Google+ The Marketing Survivalist: July 2009

Metrics for Marketing

In the Modern B2B blog, Marketo posted an interview with David Taber, author of Secrets of Success. The interview is a worthwhile read. Toward the end of the interview David suggest a few metrics that marketing should be tracking through CRM:

• Time to "first touch" of a lead
• Number of converted leads per rep per month
• Average time to convert
• Number of fully qualified leads accepted by sales each month
• Number of sales cycles started due to marketing efforts
• Value of sales pipeline started due to marketing efforts
• Proportion of leads rejected (and neglected) by sales
• Marketing cost of acquiring a new customer
• Value of sales pipeline influenced by one or more campaigns (SFDC's new campaign influence feature makes this much easier to measure)
• Profitability of new customers due to marketing efforts
• Loyalty of new customers
• Percentage of repeat business

This is a great list. While you may not measure each of these monthly, reviewing some of them on at least a quarterly basis can alert you to problems. For example, “time to first touch” can help you identify bottlenecks in your lead follow up process. This “first touch” is probably someone on an internal telemarketing team so you might also consider measuring “time to first touch by sales.”

This latter metric will measure the handoff of qualified leads between telemarketing and sales. You can look at the aggregate metric to see how well the defined process is working. You can also look at the metric by sales person to see if any particular rep is bringing the metric down. (If that’s the case, I suggest marketers let sales leadership handle the performance issues.)

I also really like the 7th metric “proportion of leads rejected (and neglected) by sales.” The percentage of leads accepted will tell you how well your team is sticking to the lead scoring and the universal lead definition that you worked so hard to create. If there are neglected leads that met the scoring thresholds, then you know sales isn’t living up to their end of the agreement.

A 100% acceptance rate is unrealistic as prospects will sometimes tell the telemarketer one thing and sales something totally different. And, in these days of shifting budgets and vanishing projects, things really can change in a matter of hours. However, whenever there is a lead that is not accepted by sales, it’s an opportunity to gather valuable feedback from your sales team.

Marketing should meet with the sales reps regularly to review each lead that was rejected. Why was it rejected? Are there questions that telemarketing should be asking to better qualify the prospects? Do we need to rethink our lead scoring thresholds? Should we add this lead to a nurturing track?

Finally, the 4th metric “number of fully qualified leads accepted by sales each month” is the “quota” on which marketing should be measured. If your Universal Lead Definition and lead scoring thresholds are set appropriately and you have a solid understanding of sales ability to close qualified opportunities, then this metric should allow you to predict sales results with a fair degree of accuracy.

All the best!

Melissa Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Nurturing Your Channel Prospects

Lead nurturing is not just for end-user prospects anymore!

I’ve spent a significant amount of my career involved in creating channel programs, recruiting channel partners, and helping channel partners market and sell more effectively. As I’ve been writing a series of posts on lead nurturing it struck me how well this concept would work when recruiting channel partners.

When I was on the front lines doing the recruiting, I never got much help from the marketing department. Yes, we got plenty of product content that we could share with our prospective resellers. We PowerPointed them to death with our latest product portfolios. But, as someone who has talked with literally hundreds of businesses selling sofware I can tell you that product wasn’t usually the number one concern of my prospective business partners.

Yes, they want a good product, but more important to anyone who is trying to start or grow a business reselling, implementing or consulting on software or hardware, is the relationship they have with their vendor.

They want to know things like:

• What marketing materials will you provide to me?
• Who owns the customer? (Anyone involved in the software industry will immediately understand the ramifications of this one!)
• How do you handle my support calls?
• What kinds of training opportunities will your provide to me?
• Who will be my main contacts at your organization and how will I interact with them?
• And on, and on, and on.

If all you are doing is staying in front of your reselling prospects with product information, then you are breaking the cardinal rule of lead nurturing. You have to stay in front of them with information that is most relevant to them. When someone is thinking about betting their business on a relationship with you, they want to know about a lot more than just your products.

If you are serious about channel recruitment, why not build a separate lead nurturing track for your prospective channel partners? Examples of good content include:

• A blog on the latest happenings in your industry. This is different from a technical blog that focuses on product. I wrote a post recently called Save time (and make more sales) with blogging where I suggested that you take your most frequently asked questions and blog about them. This would work really well for a prospective channel partner blog.
• A blog that shares ideas on how to market and sell more effectively. If you are concerned about sharing great ideas with resellers that are just going to use it to sell your competitors' products more effectively, then make it a “members only” blog.
• White papers that focuses on business building techniques.
• Free webinars that do the same.

Way back in the dark ages when I started my career, I can remember the reps that came into the computer store I worked in. (OK, I know it wasn’t the dark ages if PCs were around.) The only ones that we made any time for were the ones that had something useful to offer besides product info. The more things change, the more they stay the same. These businesses still look to partner with companies that have more to offer than just a great product.

Happy recruiting!

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12 Steps to Dumping Your Marketing Department - Step 4 Nuture your leads

As a marketer, I don’t really believe that you could or should dump your marketing department. Of course, as a former sales person, I can also understand the frustration you feel when your marketing department fails to consistently deliver enough qualified opportunities to keep your pipeline full.

This is Step 4 in a 12 step series showing sales people how they can reduce their reliance on their marketing team. Marketers should also pay close attention as this series can give you tips that you can share with your sales team to help make them more successful and take a bit of the pressure off of you.

So far, we have covered:

Step 1 - Target your market

Step 2 – Build your online presence

Step 3 – Hang out with your market

In Step 4 we’re going to talk about building your own lead nurturing program.

It’s no accident that I have been running a series of posts on lead nurturing. Here’s a quick list of some of the posts you should go back and review if you are unfamiliar with the concepts:

7 Ways to Build an Opt-in List for a Lead Nurturing Program

Don't Ignore the Bouncebacks

Quarterly Newsletters, Mailing Lists, or Both?

