidential campaigns are lengthy - lasting from 6-18 months - are education-intensive, and involve long-term nurturing of their target audience (voters). With so many people tuning into the race this year, B2B marketers may want to pay attention to how candidates have attracted, retained and nurtured their supporters, and how they plan on keeping them engaged from now until November.

Branding
To be a viable Presidential candidate, contenders have to create recognizable brands that appeal to potential supporters all over the country. In building their brands, candidates have a limited period of time to introduce themselves, educate the public on their policies, and prove that they can be trusted. By reaching out to voters with consistent messaging (signs, literature, buttons, commercials), providing a steady stream of high-quality educational materials (issue statements, press releases, online content, literature), and repeating their campaign's key themes at every opportunity(Change You Can Believe In; Straight Talk Express, Making History Together), the candidates have effectively created recognizable brands that seem to appeal to voters.

Building recognizable brands is also an essential component to running a successful B2B marketing campaign. When sending out marketing materials, B2B marketers work to establish themselves as trusted advisers that can be relied upon and turned to over the course of the buying cycle. To do this, marketers reach out to prospects with educational materials that are meant to facilitate the research phase of the buying cycle. By sending these kinds of materials early in the buying process, marketers build brand awareness, provide valuable research materials and hopefully establish themselves as trusted advisers.

Research & Education
With so much riding on the outcome of the Presidential Election, voters are increasingly educating themselves on the policies, backgrounds and beliefs of the Presidential candidates. To help voters learn about their issues, candidates have developed content that outlines their policies, highlights their voting records, and explains how they plan to proceed if elected. Voters can download issue statements, read press releases, watch videos and study the text of speeches on candidate websites. Campaigns also send out eNewsletters and text message updates to blast their supporters with information about the candidates.

With lengthy sales cycles involving expensive, and often highly technical products, B2B marketers have to provide a stream of educational materials to their prospects that will answer their questions as they progress through the buying process. And because different prospects have different requirements (the technical decision maker vs. the financial decision maker, for example), marketers need to develop content that will reach each kind of buyer at the appropriate point in their buying process. To do this, B2B marketers create white papers, case studies, webinars, product demos and podcasts that users can acces with ease when they're ready.

Nurturing
With an election cycle that started in early 2007 and will end in November of this year, Presidential campaigns have to nurture voters throughout the entire process. By reaching out to users with eNewsletters, text messages, events, and editorial content, Presidential candidates continuously strive to connect with and engage voters. Adding to this difficulty is the need for candidates to raise money from their supporters and motivate their base to volunteer their time, organize events and make phone calls on their behalf. So while candidates nurture voters through the process, they also have to engage people with Calls to Action.

Research on lead nurturing shows us that prospects are most likely to respond to your marketing message after you've engaged them with multiple touches (email messages, phone calls, eNewsletters, etc), and that 95% of initial leads are "green bananas" that need to be nurtured and ripened over time (with thanks to Brian Carroll). Because of this B2B marketers engage in "drip marketing" techniques that allow them to engage and re-engage prospects by reaching out to them over time and building their brand and their image as a trusted adviser. B2B marketers continuously reach out to prospects with eNewsletters, email marketing messages, engaging content and Calls to Action - though these Calls to Action generally invite users to participate in events, download trial versions of their products or watch multimedia content.

Content
Both Presidential campaigns and B2B marketing campaigns lean heavily on the use of content to get their views across- specifically audio, video and informational articles. There seems to be an overall recognition that eNewsletters and email marketing messages are effective tools for getting a message across to large numbers of people at once. And while B2B marketers are still somewhat lagging in their use of social media, Presidential campaigns seem to understand that the way to engage users is to let them participate in the process, and have widely implemented blogs, social communities, and user-generated content.

By comparing Presidential campaigns and B2B marketing campaigns, we can see how large, well-funded organizations are using the same tools to achieve very different goals. In looking at the similarities of the processes required to attain their goals however, it's clear that we can all learn from each other, and consider how some of the candidates' tactics could work in the B2B arena.

May 02, 2008

Designing Better Landing Pages

958915_sphere_revised.jpgIf you're in the business of generating online leads, you need a Landing Page that doesn't scare users away from becoming registered site members. A good Landing Page is one that encourages the casual user to register and convert, obtain the offer that drew them to your site, and return regularly. A good Landing Page whisks users through the registration process quickly, provides questions and response options that match their experiences, and doesn't demand the surrender of too much personal information.

I've culled some basic Landing Page design tips from experts in the field, and included them below. Crafting a well-designed Landing Page that converts a high number of users and generates quality leads requires far more than I've offered here.

1. Keep it short and simple. Jon Miller of Marketo and Modern B2B Marketing makes a great point in
Two Practical Landing Page Tips That Will Save You Money
. Using his company's Landing Page software, testing capabilities and tools, Miller ran a test to see which Landing Page forms convert at a higher rate - those with short forms (5 information fields), medium forms (7 information fields), or long forms (9 information fields). The short forms won hands down, with users converting at a higher rate and each conversion costing less. Miller's findings are clear - the more information you ask of your users, the less likely they are to provide it and the more that conversion costs.

2. Inspire trust with consistency in branding. Your Landing Page is part of your organization's corporate marketing message, and it's important to remind users that by registering via this page, they'll receive trustworthy content and information. By incorporating consistent branding on your Landing Pages (instead of implementing a particular product's branding campaign on its Landing Page), you present a united front to your users and let them know that your company is responsible for their personal information. In Think Beyond the Click: How to Build Landing Pages that Convert, Julie Mason writing for SearchEngineLand points out that the number one reasons people decline to submit personal information (or submit fake data) is because the site doesn't look credible.

