Google+ The Marketing Survivalist: August 2009

Who says blog comments don't count?

SEO experts seem to agree that blog comments don’t count toward link juice. I bow to their expertise.

That said, don’t make the mistake of thinking that blog comments don’t matter. Blog comments can be picked up by the search engines and show up when someone searches on your name.

A case in point. Several years ago I was a product manager for Microsoft working heavily with the ERP applications designed for the manufacturing sector. I was quite into lean manufacturing principles and thought that everyone would benefit from applying these to every day life. I still do. I regularly read manufacturing blogs and every now and then I find a post that inspires me to comment.

I Googled my name and the phrase lean manufacturing. Below is a snippet of the results showing one blog comment and there is another one further down the page that didn’t make the cut.

Even if someone were to Google just my name, these blog comments could show up. I suspect that blog comments are more likely to show up if the blog you comment on is ranked higher by the search engines. I periodically have blog comments show up when I Google just my name. (BTW, I’m not doing for some sense of narcissistic pleasure. Googling your own name is something that everyone should be doing on a regular basis if they are concerned about maintaining their personal brand.)

The point is, blog commenting can work for you or against you in your effort to build your online brand.

It can work for you if you actively comment on blogs using the key words that you want to be associated with. I’m never going to show up in a search for “lean manufacturing”, but if I tell someone that I know something about it and they do the search for “Melissa Paulik” + lean manufacturing, I will have increased the evidence of my expertise (or at least experience in this case) because of my blog comments.

Blog commenting can also work against you if you comment carelessly. Commenting too much on blogs that are “off brand” might dilute your message if they start showing up in generic searches for your name. They can also work against you if your comments are poorly written or come off as “snarky.” I am always amazed at people who use the comment box as a chance to say something obnoxious.

Commenting on blogs is a great way to gain exposure. Just remember blog comments count toward your personal brand just like everything else you do online. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

The TAO of Website Optimization

I’ve seen a few discussions recently around the web regarding the effectiveness of SEO. The answers go one way or another, much of it depending on the skill set and job profile of the one answering the question. That’s not to say that anyone’s perspective is wrong, but we all look at the world through our own lenses.

That aside, it’s a valid question. SEO for a lot of organizations has failed to live up to the expectations set for it. It may have produced additional traffic to the website, but when a marketing manager (or a CEO) tells you that he or she is looking to drive traffic to the website, what they are really saying is “I am looking to drive opportunities.” No one wants traffic for traffic’s sake—with the possible exception of those who are measured on traffic metrics alone.

To make SEO pay off, you have to pay attention to TAO, or Target Audience Optimization, as well.

Taoism - philosophical system advocating a simple honest life and noninterference with the course of natural events

It seems that this should apply to our websites too. They should be as simple as possible to ensure that our visitors find exactly what they need as quickly and easily as possible. Of course, our information should be honest. And, the more we can work with the natural course of the way our customers buy, the more successful we are likely to be.

So how do you get to a TAO website? Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

Focus on the customer first. This may be the hardest for all of us since we are so close to what we do we think that it’s as important to the customer as it is for us. A good example of this is the awards that companies announce on their home page – some of them taking up a significant amount of real estate. I know you’re proud of the award you just won, and it should be important to the customer in their selection of a vendor, but between that and using precious website real estate for a valuable (to the customer) white paper that a customer I’d suggest the latter.

Focus on how your customers buy. Your industry may be different, but in the B2B technology industry where the sale can be long and complex, there’s a general flow that companies go through when making their purchasing decision.

Investigation/Compiling the long list – This is the first stage where the business may not even have a good handle on what their issues are, but they know they have a need to bring in an expert or a new solution of some sort. For high-technology marketing, this is your moment of truth – the one chance you have to pull them in and either engage or get them into your nurturing program before the write you off for good.

The main page should be geared toward a buyer in this stage of the sales cycle with loads free resources – white papers, on-demand webinars, podcasts etc. All of these should be readily visible and not buried behind your latest award announcement. The emphasis on this first level of resources is on the issues the customer faces and not necessarily on what your company does.

Evaluating Options – A decade ago, this is where the sales person came in, but with all of the information that is available to them on the web, buyers are starting the evaluation process without you. Since they aren’t inviting you in, give them a proxy by setting up an evaluation center.

This evaluation center would include more product specific resources that highlight your products in the best possible light – product reviews, commentary by analysts, product demos, product specific white papers etc. Given the sorry state of most product brochures these days, I’m inclined to say that you might as well skip those. However, we’ve trained our buyers to download these whether they look at them or not, so you might as well include that option. Just don’t confuse brochures with valuable content.