Lead Nurturing Advice You May Not Want to Hear

If your marketing team isn’t actively nurturing prospects, you need to step in and fill the void. However, even if they are actively nurturing prospects, there’s going to be a subset of prospects that YOU really should take ownership of.

Never underestimate the competitive advantage of a salesperson who is seen as a “trusted advisor” by a prospect. Lead nurturing, done by the sales person, is an opportunity to establish your expertise and your credibility in the eyes of your prospects regardless of marketing’s ability to create credibility in your market.

Of course, these nurturing campaigns should be 1:1. It’s a regular communication between you and the prospect. You email will be targeted at their specific hot buttons. You can still have an editorial schedule for your nurturing campaigns, but the mailings you send to two customers in the same industry might be very different depending on what they care most about.

Because of the personalized nature of sales-led nurturing campaigns, you want to be selective on the number of prospects you nurture. In the same way you might target a pipeline that is 3X your quota, you might choose to manage a nurturing base that is 5X your pipeline. You need to figure out what is workable and required in order to meet your goals, but keeping your target tight allows you to be much more effective.

Finally, don’t look to marketing to create your emails. They don’t have the relationship with your prospects – you do. In fact, the fancy html emails that marketing creates will do more harm than good in sales’ hands. Your prospects know that you didn’t create that email. A personally signed text email from you mentioning a previous discussion and containing a customer-focused call to action such as white paper download will carry far more weight.

Happy selling!

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Lead Nurturing Advice You May Not Want to Hear

As a marketing consultant I’m often asked to give input on my friend’s marketing programs. I’m happy to give a quick look for free, but it’s a little harder to actually give the free advice. It’s one thing to be paid to be critical. It’s another to be critical when the person on the other end is someone who isn’t paying you to damage their ego.

The other day, a friend asked me to look at the lead nurturing programs he had created. He sent me a series of monthly newsletters that were very visually appealing. The problem was that most of these newsletters only contained articles about the latest product releases and company announcements.

Let me state what I’ve said before – brochures don’t count as content in a lead nurturing program. (Nor do brochures disguised as a newsletter.)

I realize this is a pretty big mental block for some marketers. As an old manager of mine used to say, “You must be pretty proud of that [stuff]” This applies even more when we’re proud, not only of the products, but of the marketing pieces we create to showcase the benefits of our products. How could our prospects not get the same joy out of reading our brochure as we do?

However, when it comes right down to it, our brochures look pretty much like everyone else’s. I know you don’t believe it, but it’s true. Your layout might be a bit more pleasing; your benefits statements a bit clearer, but to your customer there just isn’t that much difference.

Do you still think that you can get away with product brochures as content? ClickInsights gathered up 6 B2B Marketing experts and asked them what the biggest mistake in B2B content marketing is.

While I think the biggest mistake is “trying to get away with using brochures as content,” each of their answers was a little different. However, every one of them assumed content that was more customer-centric and less [your company]-centric than a brochure. They may not have chosen my #1, but I’m pretty certain every one of them would agree that brochures don’t make good content.

All the best!

Melissa Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Quarterly Newsletters, Mailing Lists or Both?

One of the on-going threads on this blog in recent weeks has been nurturing programs. A common question I am seeing is "Where do quarterly newsletters fit in?"

Many of you probably have a quarterly newsletter program of some sort. In the post Winning Customers and Influencing Prospects, I mentioned that quarterly newsletters can play an important part of a lead nurturing program. However, since they are only quarterly, they aren’t very effective by themselves at winning mind-share from your prospects.

Even if you are among the few who have the time and the discipline to create a monthly newsletter program I would suggest that a one-pronged approach to nurturing opportunities is also not very effective. Some people will respond to newsletters whereas others will sign up for them but never get around to reading them. (Or, is that just me?) Other people don’t respond to newsletters at all because they are too much information. Whereas, a targeted email focusing on something that really matters to them will be more effective.

If you invest in a newsletter program you should maintain a separate opt-in for your mailing programs. Someone who signs up for a quarterly newsletter is not necessarily consenting to receiving regular emails from you. A database of opt-in for newsletter and email programs would look something like this.

Some would sign up for your newsletter, some for more regular emails, and some for both. Of course, unlike the simple diagram, your lists may not be the same size. In my experience, newsletter opt-ins run a bit higher but that may just be because the newsletter programs I've been involved in were more mature.

Yes, in the US our laws are pretty lax and as long as you remain compliant with CanSpam, your prospects don’t have to explicitly opt-in to both your newsletter program and a mailing list. However, having both programs lets your prospects tell you how to best communicate with them. Communicating with prospects in the way they want to be communicated with is one of the things that makes inbound marketing work.

All the best!

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Website Makeover - Step 1

As some of you know, I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now, but I finally launched my own website last week. I’m turning my attempt at being Webmaster into a “teachable” moment. (And a lesson in humility on my part.)

As I mentioned last Friday, content is king so I started by adding content that I thought was most appropriate to my audience. I’m still not completely satisfied with it, but I believe in testing everything. I will play around a bit with the content and layout to test the impact this has on conversions down the road. For now, the trick is to be found because if you can’t be found, you can’t convert no matter how stellar your content is.

After putting 8 pages together over a couple of evenings, I ran it through Hubspot’s Website Grader to see how it performed with absolutely no optimization what-so-ever. I’m pleased to say that I scored a 21, which means that my website is better than 21% of the other websites that Website Grader has had the opportunity to review. I was amazed I scored this well because I really did absolutely no optimization at all. Makes me wonder what those other sites look like.

My first steps in optimization were the obvious ones:

- I added H1 Tags
- I added a meta description for each page.
- I added key words

After running the site through website grader again, I scored a 27. Not a huge improvement, but I didn’t do all that much so it was a good beginning.

Thanks to Hubspot, I also realized I had made a couple small mistakes. My description was a little too long. Hubspot and other experts recommend no more than 150 characters. That was easy to fix. Luckily, Twitter has many of us used to thinking in 140 characters or less.