3. Don't use too many bells and whistles. When encouraging site registration via a Landing Page, the last thing you want to do is frustrate your users and force them to navigate away from the Landing Page (or worse - close out their browser window entirely) because the graphics or pop-ups are too invasive. In 10 Landing Page Optimization Tactics by Larry Chase, Chase explains that while some users may appreciate the graphics display (especially gamers), most users just want to hand over their personal information so they can get the offer they've been promised. Hold off on using music, video, or pop-ups on Landing Pages and allow users to register with as little interruption as possible,

4. Limit navigation and escape routes! Once a user reaches your Landing Page, the goal is that they register. Period. While you typically want to offer users links to research they might find interesting or encourage people to investigate your site for themselves, you don't want to do this from your Landing Page. In Online Marketing Blog's Ten Tips for Lead Generation Landing Pages, Lee Odden says, "...each link is an invitation for the visitor to click away instead of converting. " By sticking with your corporate branding, a straight-forward registration form and a header or footer (with a link to your homepage), you have a better chance of converting users.

5. Don't forget your end of the bargain. It's essential to deliver on your promise once a user has taken the time to fill out your registration form and become a member of your site. When a user finds themselves on a Landing Page, they've arrived there after deciding to download a white paper, watch a webinar, or take some other action. If you strand your new member on a generic thank you page they're going to be frustrated, unsure of how to retrieve the content they registered for, and unhappy with their experience on your site. Make sure your re-direct new registrants to the content they want and save your thank you message for a follow-up email message.

April 30, 2008

Educating People to Take Action

obama_revised.jpgSenator Barack Obama is considered to be the most plugged-in of the candidates when it comes to using the internet as a campaign tool. In the Rolling Stone article, The Machinery of Hope, the author discusses how Obama followed in Governor Howard Dean's footsteps when it came to using the Internet, and how initially, that was considered a risky thing to do (given Dean's political spin out in the 2000 Presidential election). With that said, Obama was wise to stick with his online strategy, and his wisdom has paid off in the guise of a robust website that's packed with social media tools.

Obama's homepage grabs the users and asks them to take action right away. Site visitors are greeted with a dynamic window that flashes new content every few seconds; each window asks visitors to take a different action - from downloading his "Plan for America," to donating money after looking at the map of committed delegates. This kind of instant engagement is good for getting people involved as soon as they land on his site, and offers the kind of education voters seek when looking to elect a leader.

Education seems to be a key to the Obama campaign, and the first tab in the site's navigation is "Learn." From this link, users can find all kinds of information about the Senator from Illinois, and even check facts to find out if what they're hearing in the news (or from other candidates) is true. In his "Issues" section, Obama even offers his 64-page "Blueprint for Change," a document that outlines his plan for the country if elected President.

Obama's campaign seems to rely on getting people involved in the process - not unlike Clinton's strategy. From the "People" link where Obama addresses Americans of all different races, ethnicities and backgrounds, to the "Action Center" where he reaches out to voters and asks them to donate money, organize events and volunteer their time, people are at the heart of this campaign. Voters can also sign up for an account on MyBarackObama.com, a personalized online community of Obama supporters, and create their own groups in support of the candidate.

The Obama campaign also has a blog, offers eNewsletter updates, mobile/text updates, ring tones and wallpaper for cell phones and a variety of interactive tools that let voters see how many voters are needed to secure the nomination, and when primary elections are scheduled around the country. Voters can also download all kinds of Obama imagery, and the image above was downloaded right from his site and dropped into this post with little editing.

Overall it seems that the Obama campaign has really stressed the importance of educating voters by providing a tremendous amount of content (multimedia and text) that they can turn to throughout the electoral process. Once voters are educated as to the facts, the website is set up to allow people to form their own alliances in support of Obama and to participate at their own pace.

April 29, 2008

Building a Brand with Social Media

Senator John McCain may be slightly older than his competition, his campaign strategy includes plenty of social media tools that are meant to attract younger voters and reach out to tech-savvy supporters of all ages.

Voters have all kinds of options for getting involved with the McCain campaign when they visit his website, and his site navigation promotes participation. The second tab on his homepage is the "Get Involved" tab, and from that link, voters can engage with the campaign in a variety of ways.

The staff of the McCain campaign clearly understand the need to brand their candidate, and they provide free downloads of McCain web banners, Google icons, cell phone wallpaper, Facebook photos and buddy icons for instant message clients. By giving voters easy access to McCain's image, they are asking supporters to assist in their branding of the candidate and show the world that they support McCain. Consider this - I grabbed the URL for the image above right off of the McCain website and didn't have to resize it or edit it at all to work on my blog!

Senator McCain has also embraced the value of offering a range of multimedia content that can be downloaded and saved for future reference. Voters can find McCain videos, speeches, advertisements, and policy statements on his website, and his Multimedia page has a YouTube logo and videos prominently placed at the top of the page. McCain also gives voice to his supporters and his website has a space for videos created by average Americans in support of his campaign.

Like the other candidates, McCain has communities on Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube, but he's also created "McCain Space," where voters can create an account and be a part of his campaign's community. McCain's campaign blog is written by campaign staffers, includes embedded video, and has some posts that have drawn over 1000 comments - not bad! And unlike the other candidates, McCain seems to use RSS Feeds effectively and has "top feeds" set up on his blog homepage that are easy to access.

McCain's use of social media on his site appears to really promote his brand and engage users to get involved in the campaign. By offering photographs and videos that really show McCain in action on the campaign trail, McCain reinforces his image and builds brand awareness. His site is less focused on user-generated content than those of Clinton or Obama, but in his case, branding may be the best way to attract voters right now.