You don’t want this on the main page because the buyer who is visiting your website for the first time isn’t ready for it. It would be the electronic equivalent of leading with your product, which all of us who have been trained in some sort of solutions selling know is a “no-no.” If you make the “evaluation center” link a button which is ready visible your buyer at that stage of the sales cycle can easily access this level of information. And, no harm if your first time visitor decides to go there because they are self-selecting ro receive product info.

Sales Stage – In a high-tech complex sale there’s usually a break between the stage where they are evaluating options and the final stage where they are looking for the final affirmations they need before signing a contract. This break is where they bring in a sales person to put a face to the company they may do business with.

Clearly, your sales person needs to know their industry as well as how to help the prospect through their buying process. In addition, the more information you can give them about the prospect ahead of time, the more effective they can be. If you have tracked the downloads of your prospect, or maybe even the web pages visited, your sales person won’t be left to guess and spend too much time interrogating the company on the issues they face.

Final Evidence – After working with the sales person, the prospect typically reaches a final stage where they need assurance that they are making a good decision. These are the case studies, ROI tools, and other evidence that focus on how other customers like them have benefited. Once again, the focus is away from product and more on the existing customer’s story.

Once you’ve amassed a significant amount of compelling evidence., you may want to try putting a few case studies and quotes in the other areas of your web site, but placing the bulk of your final evidence in a secure area of your site. When you reach this stage of the process, you could give them their own log-in so they could go in and browse the evidence available as much as they want. This could raise the value of this information in eyes of your prospect. It could also save you from the annoying but common problem of prospects who call your customers in the early stage of the sales cycle.

Navigation. It goes without saying that navigation is important. Unfortunately, most of the B2 high tech websites don’t display much imagination. The biggest difference seems to be whether they put the menu down the left hand side or across the top.

Don’t copy your competitors. Most of them have no more insight into what works than you do. Be bold. Do something totally different and see how it works. But, remember, it’s not whether your colleagues in the company like it. It has to work for your prospects and customers.

Metrics. Do I know whether this would work for your organization? No, but that’s where metrics come in. Only the metrics, especially the conversion rates, are going to tell you whether the design you put together is working.

The point is that most of your current websites aren’t the lead generation machines they could be. They may be optimized for the search engines but they aren’t optimized for your target audience. I can’t tell you whether the approach I’ve suggested will work, but I can tell you that, for most of you, your current design isn’t working nearly as well as it should. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

It’s Nothing Personal – Twitter is What You Make of It

I was working through a client’s marketing plans the other day when I hit on the subject of Twitter.

“Have you set up a Twitter account yet?” I asked.

I heard one of the youngest of the team, maybe twenty-something, let out a snort. This was a conference call so I couldn’t see her expression, but it’s never good when a client snorts in the middle of a meeting.

“Well, I’ve heard of Twitter,” the CEO of the company replied, “but I’m not really sure what it is.”

I had a brief nanosecond to consider how I would describe Twitter to a serious business person when the young marketer chimed in, “It’s this thing where people say what they are doing at any given moment.”

I have to admit that this was my impression of Twitter not too long ago. I likened using Twitter to trying to get serious work done sitting in a grade school cafeteria. I saw it as hopeless amounts of inane chatter interrupting real work.

But Twitter has evolved. Or maybe it’s me that’s evolved. Either way, I don’t see Twitter in the same way I used to. I suspect, a great deal of it is because I’ve created my own Twitter guidelines. As a business user these have served me well so I thought I’d share these with you:

- I only use Twitter for professional purposes. My friends and other contacts can connect with me through facebook, email, or in-person since holograms aren’t available yet.

- Since I only use Twitter for professional purposes, I only follow those who are in my profession. Sometimes I’ll follow a client to see if they are getting the hang of using the tool, but for the most part, I follow fellow-marketers.

- When I find someone interesting, I will click on their ID to see their last several tweets and determine from those whether they stay on topic or not. For this reason, if someone has protected their tweets, I tend not to follow unless I know them really well.

- For the rare mistake I make, I have no qualms about unfollowing.

- Twitter is not IM and it’s not email. You aren’t expected to read every tweet. You could drive yourself insane trying to keep up.

- Since nothing I tweet is personal, I don’t protect my tweets. That means anybody can follow me unless I purposefully block them.

