Saturday, March 24, 2007

How do you allow prospects to get closer to your product?

Have you ever been miffed when trying to test out a product from a website?

It amazes me at times when I go to websites and when I want to demo or test drive a product I'm either given a message such as "Fill out a form and someone will contact you", sent to a fact-sheet with boring statistics or a powerpoint presentation opens that shows me nice pictures of happy people. That isn't what I want! I want to test out your product so I can evaluate it myself before I have a salesperson call me or before I invest anymore time in your company!

Thought Leaders Need to Keep Thinking

There are different ways that you can interact with prospects on the web but it's time that companies start to smarten up. Call it web 2.0 or the YouTube generation - whatever - people expect more from the web and they expect more from your website. It's time to think outside the box on how you can show off your products and services. Yes, thought leadership is also crucial. This involves demonstrating that your company is at the forefront of your industry and contains the best and the brightest people. The idea around thought leadership is to draw people to your business but once they are there, then what? Throw them a bone and show them that you're more then ideas - you have a product that has what they need to succeed.

Allow me to engage and interact with your product!

I'm finding more and more that the car manufacturers are at the forefront of this movement to take the web to the next level. Some campaigns like the one from Nissan I've criticized for their lack of authenticity and others like Mini and Honda I've praised for their uniqueness and marketing savvy.

A new campaign that I've found by Lexus is an ingenious one. In order to demonstrate how safe their vehicles are, they've created a microsite called If you go the site it doesn't just go to a microsite straightaway but opens up the real Lexus site to their 2008 RX product page and then opens up the microsite as a site overlay. This brilliant as it solves one of the dilemmas as to how marketers can drive we visitors back to the main site. OK... back to the microsite. To show you how safe the car is, they show you a picture of the front end mashed up and allow you to actually fix the car by pulling the front end of the car (see image)! This shows you that if your in a front-end accident that the car folds up nicely without injuring the occupants. This is obviously appealing to the target market and what's most important is that they are not just saying that safety is important - they allow you to see it and try it for yourself. This is a great use of flash technology and allows the web visitor to really engage in the product which is brilliant.

Some other elements that I liked on the microsite is that they allow you to do some of the other "standard features" (they're standard now) like "building" your own car and finding a dealership. The effect here is to build one interactive experience on another. You can always close the window and you;re on the main Lexus site. Lexus is taking this further by using similar storefront displays that allow passer-bys to "fix" the cars using body movements. This is a great way to combine the web and non-web experience and drive home the message.

Remember that the more that you actually engage your prospects and stand out from your competitors, the more likely they will want to engage with you. It's time to think how you can apply this approach to your product or service.

Chad H.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Landing Page Strategies and Lead Qualification

Here are some quick tips from the experts - Google that is - on how to improve your landing pages. Check out the Top 7 Landing Page Strategies on the Google Analytics blog.

I found #4 interesting: "Using qualifying copy". This strategy is used by marketers to try and limit the form submissions to only those people who are truly interested in your product or service. Google recommends that you should add certain requirements such as "A minimum order is required" etc... In the B2B world having a form that asks very specific questions related to your product can qualify someone out who really doesn't care to fill out all of these questions. The problem is that you may be losing high quality leads from executives who are interested in signing up for a webinar but just don't have the time to fill out a huge form.

How do you Increase Conversions yet Ensure that the Leads are Qualified?

This is the magic question for some marketers. The first item I would recommend is only ask for the basic information - name, email, company. Phone and title should be optional. For title, I would use a drop down to find out the level that a person is at - For example: manager, director, executive. This type of standardized data can be used for future segmentation. If it's an open text field, it's difficult to use for segmentation and many titles are crazy these days as "everyone is a manager" in some cases. As I've recommended earlier in the post Why B2B websites fail, one of the strategies you can employ is asking for basic information at the beginning of your interaction and asking for additional information for each subsequent interaction. Therefore a phone number may not be needed if someone is registering to receive your newsletter. All that may be needed is an email address.

The other item to keep in mind is to look at leads as if you were applying for a job. What does that mean? It goes something like this: If you went to a job interview, would you ask your potential employer what they do? Would you ask them about the key aspects of their business and what their annual revenue is? Not if you really want the job. This is data that you should have access to. You should be able to take the company name and find out this information yourself. What I've been seeing lately is the ability for marketing databases to interact with data repositories. In this way you don't need to ask people for this data as you will already have this. This may not be practical for companies but I still think that this is something that the company should do themselves and not the person filling out the form. This depends on what are the type of resources that you have. Sometimes spending more money up front saves you more in the long run.