April 28, 2008

Engage and Nurture with Social Media

clinton_revised.jpgMuch like Senator Obama and McCain's campaigns, Hillary Clinton's campaign has embraced social media as a tool for reaching out to voters and encouraging them to get involved in the political process. Clinton's campaign seems to understand the importance of getting voters involved in the process, and her website includes many areas where voters can get involved and become a part of history.

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
When visiting the Hillary Clinton website, you're greeted with a dynamic selection of comments that people have posted to BlogHillary, the campaign's official blog. Written by members of the Hillary Clinton for President (the campaign's official name) staff, prominent Clinton supporters and citizen-bloggers, BlogHillary addresses the issues, chronicles campaign events, and invites Clinton supporters to get involved by organizing events, signing petitions and adding their comments to the blog.

Clinton encourages voters to get involved by joining one of the Clinton communities on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, by following the candidate's Tweets, or by watching Hillary videos on YouTube. Voters are also invited to start their own Hillary-related blogs, sign up for campaign updates via text messages or subscribe to HillaryHub (a site that tracks Clinton-related news) RSS feeds. From the website supporters can also donate money, volunteer their time, or sign up to host their own events.

The Clinton campaign appears to understand the need to engage and nurture voters over the course of the lengthy election cycle, and provides ample content to achieve this goal. From speeches and press releases to videos, photos, articles and issue statements, voters can find a comprehensive array of information on Hillary's beliefs, voting history, background, and policy initiatives. As this information is always available (and constantly expanded), voters can research the candidate on their own schedule, and with a range of educational tools.

In examining the Hillary Clinton for President website, it looks as if the campaign understands the importance of generating leads (i.e. voters), and nurturing those leads through a lengthy decision making process. Much like the B2B buying process - which involves long-term lead generation and nurturing - the electoral cycle requires candidates to attract voters early on (before their state primaries), and retain them through the national election. During this time (from 6 to 18 months), candidates rely on voters to participate in their campaigns by donating money, organizing events and volunteering their time.

March 18, 2008

Engage and Re-Engage Users via Behavioral Targeting

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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 27, 2008

Will Social Media Kill "Campaigns?"

With the recent surge in the use and interest of social media as a B2B marketing tool, now is a good time to address the coming changes to how this industry does business. By incorporating new social media technologies into lead generation and marketing efforts, B2B marketers may have to reconsider how view their customers and their clients.

In Buzz Marketing for Technology, Paul Dunay makes an excellent point regarding the possible demise of the traditional "campaign" due to social media's impact on marketing. In his post, There is No "Campaign" in Social Media, Dunay defines traditional marketing campaigns as such:

When marketers use the word “campaign,” it tends to suggest an initiative to get a message out to a targeted group of constituents. It also implies there will be a beginning and, somewhere down the road, an ending.

With social media playing a larger and larger role in the B2B marketing industry however, "campaigns" become outdated. According to Dunay, marketing via social media modes (blogs, podcast series, virtual communities) requires long-term user participation. Because users have to get involved in order for social media to really work, you have to continue reaching out, engaging your prospects and asking them to join the conversation.

By relying on the user to respond to our offerings, it's possible that we will have to cultivate, nurture and score leads in a completely different manner. "Campaign" time frames may lengthen, and the way leads are valued may change. Lead scoring, and the management of leads over time, may become the most important part of lead generation, especially if companies discard time frames for lead guarantees and concentrate on lead quality instead.

February 08, 2008

Maintain Your Online Reputation

junk_email_resize.jpg Email marketing via eNewsletters is a highly effective way to generate online leads and promote your company's offerings. With the popularity and relative ease of sending eNewsletters, it is important to remember that each time you send an eNewsletter, your organization's reputation is on-the-line. If you want to maintain a good reputation, maintain your subscribers and deliver valuable products that drive clicks, you may want to consider the following checks on your eNewsletter processes:

1. Do you have permission to email your subscribers? Are you sending your subscribers only those messages for which they have requested and opted-in? Make sure your subscribers have all opted-in to your eNewsletters and have access to functional, easy-to-use unsubscribe links (in each eNewsletter) if they change their minds.

2. Are you considered a spammer? Do you send so many emails that your subscribers hit the unsubscribe list just to stop the deluge? Do you have a list full of undeliverable email addresses? To stay off black lists, limit how many emails your organization is sending each day, and honor all unsubscribe requests. Implement "list hygiene" practices and scrub out junk email addresses before they are added to your lists.

3. Are your subscribers able to read your eNewsletters once they're received? Have you tested each of your messages to make sure the images, links and text render properly in different email clients? Testing eNewsletters is essential to make sure that graphics and links render properly once delivered. By sending test messages to the big email clients (Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL), you also ensure that your eNewsletter images aren't getting blocked for security reasons.

4. Does your eNewsletter design work for your users? Do you deliver a product that inspires people to open, read and click through your content? A/B testing is helpful in determining what works for eNewsletters. When implementing changes, make sure you test out new ideas on your users, and let the metrics help you decide which designs best suit your users.

5. Do you deliver value in each eNewsletter you send? Do you send updated, timely and relevant content that matches your users needs? The greatest eNewsletter ever created will fall short if you are unable to provide your subscribers with interesting content. Make sure that you are sending new material with each eNewsletter, and look at the click-through rates and metrics to determine if your efforts are working.

By staying on top of these kinds of eNewsletter issues, your organization will be better suited to build a positive online reputation and protect their brand. By respecting opt-in and unsubscribe requests, maintaining clean lists, testing your products and always sending relevant content, you are better able to retain both the trust of your subscribers and an online reputation that keeps you out of spam filters.

