You have got one month left before the last Quarter of 2002 begins. Soon you will be overwhelmingly busy with trade shows, end-of-year direct mail campaigns, and budgeting for 2003.
Here is a quick B2B MarketingBiz checklist of five action items you should consider doing right now to make your online marketing more effective in the coming quarter and year.
#1: Optimize Your Opt-In Name Gathering Tactics
Your in-house email list is quickly becoming one of your
company's most valuable marketing tools. Take a few minutes now
to make sure you are collecting names as effectively as possible:
a. Form vs. link: 55% of marketers we surveyed this summer said they now feature an opt-in form right on their homepage to collect email addresses. However, that means 45% are asking for sign-ups by using a link to another page.
If your goal is to get as many visitors as possible to join your list, then put that form right on your home page (as well as any other high traffic entry pages). Do not make people click through to somewhere else to sign up.
If you would like to collect more information than just email, you can add a second form on the confirmation page that visitors see when they submit their email address. However, do not make these questions required for a name to be added, you do not want to lose any names you've already collected!
b. More powerful wording: It used to be you could just say "sign up for our free newsletter" and people would sign up because newsletters were a novelty. Not anymore.
Take a look at the wording in your sign-up offer. It should contain three critical elements:
- A benefit, how they will improve their company or career by signing up for your list
- A link to a sample issue or sample alert, can be a pop-up page so when they close it, they will be back at your sign up form
c. Revisit your anti-spam rules: Your customers are becoming ultra-sensitive about spam these days. The worst spam offenders in the B2B world are often your own sales reps.
Eager sales reps are infamous for grabbing email addresses any way they can (from Web sites, from business cards, from inbound email queries, from trade show lists) and sending broadcast messages to these names even though they may not have permission to do so.
In fact your sales reps may not realize what they are doing is wrong, or that it could irreparably damage your client relationship. Now is a good time for you to set down rules about sales reps' use of email, and perhaps to schedule a quarterly meeting to reinforce these rules and answer questions.
Two quick guidelines:
- All broadcast email (defined as email that is sent to a list of people, or as messages that are fairly obviously form-letters even if sent one at a time) should be carefully scheduled and approved by a VP marketing and/or sales before it goes.
- All email addresses used to send broadcast messages should be kept in one central location so that names can be removed quickly on demand, responses can be tracked properly, and type of permission given (for what mailings) and source codes attached to every record.
No one should be able to send broadcast emails from their
personal contact database!
#2: Survey Customers and Prospects for Topical Hot Points
Whether you are planning to publish an email newsletter, offer white papers, or conduct a Webcast to impress prospects, the only way it will be successful is if you pick a hot topic.
Do not rely on your own judgment as to what that topic should be. Let your marketplace tell you what topics would thrill them by conducting a quick survey.
Your survey should only be 3-5 questions long. (Do not be tempted by the opportunity to toss in a whole bunch of extra questions for other purposes. It will vastly reduce your responses.)
Make the questions quick and easy. None should be required, and only one should be open-ended (up to 50% of respondents will not bother with open-ended questions). An outline to follow:
Question #1 - General industry or job title: This should be a question with an easy radial button answer that helps you break down the rest of the survey answers into demographic slices that matter to your sales.
Question #2 - Which of these topics are critical for your job? (a list of no more than five topics with three options: Not important, somewhat important, critical)
Question #3 - What's the biggest challenge facing your company/department today? (This is a different version of question #2.)
Question #4 - If you could get access to an expert consultant for a day to help you with your biggest business challenge, what would you ask them to do for you? (open-ended answer)
If you are already sending HTML email to your list, and you know they can receive it (i.e. not too many Lotus Notes or Eudora users) you might consider sending the survey as a form in the body of the email itself. Otherwise, send a link to it.
One easy, low-cost place to set up a survey form online in
under a hour: http://www.surveymonkey.com
#3: Start Tracking Both Clicks and Conversions
We were shocked to learn from our recent survey that 65% or more of marketers are not tracking clicks on their ads in third party email newsletters, not tracking clicks from the email campaigns they send to rented lists, and not tracking open rates to rented lists.
More than 40% were not tracking house list opens or clicks either.
How can you ask your CEO for a healthy 2003 marketing budget if you can not prove what worked this year?