I also had a few too many keywords. Hubspot recommended 10. More and you run the risk of diluting their effectiveness. That was a little harder to fix, but narrowing down my keywords should allow me to better optimize my copy when I come back to that.

I also had more than one H1 tag per page. Hubspot didn’t see this as a major issue but that was simple to fix as well so I took care of it.

I’ve taken my first step in this journey of a thousand miles. Now it’s time for step 2. I’ll keep you posted. And, if any of you are interested in providing your own feedback and ideas for the most important things to fix, you can find my site at The Marketing Survivalist. I welcome your input.

All the best!

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Another Cool Tool

Mike Frichol, a friend and former colleague of mine, has found another great free tool for those of you who are trying to upgrade your web skills. If you manage a site promoting business software you should read his post Is your website wewe-ing? Actually those of you who manage any sort of B2B site should read it as I’ll bet your industry does little better.

Mike points out how you can see how "self-centered" your website is by using the WeWe Monitor from FutureNow. But, since you don't need to put any code on the site, you can also monitor your competitor's sites. That's always fun!

All the best!

Melissa Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Don't Ignore the Bouncebacks!

In most email and nurturing programs, bouncebacks (undeliverable emails) are rarely considered. If you purchased the list from a broker, you may pay attention to the bounceback rate just to make sure the vendor is living up to their promises.

If you are using your own database, bouncebacks may not even be looked at. Since the cost of an undeliverable e-mail adds nothing to the cost of the e-mail program, administrators of the database may not even take the time to clean the name off of the list.

I see bouncebacks as an opportunity to gather some excellent intelligence, especially if you are targeting very specific prospects with your programs. Here are some ways to leverage the opportunities that bouncebacks present:

Call the company to see if this person is still part of the company and who has taken over their position in the company. See if you can connect with the new individual and ask them if they would like to stay informed as well. In addition to a new name, you may be able to gather a little intelligence about what is happening within the company.

If you can’t get decent intel by calling, OneSource and Hoovers are good sources of information about new company hires at the executive level. However, for those of you with more modest marketing budgets, I’d suggest LinkedIn.

If the company has a profile on LinkedIn, it will show you new hires – as long as those individuals are on LinkedIn and have updated their profile. Here's a snapshot from a page on SAP's LinkedIn profile showing new hires and recent promotions and changes.

Note that if you "click more" when you are on the profile, you can see more that just the top 5. LinkedIn is useful if you aren’t always selling at the executive level as new hires in middle management are far more likely to show up than in OneSource or Hoovers.

You can also look up your former contact on LinkedIn to see where they are now. If they are with a new company, reach out and ask them if they would like to continue to receive information. Sending an email through LinkedIn is a good way to do it because most people don’t get many LinkedIn emails and yours stands a better chance of standing out. (This is far different from spamming people through LinkedIn. I am absolutely against using LinkedIn as a permanent alternative to regular email unless your contact is a close associate.)

If they are unlucky enough to be caught in one of the all-too-frequent lay-offs, and your comfortable doing this, reach out to them and invite them to connect. Let them know you’d be happy to provide an introduction to other contacts if they are interested. Remember, they are probably going through uncertain times so this is about them and not about you. Keep your emails focused on what’s top of mind for them. In my experience, most people who have been recently laid off are happy to network with anyone who shows an interest in helping. It is about them, but you can earn yourself some huge karma points.

Even if the prospect hasn’t updated their profile, you can still reach out through LinkedIn and let them know you received a bounceback. You can ask them if they would like to continue receive information at a new email address and hopefully get a chance to create a stronger connection.

All the best!

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7 Ways to Build an Opt-In List for a Lead Nurturing Program

Building a list of prospects who opt-in to receive information from you can sound like a daunting task, but it doesn’t need to be. Keep in mind a couple of fundamental principles:

First, lead nurturing programs do not need to be large to be effective. An effective lead nurturing program could have 100 prospects in it. This is quite different from a “push” e-mail or direct mail campaign where a list that small may not be worth the expense of putting together a campaign.

Second, building an opt-in list is not a “once and done” effort. A consistent effort over time will allow you to build a list that will become one of your greatest assets. Many companies talk about the size of their database. Show me the size of your opt-in nurturing list and then maybe I’ll be impressed.

Here are some simple but often overlooked ways to build an opt-in list:

1. Your website – You know that the best websites have a call to action on every page. You want your websites to be lead generation machines, but so often, those who download your literature or on-demand webinars are really “just looking.” Every time you put a download behind a form, you should give that prospect an opportunity to sign up for regular emails from your organization.

2. Your newsletter program – I recommended having both a newsletter program and a mailing program. There are going to be some prospects who will sign up for a newsletter, but just aren’t ready to sign up to receive regular emails. It’s far less “risky” in their mind if you give them the choice.

Of course, every newsletter you send should also give them the opportunity to opt-in to your mailing program if they want to receive the same kind of information more often.

3. Your telemarketing team – Most of you probably have someone, or maybe even a team of people, assigned to field calls from suspects who contact you. It can be a mind-numbing job, especially in a down economy when it seems like your hot prospects are few and far between. As any telemarketer will tell you, they are only as good as the number of hot (qualified) leads they’ve delivered to the field.

You want to remain focused on the goal of delivering qualified leads to the sales team, but you should have a secondary goal of building your nurturing list. Most people who call into a company will ask for “more information” if only because they don’t know what else to do. That is a perfect time to ask them if they would like to be kept up-to-date and receive additional educational information.

I am in favor of making qualified nurturing prospects a key metric. You may not compensate your telemarketers on it, but set a goal and celebrate it when it’s reached. Pizza parties still fit into most marketing budgets and it’s a great way to show your telemarketers that you appreciate their efforts and see them as key contributors to the success of the company.