- I try to tweet a couple of times a day to stay involved. This is pretty easy for me since I have my blog linked to Twitter and it posts my blog. The other tweet is most often about a useful blog post I found, or a retweet of something that someone else tweeted. Both of these types of tweets help me “pay it forward” by recognizing the work of others in my field. Karma-wise, it seems to pay off.

- I use Twitter to research companies. My tool of choice is TweepSearch to find who from the company is tweeting.

- I use TweetDeck to segment those I follow into groups. This allows me to more easily focus on those I am closest to or find most inspiring.

- I follow the old rule, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." I suppose that someday if I'm stuck on the tarmac for six hours I could break that rule, but generally I tend to be pretty even-keel, especially online.

- And, for the one that will make most “Tweeps” gasp in horror, I don’t keep Twitter running throughout the day. I’ll open it up a couple times a day when I find I need inspiration – something to blog about, an answer to a challenge, or just a little pick-me-up.

Since most of you who read this blog are probably using Twitter, I’d love to hear what guidelines you’ve set for yourself.

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

Pay it Forward – The Art & Etiquette of Retweeting a Retweet

Retweeting is becoming a common practice on Twitter. I love it as it gives me a chance to give others the exposure they deserve. And, since I’m not completely altruistic, I also love the exposure it gives me. If you’ve set yourself a goal of a certain number of tweets a day in order to stay connected, try retweeting a few times a week. Sometimes, the best self-promotion you can do is to promote others.

Just when I think I’m getting past the newbie stage of Twitter, I uncover a really basic question that I think I should know the answer to. Today’s question is:

What’s the etiquette for retweeting a retweet?

Let’s say that someone retweets a tweet. The retweet includes a link to a blog post that you really like and you want to share it with your followers too. Do you retweet the original tweet? Do you retweet the retweet? The latter gives exposure to the first retweeter, which seems only fair, but can get kind of cumbersome. You only have 140 characters and a lot of retweets contain a short comment plus the original tweet. That’s not much space for two RT @(userID)s.

When in doubt, go to the source – The Blogosphere. (Almost as good as going to the mountaintop, but a lot closer!) Here are some thoughts from a randomly selected group of experts:

Are You a Twitter Retweet Thief?
This post focuses on the importance of giving credit to the original tweeter. That just seems to be common sense to me, but I thought I’d include this well written post as food for thought.

At least one of the commenters says that you must also give credit to the retweeters. If you run out of space, just shorten words - “are to r” for example. That just goes against my writer’s instincts. I’ve learned not to cringe at using less than full sentences, but I still prefer to use full words.

How to Retweet
This post shows you how to retweet a retweet but doesn’t really address the problem of too many RTs. I include it, however, because it makes a great point about why including RT in front of the @userID is so important. If you don’t, all you will be doing is replying directly to the user. This is something to keep in mind if you do want to reply to a user, but want your followers to be able to see it too.

“Twettiquette” Lesson: The ReTweet
This one gives a couple of great examples of how to retweet – especially when you are retweeting a retweet. Always give credit to the original tweeter. If there’s room, you can give credit to the retweeter as well. A nice example of how to do that is given.

If a tweet has gone viral, don’t keep giving credit to the retweeters. The blogger gives a great example of a reporter who cites his source by saying “It was heard from Mrs. Jones that Mr. Marks heard that John Doe heard that Mary said she like tofu.”

This last post makes the point nicely and with that I’m satisfied that I have found the answer I was looking for. Do you see it differently?

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

Twitter Guidelines - An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

Despite what I said about not fearing the competition when developing a social media strategy, there are some companies who are concerned about how their employees will behave as tools like Twitter become mainstream. (I’ve met some of their employees and some of these companies are right to be concerned.)

As with teenagers, a little discussion of expectations up front can go a long way. Of course, there are no “one size fits all” rules. Each company has its own employee challenges and cultural norms. Each set of guidelines drawn up will be as unique as the people who wrote them.

But where to start? For a closer look at Twitter guidelines, here are a few posts to get your thoughts rolling on how you want to set expectations with your own employees:

Guidelines for Brands Using Twitter - A few good examples of social media experiments that went well. Plus, the best advice for all of us – listen before talking.

AP Issues Strict Facebook, Twitter Guidelines to Staff
A bit from the darker side of employee guidelines. AP is instructing their employees to avoid all mention of political affiliation from their profiles… Unless you have a strong need to appear unbiased (and maybe the AP does) I think it’s a little overboard to require this of your employees.

