Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Short Tail and Long Tail Keywords

Some quick observations regarding PPC strategies that I've been reviewing recently that may help your paid search ROI.

Many companies obviously seek out the highest performing (i.e. highest trafficked) keywords relating to their products and services in determining those keywords that they would like to ultimately bid on in Google, Bing, Yahoo, et al. The catch there is the more popular the keyword, the more difficult (and expensive) it is to 1) win it at auction and 2) gain a page one hit in a search engine.

Short tail keywords (definitions) are essentially broader search phrases, usually consisting of one or two terms (think 'running shoes'), that while being the most popular search phrase for a product or service will also be the most competitive and expensive search phrase in trying to win its' use as you bid for the phrase. If you're a small company competing in a large space (i.e. the aforementioned running shoes) you would have a very difficult time competing against the budgets of global brands for these phrases.

Long tail keywords are a longer string of terms, usually 3 or more words, that are much more specific and pinpointed to your product or service (think ' Nike running shoes size 13'). While long tails might not have nearly the volume of clicks as short tails, well-researched long tail keywords can have higher conversion rates than short tails and be a cost-effective way to drive more highly-qualified traffic to your site. They are usually much less expensive, and you are more likely to be able to gain a page one result for your ad.

A large part of your paid search strategy then is to do detailed ROI analysis to determine which of those types of short tail and long tail keywords convert - to a click, to a page view, to a form completion/response, to a lead, to an opportunity, to revenue. Use tools like the Google Traffic Estimator, Wordtracker and Trellian to help you uncover keywords that would resonate with your targets and drive traffic, as well as give you an idea of their approximate cost as you bid to use them. Go to some of your competitors websites and take a look at their page code -- you can see the keywords they are using in their own title, description and keyword meta tags, which can also help give you ideas for your own terms.

Relative to your industry or space, you may find it cost efficient to in fact bid on a higher-priced short tails if the business case is there after conversion. Or perhaps you'll find that you are in a niche market and short tail keywords aren't all that expensive to begin with. You may also find that the opportunity cost of the research it takes to find and maintain enough suitable long tails to make a good strong list is simply not worth it in the long run. Additionally, as (ideally) you are matching your landing page copy to your keyword/ad copy for optimum conversion, maintaining a larger inventory of long tail keywords/campaigns requires a significant uptick in time and energy.

The trick is to find the right balance in your keyword strategy and purchase. As always with any marketing investment, test and experiment to determine the optimal blend of those tactics that reap the highest results.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

ROMI Down to the Tactic

I had an enjoyable chat last week with a software CEO who had a outstanding command of marketing strategy and tactics. He asked some in-depth questions about demand generation and the ability to calculate a ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment) down to the specific tactic deployed in a multi-target, multi-channel campaign. I thought he raised some important issues that bore discussion in the blog.

I've found that many marketing (and operational executives) feel that once a CRM or marketing automation tool is purchased/deployed it will provide the magic bullet of calculating the program ROI of a given deal by attributing that deal being closed to a specific tactic at a specific time. I'm not suggesting that isn't possible, but would caution that that type of metric might be tougher to arrive at than you think.

Frequently I've heard feedback from salespeople who say that the deals they close were not affected by any marketing outreach as much as existing contacts/relationships the salesperson had that s/he nurtured and closed. Leads that were generated and passed through by marketing to sales weren't 'true' leads in that they already existed. And in many cases that may be true.

But the likelihood that a well-crafted, multi-target campaign helped shape and influence a complex decision chain is indeed very real. I'm not suggesting that a charter of marketing should not be to identify and collect net new leads for new business opportunities. That should be a large part of marketing's responsibility. But I'd like to make a case for level-setting in the ways in which you view the impact of your demand gen marketing investments.

If your typical decision chain consists of multiple targets (say 3-5 individuals, senior exec, middle manager/s, analyst), each with differing responsibilities to the final decision, it's likely that your campaign will include multiple offers to each target through multiple stages (AIDA) of the marketing process. Thus there are numerous client interactions/touch points that can and will take place as the decision chain educates to the problem, educates to the solution (needs recognition), assimilates proof points (needs satisfaction) and then takes an action to discuss the opportunity with a vendor.

To attribute the development of an opportunity or deal to one offer or action is very challenging in this type of environment in that it is fair to think that the sum total of numerous marketing interactions, plus the relationships that sales has had in the account, helped contribute to the deal being found and closed.

I can hear some of you asking -- then why do I invest in a demand gen initiative, in a marketing automation tool, in the creative and resource investments if I can't pin down a successful deal to any one tactic? I would argue that the way to think about this is more about attributing a deal to a collection of strategies and multiple tactics that were developed and executed as a systematic and coherent approach to help identify, capture, score, nurture, route, and track leads to deals.

In your campaign/deal post-mortems you will be able to identify certain tactics that created lift, that helped accelerate the process, that had more perceived impact than other tactics. (As an example, you can research and build models around those tactics that seem to frequently be in the mix in those opportunities that you have won. In fact that type of analysis should then inform your lead scoring standards).

But I'm not confident that you will frequently be able to reduce the success of a joint marketing and sales engagement to any one tactic. And I'm not sure you should be able to. Complex decision chains have an assortment of dynamics, including momentum, timing, budgets, politics and online/offline/human interactions that in sum help drive (or retard) the progress of the decision chain through the marketing and sales funnels.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Customers as Social Media Advocates

Many of you now are quite familiar with my enthusiasm for supplementing your traditional outbound marketing strategy with an inbound marketing strategy - getting customers to find you in online communities.

A large part of this strategy requires your planting 'seeds' of your brilliance -- your thought leadership, ideas and creative, innovative thinking for solving business problems -- in forums, blogs and social media platforms where they can be found by people interested in what you have to say. Taking on a content marketing orientation or creating a mini-publishing house, with the purpose of providing a relevant, compelling source of content (information and knowledge) on a regular basis is a significant aspect of building a relationship with a prospect and being successful here.

I tend to discourage blatant product or solution pitches as a source of content in your inbound strategy. It undermines the credibility you're establishing for being about solving business challenges and not just selling product. If and when a prospect is interested in learning more about your solutions, they will find their way to your website and be able to consume vast amounts of product information.

Why not instead seek to enlist your most satisfied customers as your social media solution advocates? How much more powerful would it be for a prospect to hear how impactful your solutions are from a company who has vetted several offerings and found success with your products versus hearing it from you? I'd bet it's a pretty big difference.

Here's an example -- if you're a member, go to LinkedIn Answers and ask a question, say about what CRM solutions are out there that people could recommend. Check out how many answers come from marketing and sales people associated with the vendors they recommend (some people state their company affiliation, but some don't. Talk about integrity). See a credibility issue there?

But how much more impact do the same answers from customers have? Especially those who state they have looked at several different solutions and undertaken a detailed vetting process. It's a significant difference amongst those people seeking an unbiased opinion on what works and why.

Recruiting these types of advocates is not difficult. Once they are on-board and (hopefully) have fallen in love with your company and it's products/services, they would probably be enthused to share their experiences as they have a vested interest in helping your company to do well and grow. You could also incentivize these customers with promotions, service discounts or even chotzkes to gain their assistance. Make it easy for them to identify forums, blogs, social platforms where they could add their 2 cents, and make sure they know that they would prove helpful even providing as little as a sentence of positive feedback.

