Join thousands of weekly readers and receive practical marketing advice for FREE.
MarketingSherpa's Case Studies, New Research Data, How-tos, Interviews and Articles

Enter your email below to join thousands of marketers and get FREE weekly newsletters with practical Case Studies, research and training, as well as MarketingSherpa updates and promotions.


Please refer to our Privacy Policy and About Us page for contact details.

No thanks, take me to MarketingSherpa

First Name:
Last Name:
Jul 31, 2008
Event Presentation

MarketingSherpa B-to-B Presentation: Answers to Lead Gen Teleseminar Questions: MP3 and Transcript

SUMMARY: Marketers who participated in our recent teleseminar, 'Top 10 Marketing Fast Fixes + How to Generate and Nurture More Qualified Leads,' submitted more than 100 questions about their own challenges. We created this special presentation to answer the queries we couldn't get to during the teleseminar.

Anne Holland, MarketingSherpa founder, provided valuable tips and best practices on a host of topics, such as:
o Are white papers still effective?
o The right way to use traditional telemarketing, direct mail and print media campaigns
o Registration form and landing page best practices
o Incorporating Web 2.0 channels in marketing campaigns
This is a downloadable presentation recorded on July 28, 2008.

Presented by: Anne Holland, Founder, MarketingSherpa LLC, and Sean Donahue, Senior Reporter, MarketingSherpa LLC.

Here’s how to listen to this recorded presentation right now (or download it for listening at your convenience):

#1. Click this link to download the MP3 audio file:
(Open Access=Permanent; approximately 87 minutes)

(Download Note: Almost anyone with a PC or Mac can play an MP3 audio file. If you'd like to listen now, just do a regular mouse click (left side) and it will start playing soon. If you'd like to download and save it for listening later, just do a right click with your mouse.)

#2. Here is a transcript of the presentation:

Sean Donahue

Hi, this is Sean Donahue, Senior Reporter for MarketingSherpa, and I’m here with Anne Holland, MarketingSherpa founder, and today we’re going to be answering questions from our recent teleseminar: Top Ten Marketing Fast Fixes. If you missed that teleseminar, don’t worry. It’s archived on our website at or you can call our customer service team at 1-877-895-1717, or email

Now, these were questions we collected from attendees during the teleseminar and we’ve organized them, found that some were all related to some pretty similar themes, so we’re going to go through them right now.

All right. Our first question. Several of our attendees wanted to know about white papers. The big question, are white papers are losing their effectiveness, and if not, what are the best ways you can publicize a white paper?

Anne Holland

Oh, that’s a really great question. I think all of us probably, in the marketing world, have white paper overload, because at this point, you’ve probably written and read so many of them that you’re tired of them and you also are probably aware of how many thousands of white papers are out there in the world, and you wonder if your prospects are tired of them too.

We have actually been doing a lot of prospect surveying. So we were surveying business executives, IT executives, business users, all different people about if they’re tired of white papers and what they think about white papers, and we’ve got a lot of data on that.

Overall, what we’ve found is, no, white papers are not losing effectiveness. If it’s a bad white paper, it’s still not going to work. It’s not going to work any less than it still wouldn’t have worked. If it’s a good white paper, it will still absolutely work for you. In fact, if you’ve got a really great white paper – maybe you’re doing something annually, maybe an annual survey of some type, something like that, you can actually begin to build the brand of the white paper and people start looking forward to it. It actually can get more and more popular over the years.

So white papers are totally not losing effectiveness. The key is your prospects want white papers that are highly relevant to what they care about; to their industry, possibly to their job function, and to what they’re really worried about.

A generic white paper that is sort of just general, or a white paper that’s more of a sales paper won’t work that well these days. But if you get your taxonomy down and you know what these people really care about – survey them, find out – and you come up with a white paper that’s for one particular segment, perhaps for your database or prospect universe, they’re going to respond like crazy to it.

The other nice thing to know is that white papers tend to be extremely popular among that business user and the evangelist on the committee that is considering buying your product. So if you’re trying to reach those evangelists, who, themselves, are great for sort of spreading the word virally within their own organization, those evangelists love white papers. They forward them to other people. They use them for their own education. They print them out. They hand them around. They email them. They really like that kind of information. It’s very handy for them. So white papers work great.

In terms of publicizing a white paper, if it is highly relevant for a particular job title or for a particular industry, make sure that the folks already in your prospect database that are in that niche get the word on it, including – I had mentioned during the presentation -- you can send out a paper postcard about that. So don’t just rely on email. Really use high impact ways to get the word out about your white paper, and they’ll spread the word.