4. Your sales team – If your sales team know you have a solid lead nurturing program, chances are they will begin to send you names. If not, keep promoting your program to them, and keep asking them if they have anyone they would like to add to the program. Once they start seeing the benefits, their attitudes will turn around.

5. Networking events/trade shows – These are different types of events, but they both have one thing in common. You typically collect business cards from people who claim to be interested only to see them fizzle out as the memory of the conversation wears away.

Next time you collect a business card at an event, ask them if they would like to receive more educational information and industry updates regularly from you. Most will say “yes.” If they say “no” they are telling you that they are not really interested and you’ve lost nothing by not treating them as a lead.

6. “Revival” campaigns – If your lead nurturing program is new, chances are you have hundreds of leads in your database that are no longer active. You’ve probably all run, or at least heard about, campaigns where you use telemarketers to do a call down to these “leads” to see if they are still interested.

This approach isn’t much different from the “calling to touch base” that I derided in my first post on lead nurturing. However, since you haven’t had any real contact with these people in some time, you don’t have much choice.

Instead of judging the effectiveness of your revival telemarketing on how many hot leads you find (which probably won’t be many) make it a goal to add qualified candidates to your nurturing program.

7. Your blog – A year ago, this might not have made the list since so few had corporate blogs. Now it seems like everybody does. Remember to give your readers an opportunity to sign up for your e-mail program through your blog as well as on your website. This is in addition to allowing them to subscribe to your posts either through e-mail or a reader.

Building an opt-in list can take some time, but it is an essential element of a good lead nurturing program. Some of these techniques, such as the revival campaign or a well-attended trade show can give you a great jump-start.

Some will tell you that you can buy a list and give the recipients an opportunity to opt-in when you send a one-time e-mail. In my experience, it’s never worth the cost. E-mail lists are expensive and the average response rates are often as low as 1% or less. One e-mail to a purchased list is not going to build your opt-in list for you. It takes work, but it is well worth the effort.

All the best!

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I am on the web!

It’s not all too uncommon these days to start with a blog and never get around to creating a website - especially if you are an independent consultant like I am. Still, I decided that a blog didn’t offer me all the advantages of a website so I needed both.

I am pleased to say that I am finally on the web. You can visit The Marketing Survivalist for a look. But, before you get all excited (or critical) let me say that this is a project that is still in its infancy.

I’ve worked with webmasters for years, so it’s been kind of interesting to play at being one. I thought I’d share my experiences with you as I hope it might motivate some of you who have been thinking about creating a website. Plus, as I continue to improve my site, I’ll share those things that have had the greatest impact.

First, I decided to host my domain with GoDaddy and use their Website Tonight product. Chalk one up for gross (IMHO) advertising. It is memorable. It helped that I decided to work on my site while watching this year’s Tour de France and their ads are all over VS. (Along with some even grosser ads.)

I’m not an HTML coder so it’s nice to use a website building tool that is designed for someone who understands the theory behind building a successful site, if not the coding that goes into it. For me, the Website Tonight product was a little quirky, but not that bad. My 8 pages were more like Website [tomorrow] Night but it was close enough.

I will say that the support I received when I called in was really good. I had accidentally purchased more than I needed and they were the ones who pointed it out to me. They very promptly refunded the extra, which I very promptly spent on some more services from them. (It was the thought that counts.)

Even Google will tell you that content is king, so instead of focusing on creating title tags, meta tags, page descriptions, backlinks and the like, I just focused on the content. In other words, if you try to find me using a search engine right now, I am probably invisible.

I thought I’d have some fun and have Hubspot’s website grader look at my raw product and see how it ranked. It’s still having problems finding it so I’ll probably come back as a 2. (Which means that 98% of websites out there are better built than mine.) Actually a 2 might be too optimistic.

This weekend, I’ll start optimizing the site for the search engines. I’m eager to put the things I recommend into actual practice and see what kind of impact I can have on my site. They say “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” I’m looking forward to sharing my journey with you.

All the best!

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Burning Blogging Question - Answered!

My blog is a large part of my social media strategy. (It’s a large part of my life too – but that’s another story.) I understand the quid pro quo of blogging. If you want to seriously engage through blogging, you can’t just write your own blog. You need to comment on others as well.

But I don’t always get to read my favorite blogs right away. In fact, the ones I get to most often are those that allow me to subscribe via email. I’m a bit old-school in that my inbox acts a bit like my to-do list – at least until I realize I’ve spent too much time answering emails and decide to get some real work done.

Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for the bloggers, many of my favorite blogs get tons of really great comments. For example, Doyle Slaton’s Compelling Argument Against Cold Calling post on has 84 comments as of this moment. By the way, this is a really interesting debate that I suspect might have evolved into a food fight if it was held over a lunch.

As I said, it’s unfortunate for me because by the time I get around to reading the post, let alone composing something relevant and pithy to say, I’m usually way down the list with at least thirty or more comments ahead of me. I should be so lucky in this case. By my count, my comment is number 54 in the list. This begs the question, “Is it still worth commenting?”

One of my other favorite blogs, copyblogger, answered my question in a post written by Brian Clark. Is Commenting on Blogs a Smart Traffic Strategy? It’s an excellent post with several great points.

My key take-away is that it’s OK to be late in the game when it comes to commenting because it’s really more about what you say than when you say it. In the case of Brian’s post, I am #165 in the list of comments, but now I don’t feel so guilty about it.

All the best!

Melissa Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Not All Backlinks Are Created Equal

I received an email from Tiffany Otten at GlobalSpec who wanted to thank me for mentioning her organization in 12 Steps to Dumping Your Marketing Department – Step 3 Hang Out with Your Market. She also brought up a very good point that I really should mention as a follow up.

Google, and other search engines do not view all backlinks equally.