I would also stress here that you in no way attempt to shape or affect the feedback they would give (which carries some risk, but you should have a strong sense of the type of feedback they would provide at the outset). Assure them that it's completely up to them to provide an honest and principled accounting of their experience with your products and service.

I think you'd be surprised how many of your satisfied customers would love to help spread the word about how terrific your company and it's solutions have been for them.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lead Lifecycle Campaigns

I met recently with the VP of Marketing of a what many experts consider a real up-and-comer in the marketing automation space. He's an innovative demand gen marketeer and has some terrific ideas and opinions about demand generation best practices. He made me aware of some solid thinking about those leads that haven't yet achieved sales-ready status.

One area we talked about was advanced lead nurturing and what he calls lead lifecycle campaigns. He defines these campaigns as designed to ensure that leads don't go stagnant (or get lost), to keep them moving with the goal of maintaining an ongoing interaction with the prospect until they are ready to buy or engage with sales.

Driving home after our meeting I was thinking about the number of leads I've seen generated that for whatever reasons did not achieve sales-ready status that just lingered in the marketing funnel, or worse, were jettisoned out of the system with no further action put upon them. It's a big number. His reference to these types of leads as simply in a 'not ready to buy yet' state was an interesting recognition of these leads having an intrinsic value (you've invested a certain amount of time, money, resource to get them to a certain stage).

My interest was piqued and that night I downloaded his company's guide to lead nurturing to learn more. In it they discuss lead lifecycle campaigns being broken down into three categories - lead handoff, lead recycling and new customers.

Lead handoff is when a marketing qualified lead (MQL) becomes a sales-ready lead (SRL) and is passed into the sales team. Details about the lead including date passed, nurture time and how quickly sales engages with the lead are noted. If the lead is not acted upon in a timely fashion (time frame established by sales and marketing together), not moved forward or is moved backwards in the sales process, there is a set period whereby the lead is reassigned or recycled back to marketing. This ensures the lead doesn't get lost or stuck or otherwise slow down the sales engagement process.

Lead recycling refers to leads which are not yet ready to be acted upon by sales. It's an acknowledgment that these leads have value and should continue to be engaged until they are ready, or until it's absolutely clear that there is no further sales potential. Recycling is important due to the fact that so many leads that enter the sales funnel are ignored or lost. The critical point here is that there are a percentage of these leads that are simply not yet ready to buy, but do down the road fully intend to purchase a product or solution. Potentially yours if you maintain a relationship with them.

The guide refers to two recycling scenarios, where leads are either automatically recycled according to set rules or they are manually recycled by sales. In either case, these leads can be ported to other campaigns in place which are cognizant of their status, the level of data that has previously been exchanged between the prospect and the company and provide tactics which reflect and leverage that information.

The final component of lead lifecycle campaigns is when new customers are won - and the opportunities you'll have to build upon the relationship you've developed with the (new) customer and add to their lifetime value with cross-sell, up-sell and service offerings that continually meet their needs. Drip campaigns for these customers can include welcome notes, helpful hints, newsletters, et al, that would be an ideal means to further deepen your customer engagement and strengthen your relationship.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Real-time Search in Google

I'm sure many of you have read either yesterday or today about Google's new search enhancement whereby they are now including real-time search results from news sites, blogs, and social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, et al. You can sample this new feature by going here.... scroll down to the box labeled More Hot Topics, type in Obama.... then watch real-time posts from a myriad of sites spill down one after the next. Pretty cool.

Obviously this is great news (and has huge ramifications) for inbound marketeers, not the least of which is the importance of being able to serve immediate content in Google about your space, company and solutions. This now provides a channel for your timely and relevant brilliance to be found immediately by prospects, partners, customers and media.

You'll also have an opportunity to monitor and respond to mentions about your company and it's assets virtually real-time, as well as identify other openings where you can affect the conversation about your industry and its' solutions.

Yet another reason for evolving your marketing organization into a mini-publishing house to take advantage of the multiple channels to create content for your prospects and customers and further increase your awareness and build your relationships. More to come on this in the days and weeks to follow...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Contact Acquisition

Many companies aren't always certain where to start when they tackle the task of building up their house lists (prospect & customer marketing databases) for future marketing and demand generation. When asked, I've maintained that a contact acquisition strategy should be included in the overall lead management strategy at the outset of any new lead management initiative at an organization.

When I talk about contact acquisition, I'm referring to those contact records you own (or have access to) that comprise the initial database source/s that you will aim your offers/messages at in hopes of generating interest (and leads) for your solution or service.

Ideally you would identify multiple contact data streams that would flow into your lead gen machine on a regular basis, feeding the campaigns you build and filling your funnel with the responses that evolve into qualified leads. And hopefully many of these streams would be economically sustainable over the long haul.

The question is -- where do you start? For many the first place they go is to a list broker (person or firm that specializes in procuring contact lists for use in marketing campaigns). I don't disagree that a good list broker should be part of an overall contact acquisition strategy. But list rental can be expensive ($150-400 CPM for B2B email lists) and reap poor results (open rates <15%, CTR .25-.75%).

List rental, data services (such as Jigsaw, Hoover's, InfoUSA), paid and organic search, content syndication, newsletter sponsorships, trade shows and events all should be important channels for contact acquisition (with special attention paid to acquisition cost and ROI).

But I also try to bring in as many easy, low-cost channels as I can when brain-storming ways to acquire new contacts for my campaigns. Simple things like adding a compelling link/offer to all company email sig files are free and simple ways to build your lists through transactional and customer service/support emails.

Remember to make all your web pages landing pages, with a newsletter sign-up field on every page as well as a gated offer or two (demo, webinar). With effective SEO, website visitors can be coming into your web site through other ways than the front door (home page) - make it easy for them to sign up to learn more about the problems you solve (and your company's solutions).

Also look to your marketing, sales and alliance partners to trade access to proprietary contacts with a message or offer that may be appealing to their list members.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lead Scoring Tip

Quick tip: When assembling a lead scoring standard for their lead nurture programs, many marketers assign a score based upon a scoring range, usually 0-100. This helps determine how qualified a lead actually is and where (generally) it is in the funnel. As long as both sales and marketing know what that range is and what it corresponds to, they figure the system works.

Try this - add a further (and simple, at-a-glance) understanding to your lead scores by assigning a letter/number score to the rate range. For example, 100-80 points would be further broken down as A1, A2, A3, A4 (A1 being highest). 79-60 could be B1, B2, B3 and so on. You could extend this scoring convention in any number of ways and any number range.

This assists your sales team further in equating a known grading system (A-excellent, B-very good, C-average, D-below average) to the value of the lead. Numbers standing alone don't always equate to a quick understanding of the lead quality and its' sales readiness.

In routing leads into SFA tools such as Salesforce.com, I've often given the lead an A1, A2, A3 lead score in the sales tool to gain the salesperson a better understanding of the lead value. Give it a shot...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

High-Performance Landing Pages

As part of an overall lead nurturing strategy, there's been increasing talk about the use of what are commonly being referred to as high-performance landing pages (HPLPs). Marketing Profs will be presenting a webinar on HPLPs later this week. Companies like Ion Interactive offer software for HPLP development.

The idea behind HPLPs is simple -- better segmenting practices help you construct more targeted landing pages (LPs) with custom messaging and offers that more accurately speak to the interests and needs of targets in the decision chain. As marketeers continue to search for ways to boost conversions and make their content more relevant, I think the idea of customizing and super-charging your landing page optimization is well founded.