British Government Publishes Twitter Guidelines
I think my examples just went from strict to absurd. A quote from the story,
“Now, other government departments will join these offices in producing between two and 10 tweets per day, which will be approved before they are posted, according to the guidelines. In addition to waiting at least 30 minutes between each Twitter update, civil servants are also advised not to follow anyone who isn’t following them.”

Did I mention that Twitter Guidelines may be different because of cultural differences? Hmm, perhaps a bit too regimented for my tastes.

Use common sense when creating your own guidelines
If none of these posts spur ideas for your own set of guidelines use a bit of common sense and develop your own. First, consider what kinds of mistakes can happen online and create guidelines that attempt to prevent these from happening. Often, these mistakes are made unintentionally by employees and with a little education ahead of time, could be avoided. Here are a few examples:

Leaking confidential information – Make sure all employees understand what information is confidential and what is not. This is especially important if you are in a company that tends to share confidential information further down the chain. Everything from financial info to product plans should be considered. Not all employees have a good handle on what they can share and what they can’t. Sometimes confidential information is leaked when the employee was only trying to be helpful.

Who’s asking? – While you can’t control who sees their tweets, sometimes your employees will have specific individuals reaching out to them. Make sure your employees use caution when commenting one on one with people they meet on the web. Long before the age of social media, reporters have been getting scoops from naïve and unsuspecting employees. Make sure all employees know where to route these types of people if they are asked for comments.

Venting inappropriately – Consider making it a rule that your employees never, ever make a disparaging comment publicly about a customer, vendor or business partner. These kinds of comments reflect even more negatively on your organization than if the employee were to make the comment about you. These are also the comments that leave you most open to legal action.

Inappropriate content – What’s inappropriate for some may not be inappropriate for others. While I don’t believe in policing your employee’s personal sites like the AP seems to, you have every right to require that they steer clear of certain content when they are using social media professionally. And there is a fine line between personal and professional these days. For example, even if your employees Tweet under their own name, that’s a professional account if they use it to Tweet about your company or industry. Twitter doesn’t limit the number of accounts you can have so consider encouraging your employees to separate the personal from the professional.

If you have additional idea for gudelines or stories about what has worked for you, please share them. You can comment on this blog or send me a tweet @melissapaulik.

All the best!

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

Social Media Paranoia – Is it Justified?

I recently asked the question, “Is Twitter a useful tool for channel communications?” I had some interesting responses on the LinkedIn IT Channel Alliance forum where I also posted the question. Offline, most people admitted to being a little paranoid about the competition gaining access to their secrets.

This concern is nothing new. Since the first printed word was used in a commercial sense, marketers have been trying to figure out how to communicate with their target market without the information leaking into the wrong hands. However, after reading this article in BtoB Magazine on social media and marketing intelligence, I’m not so sure the paranoia is justified.

Of the 314 marketers polled:

- 33% said they find valuable information through social media.
- 21% said they use social media but not for competitive intelligence.
- Another 21% said they didn’t use social media at all.
- The final 25% didn’t know what competitive intelligence was. (Tip: Asking the question, “Are you in marketing?” at the beginning of the survey can help you weed out unqualified respondents.)

So roughly a third of your competition is using social media for competitive intelligence. Of that third, one has to ask, how many just answered “yes” on the survey because they were embarrassed not to. And, how many have a regular program of gathering competitive intelligence this way? Probably not many.

Granted, sales people may be more likely to use social media for transactional competitive intelligence but so many sales people are still selling “the old-fashioned way” that I wouldn’t worry much about them yet either.

When it comes down to it, “competitive concerns” seems to be losing its luster as a legitimate excuse for staying out of the discussion. Your competition will gain access to your “news” through other means. Unless you plan to never release any new products or services, there’s just no way around the competition getting their hands on this information. The “leaks” aren’t likely to come from within your organization. They will come from your business partners, customers, or former employees. These leaks will happen whether or not you are on the social networks.

The same is true for complaints about your company. Users have been complaining about their vendors since the first electronic bulletin boards came into existence. (The first one I remember was the late-80s)

We all know the saying that for every complaint we hear there are ten complaints that we never hear. Social media has made it far easier for customers to spread negative comments, but it’s also made it much easier for marketers to be aware of these comments. Better to be involved in the discussion by having a staff of people who understand the medium and are trained to respond effectively, than to not be aware of the conversation about you. Ignorance is no longer bliss.