A backlink is a link back to your site from another site. However, most paid directories such as GlobalSpec track the link through their site so that the link ends up looking something like this:

Google, and other search engines, do not consider that link as legitimate as one that is “free and clear” of any other sites. A link of higher quality would look more like:

It’s tough to find a clean answer from the SEO experts on how exactly Google sees the first link. e.g. Is it worth 10% as much as a clean link? 25%? 30%? If you’re like me, you want the specifics so you can manage your SEO efforts more effectively. However I suspect the vagueness of the responses has a lot to do with the ever-changing rules of SEO and that Google is a little coy about releasing any of their search engine algorithms.

Yahoo, as I understand it, has a little looser restriction on the backlinks, but that could change by the time I post this. I haven’t seen anything about how Microsoft’s Bing sees backlinks yet. Any SEO experts want to weigh in on this one?

That said, these paid links should not be included in the same category from other paid links that the SEO experts will warn you about. As long as paid directories like GlobalSpec are consistent with your theme, you shouldn’t be dinged for using them. (At least according to the rules as of this moment!)

Thanks again Tiffany for suggesting this clarification.

All the best!

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How Do You Measure Blog Conversions?

Conversions are often the metric used to measure the success of electronic marketing. But, what exactly is a conversion? Is it a sale? Is it getting the prospect to call you? Is it an opportunity in the pipeline?

A conversion is getting the visitor to take the action you want them to take on a specific page.

For example, if you have a Google Adwords campaign that links to a landing page, a conversion is when someone clicks through the ad, lands on the landing page, and then takes whatever action you desire on that page – usually fills out a form.

You can calculate your conversion rate with the following formula:

(Number of forms completed / the number of click-throughs) * 100.

If you have ten click-throughs from the ad and two of those visitors fill out the form, your conversion rate is 20%.

(2/10) * 100.

Blogs can be a bit tougher. Is a conversion getting someone to comment? Comments are not necessarily a great measure for success. You could be getting dozens of visitors a day and still not get comments.

Is it getting people to stay on the page and read the posts? You should look at metrics such as the length of time your visitors stay on the site (indicating that they actually read something), the number of pages visited, and bounce rates as an indication of the success of your blog. But, it’s still difficult to tie these measurements back to your pipeline metrics.

You could use your blog to drive people to your web site or to something they can download This would give you a very solid conversion number with a value to the business that is a bit easier to assess. For example, if they click through to your website, it’s an indication that your post piqued their interest in your products.

However, measure blogs by the amount of web traffic they drive and you run the risk of making your posts too commercial.

You can also measure the success of a blog in metrics that have nothing to do with conversion rates. For example, blogs can be a great way to build evidence for your media outreach program. That’s a very valid goal, but not necessarily a “conversion rate.”

How do you measure the “conversion rate” of your company blog?

All the best!

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Winning Customers and Influencing Prospects Through Lead Nurturing

I think I’ve been remiss by not covering lead nurturing in any real depth in the couple of years since I started this blog. The more I work with marketing teams, many of them great in many respects, the more I am convinced that lead nurturing is the “secret sauce” that is missing from their efforts.

I want to thank Brian Carroll and his team at InTouch for helping me really cement my thoughts on Lead Nurturing and its importance in any marketing plan. My opinions are not necessarily always representative of theirs (so don't blame them!) but they are an impressive organization with an incredible amount of expertise.

Let’s start with what lead nurturing is. Here’s a quick quiz to test your knowledge.

Lead Nurturing is:

A. Telling your prospects that they are wonderful and you know they’ll become great customers someday.

B. Calling your prospects every few weeks to “touch base” and see if they are ready to buy yet.

C. Staying in front of your prospects with information that is useful to them and that they want to receive and that brings them closer to engagement with you.

The answer is C, of course.

I think most of you probably guessed that A was an attempt at humor. And, although most of you probably guessed C was the right answer, it’s amazing how many companies will say they have a nurturing program that, upon further investigating, consist of B – with maybe a few email campaigns thrown in.

Critical elements of lead nurturing
C is a pretty broad statement and doesn’t really capture the essence of the elements of lead nurturing so let’s take a look at a few of these in more depth:

Staying in front of prospects – This implies that you “touch” your prospects on a fairly frequent and consistent basis. The frequency of contacts in more sophisticated lead nurturing programs may be different by type of prospect. Some companies will even allow their prospects to define how often they want to be contacted.

At the very least, you don’t want to let so much time lapse that the prospect forgets who you are. In my opinion, if a lead is worth nurturing it’s probably worth at least one touch a month. This is one of the reasons why quarterly newsletter programs can play a part in lead nurturing, but by themselves, they don’t complete the picture.

Useful information – The type of information sent is also critical to a solid lead nurturing program. We’ll spend more time in a later post on types of content and tips for creating good content. For now, I want to focus on the word “useful.”

What prospects really want to see is information that is useful to them. In most cases, this does not mean product information. Save that for the sales process.

At this early stage, prospects want information that educates them. This educational information may help them understand their situation better. It may help them think about their problem in a different light. It may equip them with knowledge they need to make better decisions. It may answer some of the most common questions that others in their situation have.

It probably goes without saying that this education information is not focused on your product or your company. The focus is on your prospect and their needs. Brochures do not count as lead nurturing content.

Want to receive – This doesn’t mean that the prospect requested the specific information per se, but it should be information that is not intrusive. That begs the question – Do prospects in a lead nurturing program need to opt-in to the program?

Opt-in is not legally required in the U.S., but in a lead nurturing program, opt-in is a fundamental component. In the next post, we’ll talk more about how to build your opt-in list for your nurturing program.

All the best!

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Better Branding on LinkedIn

Following LinkedIn’s evolution over the last several years has been fascinating. They continue to improve the product and make it more relevant to individuals who are looking to brand themselves as well as their company. I have to imagine that LinkedIn has some great product managers who really listen to their market.

As in all things in life, sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference. Here’s a new feature I stumbled upon recently.