Some software apps (like the aforementioned Ion) can automate the process of building these pages -- helping to improve page layouts, dynamic page editing, adding/testing page elements such as Flash and flexible forms, bringing in logic/business rules to provide unique pathing based upon prior behaviors and advanced reporting capabilities.

Even if your budget won't permit the use of a landing page optimization software app, it's good practice to seek to manually create LPs that are specifically targeted to individual members of the decision chain (C-level, VP-level, Dir-level, Analyst-level) rather than one size fits all. Usually each of those targets has different responsibilities relative to the decision process, and thus would likely better respond to more relevant (and compelling) messaging and offers.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lead Nurturing

I've been chatting this week with a former colleague setting up a simple lead scoring system for a small tech company where he runs the marketing team. He embraces the importance of automating his lead collection and management, nurturing the leads they gather as well as placing scores on each of the interactions he has with prospects as they progress through the lead funnel. Good stuff.

We've been debating though the amount of data he should seek to collect through this lead nurturing process, that is, how much data and when to ask for it. He's attempting to collect all relevant data with which to determine if the prospect is a viable lead IN THE FIRST CONTACT HE MAKES. Hmmm, I say... not good stuff.

We both agree that lead nurturing should be an ongoing process where we engage in a ongoing dialogue with a prospect with the goal of providing the prospect with high value information that makes him smarter/do his job better in exchange for his providing us proprietary data about what his needs are (or might be in the future). This suggests that this information exchange should be gradual and at a pace the prospect feels comfortable with in his learning process.

The lead nurture process is very much about your company gradually earning trust as a valued thought leader or provider of good ideas. As you become a trusted partner (you're not just about trying to sell product) the prospect will become more willing to gradually reveal more information about himself and his requirements. Very few people will tell you everything about who they are/what they need in that first marketing interaction.

I've always felt that the campaign forms I build are incremental and reflect where the prospect is in the funnel. I seek to gather just enough prospect data with the first marketing activity that permits me the chance to re-connect and prove my mettle again and again. My first forms usually ask just for a first, last name and an email address (always a 2nd email field to ensure there are no errors). Once I have that, I can enter the prospect into my marketing database and let the conversation grow.

Hopefully with each successive marketing transaction I provide sufficient value for the prospect to feel comfortable in exchanging more info about who he is and what his needs might be. A 2nd form might for instance ask for his title, company name, size, address and industry. 3rd touch forms might then delve into BANT information (budget, authority, need, timeline) where I begin to get a sense if there is funded project either now or on the horizon.

In future posts I'll go through how creating an offer portfolio which supports this lead nurturing process ensures a hand-off from one marketing transaction to the next and keeps the prospect engaged.

Friday, October 30, 2009

More SEO Tips

I've recently been helping out a friend with his new small business selling golf training aids (check out his site: http://www.athleticgolfswing.com/ the Pure Contact Connection is a winner!) and have been reminded about some areas of basic SEO that need some close attention, no matter the size of your business (I've even noticed this with global enterprise companies that have been on my radar).

I've previously mentioned the three initial areas that any website should address with regards to SEO - meta tags for title, description and keywords. Although having quality in-bound links to your site are probably at the top of the list with respect to getting crawled and ranked organically, your title meta is important and does factor into how Google and others index and rank you. Remember that the title should contain the most important searchable keywords or #1 most common search phrase that people would use to find your type of solution. Remember not to exceed more than 60 characters total in the title as most search engines may only display that number of characters in their search results.

Your meta description tag should provide a full, coherent, keyword-laden description of what your company or product does -- it's value proposition if you will. As well it should not exceed 150 characters in total to ensure it's fully displayed in any search results (this includes characters and any spaces).

These two things most people are on top of... where I see some issues is in keywords and their importance to your SEO. Due to SEO analysts finding ways to stuff keywords into web pages and trying to game the system, search engines like Google have attached minimal importance to them in indexing and ranking your site.

However that is not to say they don't play a role. Where keywords help you is ensuring that they are reflected in your title and description metas, BUT ALSO IN YOUR WEB COPY. Google looks for relevance in web pages, where keyword terms and phrases are populated throughout the site content/copy. And weave the terms into your copy in a coherent, organized way, creating a strong and compelling narrative.

Also -- since (hopefully) most of your website pages are each a little different and describe different aspects of your company or products, so too should your meta tags reflect those differences. Try not to repeat the same metas on every page, it won't help your rankings and in fact could probably hurt your indexing. Any keyword exercise you do should be for each and every primary page that you have on your site. Obviously there will be overlap in terms from page to page, but try to create the most pertinent terms for the page content you have, then reflect those terms in title, description and keyword metas, AS WELL AS your page copy.

You should see improved rankings result from these simple steps.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Focusing on the Right Affiliates

I recently concluded a client engagement that included a number of demand generation initiatives, both through direct and in-direct channels. Affiliate partners played an important role in helping to drive demand for the client's consumer software suite.

In a post-mortem of the activities, two things jumped out at me -- it was clear that of the scores of affiliates that were signed up as partners, the majority of lead flow (and revenue) came from a small percentage (~10%) of those partners in the program.

Second, many partners had preferences (and differing results) for certain products.

This illustrates some key points with respect to affiliate marketing and how to best manage your marketing investments around where the success comes from. It will be true that for many partners, the investment provided to them in the way of resources (time, programs, messaging, tools, support, training, etc.) will be inordinate compared to the results you derive from that relationship. Good reporting and analytics should help you to identify and isolate those partners that can and do perform. Once known, that data should help guide where your organization should place greater emphasis in helping affiliates to maximize their (and your) marketing outcomes.

As well, your analytics and reporting should also help determine those partners who drive demand for certain solutions only, those partners who are fully engaged but for some reasons are unable to meet/surpass certain quotas or requirements and those partners who do not provide a corresponding return for the investment you're making in them.

The capability to isolate and understand your partners is therefore crucial to maximizing affiliate performance. Some will require (and have earned) more incremental time and resource allocation based upon performance (or potential). Some will not. The trick is to have the data and analysis available to you to make those types of calls. It's also important to note that it's natural to expect churn within your partner portfolio as a result of systematic review and appraisal of your partners. Which also supports the importance of an ongoing and aggressive affiliate acquisition program.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Do Clicks = Trials = Sales?

As I've been working recently building some online media tests for a consumer software client, it's been amplified to me the importance of tracking your campaigns accurately to determine to what extent they impact revenue.

I've mentioned in the past that online display media would not be my first choice (or 2nd, or 3rd :^) to drive data collection and lead capture in a campaign. That being said, I do feel there are other relevant online advertising vehicles that could work under the right conditions (paid search, highly targeted affiliate search, pay-per-download, etc).

If your product is a software solution which can be easily downloaded as a trial, pay-per-download might provide an interesting testing ground. We've actually had some success in a pay-per-download program with a global media download site, where in fact we've seen over 5500 downloads of our software product trial over about a 3 week period. At least that's what the media partner claims.

The issue for us is what exactly constitutes a 'certified download' with the partner? This week I analyzed the site's claimed download numbers with our analytics reporting and saw that the download to trial ratio was much lower that our standard trial ratios.

In examining the steps on the site to download the trial, it's clear that the first step -- click on the download link -- might indeed be their claimed number of >5500 clicks. But that doesn't mean that all of those clicks resulted in the file being actually SAVED to the client machine (2nd step from the download link), then RUN on the client machine.