But you can also do publicity. There are actually several free PR services that you can use to do press releases about your white paper. You can blog about your white paper. You can put text links to your white paper on your home page and other key pages on your site. There are a lot of places to get the word out about a white paper.

The kinds of white papers that the press like to write about are going to be ones generally that have some kind of new research in them. So if you can claim you’ve done a survey or a study, or there’s some kind of new data, often a reporter in the trade magazine world, or the trade website world, will pick up on that and write a story. So it’s a great way of getting free publicity, as well. How’s that?

Sean Donahue

That sounds great. Actually, you brought up a topic in your answer that is our next question. You mentioned using postcards, and one of the attendees wanted to know, what is the role of direct mail in lead generation? For example, should you use it as a first step getting cold leads to hold their hand? And then specifically, what type of offers do you recommend using with this direct mail promotion? Is it for white papers? Free trials or discounts? And what kind of responses should you expect from people and how should you collect those responses? Are you giving them a phone number or URL they should come visit? Can you talk about direct mail?

Anne Holland

Sure. That’s a big topic. There’s a whole, huge section in the B-to-B Lead Generation Handbook all about direct mail. So if you’re really interested in direct mail – and by direct mail, we mean direct postal mail – absolutely go for it. I think it’s an incredibly high impact thing to be using.

Now, when it comes to direct mail and lead generation, which offers do I recommend? Your offer should be directly related to your list, and I don’t just mean relevancy. First, I mean how hard is it for you to get your hands on that list, and how expensive is that list? Is this a list you can get your hands on any time and it cost relatively little, or you can barter for it, of is this a one-time, once a year, once a lifetime kind of deal where you’ve got your hands on this amazing list and you’re never going to be able to get it again, it was incredibly hard to get?

If it’s a relatively easy to get list, you can actually make your offer harder, in other words, make more of a hard offer so that you only get super-qualified leads from that list. You can get that list any old time, so you don’t need to get as many names as possible. Just get the most qualified names. Cherry-pick with the most relevant, hardest offer. Maybe that’s a trial. Maybe that’s something for a dollar. Maybe that’s something where they’ve got to fill out a slightly longer registration form.

If it’s a list, however, that’s really, really impossible to get or it’s incredibly expensive – this is this once-in-a-lifetime deal where you’ve got your hands on these names and you can only mail them one thing once – send them something that just is over the top. You want to be able to get the highest possible response rate from these names. Take the biggest advantage you can from it. It’s going to cost you a little more. Either what you’re going to do is make a super, super, super soft offer, something that’s unbelievable that’s free and they just have to respond, “Free iPod, but you’ve got to respond”, or you’re going to make something that perhaps is going to be an in your face dimensional mailing. Maybe it’s the 200 most perfect people ever, and I’m going to mail them a box in the mail with an iPod in it. It’s going to be something so over the top that it’s going to catch their attention. So you really have to consider the list, first of all, when it comes to the offer and what you’re going to be sending to these people.

In terms of responses, we do have a lot of data on responses, mainly for IT-related products, for technology-related products and that is in our B-to-B IT Benchmark Guide, and you can call over to MarketingSherpa and they can give you more information about that. There’s a whole bunch of data just specifically about marketing campaigns and response rates for information technology products. So there’s data there.

Outside of that world, we don’t have specific data. Anybody who tells you they do, or they use that old 1 percent or 2 percent rule, is lying. They don’t know. It really is specific to what you’re selling and who you’re selling it to.

Last but not least, response vehicles. You mentioned, should people have a URL, should they have a phone number, should they have a business reply card? What kind of response vehicle should you have on your direct mail? The rule of thumb is – this is a really, really handy rule of thumb – when you’re sending direct postal mail, only send one offer. So don’t say, “Would you like this, or would you like that, or would you like the other thing?” Only give them one offer, one thing to respond to, but give them multiple ways to respond to it.

So it’s going to be one offer, but they can call you up, they can send back a reply mail, they can fax something back, they can go to a URL, they can reach out to you any way they want, and you want to put all those response devices, the phone number, the street address, the URL, on every piece of paper, on every part of that direct mail package. So even if they just end up with just the brochure or just the letter, or who knows what from that direct mail package you sent, they have every single one of those response devices. They can reach out and touch you. Because you never know what response people – some people just love to pick up the phone. Some people will never pick up a phone, but by golly, they’re going to fax you. You don’t know. So you’ve got to put all the contact information and every response vehicle in there, and they’ll decide how they want to use it. I hope that answers that question.