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

Yes, B2B websites can be prospect-centric

If you read my recent poston on chasing the elusive prospect-focused B2B website you know that I am searching for a good prospect-centric B2B website that I can use as an example in my work. The best sites so far have been sites from marketing companies that focus on marketing solutions. You would think they’d do well, so I want something with a more “industrial” flavor. I’m looking for a site that sells the ubiquitous “widget” to other businesses.

I know it can be done but so many of the sites that sell to other businesses are stagnant electronic-brochures that talk about all that they do in language that is barely decipherable. The calls to action tend to be few and only give the visitor the opportunity to download “more product information” and other company-centric materials.

Mike Frichol recently talked about the overwhelmingly self-centric websites produced by business software companies in a recent post on The Marketing Melange. Using FutureNow's WeWe Monitor he tested ten well-known business software companies. These ten companies were only focused on the customer an average of 12% of the time!

I’m happy to say that I have found a contender for best customer-centric B2B site. I ran across Trend Micro’s site while doing my research the other day. I like the look of the site as it’s fairly clean and does a good job of segmenting visitors so they know where to go. Trend Micro provides internet security tools to both consumers and businesses so it isn’t strictly B2B, but they clearly have a strong focus on an industrial audience. There are plenty of calls to action with free tools and a pretty interesting Threat Watch Meter that shows the current threat level on the web and from spam and malware that resembles the Department of Homeland Security’s threat levels. This familiarity makes it instantly understandable.

That’s not to say that there isn’t room for possible improvement. For example, I’d test the positioning of the free tools. It’s possible they have already done this and decided that the current position was best, but these tools seem fairly buried in a small grey menu on the right. They have a newsletter as well, but the ability to sign up for it is also a bit buried on internal pages. (Nice name though – First Line of Defense Newsletter)

I also like Trend Micro’s verbiage. Given the technology they produce, they could have a site written strictly for IT users of the product. Although their user base may be technical, especially on the business side, my guess is that a significant number of their buyers are average business people who want to know what the solutions do for us, not exactly how they do it. They did a great job of speaking to this audience while also supplying the information their more technical audience would want.

Finally, I ran the site through Hubspot’s Website Grader and Future Now’s WeWe Monitor. (I know these may seem a bit gimmicky but they are fun and I’ve found them very useful in pointing out problems to marketers who are too close to their products.) Apparently, Trend Micro’s webmaster knows what he or she is doing as HubSpot gave it a 98.3. There were a whopping 428,000+ inbound links. (Add one more after I finish this post)

The WeWe Monitor gave it a very respectable customer focus score of 58.33% showing the percentage of the time they speak about the customer and not themselves. I think their site is proof positive that you can be customer-centric and still market yourself.

I’m going to continue my search for the best customer-centric B2B website, so if any of you think you’ve found one (or have one) that you believe can top Trend Micro’s site let me know.

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

Are the “new rules” for marketing incompatible with lead nurturing?

When I wrote the post Are web forms old school?, I referred to David Meerman Scott’s New Rules of Marketing and PR. I saw some incompatibility between letting go of your marketing materials and lead nurturing concepts. I suggested some ways to compromise such as only putting your best materials behind a form and limiting the amount of information you collect.

However, the thought that the two concepts were fundamentally incompatible just wouldn’t leave me. For example, one of the great things about lead nurturing is that you can tailor your follow up nurturing programs to the prospects interests based on what they download. If you only know a fraction of what someone downloads, you’ll only have a partial picture.

In addition, if you know how often they download something you can gauge their general level of interest and whether it’s worth your time and theirs to follow up with a call. They may download ten items from your site, but if you only have one of those items behind a form, you run the risk of missing a great opportunity to engage. Or, conversely, you may decide to call everyone who downloads that one item thereby wasting a lot of energy and the prospect's time.

I decided to ask the question on the B2B Lead Generation Forum on LinkedIn to see if others were wondering the same thing. Apparently I wasn’t the only one. You can follow the full discussion here including a comment from me on why I changed my mind about putting only your best content behind a form. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Your help needed - Chasing the elusive prospect-focused B2B website

As I was trying to make a point with a client about making your website prospect-centered, I realized that I don’t have a truly good example of a B2B website that they can relate to. I use Hubspot’s site all the time to demonstrate as it’s practically a resource center for its target market. However, I’d like to find a website that most of my technology clients can relate to. How do you take a company like a business software provider or one that provides network security and create a website that puts the prospect first? Better yet, does anyone have an example of a company that has really done it well?