Most of you who use LinkedIn are probably familiar with adding your sites to your profile. These sites could be your company site, your blog, or any other site that you feel adds to your profile and your online brand. But, did you know that you can change these tag lines from “My Blog” or “My Company” to the wording of your choice? (within the allotted number of characters, of course.)

Here’s a snapshot of what my website section of my profile looks like now:

The first is my blog. The second site is My Google Group. In this case, I used the title “My Google Group” because the title of the group wouldn’t fit and I wanted to make it clear what the site was anyway. The last site is my group on LinkedIn.

It’s a small touch, but I think this looks better than “My Blog,” “My Company” and “My Website.”

All the best!

Melissa Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

12 Steps to Dumping Your Marketing Department - Step 3 Hang Out With Your Market

Step 3 – Hang out with your market

As a marketer, I don’t really believe that you could or should dump your marketing department. On the other hand, as a former sales person, I can also understand the frustration you feel when your marketing department fails to consistently deliver enough qualified opportunities to keep your pipeline full.

This is Step 3 in a 12 step series showing sales people how they can reduce their reliance on their marketing team. Marketers should also pay close attention as this series can give you tips that you can share with your sales team to help make them more successful and take a bit of the pressure off of you.

In steps 1 and 2, we covered:

Step 1 - Targeting your market

Step 2 – Building your online presence

Step 3, hanging out with your market, expands on that using both traditional and more modern web based methods to “see and be seen” in your target market.

This is nothing new, but in my experience, very few sales people take the lead on this. They may get involved with an association if marketing signs them up for it. But even then, participation is sketchy.

You need to figure out which associations, both real and virtual, your target market is participating in. This is one of the reasons step 1 is so important. It’s hard to determine which associations are critical to a target market without first defining that target market.

Clearly, you won’t have time to participate in associations for very many markets so narrow your choices down to one or two top markets that you really want to become known in.

Then participate!

Trade Shows
Again, nothing new. But don’t wait till marketing signs you up to stand in a booth for hours handing out trinkets to people who are collecting them for their grandkids.

You need to go back to your target market(s) and figure out which conferences, large or small, your market attends. Don’t forget to look for virtual shows or conferences.

When I was the Life Sciences Industry Manager for Microsoft’s Business Solutions division, I attended a training class on FDA regulations for pharmaceutical manufacturers taught by EduQuest. I made a few connections at the class, and the “diploma” really added to my credibility.

In any conference, you can get more opportunities by actually attending the conference and having conversations with fellow conference attendees than you can by standing in a booth. Plus, you have the added benefit of getting closer to the issues that your market cares about. (Product Marketers and Managers you should be attending these conferences too and not just hanging out in the booth!)

Speaking Opportunities
Look for speaking opportunities at these conferences.

I know what you’re thinking. “But I don’t have nearly enough credibility or experience to be a speaker at a conference!”

I know because I was there too. But, my motto is “you never know until you try.” Plus, I had a great mentor in Mike Frichol who encouraged me.

Most of these conferences want to hear from people in the industry and not vendors. Instead of being the expert yourself, enlist one of your best customers to present a case study with you. Just remember, you will need to shelve your innate instincts to sell. The stage at a conference is not the place to do it.

Marketers, look for sales people who are interested in doing this and do whatever you can to help them get on that stage. Tasks such as handling the logistics with the customer and making sure everything gets submitted to the organization on time will help things go a lot smoother.

The better your presentation (generally) the more business cards you’ll collect. Mike Volpe at Hubspot recommends asking people if they want to be on your mailing list when you accept their card. Let them know that you often produce additional educational information like the presentation they just watched and you’d be happy to let them know about it. You’ll be surprised at how quickly this can help you grow your opt-in mailing list.

When I worked for Mike Frichol at Microsoft, he did a series of presentations on “Lean Accounting” at APICS. He must have collected hundreds of business cards every time he presented.

LinkedIn Groups
I mentioned LinkedIn Groups and LinkedIn Q&A in step 2, but this bears repeating. If your market is hanging out on LinkedIn, you need to have a presence. And, you need to engage.

Other Online Forums
Look for other online forums that attract your target market. When I was a Product Manager at Microsoft for their ERP applications in the manufacturing sector, I spent quite a bit of time on IT Toolbox.

Take note, though. If you don’t have anything meaningful to say, don’t say anything at all. “Call me. I can help you solve your problem,” is not a qualified response on these forums. You’ll likely find yourself publicly derided by the members if you can’t keep yourself in check. They want information, not pitches.

At the very least, you should make sure your profile on these forums is complete. Some of these forums have also added the ability to connect with other members the way you do on LinkedIn.

You might also want to check for Google or Yahoo groups that might exist in your industry. If active, these are another chance to interact with a target market that might not have found networks like LinkedIn.

A couple days ago, I wrote a post called Save time (and make more sales) by blogging showing sales and marketing how they could improve the sales process by answering common questions in blog format.

But, for purposes of hanging out with your market, let’s focus on blogs other than your own. You need to find the ones that your market reads. And, you might be surprised to find that these are not usually blogs owned by your competitors.

A good place to start looking for these blogs is to check the publications written for your market. Chances are they have at least one blog associated with their group. You can also research independent consultants whose expertise is synergistic to the products and services you offer. Or, just Google some of your keywords and the word “blog” and see what pops up.

There are blog directories available, but so far I’ve had more luck finding appropriate blogs using those simple tactics than by searching directories. This is especially the case if your topic is one that is not generally mainstream.

Now you need to start commenting to build up your credibility in your market. But, as with the forums, if you have nothing really interesting or compelling to add, don’t bother. “Great post. Keep it up!” doesn’t count as it looks like you probably didn’t even read the post. Not great for your cred.

The other piece of advice I have is one that you probably heard many times from your mother,

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

That doesn’t mean you always have to agree with the blogger. Your comments can express a different point of view. Just do it in a respectful and thoughtful way.

Directory Listings
While you are hanging out on the web looking for blogs and associations, don’t forget to look for directory listings. You have to pay to be in some of these listings, but there are many of them that are free.