That's Great - You Still Haven't Mentioned Anything About Qualifying Leads

If you're getting too many crappy leads coming in I would recommend automating your lead qualification process. For example, if the annual revenue of a company is below a 1 million, do not pass them on to sales or your call center to call directly. This type of back-end lead qualification can save your company a tremendous amount as there is no human interaction necessary and your company can focus on those leads that are a good fit for your company.

Look for ways to qualify leads without using human intervention. This may seem difficult but by reviewing your data, you can look for trends. For example our leads that come from actual company addresses better then those that come from hotmail or gmail address accounts? Is there a way to filter these out so that the company email addresses get looked at first to see if they are a good fit for your company?

The other more recent trend is qualify leads based on behaviour. Therefore a higher score is attributed to those leads who have conducted certain trackable actions such as filling out forms, responding to emails and visiting key web pages. This type of data won't matter if the actual company is not a good fit for your product or service but can be very helpful by providing your sales team the intelligence to better understand who are your best leads and the leads that should be prioritized. This type of lead qualification of course requires a way to track this information, process it and provide reports etc... Besides the software itself, getting your company aligned around what a qualified lead is an entirely different story.

I think that's all I want to touch on for the moment as this post is getting into some complex topics but hopefully it opened you up to some new ideas and possibilities. What type of lead qualification do you do? Is it automated?

Chad H.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I Invented the Word Blogletter

According to Veronica Brown over at the Content Factor, I co-invented the word "blogletter" which is a combination of a blog and an enewsletter. This is based on my blog post called: Where Do Your Email Newsletters Go? Email Heaven? Becuase I did publish my blog post first on this subject, I'm taking full credit for this - yeah baby!

Chad H.

PS - Ok, the term blogletter has been used for many purposes but it seems that this was the first time it was used for this purpose - prove me wrong!


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Email Tools and Forrester's Best & Worst of Email Marketing

Are you looking at different ways to evaluate your email effectiveness?

There are few different ways that you can evaluate email usability, effectiveness and ROI. I've found a few email tools and resources that you may find useful. Many of these tips are fairly obvious but how often are you checking to make sure that you and your team are following these best practices? Do you actually measure your overall email effectiveness in terms of ROI?

Measuring Email Usability / Effectiveness

If you're asking the following questions:
  • Is my email sign-up process fully optimized?
  • Can I improve my "from address" and subject lines?
  • Is my email design appropriate?
then check out Email Labs Email Marketing Usability Rating Calculator as well as the Email Evaluation Scorecard from Forrester (page 4 - provided by Responsys).

In the Forrester report: "The Best and Worst of Email Marketing of 2006", there are some useful tips for email marketers. For example, it outlines that the subject line should not only outline what is in the email but also what value the recipient will derive from it. American Express had a successful example: "book a Caribbean cruise and enjoy special offers”. Another useful tip is to test your email with the images disabled - are the call to actions still visible? In B2B, the average score for the Forrester Email Evaluation Scorecard was -0.8 (10 was a pass) which is horrible (that comment summarizes the report). I've created a way to score yourself using a new tool called InstaCalc. All you need to do is plug in your answers (either positive or negative) below and your score is calculated.

Measuring Email ROI

To measure email ROI it all depends on the type of campaign. If it's a straight up e-commerce campaign in which you can see the exact dollars that come directly from an email campaign, the following email calculator from MPlans may help you plan out your campaigns. Just plug in the audience size, your campaign costs (do this by holding and dragging your mouse up or down on the text field), the expected response (clickthrough rate) and conversion rate (number of sales in this case). You also need to know the average purchase price. Email Labs has a similar email ROI calculator.

For more complex sales, a more complex calculator is needed. Instead of just looking at number of sales, you would also want to know the number of lead, qualified leads, opportunities and eventually sales. In addition, one email campaign typically doesn't get you the sale. However, if you practice proper close loop marketing, you should be able to trace back closed opportunities to those that responded to emails. How do you do this? A number of different ways - I typically see clients use the campaign feature in their CRM. What is needed is an email engine that directly ties into this so that your company can track your email success and compare it to your other marketing channels. For example, email was tied to 90% of closed deals while our live events only accounted for 45%. This may be a bad example but you get my point.

What do you use to test the effectiveness of your email campaigns? Do you look at the stats, ask for feedback, calculate ROI?