When I mentioned this to the media rep, she agreed that altho the trial does get downloaded from their server (thus they should have the info on the number of times the file was actually served/saved), they don't have those figures. It's a critical pathing that's missing from our ROI calculation.

On our side we're able to see how many run the trial as it actually scans the host machine (it's a driver update software) and then provides a results page which is issued by our servers.

Right now it's very tough for me to figure out the ROI of the pay-per-download campaign. As well, there is insufficient reporting to see where we could optimize within the download process to improve saves and runs of the trial.

We're not ready to write off this type pf marketing investment, but it's certainly tough to build a business case for it. I mention this to remind you of the importance of not only doing sufficient internal tracking but also the tracking you receive from the online partners you may be considering. To get an accurate picture, you need to capture EVERY click, every online action, every online step from the initial message thru to trial and sales conversion.

Friday, October 2, 2009

PPC Quality Score & Relevance

Good article today on ClickZ Relevant Signals on PPC Search discussing some of the signals search engines use to determine the relevance of your paid search ads for specific search queries. All have their own versions of Quality Score assigned to ad-keyword combinations that help determine how relevant your ads are (and how well they rank).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Combining SEO and Social Media

Good article today from MarketingSherpa Combine SEO and Social Media to Generate Web Leads: 5 Steps, which discusses blending social media with SEO to increase site traffic and leads.

Adding blogs to your website (hanging off your corporate domain) will increase the likelihood that your copy will get searched and found, thus bringing traffic in, and gaining increased organic lift for your overall website.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wordtracker and Google Keyword Tool

As part of an SEO strategy (which is a traffic building and ultimately lead gen strategy), you're hopefully looking closely at your title, description and meta keywords to ensure that your site is fully optimized for organic site indexing.

Two indispensable tools (one free, one $59 after free 7 day trial) I use for helping to figure out keywords are:
  • Google Keyword Tool: This FREE tool from Google allows you to plug in current keywords you're using (or considering) and provides keyword ideas right back to you. Simply enter your keywords (one per line) as words or phrases in the data field, hit the Get Keyword Ideas button, and after a few seconds Google provides you with related keyword terms. In addition, Google also provides local search volume figures for each word/s, global monthly search volume and the competition for these words with other advertiser. Neat stuff -- and free!
  • Wordtracker: WT is one of many keyword research tools out there that I find works very well and is relatively inexpensive. Similar to the Google tool you type in your keywords and phrases and Wordtracker provides back other keywords that are most relevant to your business. In my opinion it provides a 'deeper dive" than Google as well as being able to see search rankings in engines other than Google's. It's quick and easy and can help you find some golden keyword nuggets that perhaps your competition hasn't found yet

Monday, July 6, 2009

Article Marketing

Working closely with a few clients these past few weeks and just now coming back up for air (and some new blog posts)...

I was reminded recently that in the search for low-cost ways to market your company and brand, one area many companies overlook is article marketing. There are a number of online article aggregators like eZine, GoArticles and Articlesbase who are constantly on the lookout for viable content and are FREE to upload your stories. In turn it is free for people to download or link to your articles thus making your message available to a wide audience of readers. You'd probably be surprised how many companies/publishers look to these sites to provide them w/free, useful content that they in turn can use to power their own sites.

It's simple and quick to sign up for these sites and upload your stories. When you create your profile upon initial sign-up, you provide your name, a short bio, the article copy, a category and usually a sub-category. Preview, edit, submit, you're done.

This is an especially low-cost way to leverage existing articles, assets, copy that exists in your corporate silos and get some additional site traffic and brand building for your company and its' products. Give it shot...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Continuum vs Breadth Offers

I've written quite a bit about how a one-size-fits-all offer simply will not prove effective in marketing to an extended decision chain. By that I mean a single offer (or if you prefer a 'Call-to-action') generally cannot speak to the pain points/interests of a C-level exec, VP, Dir, Manager and Analyst in total, as well as specific offers created for each target could (most especially as they progress thru the marketing funnel). I've run a number of tests that show conversions rise when offers are built that address specific target concerns or charters.

With that in mind, start your offer development strategy by considering not only who the target is and what's top of mind for them, but also where the target is in the marketing funnel.

There are circumstances when offers can be consolidated between more closely-related targets, say C-level and VP-level targets. These types of offers, called breadth offers, are broader in scope and are designed to speak to a wider swath of people in the decision chain (while being cost efficient to the overall program). These offers are usually top-of-funnel assets that speak to more general issues relating to business issues, problems, challenges and would be of interest to a cross-over collection of individuals in the decision chain. They're specific enough to create sufficient awareness to prompt the collection of profile information at the initial stages of when an organization is vetting and researching an idea or product.

However as each target's interests (and their responsibilities) become more specific as the entire decision chain progresses thru the funnel, continuum offers support a multi-touch, lead nurturing model by providing progressively detailed and highly targeted content needed to attract, satisfy and advance individual targets from touchpoint to touchpoint. Continuum offers provide coordinated incentives for deeper engagement and mutually satisfying funnel progress, ensuring that each interaction you have with these decsion makers meets their need to seek more relevant information relative to their own roles and responsibilties to the overall decision.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Quick Tips to Improve Your Site's Organic Search Rankings

Chatted with a couple companies recently who both were not taking full advantage of a few simple steps to drastically help improve their search rankings for their company website:
  • For your home page code, turn your attention from meta tags for keywords and concentrate more on what your title and meta tag description says. Remember that these days Google pays less and less attention to meta tag keywords due to the spamming and keyword stuffing companies have done to try to improve their search rankings.
  • Keywords found in the Meta TITLE Tag have highest ranking/indexing value with most search engines; they should contain the MOST important searchable keywords or #1 most common search phrase that people would use to find your type of solution (‘Find updated drivers’?) Use a 60 character limit as some search engines will only display a maximum of 60 characters of text for a TITLE in their search results
  • The META Description Tag should contain a brief description of what can be found on the current web page and be 150 characters or less in length (there's a 150 character limit b/c some search engines only list 150 in their result).
  • Remember to sync your meta tags to your page copy as best you can. Aim for 7-10% density in your site copy for best results
  • Use keyword, link and page graders from companies like HubSpot to see which words are ranking highest, then optimize your site accordingly

Monday, June 1, 2009

Turn-key Online Communities

I chatted last week with Dan Ziman, marketing director with Lithium Technologies. There are now a number of interesting companies like Lithium (Helpstream, Jive, Telligent among others) that offer various iterations of social network software that can build your online community very quickly and at a reasonable cost.

Lithium for instance offers (in a SAAS model) a number of integrated, social technology products including forums, blogs, chat rooms and idea exchanges that power online customer communities for both large and small businesses. In Lithium's words these products 'inspire customers to share knowledge, connect with each other, and connect with the enterprise, thus providing a unique method for companies to identify, engage, and understand customers. As a result, businesses measurably improve their marketing and sales, accelerate innovation, and increase customer satisfaction.'

Helpstream, Jive, Telligent and others provide their own types of collaboration software, community software, and social networking software solutions that allow companies to develop an almost instantaneous community presence and build from there. If you're seeking to build out your online community and wondering where to start, check out these vendors to see if perhaps that might be a viable way for you to get the ball rolling.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Social Media as a Listening Platform

Much has been written about the importance of including social media in your marketing strategy and the types of activities that you can and should begin to explore. Perhaps one aspect of social marketing that might get short shrift is what Dave Evans of ClickZ writes about today in Get Started With Social Media -- leveraging social media as a listening platform.