February 01, 2008

How to Use Telemarketing to Nurture Leads

If one of the goals of your lead nurturing campaign is to become a trusted adviser to prospects as they move along the IT buying process, you might consider using telemarketing to achieve that goal. By introducing telemarketing as a lead nurturing tool, you create a two-way communication channel with your prospects that allows you to learn more about their needs as they learn more about your offers.

telnet.gif In her article, Show 'Em the Love: How You Can Create a Content-Rich Nurturing Strategy, Kathy Rizzo of TelNet Marketing Solutions talks about how telemarketing can be used to reach out to prospects and determine what content they are ready to receive. Rizzo writes that the most effective way to nurture your prospects is by providing them with timely and relevant content that is suited to their purchasing needs, and in order to determine what kind of content best fits their needs, it's important to keep the lines of communication open, which is best achieved through telemarketing.

When calling prospects, you need to ask a series of pointed questions that get to the heart of their buying need and timeline. Once you determine your prospects' needs, you can use telemarketing and email touches to reach out and deliver strategic content that will move them further along the buying process. Instead of simply sending automated content to your entire list of leads, you are now able to break your leads into segmented lists and send specific content that you know will be found useful by your leads.

By incorporating telemarketing into your lead generation and lead nurturing strategies, you recognize the importance of tailoring your efforts to individual buyers and targeting your tactics to fit your users' specific needs. And each time you reach a potential buyer via the phone, you are given the chance to gather data on their purchasing process and refine your marketing efforts to match.

-BH

January 29, 2008

The Nuts and Bolts of Mobile Marketing

iphonescreenshot.jpgWith more and more IT buyers accessing content on mobile devices such as iPhones, Blackberries and Palms, IT marketers need to turn their eyes toward the future and figure out how to run mobile marketing lead generation campaigns. Already, 64% of IT decision makers view electronic content on mobile devices - that means that 2 out of 3 people that are reading your eNewsletters and email marketing messages are potentially doing so on their mobile screens.

According to the Mobile Marketing Association's white paper, Understanding Mobile Marketing: Technology & Research (May, 2007), there are several factors that need to be considered when launching a mobile marketing campaign that are not relevant when launching traditional email marketing campaigns.

1. How large is your audience - how many people have handsets that support the technology used in your campaign?

2. Have other companies in your market used mobile technology in their marketing campaigns? What worked and what didn't work at all?

3. What kinds of limitations do you face in implementing your campaign? Are there technical limitations? Is the average mobile screen large enough for your creative content to be effective?

4. Do you have partners that can assist you with a mobile marketing campaign? Are there new partnerships you will need to establish for your campaign to be a success?

5. What is your projected Return-on-Investment? Does the cost justify the benefits of running a mobile campaign?

These are just a few of the key points that the Mobile Marketing Association suggests you consider before you place all of your resources into a mobile marketing campaign. Find out more by downloading their white paper here, and make sure you consider the ins and outs of this quickly emerging market before you launch a mobile marketing campaign.

-BH

January 18, 2008

Score a Lead, Build a Relationship

Recently I have been stressing the importance of becoming a "trusted partner" to your leads by providing them with a steady stream of informative and educational content that matches their needs according to their place in the IT buying process. If you can reach your users without using sales pitches (especially once they've become a lead), than you can appeal to their needs, on their terms and build your relationships with potential buyers over time.

Relationship building is crucial to cultivating leads, especially those that are relatively "cold." By reaching out to your C and D leads, you start to build brand-recognition and integrate yourself into your leads' research processes. By approaching your A and B leads in a more aggressive manner, you recognize that they are closer to making decisions and may be swayed according to the content you can provide.

There are different ways to nurture leads once they've been scored, and automated lead scoring systems can help you define your parameters and set your lead nurturing strategies in to motion. Perhaps you can program your lead nurturing efforts to automatically deliver new messages to leads that fit certain criteria and have been in your sales pipeline for longer than x months. Or consider that when scoring leads you could design your system to automatically move leads up or down levels according to their age, the number of times they have engaged with your content, and the types of content they have accessed.

Lead scoring does more than let your sales team know which leads are ready to make sales and which leads are cold. By combining a well-developed lead scoring system with an automated and carefully tailored lead nurturing program, you can use technology to help you reach out to your leads and start building relationships. It's crucial that you build and nurture relationships with all of your prospects, and the process of scoring leads before you start building those relationships can help you understand the needs of your leads before you try to satisfy them.

-BH

January 15, 2008

Innovate for Change

If you want to remain competitive in the IT lead generation industry, you have to go beyond your current lead generation practices and develop new tools that help you do your job. Approach your business with an open mind and consider what new medias and technologies can be leveraged to market enterprise technology on the Internet.

In the past few years we have increased the kinds of content that are acceptable in IT lead generation campaigns, as well as the types of media that can be used when creating content. While white papers have been used for years to generate leads, it's only been relatively recently that you could download a podcast of that white paper, or watch the same information presented as a webinar.

How do you want to receive your online research? It's easy enough to think that eNewsletters and email marketing messages are the cheapest, most efficient ways to generate leads - but do users still want their content delivered in that manner? Is it possible to create a site where your marketing messages could be tailored to each user (according to how they fill out your registration forms) and delivered via text message, instant message, RSS feed, blog entries or via email? And if content could be delivered in these ways, are there as-of-yet undiscovered methods that will work better?

It's time to take a hard look at the products you use in your lead generation campaigns and determine if there's more that could be done to optimize your lead generation. Be an agent of change within your organization and look outside of your current policies towards new medias, new content types and new content delivery methods.

-BH

December 21, 2007

Improve Branding with Keyword Consistency

If you want to create consistent branding on your Website, throughout your marketing materials and as your organization appears to search engines, try using consistent keywords in all aspects of your marketing efforts. While much of branding is visual (think logos, home pages and eNewsletter designs), word choice, tone and keyword selection also play a role in creating a consistent brand.