I asked this question on the B2B Marketing Forum on LinkedIn and got several examples that were very company-centric. That experience only serves to prove the point that as marketers, we are often too close to our products to be a good judge.

If you think you have a site that qualifies as best-in-class for its customer focus, let us know. I don’t really care about design, keyword optimization or any of that. I just want to find one that shouts, “I care about you more than I care about me.”

All the best!

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

Are Web Forms Old School?

I just abandoned a registration form for a webinar I really wanted to attend because the form asked for my physical address. I don’t mind giving them my name, company name and email. It’s information that they can use to understand who I am and better follow up (or not) with me after the event. But, why would they need my physical address?

Being the paranoid consumer I am, I have to assume they are going to do one of two things. They are either going to sell my personal information to someone else and try to make a buck off of something that I consider my property. Or, they are going to send me junk mail, thereby wasting my time, cluttering my home and eventually filling my local landfill. Both of these assumptions turn me off so much that I rarely complete a form that asks for my address.

I’m not alone in my aversion to sharing unnecessary information on a web form. Mike Frichol writes about his research into the way ERP Software vendors are using forms on his blog The Marketing Melange. He says that the worst example he found was for a vendor that required the visitor “to create a full profile with over 25 data fields to become a supposed member of some privileged inner circle group before you see their information.” Yikes!

Those of you who follow David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR know that he is a proponent of tearing down the gates in front of your content. Joe Pulizzi recently quoted some stats he brought back from David’s presentation at the Branded Content Conference. He says that “a white paper or eBook will be downloaded 20x and up to 50x more WITHOUT a gate in front of it.” This allows people, such as bloggers, who are the most likely to share your content easy access to it. And, it improves the chance that good content can go viral.

Mark Palony at SoftBrands, an ERP vendor located in Minneapolis is testing this theory. In his company blog, he’s shared with his prospects and customers that he has removed all the forms in front of his content. When I asked Mark what lead up to the decision he cited the higher abandon rates on the forms and that he wanted to remove any obstacles to getting the information in the hands of his prospects.

As for me, I’m not ready to abandon forms completely. If you are looking for a way to build an opt-in list web forms are a great tool. However, a well executed form strategy is needed to avoid turning off today’s savvy (or paranoid) customer. Here are a few tips:

- Don’t put your brochures behind a form. I know you spent a lot of time and effort putting those together but they just aren’t that high of value to the customer.

- Watch the download rates. Put what you consider a great customer-focused piece of content behind a form and watch the bounce rates for the form as well as the download rates. Then take the form out from in front of it and see if your stats come anywhere near the stats quoted by David Meerman Scott.

- Test various landing page and form layouts. It could be the layout or verbiage of your landing page or the form itself. Try some A/B testing to see if you can increase your response rates while still keeping the form.

- If you decide to take Mark’s plan and remove all forms, watch your inbound contact rate. It is sure to take some time, but if the number of calls you get doesn't increase, your problem may not be the forms.

- Ask for no more information than is absolutely necessary. In most cases, name, company name and email are sufficient. You may think you need the phone number but asking for that information can increase your abandon rates. How many people do you know want a rep giving them a call? If you really do need to follow up by phone, the numbers aren’t all that difficult to obtain through other sources.

- Allow for an opt-in on every form you have. If you can get prospects to opt-in to your nurturing program, you'll feel less compelled to out everything on your site behind a form simply because you are desperate for leads.

All the best!

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

Is Twitter Useful as a Channel Communications Tool?

Yesterday, I posted this question on ChannelWeb and a couple of channel focused discussion groups on LinkedIn. For those of you who aren’t part of these forums or a member of the LinkedIn groups, here’s the text of the question:

It seems to me that Twitter holds some promise for building relationships between vendor and channel partners. It probably won’t be the main communication method any time soon, but perhaps it offers an opportunity to take the relationship to a new level.

Vendors – Are you using Twitter to communicate with your channel Partners? If so, how’s it working?

Channel - Are your vendors using Twitter to communicate with you? If so, how effective is it?

You can respond via this blog or log into ChannelWeb or join one of these channel discussion groups to provide your feedback:

Everything Channel

IT Channel Alliance

All the best!

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

Lead Scoring 101

I’ve often mentioned lead scoring in my series on lead nurturing and in other posts on improving the connection between sales and marketing. For some time I’ve been meaning to go back and give a better explanation of lead scoring. No need. Jep Castelein did a great job covering it in his recent post Lead Scoring 101.

All the best!

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