There may in fact be greater merit right now to setting up your online community with blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook et. al. as more listening and feedback outposts than as platforms for outbound marketing. If you remember from past posts I've written, I'm not sure if outbound marketing/messaging has yet found its' ideal niche in social media marketing (SMM). What social media can do right now is help form the foundation of an inbound marketing strategy, where you make available your intellectual capital, your ideas and solutions for solving business challenges and allow prospects and customers to find your brilliance rather than your going out and hunting them. By becoming a thought leader on specific business problems and best practices you gain much more credibility amongst your intended targets.

Part of that inbound strategy includes using social media as the true interactive medium that it is. And that means listening to all that is written about your company, your brand and your competitors. Social media is an outstanding marketing research tool. Just as important as providing your thinking and ideas online is the response to those ideas that you receive. It provides you with an ongoing dialogue with your constituents, to have a conversation, giving them the ability to express their likes and dislikes, what their needs, opinions, complaints are. How they like to be communicated to. It enables you to share, learn, better engage. Ultimately it gives you a deeper understanding and stronger bond w/your targets and helps guide and inform your own product/solution development.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Peeling Back the Layers of the Onion

Before you decide to transition all your lead gen marketing from offline to digital channels, this article from CNET today points out the importance of understanding your targets and how/where they would like to communicate and interact with you.

The article states that younger doctors who have been raised on technology are more apt to embrace it in how they build their practices, treat their patients and communicate and engage with both patients and colleagues. Conversely, older doctors, not having been raised in a digital world, are reticent to embrace IT as robustly. Thus digital marketing platforms and vehicles may not be as effective with more senior targets.

This points to the importance of segmentation and micro-segmentation, with the need to delve further into what would seem like a homogeneous group (ie doctors) to decipher their specific needs, traits and habits.

Surveys and focus group research (not as formal as it sounds -- calling a dozen or so of your customers and asking some basic questions about how they like to engage w/your company, what they like/dislike, where they go for their info, etc) -- are absolutely critical for you to understand how to best communicate and market to your intended targets. It's a wise place to start when developing new messaging and outreach vehicles and as an ongoing exercise helps to supplement the valuable data and results you'll get from your campaigns once they've been deployed.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Secrets for a LinkedIn Group

As you build your outbound marketing strategy through the use of various online social networking tools, here's a tip for creating a LinkedIn Group.

Many companies I feel miss the boat when they establish a LinkedIn presence for their company. Often a company will create a profile under their company name. That's fine, but think about how that affects the credibility and impact of the content and information that you impart. Right off the bat, I'd suggest that most LinkedIn members would be at least slightly biased against much of what you have to say as part of an ongoing effort to sell products and services.

Now while it's true that selling solutions and services is your company's mission, you also (ideally) provide valuable thought leadership, data, problem solving, innovation, new ideas, thinking, etc that provides unbiased value to your intended audience. And they would welcome that type of expertise being available to them.

Consider instead creating a group that instead speaks to your industry and can be easily viewed as a rich community that promotes and exchanges thoughts, ideas and discussion about industry topics, business issues and creative ways to solve those issues. Many posts will speak to (and ideally support) many of the tenets of your company's core value and solutions, but many posts will not. And you may have to be prepared for discussions that don't necessarily promote your company's point of view.

But think about the credibility that a group like that would have with your targets. A free-flowing exchange of ideas that at their core have the best interests of helping people to do their jobs better. That is the essence of a real outbound marketing orientation, where prospects and customers flock to read about and discuss the latest ideas and content that make them better at what they do.

A great example of this is one LinkedIn group I belong to called Pro Marketers - For Marketing Professionals.

It was established by the marketing company HubSpot as an online community that discusses how to reach your best customers online through techniques like inbound marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) and social media. Which just happens to be what HubSpot does.

I find it to be a valuable forum, with very little hard selling going on. And it's caught on as a credible community to discuss and debate inbound marketing.

Friday, May 15, 2009

'Landing Page Makeovers'

I've previously talked about the importance of dedicated landing pages for any of your marketing outreach vehicles -- such critical aspects as form design, providing one 'door' for the respondent to walk through (no multiple links on the page), web analytics on each page to see where your traffic is coming from and to monitor page drop-offs, etc.

It should also be noted however that for those companies that have embraced more of an inbound marketing orientation, and are beginning to plant seedlings of content throughout the web, giving ALL your web pages a 'landing page makeover' might not be a bad idea. By that I mean as your entire website begins to reflect your relevant content, links to that content come into your site from various places (not just from spots where you have a dedicated marketing program in place).

Although it wouldn't be feasible to make every one of your website pages a dedicated landing page, you can create standardized page templates that contain in each margin either static buttons/links to dedicated landing pages within the site, or in fact newsletter sign-ups. Those buttons/links can route a surfer to either a gated demo, free trial, contact us form or even live chat. A great example of that is what Marketo does:

This design can be found on EVERY web page on their site, thus turning each page into a de-facto landing (or at least routing) page. That way when anyone hits a page anywhere on your website from any outside link, you've made it that much easier to start a dialogue, capture data and begin the online relationship.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Lead Generation Ad Networks

Many marketers have embraced the efficiency and scale that online lead gen ad networks provide. Ad networks (especially vertical or highly-targeted networks) enable you to cover a much larger playing field in trying to reach your intended audience, while at the same time zero in on specific targets through the use of contextual and behavioral ads. And all under the model of performance-based pricing (paying only for those leads that achieve certain metrics and goals).

ValueClick, Undertone and Double-Click are but a few of the hundreds of ad network sites available to marketers.

With any ad network, critical success factors (besides knowing which ones to invest in -- remember... test!) include lead guarantees, rates, ad placements/deliveries and lead quality. One issue I've run into frequently is the amount of data collection that is baked into the forms publishers use (too much or too little) and the lack of field customization available to advertisers.

Hollis Thomases writes in ClickZ today (B2B Lead Gen Advertisers Finally Have Their Own Network) about Madison Logic, an ad serving company that focuses exclusively on leads and has developed a technology platform (and ad network) that provides a single, unified platform and more consistent infrastructure for lead gen execution. It also gives advertisers more control over targeting, managing and reporting on their campaigns. Next month Madison will be offering a self-serve platform for marketers to set up and manage their own campaigns. I'll check it out when it's online and be sure to report back.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What Channels Are Your Customers On?

I've been reviewing some direct marketing vehicles from a couple of companies recently... in both cases these companies have been using print pieces to reach out to their targets. The pieces are nicely designed and reasonably effective.

I've always maintained that any and all marketing channels (including print DM, it's not necessarily a dinosaur) can and should be used to interact with your prospects and customers. I've done highly-qualified, high impact dimensional and print pieces that have delivered response rates in excess of 70%! A multi-channel campaign ensures that you are using all available communication highways to your target.

But what channels do they prefer to be messaged to and communicate back to you? Have you asked them? Think of the channels now available to marketers - digital, print/dimensional, mobile, telemarketing, personal, broadcast. Remember you want to engage a prospect or customer on their terms, not what's best for you. It's entirely possible that a percentage of your target audience may not have as readily adopted online communication so perhaps email campaigns are not as effective. Or print pieces rarely if ever make it to their desk as they go through numerous gatekeepers. Or they are impossible to reach via the telephone. Or they don't attend trade shows.