One way to accomplish this kind of organization-wide consistency is to encourage collaboration between your editors and copywriters, your Search specialists and your Lead Generation team. Develop a process by which the keywords used by your Search specialists make their way to your Editorial and Lead Generation teams. When creating titles, descriptions and summaries for marketing materials, make sure that keywords are included in high-traffic spots (which can be determined using Eye Tracking studies) and are consistent across all of your marketing materials.

By repeating key words and phrases on your home page and Website, in your metadata, in eNewsletters and email marketing messages, and within your content, you will subtly build and enforce your company's brand. And while your site visitors and subscribers might not consciously notice the consistency, chances are good that search engines will.

-BH

December 13, 2007

Do You Web 2.0?

For the B2B technology sector, the implementation of Web 2.0 tools and features on your websites seems ideal. With a long buying cycle, multiple parties involved in making purchasing decisions, and the need to do enough research on purchases to understand the technical aspects and be able to justify the expense, any tools that allow the users to take control over their process should be welcomed with open arms.

By opening up your website and allowing users to interact with your offerings, you essentially allow your users to nurture themselves through their own buying process. Tools and site features that let users tag and bookmark content, create profiles and personalized pages (think MySpace for technology buyers), and build their own research libraries are all excellent ways to entice users to return to your site without being promoted via eNewsletters or other marketing materials.

Once you give users a reason to organically return to your site, you can track their behaviors over the course of their buying cycle and use that information to qualify their lead status. When users take control over their buying process, their interactions with your content become more meaningful - when the user reaches for an asset saved to their "favorites," they have made an independent decision to view that material. So even if it's been several weeks since you originally promoted that content and captured the user's lead data, the fact that the user has returned to your site and re-engaged with the asset on their own schedule makes them a more valuable lead.

While landing pages allow IT marketers to capture similar information, most traffic to such pages tends to be driven by the marketing department - through eNewsletter or email promotions - through lead nurturing efforts, or through organic searches. Convincing users to "hang out" on an enterprise technology website is tricky - but adding Web 2.0 tools might just be a good way to keeping coming back to your site.

-BH

December 11, 2007

Organization is the Key to Campaign Success

As more and more lead practices are automated on the back-end, implementing these new practices into your campaign management can be tricky. With the advent of complex lead scoring systems, email nurturing programs, and long-term lead management, keeping all of the details straight is both difficult and essential to the smooth operation of your campaigns.

With so many details for each campaign, the lead generation team at Web Buyer's Guide determined that the best system for our needs would have to contain information for each campaign (assets used, custom questions and filters, etc), allow us to store, scrub and score all leads, and serve as an archive for past campaigns that could be used to analyze the success of each program.

After reviewing the available lead management tools on the market, we realized that the best way to implement such a system was to build it ourselves. Our outstanding in-house developers and client services team created a robust lead management tool that allows us to manage campaigns from initiation to completion, generate leads according to our client's scoring needs, and analyze the success of campaigns once they've been completed.

By combining campaign specifications, promotional information, reports and lead scoring details in one central place, we can spend more time generating and nurturing leads and less time juggling details and hand-scrubbing reports. At the same time, we have control over our system, and can change it as our needs change.

Juggling campaign details and managing leads can take up all of your time when done manually. By implementing an automated lead management and cultivation system to help you organize your programs, you regain control over the process and free up time to help your clients achieve a maximum return on their investments.

-BH

December 03, 2007

Building Trust with Drip Marketing

dripmarketingsmall.jpg Drip Marketing is defined as: a direct marketing strategy that involves sending out a number of promotional pieces over a period of time to a subset of sales leads (from wordspy.com).

One way to cultivate and nurture leads as they move through their buying process is to employ a 'drip marketing' strategy whereby you reach out to prospects with various marketing and promotional materials over a period of time. Each time you engage your leads with new content or offers, you reintroduce your prospects to your offerings, reinforce your brand, and gain credibility as a reliable source of information.

One key way to gain the trust of your prospects is by providing educational information without pitching your offerings outright or pressing your prospects to buy. According to Brian Carroll in Lead Nurturing - Ripening the Right Bananas, multi-touch lead nurturing strategies inspire trust in your prospects and helps build a relationships, and building trusted relationships is one of the most effective ways to turn prospects into buyers.

By setting up a drip marketing strategy where, over a period of time, you send emails that contain increasingly more specialized content (such as webcasts, research reports or podcasts), special offers (such as invitations to events), and links to Landing Pages and Microsites, you continuously (yet gently) nudge your leads until they trust your brand, engage with your content, and eventually respond to your offers.

-BH

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

October 29, 2007

Lead Quality and the Human Touch

Lead quality is becoming increasingly important as technological advances are moving the IT marketing industry toward automated lead scoring, reporting and nurturing systems. Because of this push towards automation, technology sellers need to be assured that leads entering their sales pipeline are of the highest-quality possible.

Understanding what makes a quality lead (or an "A" lead) is key to running a successful lead generation campaign. Here's how we provide quality leads at the Web Buyer's Guide:

1. We have a pre-registered database full of IT-interested leads who are subscribers to one or more of the Ziff Davis Enterprise Web sites.

2. When promoting campaigns, we target leads according to their self-selected interests, and we provide a variety of content to match our leads' needs at each stage in the buying process.

3. Once a user has expressed interest in a topic and their lead data has been captured, our lead generation team hand-scrubs our lead files to remove false, misleading or junk prospects.

This final step - of hand-scrubbing leads - cannot be understated. Even with automated CRM systems and databases, it's crucial that someone screens your leads before they get delivered. After all, it still takes human intervention to recognize the difference between Mickey Mouse and Mickey Smith.