At the very least, you need to start tracking the following
immediately so you have some metrics to base 2003 plans on:
- Clicks on hotlinks you use for any sort of promotions. If your Web team can not create special links for you, then use a low-cost program such as ProLinkZ (http://www.prolinkz.com)
to create them. If your Web team does not have time to set even that up for you, then go on one of the temp labor sites such as eLance http://www.elance.com
, and hire someone for $100 or less to do it for you. Yes, they can toss in hosting so you do not need to ask your in-house team for any help at all.
If you are promoting hotlinks using offline media (such as
space ads and direct mail) you should still track links.
In this case, create a special link for just that campaign.
BUT, do not make the all-too-common mistake of putting it
after the ".com" because prospects are lazy and will not type it in.
For maximum response, instead of making your special link
"www.companyname.com/link", make it
- Conversion rate of clicks. It is not nearly enough to track clicks themselves. You must also track whether those clicks were any good. Did they take the action you wanted them to take? Did they fill out your registration form, or sign up for your list, or buy something?
If you are going to push your Web team to do any one thing for you this fall, tracking conversion rates should be it.
You will not only learn which promotions were truly your best investments, you will also have absolutely invaluable data to base any future site redesign plans on.
For example, if you can tell your CEO that you had 2,000 people visit your site, but only 30% "converted," you can bet the next question will be "how do we get the extra 70% to convert as well?" That visceral image of interested prospects just sliding off your site without sticking is powerful enough to help you get a healthy redesign budget!
#4: Review and Update Your Directory Listings
Even if your marketplace does not buy online (perhaps your
products are unsuited to online purchasing) they definitely use the Internet as a directory to find you.
Every B2B marketer knows this. Why then do so many marketers pay nothing lip service to their online directory listings? (In fact, many marketers we know have their most junior staffers write the brief copy that appears in directories, and then no one ever revisits it.) Here are three steps to remedy this:
Step 1: First, check to make sure that you are listed
everyplace you should be, including:
- Association Web site directories
- Directories on trade magazine Web sites
- Directories on other marketplace-related Web sites
- Thomas Regional Directories and/or VerticalWeb sites if applicable
Step 2: Next, look over the descriptive copy about your company. Is it still accurate? Is it powerful enough? One easy way is to look up a few competitors and compare your copy to theirs. If you were a prospect, who would win?
Step 3: Last, but absolutely not least, make sure you are getting as much traffic from search engines (the ultimate online directories) as you deserve. Easiest way, get a free trial account at WordTracker http://www.wordtracker.com
to see how much traffic you could be getting and then compare it to your own server logs.
WordTracker compiles the search results from all the major search engines so you can see how many people search for what terms. Your own server logs or Web site reports should show you how much traffic comes from search engines and what terms they were searching for when they found you.
If the results show you that you could be getting a lot more traffic, it is probably time to add search engine optimization to your 2003 budget.
#5: Build Online and Email Newsletter Trade Press Lists
Not one of the media directories you may rely on to put together your press list has a complete list of online or email newsletter reporters. In fact most media directories and PR services barely graze the surface of online media.
You need to build your own list in-house.
You will use it to announce new products, trade show speeches, financial results, etc. to the press. Plus, if you have a new red-hot article or white paper on your Web site, you definitely want online press to link to it. (If you publish a newsletter, this is a good reason to post it to your site as well.) Last but not least, your research may uncover new advertising opportunities to test in 2003.
Places to look for online publications:
- Online and email offshoots of print magazines
- Web directories such as Alexa Websearch http://www.alexa.com
, Google and Business.com
- Consultants and complimentary vendors' sites
- Blogs (look up "directory of Blogs" in Google and surf until you find a directory that matches your interests)
- The email in-boxes of everyone at your company
- The press lists of trade shows
As you build the list, be careful to note what type of stories the publication covers. Do they write news? Do they include links to other sites? Is there a chance for a CEO interview or profile?
You do not want to bombard the author of a popular Blog (Web-Log diary) with press releases when he or she never picks them up. However, that author might be delighted to link to a really great article in your posted version of your email newsletter.
That is it. If you can follow these five actions, you should be in much better shape for 4th Quarter and the year to come. Good luck with all of your efforts!