Sean Donahue

That sounds great. You recommend they just flood the zone; give them as many ways to respond as possible and let them choose how they want to do it. That sounds good. It actually leads into our next question, sort of a follow up to that. We had several questions about registration form best practices, and obviously, whether it’s direct mail or an email campaign or something, you’re probably going to be trying to get people to go to some kind of online registration form.

The big question that we had there is at what point does the amount of information that you require prospects to fill out actually cause a decline in the amount of leads you can collect? How many fields should you require in your registration forms, or conversely, should you eliminate the registration form altogether, make the information freely available to the public to try to increase the circulation of that content, and then provide some other means for people to get back in touch with you; some very clear and visible ‘Contact Us’ information or next step information?

So what are your thoughts there on registration forms? Required fields or drop registration all together?

Anne Holland

Well, my biggest answer is test your registration forms like crazy. We’ve actually run a lot of case studies around this showing that out of all of the different factors in your creative - your offer, the picture, all those creative things – the actual registration form can actually affect response rates more, or as much as, any other factor. So the way the form is laid out, how many questions you have and how they’re worded is super, super critical for response rates. We’ve got a lot of information on that in the B-to-B Lead Generation Handbook and also, of course, in our Landing Page Handbook, which focuses on that.

The key is overall data shows that if you have more than seven items that people have to fill out in a registration form, and one item would be their snail mail address – so those lines would be one item. So one item might be email address. One line might be how big is your company, and things like that. Seven items. Once you hit item number eight, responses tend to be very much depressed. But, you know what? That’s a very general number, and I think that, overall, if you just have more than eight – if you have any items at all, of course, response rates are depressed. If there’s no reg form, then hey, you’ve got a great response rate.

The other thing we’ve seen is if you’re requiring a phone number, you’re going to see response rates depress or you’re just going to see a lot of people lie. Just because someone answers doesn’t mean that they’re answering correctly. If they don’t want to answer, if they don’t want to give this information to you, it’s not worthwhile for you to get it. It’s not a good time for them. They’re going to give it to you when they’re ready to give it to you, when, in their part of the buying cycle, they’re ready to reach out and give that to you.

So definitely look into that. Anything that you feel they might be lying on, or if you’re checking your answers and you’re saying, “Look, we’re getting a lot of lying” – we do have data in the book about how much people are lying about everything from phone number to email to size of industry, all that sort of thing. Take a look at it and say, “Am I asking for too much?” Now, if the thing you’re offering in exchange for this information is incredibly valuable, or if these people are really far down in the sales cycle, so they’re very much involved with your brand and they’re really close to making a decision, they’re going to be more and more liable to fill all that information out. If I’m filling out an RFP and I want to get a quote back, I understand you need a lot of information from me. But if I’m just trying to get my hands on a quick glossary of terms for the industry, or something fun that might be useful or fun for me, maybe I don’t want to fill all that out. So, the answer is, to some degree, it depends.

Now, making content open to the public, it’s wonderful. If you think this is a piece of content that could go viral – in other words, it’s compelling enough that evangelists and people who see it are really likely to pass it along – then that’s something you really want to consider making open because obviously you want to have the broadest reach that you possibly can. If you have a marketplace that you would consider uneducated about what you sell – either they’ve never heard of your brand, or maybe they’ve never even heard of your solution, whatever it is that you’re offering, and they really needed to be educated on those things – then I would say lift the barrier because you need to get the word out. You need to prepare the ground, even for the seed to fall into.

So, if you need to educate people about your brand, about your topic, or if you’ve got these evangelists that are just yearning to send information within their organizations or maybe post information on their blogs, make that information open access. Set it free.

If, however, you have something that’s incredibly valuable, maybe it’s, again, exclusive data – people consider research to be very, very valuable. Maybe it’s something that is personalized just for them. Well, of course, they’d have to fill out a registration form if they’re going to get the answers of the personal evaluation quiz. You can make it something very personal so they’re getting something so relevant it makes sense they have to answer those questions. Then it makes sense to put your registration form on there and let them have it.

So there you go.

Sean Donahue

Great. Thanks. Our next question is actually sort of another one of those big topics. We had several questions about the best ways to reach IT decision makers. What can you tell us about the effectiveness of different offerings; live webinars versus white papers or case studies versus recorded videos? What can you tell us about the media habits of these IT decision-makers? What are they like in terms of email newsletters versus websites, and what about print magazines? Is print media, particularly the B-to-B print media, is it dead?