What's important to recognize is the answer to the question -- what are the most effective channels in which to communicate w/my prospects and customers? -- is sitting on your desk. Pick up your telephone and call your loyal customers and simply ask them. You probably (hopefully) have a number of customers who love your product and service and want to see your company continue to succeed and grow. They would love to be a part of that success. And they would most certainly share their likes and preferences about how they like to be communicated with, the types of marketing vehicles and channels that they prefer. How often do they wish to be contacted? What type of offers appeal to them? Do they take the time to read white papers? Are they Internet savvy and do all their research online? Do they ever see print pieces? What types of media (on and offline) do they read? Why did they buy from you originally? What types of marketing don't they like?

You can take just a handful of customers and reach out to them via the telephone, or online survey or print survey. Design 8-10-12 primary questions that will provide you with the answers that will help you to better understand how to engage with your customers, how to give them what they want.

From the types of offers you build, to the channels you use to communicate to the design of your products, your customers and prospects are an untapped goldmine of information and data that should be shaping your entire marketing strategy. Remember, these are the people who chose your company over all others. Whatever you did with them worked (or didn't work). Go ahead. Pick up the phone.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Buyers Finding Sellers

In my recent white paper 'The 7 Secrets for Generating Quality Leads in a Recession' I talk about establishing an inbound marketing orientation -- the process by which prospects find your products and services rather you trying to find them. It doesn't have to necessarily supplant your current outbound marketing strategies (at least not yet :^), but it should at least run in parallel.

In a recent survey MarketingSherpa found out that 8 out of 10 deals were struck with prospects initially seeking out and finding the vendors they considered and the vendor they ultimately chose. The voluminous amount of information and data now available online has led to this sea change in the buying process (and the marketing process). The web is the first (and sometimes only) place prospects/buyers go to educate themselves to make informed buying decisions.

And it doesn't mean they necessarily go to a vendor web site, at least not in the beginning stages. The ubiquity of research sites, user reviews, blogs, online communities, social networks, et al allow these buyers to first stay abreast of new ideas, technologies and innovations, see similar challenges to problems they also have and then read up on how like ppl/companies solved their problems. All this before their first knock on a vendor's door (or website) and a demo of how their solution satisfies the buyer's needs.

The issue for forward-thinking marketers then is, how do we get ourselves included in those initial awareness/interest phases of the buying process? To help inform the prospect's understanding of the best solutions that may be available to him? And to make the connection between smart, helpful ideas and products/services that are built upon those ideas?

And the answer of course is to establish your company or brand as a business problem expert and as a credible and trusted source of useful knowledge, expertise and information. Marketers have always known that content is king, but these days, unbiased, educational, business-expertise, 'what-makes-you-an-expert?' content is where it's at. If you haven't yet, identifying and regularly communicating your core value in the form of your company thought leaders publishing those thoughts should be of paramount importance as you set up an outbound marketing strategy. The online channels to publish this intellectual property are defined -- blogs, share sites, social nets, company websites, podcasts, etc. Now your focus needs to be on consistently generating the ideas, education and answers that address and solve critical business issues and establish you as a trusted partner.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

FREE Lead Gen for Small Business

Just finished updating my monthly post for my consulting business on Craigslist and thought I'd do a quick post. You already know that Craigslist is a mostly free, online classified space for buying/selling just about everything under the sun. Remember too that there is also a Services section where small (and not so small) businesses can advertise their products and services.

Each month I post this for LMG Consulting:

It's free, easy and drives respondents to my website (and new white paper landing page). I've received a number of emails and calls from prospects, and right now am working on a project proposal I received thru CL. It also directs another link into your website which helps w/your search engine rankings. Not bad for about 5 mins work each month.

Monday, April 27, 2009

'Eat the Elephant One Bite at a Time'

I spoke recently with a prospective client about if/how his company should go about implementing a lead management (lead gen) system. He's unsure where to start as it all seems quite daunting -- how to begin the process, the expense, the resources required and the fear of the unknown are all giving him pause.

I mentioned to him that he should 'eat the elephant one bite at a time'. For a company that has never attempted to deploy some sort of system, I frequently tell them to start small and work your way up. Rather than immediately looking at tools and automation (which I do agree provide the right foundation for a true lead gen model), I suggested to him that he first simplify and brainstorm the ifs and whys of implementing a lead gen strategy. What does the company hope to gain from a strategy (i.e. objectives)? What is the value of such a system? Are the sales and marketing teams aligned as to what each should expect from lead gen? Does sales have the resources/bandwidth to handle lead flows or will new lead follow-up be sporadic and uneven? Does marketing know what a sales-ready lead is, and ensure their hand-offs achieve an agreed threshold? Can sales and marketing communicate and work together if a demand gen policy is in place, working to constantly update and improve the system?

Once these questions have been answered, a basic framework can be created that spells out quantifiable objectives, basic processes and how to collect and measure the lead flows captured, the types of tactics/programs they think would resonate and a means to input results back into the system to improve performance. If the resource isn't already in house, at this stage it may make sense to invest in an outside expert to help you with this framework and ensure you're on the right track. It's not necessary to right out of the gate leap to vetting lead management systems and making huge $$ investments in tools before you have an idea if your company is ready to maximize their value. Find out first if your company is ready to adopt a lead culture and way of thinking.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Download My Latest White Paper! 7 Secrets for Generating Leads in a Recession

I'm very excited to announce the availability of my latest white paper 'The 7 Secrets for Generating Quality Leads in a Recession', now available on my web site here (you can also click the image).

In it I write about my experience in working with some of the world's largest and most successful B2B companies to out-perform, out-market and and out-hustle their competition in the daily battle for new prospects, leads and customers. The paper describes how you can quickly establish a social media marketing strategy (for next to nothing) to drive demand, how to make your offers laser-focused by building them through the AIDA funnel, how to use inbound marketing to help prospects find you and the basic steps in a successful lead management process.

I think it's a great, quick read that provides some useful tips... hope you agree!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Marketing Automation Made Easy(er)

Had a chance to meet this week with Howard Sewell, Founder and President of Connect Direct, a demand generation agency with offices in Northern California and Seattle (Howard also writes a terrific blog called Direct Connections). Howard's agency has been providing outstanding demand gen and direct marketing services for tech companies since 1990.

We talked about a number of things, including the adoption of marketing automation tools like Marketo that help companies to better execute, manage, track and measure their lead flows. We both agreed that companies like Marketo have come a long way in creating tools that are considerably easier to deploy campaigns on and allow you to focus on getting campaigns out the door rather than spend all your time trying to figure out how a tool works.

If you have previously looked at these types of tools and threw up your hands in your frustration, the time might be right now to take another look and see what they can offer to you.

White Paper Coming Monday!

I'm putting the finishing touches on my latest white paper on generating quality leads in a recession and will have it posted on Monday. In it I talk about how some of the world's most successful B2B companies out-market their competition for prospects and leads during tough economic times. I also discuss some of the latest ideas and innovations in lead generation including social media marketing, targeted offer development and inbound marketing. Keep an eye out for it Monday!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Today's Cool Links - Apr 15, 2009

In Three Lead Generation Tips From HubSpot's Lead-Gen Guru nice video from Hubspot's Prashant Kaw, who talks about the importance of conversion all the way through the funnel. Allows you to trace which channels provide you the leads that actually close.