The irony is that the better ones, at least from a targeted market perspective, tend to be less expensive. The audience that the directory reaches is probably significantly smaller, but they probably matter much more than the more well-known directories.

Hopefully, you can enlist the help of marketing is providing you content such as product descriptions. Maybe they’ll even take over the maintenance of the directories if you just let them know which ones you think matter.

The added benefit to your organization is that these directories usually allow you to post links back to your website. Some directories like GlobalSpec have numerous ways you can posts links – everything from allowing you to post press releases, to articles and white papers, to product descriptions. All of these links can help you build your organization’s standing in the major search engine results.

This post ended up being significantly longer than I intended, and I’m sure I’m still missing a few things. There’s also a lot of overlap with Step 2 in building your online presence. Everyone of the techniques in step 3 that involves being online will help you build on the LinkedIn profile you built in step 2 – assuming you didn’t have one already.

But, that’s the point of each of these steps. You need to make sure you’ve covered each of them, in order, as the early steps build the foundation for later steps. If you haven’t refined your target market or built your LinkedIn profile, go back and read steps 1 and 2. If you already have those covered, look for ideas you can execute in step 3. Finally, stay tuned for Step 4. I’m still debating which idea makes the most sense to cover next, so I’ll have to stay tuned too.

All the best!

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Be a Webmaster - or Just Sound Like One

You may not have the responsibility for creating your website or managing it, but if you are responsible for generating leads, you certainly benefit from the fruits of your webmaster’s labor.

Your website can be the best marketing tool you have, or the weakest link in the chain. Your website will either help you convert visitors into prospects or, it will confuse your prospects and cause you to lose opportunities before you even know about them.

In my experience, webmasters can be pretty tough cookies. They aren’t called webMASTERS for nothing. These folks are usually quite intelligent, but they don’t always see the world through the eyes of a marketer. Chances are they see marketers as a bit talkative and “fluffy” while they are more comfortable alone with their computers tweaking pixels. I’m probably getting a bit carried away with the stereotypes but the point is the website is their domain and they don’t always appreciate you sticking your nose into their business.

In order to improve your marketing, you need to be able to collaborate with these technically oriented colleagues. And, in order to collaborate you need to be able to speak their language. Maybe not fluently, but enough to communicate effectively.

There are two halves to making a website work for you:

First, you need to drive visitors to your website.

Second, you need to get them to take the desired action once they get there. This is usually referred to as a conversion. This action could be any number of things such as downloading a whitepaper, signing up for a webinar, calling your sales department, or even just clicking through to a sub-page that you are trying to direct them to. We’ll save the discussion of the relative quality of these various “calls to action” for another day.

Drive visitors to your site through search engine optimization
There are obviously a number of campaign tactics that drive visitors to your site. Your webmaster is going to be more concerned with Search Engine Optimization. This means setting up your website so that the search engines see your site and you show up higher and on the first page of the search results.

To speak the language of your webmaster, you should learn as much as you can about search engine optimization. If you are a member of MarketingProfs, you’ll find more than enough educational materials to get you going. If not, here are a couple of links to free webinars from very reputable sources:

Network Solutions webinars Scroll down past the live seminars for the recorded webinars
SEO 101

I’ve worked with Network Solutions and I’ve long been a fan of HubSpot although I haven’t had the opportunity to work with them yet. (These are not endorsements, but then I’m not getting paid for recommending them either.)

Convert your visitor to leads
A few posts ago, I mentioned Conversion University, a free training offering from Google that focuses on their free Google Analytics tool. You can take a certification exam for $50, which may well be worth it if you ever need proof of your competence. (Perhaps an opportunity to enhance your resume?)

You should also take a look at Google Website Optimizer. This is another free tool that allows you to easily test various versions of a web page to determine which one performs better.

It doesn’t matter whether your webmaster actually uses these tools or something else. The tools all manage basically the same things, although some with more sophistication than others. As long as you are understanding how to interpret conversion rates, bounce rates, abandon rates and other website metrics you’ll be on your way to a meaningful discussion with your webmaster.

All the best!

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The Quid Pro Quo of Blogging

Getting lots of comments on your blog posts is not the holy grail of corporate blogging. Other goals, such as:

• improving your search engine ranking
• building content for a nurture program
• improving media outreach

may be even more important to your organization.

However, lots of comments feels good. It validates that your readers are actually reading your posts.

If you are looking for comments, you can’t afford to ignore the quid pro quo of blogging:

If you want to build your comments you need to be reading other blogs and adding comments to their sites.

This is one of those “Do as I say and not as I do” moments. I don’t spend nearly as much time as I should commenting on posts on the great blogs that I read. (Sorry guys. I will try to do better.)

Many bloggers who are new to corporate blogging may find this a bit difficult at first as many of the blogs with similar themes may be produced by competitors. That just means you need to dig a bit more. Blogs created by independent consultants, associations, trade press, and business partners are all good sources.

An added benefit to looking for these blogs is that they often inspire posts of your own. And, if you’re short on ideas (or time) in a given week, find a post whose ideas you really like and where you have some valid input to add. Create a short post with your comments and link to the blog.

Most bloggers love it when others link to their posts. (Actually, I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t but I suppose the possibility exists.) These links increase the chances that their blogs will be read and be found by the search engines.

All the best!

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Conversion University Now Open

I have recently become a stronger advocate of hiring people for marketing positions who don’t necessarily have a degree in marketing. (I do in case you are wondering.) I am more impressed with the individuals who go out and grab the education that is readily available on the web than I am with those who can recite the 4Ps, but little else.

Google has been great about giving away a free education. They recently opened up Conversion University to cover the ins and outs of Google Analytics. Analytics itself is a free, but powerful, site monitoring tool offered by Google.

It’s interesting that Google does charge $50 for their certification exam - the Google Analytics Individual Qualification Test, or IQ test for short. But all things considering, $50 is a long way from what most of us paid to learn the 4Ps.