-BH

October 23, 2007

Content Strategies as Campaign Starting Points

When planning a lead generation campaign, try to conceive a content strategy before you launch your program, and use it as an outline for your entire campaign. In determining a content strategy, you need to ask the following:

1. Where do you plan to use your content?
2. What kind of content do you want to use in your campaign?
3. How do you plan on delivering your content?
4. Who is your audience?
5. How long do you need to provide content?
6. Do you have primary verses secondary content to provide via lead nurturing or follow-up?
7. Do you plan on offering content that leads will respond to differently as they travel though the buying process?
8. What kind of story are you trying to tell via your content offerings?

If you look at content as a means of not only generating a lead, but also as a true research tool for the user, you allow the users' needs to enter your campaign planning. By paying attention to your prospects' experiences with your content, instead of focusing solely on your offers, you acknowledge the role of the consumer in your business, and are inherently more focused on what you can do for your leads rather than on what your leads can do for you.

-BH

October 15, 2007

When Campaigns Struggle...

When running a lead generation program, one of the biggest challenges we face on a regular basis are campaigns that struggle to deliver their full orders. This happens for a variety of reasons - most of which are preventable. If you are a vendor and are looking for ways to improve struggling campaigns, here are a few points to consider:

1. Do you have enough content for your lead generation partners to effectively market over the life of your campaign? If a campaign is meant to run for 3-4 weeks, one asset MAY be enough. In general, I would recommend always providing more content than you think a campaign needs - that way, under-performing assets can be swapped out with fresh content mid-campaign.

2. Are your filters too strict? While it's understandable that filters for company size and location are often necessary to bring in the right leads, certain filters may not be as useful as you want. Taking a flexible approach to filters such as job titles, industries and decision-making authority may help you generate more leads. Sometimes it's more useful to have a seemingly unqualified lead in-hand that works to establish a beachhead into the company that you're trying to reach, than to never have that lead in your pipeline.

Keep these tips in mind when planning campaigns - remember, the leads are out there, they just need to be engaged with fresh content, and not filtered out before they reach your sales team!

-BH

September 26, 2007

Don't Scrub Your Leads Before You Start!

The traditional model of qualifying leads based on a prospect’s title or role in the buying process is losing ground. In a 2006 study, “Web Lead Evaluation and Scoring,” KnowledgeStorm set out to “debunk” standard lead scoring practices in the B2B market. By analyzing over 15,000 technology vendor leads, KnowledgeStorm found that vendors who “select-out” leads based on title or role in the buying process often eliminate qualified prospects.

[I have to admit that I first thought this study was simply a self-serving attempt by KnowledgeStorm to cover up what was otherwise a bad IT database - or at least an attempt to suggest that there was value on the fringe of the buying process.]

According to the study, leads with professional or functional titles are better prospects than those with C-level or executive titles. Prospects with professional titles (HR, Operations, Finance/Accounting and IS/Tech) are often tasked with researching solutions to company-wide problems and briefing other team members on their findings. These prospects have a better chance of becoming qualified leads than their C-level counterparts.

Highly qualified leads are also rejected based on the prospect’s role in the buying process. Instead of targeting leads that authorize purchase or select vendors, try targeting leads who are recommenders. In the study, KnowledgeStorm found that prospects who recommend technologies and solutions produce the highest number of leads that are the furthest along in the buying process.

If you want the most qualified leads, think outside of C-level executives. While a lead in the finance department or a lead who recommends solutions may not have final purchasing authority, what they do have are their C-level executives’ ears.

-BH

May 07, 2007

What does Tahiti have to do with IT security?

Beware of contests, premiums, giveaways and other types of "Trojan Horses" that are irrelevant to the business case for your product. Sure, if you offer people the chance to win an expensive all-inclusive trip to a remote location, you will increase the response to your marketing offer, but that will not translate into more highly-qualified sales ready leads. In fact, in my experience the opposite is true. You will, in fact, attract more non-qualified individuals who are interested only in your incentive. These additional responses will frustrate your sales team, reduce the productivity of your sales follow-up programs and otherwise become a burden [not an asset] to your company.

Twenty-five years ago, I ran the marketing for an International travel firm, and at that time, as today, the correct incentive was Tahiti. That incentive would lift the response rates and identify many adventure travelers with lots of disposable income. But, that incentive would not produce the same results for an IT security vendor. For IT security, consider a more relevant incentive -- for example, a free copy of your anti-virus product or free registration to a security event. Such giveaways aren't nearly as sexy as a trip to Tahiti, but they better support your security business case, they are relevant to the buyer's journey and the lift in response rates won't dissapoint your sales team.

Choose your incentives very carefully...

- BH

May 05, 2007

It takes more than white papers to generate demand

In today’s environment of increasingly complex technologies, buyers need more than a white paper to help them make their internal business case to purchase your products. While no one is denying the importance of the white paper, in a recent Ziff Davis Web Buyer's Guide Member Study, we found that 100% of our members engage with five or more types of content before making their purchasing decisions. In addition to white papers, we found that technology buyers rely heavily on product literature, trial downloads, research reports, product demos, case studies and other digital marketing assets.

Consider a syndication strategy for all your digital markeing assets as part of your demand generation strategy. By putting all these resources into your prospects hands, you’ll be moving them through the buying process much faster and you'll be positioning your company as a go-to resource for the supporting research and information for buyers at all stages of the buying cycle.

-BH

March 01, 2007

WBG Resource Library - Surviving the most complex sales

Purchasing enterprise technology is a complex, research-driven process that includes input from multiple decision makers. With buying cycles that can take up to 15 months to complete, it is more important than ever for marketers to surround these key influencers and decision makers throughout the process.