Anne Holland

Those are amazing questions. First of all, anything regarding marketing to IT in particular, as I said, we do have that very specific benchmark guide. I think it’s in its fifth year now. So grab a copy of the B-to-B IT Marketing Benchmark Guide from MarketingSherpa. Get the latest edition and you’ll find all of the data in there. We survey these people. We survey CFOs. We survey CIOs. We survey IT staffers, all those people. And you’ll find out what they want, how they want it, what they’re reading, everything. So that’s all in there, including response rates.

In particular, some high points: One thing we did notice in the past year was that in the IT decision-maker – and of course, that’s a very broad term – if you’re a very high level decision-maker, in particular if you’re a high level business user of perhaps an IT product, maybe you’re C-level, maybe you’re vice president level, you’re very likely to watch webinars. You’re very likely to attend webinars fairly frequently, as much as once a week. Very high level people, especially in larger companies, they consider this part of their job and they’re very actively attending webinars that they think are important for them.

However, if you are sort of more of a mid-level person – maybe you’re the person who’s specing out what kind of products should be bought next, or what the needs for the department are, for the budget, helping set out the budget, doing a lot of the research work for the vice president – those sorts of people read white papers like crazy. So it’s kind of different populations tend to like different types of content. So, in a way, you need all of it. You’re not going to only do white papers or only do webinars. You definitely need everything. But different types of people on the buying committee are going to view different things.

In terms of the media habits of the IT decision-makers, if you’re talking about the rank and file IT staffer, they tend to go to the sites that you would consider your obvious, typical, geeky sites. They do tend to actually go to a lot of places looking for answers. So if you have posted Q&A, or FAQs or there’s a user group that tends to have a lot of answers to very specific technical questions, the chances are they’re surfing those places whenever they need an answer to a particular question. So if you’ve got a lot of useful content around that, and user group content around that, and community content, where people have posted Q&A about your product or about using your product, that’s going to be super useful for them. They don’t tend to just sit there and read general newsletters, though. They tend to be much more related to what they need for their job at that minute.

On the other hand, your higher level folks and your high level business users, yeah, they’re reading print. They’re reading print media. They’re reading The Wall Street Journal, they’re reading Forbes, they’re reading Business 2.0. They’re reading magazines. And they’re even reading books. They’re very impressed by books. In particular, if you’re selling any kind of consulting services, write a book. You may not get a whole lot of leads, but you’re going to get a few really good ones, and having written a book is going to close some sales. It’s going to give you the edge above other people who are also being looked at by the same committee. So, yeah. Print is taken very seriously by a certain level of executive and a certain type of executive. I hope that answers that.

Sean Donahue

That sounds great. Sort of a follow up to that, whether you’re talking about these campaigns to reach IT decision-makers, or any kind of content or media campaigns you’re running, do you have any thoughts on what this questioner is asking? It’s the wear-out factor for the creative you use in those different media. How long can you keep using the same creative, and at what point does it run its course and you’ve got to try something new?

Anne Holland

That’s an incredibly good question. Overall – this has been measured across many media for years now – there are two different things that could wear out. One of them is your offer. So you’ve got this offer that is red hot and you want people to respond to it. Once an individual has seen that offer between six and eight times, they’ve seen it, it’s sunk in and they’ve made a decision as to whether or not they are going to respond to it. By the ninth time, it’s wasted money because they’ve already made their decision, yes or no. You’re not going to get any more if you keep on hammering them with the same offer. So six to eight times is perfect on a per individual basis. But, that could mean that you run the offer for a long time on your website or on another website, if it’s different people that are coming there every day. It’s really by the individual who’s seen it.

Now, if it’s a branding campaign – so I’m not talking about a specific offer that you want them to respond to, I’m talking about general, educational branding. “Here’s who we are. This is what we are. This is what we’re all about” -- that sort of campaign has a much lower wear-out factor and, in fact, should be carried on longer than you think it should be. Marketers get way bored way quicker with their marketing and advertising creative for branding than the marketplace does. The thing with branding is it’s got to be steady. It’s got to be always on. It’s got to be just relentless, kind of dripping away at them, year after year after year. It should be the same message year after year after year, even the same image year after year, because they’re going to remember it that way. And when they finally have that need, they go, “Oh, yeah. I know these guys. I’ve heard of these guys. Yeah, I remember that logo. That’s familiar.”

So, on one hand, for an offer response device, you’re going to make it six to eight impressions. For a branding campaign, you’re going to make it as long as humanly possible.