This story on ClickZ Revive the Lost Art of Direct Response Copywriting Online provides some good tips in writing your direct marketing copy. It reminded me how important a good direct response copywriter is to the success of your campaigns.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Top Tips to Increase Marketing ROI from Industry Thought Leaders

I thought this was good post today on Marketo's site Increasing Marketing ROI: The Top 5 Tips from our B2B Thought Leaders on how to increase campaign ROI. It's consistent with what I've been discussing recently about the importance of inbound marketing (being found, creating compelling content), as well as the significance of lead nurturing, testing and integrating all your various channels to make sure they're working in concert.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Foundation of Social Media Marketing

Ran across another article this week that affirms the three (3) primary aspects of a social media marketing strategy (SMM), which I thought I'd review here.
  • Content - the information, data, thought leadership, thinking, ideas, solutions that a company communicates out (makes available) through various digital forums (blogs, websites, online media, online videos, ebooks, digital content syndication, webinars, RSS feeds, etc.)
  • SEO - by tagging your content with appropriate keywords and by ensuring the development of more inbound links to your valuable content, you are making it possible for your prospects to find your brilliance
  • Social Media - lastly, when that content, those links, cross the chasm into social media networks, they take on a new relevance and credibility. As the information is passed along, it takes on a greater value (the personal validation of the person passing along the information), is further amplified and more apt to reach viral status.
Robin Niefield talks about the intersection of PPC, SEO and social media in At the Intersection of Search and Social.

Interesting take by Augustine Fou in The ROI for Social Media Is Zero where he suggests that there really is no social media, but social networks that a company can only hope to gain entry to by making their products or services 'awesome' and talked about. What's key is simply providing a place where they can talk. And if you're paying for social media as media, you're probably doing it wrong. Make certain to read through some of the reader feedback/ comments at the end of Augustine's article, some great points made.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Today's Cool Links - Apr 8, 2009

In The Tipping Point: Understanding the Impact of Twitter Jason Burby on ClickZ talks about the ubiquity of Twitter and how it has crossed the chasm into the mainstream.

Also on ClickZ in
Want to Be a Better Media Planner? Get Social Hollis Thomases discusses social networking ideas for media planners.

Yesterday on MarketingProfs
Five Reasons to Change Your Registration Page (and Boost Conversions) Amy Gesenhues gave some great ideas in which to improve your registration pages. I'm an especially big believer in simplifying your reg pages, cutting out 'escape' links before you can get a respondent's data, asking only for incremental data as you take the respondent through the funnel (don't ask for everything at the first interaction) and lastly, making certain that you are not 'giving away' too much of your value for too little respondent data.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Email Deliverability Tools

Jeanne Jennings at ClickZ has a story out today on Two Free Email Deliverability Tools which help identify and address potential deliverability issues related to your sender's reputation. I've used both and they are effective.

Sender Score gives you in their words 'an indication of the trustworthiness of an email source and provides you with information about where that source stands in comparison to other email senders, and how it is likely to be evaluated by email receivers.'

EDS Alerts (from Email Data Sources) monitors e-mail sent from a specified IP address or domain name.

As Jeanne states, when used together both services can ensure that your emails are being delivered safely (and legally) from whatever ESP you might be using.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Sneak Peek of My Latest White Paper

I'm very close to finishing my latest white paper 'The 7 Secrets of Generating Quality Leads in a Recession'. The paper describes several key elements, new platforms and innovative ideas found in lead generation frameworks developed by some of the world’s most successful B2B companies and shares the best practices that enable them to consistently out-market their competition during tough economic times. In addition it discusses some of the challenges and issues to look out for in deploying these elements, enabling any size company to survive, compete and even flourish in any type of marketing environment.

It should be available for download here on my blog and on my website by early next week... keep an eye out!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Today's Cool Links - Apr 1, 2009

And no, this is not an April Fool's joke...

3 great social media articles this week all found on ClickZ:
  • In Social Media 2009 = Search 2002 Gary Stein relates potential trends in social media to what happened when search burst on the scene several years ago
  • In Social Media Integration Tips from SES NY Harry Gold provides some tips and tricks for integrating all the elements of search, social, online media, and Web site technology he came across from last week's Search Engine Strategies in New York
  • Finally on a more personal level is Dave Evans' article on How Individuals Can Build a Robust Social Presence, describing ways in which you can create a personal social media presence and exploit the potential for yourself
And finally on a separate topic, in Top-Load Your E-Newsletter for Better Performance Karen Gedney on ClickZ talks about how one company nearly doubled their enewsletter open rate and CTR by top-loading their design with content and the table of contents. Screen grabs of the before and after are available in the article.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Inbound Marketing Summit - April 28-29 in San Francisco

Noticed today the upcoming Inbound Marketing Summit scheduled for April 28-29 in San Francisco. (There are two additional summits, one in Dallas May 27-28 and again in Boston Sep 30-Oct 1). I've been talking quite a bit about the importance of either adding to or transforming your marketing orientation from an outbound strategy (you finding prospects) to an inbound strategy (prospects finding you). This summit brings together a number of people who are advocates of inbound marketing (including a sharp PR guy I've worked with at McCann Tim Marklein of Weber Shandwick... full disclosure - Weber is an IPG company). Also noticed that tech marketing guru Seth Godin is scheduled to attend as well as Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly Media, who's an expert on technology matters and Web 2.0.

Should be some terrific topics discussed and I'm aiming to attend myself.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Content Value

I've spoken many times about the importance of establishing an inbound marketing presence (getting found by customers rather than you looking for customers) and the three linchpins of an inbound strategy (content creation, social media, SEO). This article today by Bryan Eisenberg on ClickZ 'The Value of Content Marketing' does a great job of recognizing and summarizing the types of content organizations should develop and how to go about creating content, determining what's valuable and prioritizing accordingly. Nice read...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Essential Elements of World-Class Lead Gen

I've been working on a new presentation that organizes what I see are the critical elements of lead generation and have outlined the four (4) primary areas I feel these elements should be derived from. I thought I'd share those areas and a high-level view of what they represent (future posts will go into detail on the elements themselves)...

Strategy Alignment is both the development and merger of all lead gen goals and strategies (e.g. market sizing, targeting, messaging, lead goals, pipeline goals, sales requirements) now working in concert and comprising a unified road map that provides direction and purpose to your campaigns while...

Process Improvements are the documented steps of identifying, capturing, scoring, nurturing, routing and tracking of leads in a tangible manner that can be improved, fine-tuned and repeated enabling...

Program Excellence, or the focus on the experimentation and testing of your program tactics that's needed to find out what really works which are further validated by...

Measurement and Optimization, which are the critical KPI's, metrics and analytics that let you measure your progress and optimize your results.

I feel that if your program elements and tactics are derived from these four areas there is a strong likelihood that you'll be covering many of the fundamental steps required for lead gen excellence.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Email is Still Relevant

Article today from Jeanne Jennings on ClickZ 'Why Email Matters More Than Ever' has some good points on why email is still relevant as a tactic/communication vehicle especially as marketing budgets are being cut and every tactic is under a microscope.

Jeanne talks about being strategic in your emailing (targeting, creating relevant messages), optimizing your tactical email elements (and testing those elements), insuring deliverability and list testing.