Why is the purchasing process increasingly complex? Here are several contributing factors. [1] The number of individuals involved in the process is increasing. Our 2006 Web Buyer's Guide study identified an average of 34 people involved in the buying decisions for the most complex technology solutions at the largest organizations. [2] The complexity of new technologies requires more market education. [3] The Internet is providing access to an unprecedented amount of data and research tools.

The Internet can shorten the sales process if the buyer's research process is efficiently facilitated -- that was our objective when we launched the Resource Library on the Ziff Davis Web Buyer's Guide.

The Resource Library takes the Web Buyer's Guide beyond white papers and allows marketers to categorize any type of marketing content that will support their sales process; including case studies, product literature, webcasts, videos or even trial software downloads. The buyer's digital journey is guided as they move from an 'unaware state' to a product and vendor selection. And, at each step, the Web Buyer's Guide is providing the digital educational tools to accelerate to a decision.

-BH


February 15, 2007

Return on Integration Summit - May 16-18

If you are able to attend only one conference this year that will help you improve the ROI of your sales and marketing efforts, consider the “Return on Integration" Summit hosted by Sirius Decisions in Las Vegas, May 16-18.

SiriusDecisions is a research and advisory services firm that provides operational intelligence in the form of thought leadership, benchmark data, analytic tools, best practices and access to a peer network to senior-level sales and marketing leaders to accelerate revenue in a more predictable manner.

* Marketing Budget: How does your spending compare to your peers?
* Marketing Performance: What is the ROI you have seen from marketing programs and how do you measure it?
* Sales and Marketing Integration: How can marketing programs directly impact sales performance?
* Sales Productivity: What’s the best approach you can take to increase productivity year over year?
* Solutions Selling: How can you move a product transactional organization to a more solutions consultative culture?
* Sales Models: What new and innovative coverage models can you execute to enable new market penetration?

Sirius Decisions is dedicated to making sales and marketing work closely together and to use new technologies, planning processes and modeling tools to impact their ability to grow top line revenue in a more sustainable way.

For more information see the Summit Web site at: http://www.siriusdecisions.com/summit.html.

I'll be there. I hope to see you.

BH

January 21, 2007

Lead Scoring: Don't throw away the low scores

Mike Wallen, CEO of The Lead Dogs, defines lead scoring as "a method of classifying a sales opportunity by assigning points to responses from qualifying questions based on the importance of each criteria (response) in determining a sales opportunity's overall value (score)." Once your leads are scored, you'll use that score to determine if you should transfer the lead to sales; nurture the lead further; or you might want to just discard the lead if the score is too low.

However, don't be so hasty to trash leads with low scores. Bill Babcock of Babcock & Jenkins details the 5 most common lead scoring mistakes, including throwing away leads that have a low score. His survey found that except for the truly unqualified leads (students and competitors, for example), 80 to 90% of the respondents within a year's time had bought a solution, be it from the client or from a competitor. So, those low scoring leads could very well translate into a sale for you, instead of your competitor, if you engage in a comprehensive lead nurturing program and give those leads the necessary time to ripen.

December 20, 2006

Defining a Lead

John Neeson of SIRIUSDecisions suggests that agreement on sales lead definition between marketing and sales is critical to the success of any demand creation program. Once the sales lead definition is established, it is possible to apply a set of nurturing tactics to move and track a lead through the buying process. Most critical is the criteria for a 'sale ready' lead versus a lead that still requires engagement via the marketing group.

I use many strategies for defining leads with my clients. If you are new to the process, consider using the Sirius Decisions Lead Spectrum as as your guide.


”Lead

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



Larger Image


October 18, 2006

Critical Purchase Influence: Seek Triple Filtered Sales Leads

The secret to quality online lead generation with any media company as your partner is to focus on leveraging your partner's resources with technology buyers who have already verified their critical purchase influence.

The lead generation process used at the Ziff Davis Web Buyer's Guide is essentially triple-filtered - like a fine vodka. And, the critical purchase influence is double verified. Using this methodology the lead impurities are naturally eliminated through the process and the end result won't give you a hangover.

Filter one: The primary campaigning source for the Web Buyer's Guide is against the Ziff Davis Enterprise database [3.1MM records] that has already subscribed to and qualified for one or more of the top enterprise technology magazines in the world, including eWeek, Baseline Magazine or CIOInsight. Each magazine provides an incredible filter system via their controlled circulation process as each subscriber must verify their critical purchase influence.

Filter two: Each lead generation campaign targets that ZDE database to drive clicks to a gated set of marketing assets [white papers, case studies, webcasts, etc.] and the Web Buyer's Guide registration process must be completed, which includes an update of all contact data, demographics and a definition of their individual role in the technology buying process. By this point, critical purchase influence is being double-checked - and regardless of title, that involvement in the purchase process, is above all, the most critical.

Filter three: Only after passing through these first two filters is a contact permitted to access the sponsored content assets and a download of those assets must next be completed to qualify them for the lead generation program.

Are their ways to take short cuts? Yes, other media firms are mastering all kinds of strategies to short circuit this approach to get results, but the quality and commitment of the sales leads generated will suffer accordingly. For example, the triple-filtered method provides considerable advantages over approaches that rely exclusively on database sources without verified purchase influence, Web traffic networks or search marketing techniques. All these techniques will produce some results, but they aren't triple-filtered, critical purchase influence is not double checked and lead scrubbing is essential.

Hint: If you lead generation partner makes 'lead scrubbing' a key service, you may be dealing with a low-quality supplier. If you want to spoil your sales force - convert them to sales lead programs that use the Ziff Davis Web Buyer's Guide.

BH

October 11, 2006

Online Lead Generation at $1.3 Billion and growing fast

Online lead generation is now on everyone's radar screen. The market is now growing at many times the rate of Paid Search. Price Waterhouse now pegs the market size at a $1.3 Billion run rate for 2006 - 8% of the total online media spend.