PS - Here is another InstaCalc example over at the 50 Best Tools blog that allows you to plug in your email numbers to get basic metrics such as open, clickthrough and conversion rate. You can take this further to gauge these numbers against the industry benchmarks
PPS - This tool from the Advanced Marketing Institute evaluates your headline text. You can also use it for your email subject line. It lets you know the emotional marketing value which can be key in getting someone to click on your email rather then having it deleted.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Lead Generation "Insights". Yeah Right!

lead nurturingRainToday which is typically a pretty good source for small B2B companies looking to market professional services almost blew it with their new research report called "What's Working in Lead Generation". While I didn't purchase the complete report, I had a look at the executive summary and wasn't impressed until the last few points. In the downloadable PDF, they provide 6 lead generation insights for 2007. These insights are really not that insightful. Here they are:
  1. Brand Matters. Really? I was "surprised" to read that those companies that have a stronger brand recognition generate more leads. Note the heavy sarcasm.

  2. Know Your Target Market. Are they serious? This seems pretty obvious. It was even more obvious that the companies that know their target market (includes knowing which companies to target, knowing the titles of the people of these organizations as well as the specific people) tend to generate more leads. Wow, that's groundbreaking there.

  3. Cold Calling Works. I don't even know where to start on this one. It's fairly logical that proactively calling someone will generate more business then just sitting on your ass. If you have your act together and have a decent strategy, you'll never really need to purely "cold call". This ties in with the next "insight"

  4. Integrate Your Tactics. This too is obvious to some marketers but was one of the better "insights" and demonstrated the strengths in combining different marketing channels such as email, direct mail and follow up calling. While it's easy to generate a list and blast out an email and wait for the responses to roll in, this obviously can't be your only tactic.

  5. Nurture the Leads you Have. OK, this was a good one because it's often overlooked. Many marketers talk about how many leads they generated at an industry conference and how many of those leads turned into sales. What about those leads that seemed to go nowhere - what happened to them? Were they not ready to buy yet? Did they not have the budget? What did your company do with these leads? A typical response I hear is that we don't really have a strategy here. Some companies rely on their sales team or demand generation team to follow up but do they really do this? Does a lead really want to get continuously nagged by a sales rep?

    RainToday notes that 50% of leads are not "sales ready" and require additional nurturing. This is crucial. By lead nurturing, I mean such practices as sending regular newsletters that demonstrate the expertise of the company in a particular industry inviting a prospect to a webinar and/or live event that provides tips to the target market and portrays you as a leader in your space. This is not just a "one-off" campaign but includes multiple touches over a specific length of time. Typically I see campaigns that direct targeted offers with relevant content that is delivered over a 1-2 month period. The goal is educate and keep in touch with a prospect until they are ready to buy your product or service.

    From my experience, lead nurturing needs to be easy to setup for it to work and you need to get buy in from all levels. The more automated it is, the better and the more you will get out of your efforts. Sales also has to be included in the planning process as they need to know that the goal is to help them and not get in their way. There are many times that I see these projects fail as sales (or the demand generation team) wants to send the messages themselves. Sales and marketing can work together. Lets repeat that. Sales and marketing can work together. That was pretty easy? :) For example, say marketing sends a prospect a new whitepaper on how to save your company money, sales should be able to see if the prospect opened the email and clicked through to the website and then follow up with that person. In this way, sales can focus on those prospects that are genuinely interested in your business. If they had the time to open your email or respond to a direct mailer, they shouldn't mind if you drop them a quick call.

    For the messaging itself, the relevancy part of this is crucial. Sending information that doesn't provide value to your prospect is a waste of time and can actually hurt you as the person may unsubscribe or look to your competitor.

    You can add complexity by sending different content based on the prospect's past behavior. For example, say the CIO your targeting doesn't open an email that you send, either send them another email with a different message or perhaps send them a direct mailer. This is easier to do then you think but does require a well thought out strategy. It's obviously worth it when you start to see those leads that were once considered losses turning into sales. You will also need a way to track which marketing initiatives helped get you the sale - in this way you can show your boss that the money you're spending is paying off and is not being "wasted". I always recommend starting small and monitoring the initial results. Once you prove that the strategy works, you can invest more heavily as you will have the proof to back up the needed resources to get it up and running and to maintain it. The main part here is creating fresh new content that will keep prospects interested.

  6. Indicators of Future Lead Generation. This section made no sense and was really just an ad for the entire report that I wouldn't purchase.
I would definitely recommend subscribing to RainToday's monthly newsletter but I wouldn't spend anything on the report unless your really new to this area. I would be more inclined to check out Brian Caroll's blog - even though he caters to the larger B2B deals while RainToday seems to focus more on the small biz market.

As a quick question, have you used lead nurturing? Has it worked? Any insights into lead generation that you want to share?





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