I might add that I feel any touch (email or other) that you make with a prospect should have a purpose and should always be designed with dual goals in mind - providing ongoing value/information to that person as they interact with you while moving her/him thru the funnel and better qualifying their needs. The latter goal is of course critical to your organization - converting them into an opportunity or learning that they will not be a future buyer (or influence the buying decision) of your products or solutions. In my eyes any tactic should have a distinct purpose of a true value exchange - give the target information that makes them smarter while further understanding/qualifying their needs to see if/how/when you can solve a business problem for them with your solutions.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Today's Cool Links - Mar 19, 2009

Several great articles/posts the last two days...

On MarketingProfs (premium membership req), in How One Company's Content Marketing Improved Qualified Lead Generation, Boosted Revenue 38% Kimberly Smith talks about the importance of content to help fuel their lead generation programs and increase conversions and lead quality. Specifically she discusses vendor-neutral content as establishing the company as an unbiased thought leader and expert on a particular topic. Prospects gravitate to information that educates and informs them about business challenges/problems, and the trust that ensues supports a value-based relationship between the company and the prospect.

In A Direct Marketing Revolution Gary Stein on ClickZ discusses how the Status Update feature on Facebook can provide a terrific opportunity to send email-like updates on anything into your company's Facebook followers.

Terrific MarketingSherpa case study on lead nurturing at Optimize a Lead Nurturing Campaign: 5 Steps to Boost Conversions and Warm a Cold List ... finding the right combination of relevant content and messaging frequency to make your lead nurturing campaigns resonate.

And finally, also on ClickZ some great tips from Dave Evans on Where to Get a Social Media Education... check it out.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Flash vs SEO

Julie Battan of ClickZ has an article today on the use of Flash on your web site. Many companies are conflicted about presenting their content in a compelling fashion the way Flash can, and how that affects their search engine optimization. Last year Google and Adobe announced a partnership to make Flash content more easily indexed, so perhaps some Flash content won't adversely affect your search rankings too severely. Julie does note in this piece however that that is not the case for those sites built entirely in Flash and this is not recommended for those companies seeking to increase their site SEO. Good read.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lead Gen Metrics That Matter

Nice post yesterday on Craig Rosenberg's Funnelholic blog, where he discusses what he feels are the key metrics to look at when judging campaign effectiveness. I don't think they're the exclusive metrics to measure (I don't think Craig feels that way either) but I agree they are important KPI's to monitor:
  • Lead-to-opportunity conversion: For every lead you create, how many turn into sales opportunities?
  • Cost per opportunity: Instead of CPL, calculate the lead-generation costs and divide by sales opportunities created. This should include lead development/ qualification costs and nurturing costs.
  • Total pipeline created: How much sales pipeline has been created by your leads?
He goes on to mention that CPL (Cost Per Lead) has become less relevant as a meaningful metric, because it doesn't tell you if the lead actually resulted in pipeline or revenue. You could have a very low CPL and be creating leads that mean absolutely nothing to your sales team.

As well, he makes a good point re: ROI. In the big picture the executive team wants to know which leads resulted in how much closed/booked revenue. But that does loop in sales performance into the measurement of marketing performance. If the marketing team delivers a BANT-scored, sales-ready, teed up lead, which ultimately is not closed due to sales dropping the ball, is it right to say that the marketing team has failed? Good point to ponder.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Today's Cool Links - Mar 11, 2009

In the article Tips to Beat the Odds for Address-Book Addition on ClickZ today, Stefan Pollard talks about how to boost your chances for getting your emails past the spam filters and into the in-boxes of your intended targets. He cited some interesting data points including:
  • 53 percent of consumer e-mail recipients have added at least one permission-e-mail sender to their address books
  • On average, only 25 percent, or one in four companies, gets whitelisted
  • 75 percent said they unsubscribed due to message irrelevance, while 73 percent opted out because of high frequency
He states that keys to getting your emails whitelisted are:
  • Asking your front-line customer-service people what the number one issue your customers contact you about is and insure your messages reflect that
  • Insure that your landing page and e-mail opt-in process support your highest traffic-generating search terms. Someone who queries a search engine is actually asking a question. Does your landing page answer those questions or direct visitors to the answers?
  • Use survey data to improve relevance. Include quick polls or questions in your regular messages, or send standalone surveys, then store the responses in the respondent's profile. Use it to improve segmentation or to create dynamic content for future e-mail
  • Create messages triggered by page visits and time on site. This obviously is possible only with marketing automation and tracking s/ware, but the rich information provided when a prospect comes to your site is very valuable and insures highly relevant messages

Monday, March 9, 2009

Email Benchmarks

Epsilon (the marketing services firm) just released their Q3/2008 Email Trend Results (link to the report is in the press release) which provides some very good statistics and benchmarks on email performance. Their reports are usually chock full of excellent email data (and it's a quick read, 4 pages total). Some highlights:
  • Open rates seem to have remained consistent over the past year ranging between 19-21%.
  • Click rates rose 0.5% from last quarter.
  • Business Publishing/Media, Consumer Publishing/Media, Retail General and Travel Services saw an increase in all three major metrics – deliverability, opens and clicks – compared to last quarter. There were no industries that saw a decline in each of those same three metrics.
Good read, check it out...

Friday, March 6, 2009

Overthinking The Offer

I've been chatting recently with a few clients and prospective clients regarding offers for their marketing programs. Those who read this blog know I'm a HUGE believer in building a number of relevant, informative, high value offers that speak to each member of the decision chain as s/he progresses through the marketing funnel. The eye chart below is an example of a generic offer mapping tool I've created that helps scope offers through the AIDA model.

That being said, I also think it's important that you don't let an offer mapping exercise intimidate you and prevent you from starting the process with at least ONE solid, relevant offer. The best place to start is always at the beginning. Get that first offer built, worry less about it's appeal to a single target and more about something that speaks generally to the entire decision chain. This first offer is usually an awareness/top of the funnel asset, so it should be able to speak to both the upper and lower decision chain members - meaning it will be less specific and more general in nature. Once that first offer is built, then think about what the 2nd, 3rd, 4th offers should be, and create a strategy that begins to craft offers that are designed to speak directly to targets and accelerate individual prospects through the funnel.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Digital Body Language

Steve Woods, one of the co-founders of Eloqua the marketing automation company, has written an interesting book (and writes a great blog with Paul Teshima here), on what he terms digital body language. This idea is a very interesting examination of the concepts of self-paced information gathering, needs evaluation, lead qualification/scoring and profile development and suggests that there is a definite digital footprint a prospect creates that provides detailed data on a his/her buying intentions and motivations.

Rather than 'read the room' like in the old days, marketers and sales people now need to decode a person's digital body language to better understand their roles, their information needs and what they find relevant, what their buying process is like, where they are in the funnel and the cadence of how to best communicate with them. As more and more of the relationships between marketers and their targets move online, the value exchanges that take place create a rich profile of the target and this new body language provides critical data and hints as to how you can best anticipate and meet their needs.

Optimizing Your Web Site Links

HubSpot today talks about ways in which you can bring more attention to and optimize your web site links with the goal of increasing clicks on those links that are calls to action, driving people to your landing pages and ultimately improving your organic page ranks in search engines. Many of the tips are basic (use descriptive link text, make links bold/different color/underlined, keep CTA's above the fold, etc.) but are still good reminders of best practices.