BH



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.

BH

Building Credibility, Boosting Leads with White Papers

White papers that provide clear, concise and accurate information about enterprise technology products and services are tops in the leading sources of information that technology decision makers use to make purchases. When written well, white papers provide important benefits in educating your prospects and building a business case for your solutions. When disseminated to the right people, they are valuable tools to generate highly qualified [and educated] prospects. In addition, white papers provide real business benefits by reinforcing your company’s credibility and demonstrating your role as a thought leader within your market segment.

White papers serve to build mindshare for your brand and your product. To make a positive impact, white papers must be up-to-date, relevant and compelling. Avoid an overly wordy and academic writing style for your white paper. Instead of using industry lingo, select language that all readers will understand. Also, review your competitor's white papers before writing yours - so the position you choose gives you a competitive advantage.

Writing the white paper is only the first step. Getting key prospects to read it after its written is critical to meeting your business communication objectives.

There are several easy ways to disseminate your white papers to the right audience:

• E-Newsletters – Promote your white papers in your own e-newsletter or buy sponsorships in media that allow you to reach your target market

• Directories - Syndicate your white papers to technology directories and white paper libraries where you will find a robust network of highly respected web sites that are trafficked by technology buyers

• Lead Generation Programs – Subscribe to lead generation programs that allow you to use your white papers as the ‘trojan horse’ to qualify your prospects who are interested to learn about your solutions.

• Press Releases - Issue a press release about each white paper.

• SEO/SEM – Post the white paper to you web site and use the key words from your white papers to promote them through your SEM.

BH

August 20, 2006

Establish a Beachhead into the Buying Process

Act like a force of U.S. Marines who are establishing a beachhead and then moving inland toward their ultimate objective.

New sales leads - based on a white paper download, case study download or online demo - are simply beachheads into a much larger buying landscape. Use these new sales leads as critical new windows into your prospects current thinking and business requirements. A beachhead – a term I use to designate a sales lead that gives you an initial point of contact into an organization - can be established at many positions in a company and then must be utilized to broaden your understanding of the critical decision makers and the process that will determine the ultimate sale.

It is critical for IT marketers to fully understand the combination of business and technical decision makers that influence the purchasing decisions for their products. Many firms miss the opportunity to establish a 'beachhead' within prospect companies by overlooking the involvement of key business and technical users who are researching their product offerings.

One client recently asked us to qualify prospects exclusively with CFO titles. Why? Because they had determined that the CFO was making the final decision in many cases. With some more in depth study we determined that the CFO had actually played a fairly remote role in the buying process. The real 'decisions' were actually being influenced, vetted and determined by key business stakeholders and reviewed by technical decision makers. The CFO was simply rubberstamping the decision and performing a 'purchasing' function instead of a buying function.

It's critical to sell to buyers not to professional purchasing agents. The enterprise technology purchase is so complex that the purchasing function is relegated to negotiating terms - not choosing vendors. If you wait until the payment plan is being negotiated, you've lost the opportunity to participate in the decision process. In this case, the CFO was not a good beachhead to influence the sale. Beachheads are influencers who are involved early in the buying process when vendor selection is still under consideration.

Instead of qualifying sales leads based on their titles, consider each sales lead with business and technical influencers as a potential beachhead to be nurtured early in the buying process. Then, use that beachhead to dig deeper to determine who within the organization will help to accelerate the decision process.

One crucial step is to research the prospect organization’s structure, past purchases, and their current technological needs. Use this data to find out who has been involved in other IT sales. This strategic information gathering will be very useful when your sales team makes their initial contact.

Don't launch directly into a sales process with your new beachheads- start by asking questions!

The more you can learn from conversations with business stakeholders or email exchanges with technical influencers, the better understanding you will have of the entire buying process. Don’t be afraid to ask who is involved in the buying process. Each company and technology solution can have a different buying process - so get a road map for your product from your new beachheads. You are more likely to find an ally within the organization if you are direct and convey an attitude that suggests that you do not want to waste anyone’s time – regardless of their involvement in the buying process.

BH

August 08, 2006

Don't confuse lead generation with lead scoring

Lead Generation campaigning that imposes filters to limit (and target) results can be useful to consider, but not at the cost of some very profitable sales opportunities.

Last week, an ad agency (new to the Lead Generation game) proposed a campaign for one of my clients. The campaign required qualifying sales leads through a series of white paper efforts for a critical enterprise software technology. The target was exclusively prospects within companies with 5000 or more employees.

Sounds ok, right? Not at all!

I discovered that the software was actually being sold to companies of all sizes and that all of those companies had completely different objectives. The director of sales for the software firm was proud of some recent wins with larger firms (and no doubt had waxed enthusiastically at a meeting) and the agency ran with that tidbit of information.

The client – during a more sober moment – actually had an entirely different objective. In fact, smaller firms represented the largest opportunity to close business during the quarter (think public company needing to report better results this quarter!). Smaller firms were making decisions faster and implementing the software quickly. Therefore, they represented the most lucrative near-term business opportunity and were the highest priority. Once agency, client and I were able to get on the same page, the client reversed the agency’s size filter and focused the campaign on companies with 100 or more employees.

The agency had simply never been introduced to the company’s Lead Scoring approach (they were actually new to the entire concept of prioritizing leads rather than eliminating sales opportunities). In fact, prospects from larger firms, while valuable, were not valued less – just differently – than prospects from smaller firms. Smaller firms represented sales results – now! Larger firms represented bigger results – later!

The agency was confusing Lead Generation with Lead Scoring. Agencies adapt quickly and that particular agency will be savvier for the next campaign. Until then, we continue to guide agencies to serve their clients in a fashion that provides them with the fastest sales results.

BH


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!

Barry