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Jul 13, 2005

Executive Outlook 2005-2006: New Data Reveals 3 Key Tactics IT Marketers Can Use for Better Results

SUMMARY: Exclusively for MarketingSherpa readers, discover the three biggest trends in IT marketing today.. including new data on:

Does blogging help your IT marketing efforts?
Are email responses sagging for everyone?
What percent of your incoming leads should be "hot"?

Includes three all-new charts from our IT Marketing Benchmark Guide and plus a link to sign up for a (complimentary) teleconference:

#1. Eliminate the "Fear Factor" in Your Ads

While IT professionals surveyed for this Guide said they were very interested in safety, the fear-based ad messaging so prevalent today is a complete turn-off for them. Why? It's the eternal conflict of creative that marketing thinks is attention-grabbing versus creative that technology professionals will respect.

IT pros have been bombarded by far too many ads warning about bugs, hackers, and the rest of technology-related fears marketers hope to play on. As detailed in this Benchmark Guide's Special Report on what IT professionals think about your advertising, precisely 75% of respondents agreed that, "fear-based ads tend to overstate the danger, and I tend to ignore those ads." Source: MarketingSherpa/CMP Media, Attitudes and Online IT Advertising Survey, 2005

#2. Blogs as a PR Tool

At first glance, one might think blogs are the natural tool to reach IT professionals. After all, they are early adopters (blogs written by IT pros started popping up in 2001) and these advertising-cynic prospects might appreciate the "truer" voice of a blog.

However the data shows that fewer than 10% of IT pros are interested in reading blogs (compared to 23% of IT advertising agency execs who'd like to invest in blog-marketing to reach them). On reflection, this data makes perfect sense, because IT pros also use online message boards and email discussion groups far less than had been predicted initially. (They only turn to them when there's a specific question they need answered in a hurry, and the guy in the next cubicle doesn't know the answer to it.)

Don't abandon your blog-marketing fervor yet though. Turns out journalists adore blogs 51% visit them regularly and 53% surf them for new story ideas. IT experts who write compelling blogs can find themselves deluged with interview requests from the press. Example, to fend off reporters, Microsoft tech staffer Robert Scoble has had to post a special page on his personal blog detailing his press interview policy (it basically says go away).

Our advice? Move your blog-marketing to the PR department. Write the ads and/or blogs themselves with an eye toward catching journalists' attention, instead of the end-sales-prospect. Naturally, do the exact opposite with your press releases, which with search engine and portal distribution are more likely to be read by thousands more end-prospects than they will be read by journalists, who prefer to sniff out exclusives.

For more data and practical advice on buzz and PR, turn to Chapter Three of this Benchmark Guide. Plus, be sure to check out the included Special Report on PR and technology trends so you'll know how to pick topics to hang your blogging hat on. Sources: MarketingSherpa/CMP Media, Attitudes and Online IT Advertising Survey, 2005 and Bitpipe 2005 Marketing Trends Study, December 2004

#3. Invest in Lead Loyalty Campaigns

You heard it here first. In 1997-2000 brand building advertising ruled as new technology companies and offerings desperately tried to get attention. 2001-2004 was the age of lead generation marketing as everyone hunkered down to focus on feeding the ever-hungry maw of the sales department.

While gathering data for this edition of the Benchmark Guide, we noticed the convergence of three factors that we believe are changing the budgeting and campaign landscape of the IT marketing landscape:

Fact: Sales cycles are getting longer confronted with more choices than ever before, and more committee members weighing in on decisions, organizations are taking weeks, even months longer to decide carefully which vendor will win their business.

Fact: Inquirer attention spans are becoming microscopically short. In the good old days, you had 7-10 days to respond to a new lead before it started to get cold. Now ultimate conversion rates drop if you can't get back to an inquiry the exact same day. (Note: If you give it a full 24 hours, you could lose the business.)

Fact: Email open rates have dropped unexpectedly in the last 12 months after holding fairly steady in the two past years prior. We see this trend in email as a whole, as well as for campaigns and newsletters from IT marketers.

Yet, the overwhelming majority of IT marketers rely *solely* on email as their ongoing message delivery method of choice to older leads being educated and nurtured toward the day they'll be ready for the sales department to close.

Only a small (if you're lucky it's very-low double digits) percent of your incoming leads and inquiries are qualified and ready to make a buying decision in this month or quarter. The rest, sales throws back into the marketing pot (or drops on the floor if you don't have an arranged system to get back leads).

Source: Lead Dogs, 2005 These not-ready-for-sales-time leads are more valuable than the rest of the IT universe. Why? They've heard of your brand, they're proven responsive to your offers, and you have enough data (hopefully) to target further messaging so it's compelling to them. You've begun the relationship, now you just have to get chummy with them during that ever-lengthening sales cycle to close it.

But that takes time, attention, and a portion of your budget. It's now marketing's job to respond to new leads in less than 24 hours, to sift out the hottest for immediate pass-along to sales, and to continue working on the rest until they too are ready for harvest. However, most marketers turn their attention instead to attracting that next batch of fresh leads, rather than working the leads in hand.

One technology marketing expert we know compares this to planting a new apple orchard, picking only the 10% of apples that are the first to ripen, and then rushing off to a new plot of land to plant another orchard and start all over again. What a waste!

That's why we predict cutting edge IT marketers will move a portion of their outward messaging budgets back in-house again, to focus efforts on the leads they already have. Aside from lead qualification telemarketing and standard email newsletters, they'll test print campaigns (such as a printed newsletter for leads in each vertical), friends-only road shows and seminars, prospect company-specific educational microsites, invite-only dinners at trade shows, and even dimensional mailers.

Key many of these tactics cost a lot more than email. But, you can't count on email getting opened anymore and you already know these leads are your most valuable prospects to market to. So, why not invest more in (carefully measured) lead loyalty campaigns instead of throwing all your budget into marketing to the great unknown?

Will 2005-2008 be the era of lead loyalty campaigns? We hope so.
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