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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.

May 01, 2008

Taking a Page from Online Newspapers

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 17, 2007

Go Further With Your Content

As technology buyers are taking more and more control over the IT buying process, IT marketers need to develop new options that let their users have more choice in how they consume marketing materials. By designing campaigns to appeal to users' preferences in the kind of content they want to consume (white papers, case studies, articles, interviews), the type of media they want to use to consume it (PDFs. videos, webinars, podcasts), and the method by which the content is delivered (eNewsletters/Email, RSS Feeds, Text Messages), you can appeal to a broader range of users and build brand loyalty.

In running campaigns, many companies select one asset - such as a webcast - and use that as the only content for their entire campaigns. By limiting a user's choice like this, companies lose out on generating leads that might otherwise be interested in their message. While webcasts (or videos, or podcasts, etc) appeal to some technology buyers, some people will never watch a webcast, even if they might be interested in the message it delivers.

Rather than risk losing potential buyers before they even see your message, why not deliver your message using a variety of media? Using the same content, you can craft marketing materials that appeal to the ardent podcast listener, the PDF-only user, and the video maven. To take your message a step further, you can deliver your content in emails/eNewsletters, to mobile devices, via RSS Feeds, and on blogs set-up to deliver daily marketing content.

As technology evolves, the ways in which we deliver technology marketing messages to our users must change too. Keep the user experience in mind when you're crafting content, and realize that the more choices you give the user as to HOW they receive your messages, the more likely you will be in reaching the greatest number of users possible.

-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

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

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


September 06, 2006

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 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