All the best!

Melissa Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Save time (and make more sales) by blogging

Every now and then, one of my colleagues will comment on the frequency of my posts. I try to blog at least several times a week. When I’m on a roll, I’ll blog daily.

The strange thing about blogging is that although it takes time, it makes my networking efforts more efficient. The secret is where I get my post ideas from.

Since my blog focuses on practical marketing and career advice for marketing professionals, most of my ideas come from reading the questions on the forums on LinkedIn and MarketingProfs. I take some of the more common questions and turn these into blog posts. Next time the question gets asked, I usually write a small paragraph that is based on the question, but then I include a link that answers the question in more detail.

This paradox of saving time by blogging doesn’t apply just to marketing consultants like me.

Let’s say you sell ERP software and you spend a lot of time answering questions like:

“Can you explain Microsoft’s Dynamics product strategy to me?”
“What the heck is .Net anyway?”
“Is BusinessByDesign from SAP going to be around in a couple of years?”
“I’ve never heard of your software, why should I buy yours instead of one of something from a company I recognize?”
“Why would I want an SaaS application?”

Those of you not in the ERP Software world, just substitute the most commonly asked questions from your prospects.

Now take each of these questions and write a blog post answering them. You’ve probably answered them hundreds of times during presentations and in email correspondence. Writing a post shouldn’t take that long. And, once you have the post, next time you are asked the question just send the link to the post (with a personal message) instead of retyping the answer from scratch.

Marketers, consider letting your sales people write some of your blog posts if they are interested. It wouldn’t hurt to loosen the reigns a bit and get them involved. You’ll help them establish their personal credibility and save you time. You can still edit the content prior to posting.

If they aren’t interested in writing (or never get around to it) participate in their sales calls and see what kinds of questions they get over and over. If that’s not feasible, just ask them. Answer these questions in your blog and then let your reps know.

To close the loop, watch how and if they use the blog to help them in the sales process. Your blog will still be useful as a marketing tool even if they don’t use it. However, your reps may have some great ideas for how you can improve the blog and help them close business in the process.

All the best!

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Email Marketing for the Rest of You

I have to admit that I get a bit bored when the conversation turns toward formatting email marketing for the latest electronic gadgets or email systems.

Alas, I know that stuff is important, but I’d rather focus on good content and creating a relationship with the prospect. I’m happy to leave the nitty-gritty up to those who are happy to spend their lives dealing with it so I don’t have to.

For those of you who want or need the details, you should add Mark Brownlow’s blog to your “must read” list. Here’s an example of just a few recent posts that you may find exciting:

Outlook 2010: Bad news for HTML email design, but...

Outlook 2007 and HTML email design: a summary

Mobile email: the marketing challenges

For all of you techies out there, go ahead and knock yourselves out. There are tons more where these came from. (And, thank you for doing what you do so I don’t have to.)

All the best!

Melissa Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Social Media's Role in a Successful Marketing Program

Every time I attend a social media presentation I feel compelled to clarify my position. I’ve written several posts disparaging social media. I’ve also written a few in favor of social media.

Social Media Experts are Like My Chiropractor
The Truth Behind Social Media Enthusiasts
If I had 100K – My Response

I’m sure there will be more of both kinds in the future.

Let me just say that I am not against social media per se. I spend way too much time blogging and on-sites like LinkedIn for an anti-social media stance to ring true. And, in my Back to Basics Marketing workshop I spend a significant amount of time on strategies for testing social media and measuring the results.

Back to Basics is NOT about going back to traditional methods of marketing like physical direct mail pieces and trade shows. (Believe me, I’d die happy if I never had to spend another minute in a booth!)

There are three very simple principles for building a successful marketing plan in Back to Basics Marketing:

1. Stop doing what no longer works. A lot of companies I know will spend thousands of dollars on programs that haven’t brought in a dimes worth of business in over ten years.

2. Do more of what does work. If you’re having success with email marketing, how can you expand on that?

3. Test, test, test.

The final one is important because that’s where social media comes in. Social media is rapidly maturing but it’s new enough that most marketers don’t have a track record of building successful social media marketing programs. By “successful” I mean ones that keep the pipeline full of qualified opportunities. Therefore, social media generally falls under the 3rd priority.

The order of these three principles is deliberate. Most of us don’t have unlimited budgets so we have to stop doing what doesn’t work before we can do more of what does. Doing more of what does work has to be before testing because you need to be generating some business in order to stay in business – or keep your job. Testing is third because, whether it’s social media or something more traditional like a new telemarketing program, you don’t know what’s going to work yet. You don’t build a consistent lead generation program by starting with step 3.

There is a fourth very important principle and that is to make every marketing dollar count by building a nurturing program, but more on that in a future post.

All the best!

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All Product Marketing is Product Management

In the high-tech industry, the profession of product marketing can sometimes be seen as less glamorous than product management. After all, product managers decide what goes into the product. They often manage the P&L for their product. And they get to interact with customers. On the other hand, all product marketers do is create collateral based on what the product managers tell them to say. Right?

Like all roles, product marketing is what you make of it. In fact, I would contend that all product marketers are really product managers.

• Your collateral is your product.
• Your sales team is your customer.
• Your task is to create great products that your customers want to use.

Just like the product managers in your organization who manage the products you sell to the customer, you also need to follow the principles of sound product management:

- Talk to your customers.
- Gather feedback on your products.
- Watch them use your products, or those they create themselves, in action.

If your sales team isn’t using your products then you’re not creating great products that your customers want to use. It’s time to spend even more time with your customer. As Pragmatic Marketing says,

“The answer is not in your building.”

This basically means that product managers don’t create great products by asking their colleagues what their customers need. They ask their customers. Same with great product marketers. Don’t ask other product marketers (even the experts) what your sales team needs. Ask your sales team.

All the best!

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