Sean Donahue

Well, here’s another nice easy topic to dive into. We had a lot of questions – several questions – maybe even the most questions about this topic, and that is lead nurturing best practices. What can you tell us about lead nurturing? For example, some people would like some examples of what a lead nurturing campaign looks like in practice, and whether that process looks different depending on the size of the prospect; for example, a home-based business versus a mid-sized nonprofit versus a consulting business, etc. And then, what kind of tools do you need to monitor the lead nurturing process and close the loop? And then finally, what are some of the main challenges during that process in getting that person from response to qualified lead to ultimate conversion? So big topic. Lead nurturing best practices. How can you help here?

Anne Holland

Okay. Big question. Yes. Luckily, we’ve got a whole chapter on this in the Handbook. So if you want really detailed information, and especially examples, you can get them in the Handbook, in the B-to-B Lead Generation Handbook. In general, a lead generation campaign, what it looks like in practice? What it looks like in practice is a series of drips. In fact, people often call it a drip campaign, where you are, over a period of time, sending that person a message. We recommend that you mix your drips. So maybe you’ll have a phone call, and then maybe you’ll have an email, and then maybe you’ll have a postal direct mail, and then maybe you’ll have another email and then maybe a third email, and then another phone call. So you’re mixing them, trying to reach the person in the media that really appeals them to the most and you’re contacting them over time because you know that they’re making their buying decision over time and they need time to consider things. They need time to talk to the other people on the committee. They need time to get the budget – whatever it is they need the time to do, and you need to just sort of be there constantly, yet politely, reminding them, “Okay, when you’re ready, we’re here”.

There may be an education process needed. You may need to start out with, “What is this topic? What is the problem here? What is technology all about?” You may have to take them through a whole educational system until they’re ready to buy. So you’re going to have to know, “How much does my marketplace really know about these things? How much of a commodity are we? How unusual are we? How much do we need to tell so that they can make that buying decision? And what’s their buying cycle?”

In terms of whether the process looks different depending on the prospect, absolutely. It all depends on the buying cycle. If you’re selling to a hospital, for example, the chances are it’s going to be a 24 to 36 month buying cycle and maybe longer. You’re going to be selling to a committee. These people are risk averse and they’re going to take a million years to make a decision. If you’re selling to, say, an entrepreneur, and you’re selling something maybe not directly related to their business, not in their industry, but let’s say it’s an accounting service or a legal service, and any kind of entrepreneur could use that desperately. Their buying cycle is going to be about a minute because they don’t like to deal with administration and they don’t like to deal with this stuff. They’re going to buy it when they need it. They’re going to say, “What is it? I need to buy it really fast. Now, let me forget that. I’m not interested any more. Let me go back and run my business”.

So it so depends on the kind of people that you’re marketing to. What is their interest in your product? How long does it take them to make a decision? How many people on the company side have to sign off on that decision, or think politically they need to be involved in that decision? That can be related to company size, as well. How quickly do they normally need this thing?

As I noted in the book, though, if normally you’ve got a really long buying cycle – people tend to take eight to twelve months to sort of identify a problem and then get the committee going, and then pick their top five candidates, and then finally they get the RFP out. If suddenly, you’ve got this prospect that comes out of the blue and says, “Hey, we’re ready for the RFP now”, be warned. There’s almost a 99 percent chance you will not get that account. Generally, that is a situation where it’s a prospect who’s already made up their mind that they’re going to go with one of your competitors, and they’ve done all this research. They’ve spent their two years researching the competitor and their boss said, “Wait. You need to get an RFP from three other companies just to prove that you’ve looked at everybody else”, and they’re just going to make you do the work, jump through hoops for the RFP and then toss it away and go with the people they really wanted to go with.

In terms of monitoring and closing the loop, how do you monitor and close the loop on these leads? When a lead first comes in, you need to qualify them in some way. You need to say, “How would I rate this lead? Is this person sales-ready? Can I toss them to the sales team? Are they ready to close, I’m assuming, within the next to three months? Is this somebody that’s going to need a year or more to close because they’ve got a whole lot of education to do, or a whole lot of budget-building to do? Is this person going to need a lot more information to close?” So I’m going to measure them on any type of scale that makes sense to me. Often, it’s like a 5-point scale, but I know people who have a 7 or a 100-point scale. You’re going to say, “What is the scale that makes sense to my organization?”, and you’re going to develop that scale with your sales team. Their hands are going to be in there saying, “This is what a sales-ready lead is. Only give us these people”.

Then you’re going to say, “Okay. Now that I’ve defined the scale and I know where they are on the scale, I’m going to do these different activities. Therefore, I need to monitor when they move on the scale”. So if somebody was 18 months out, not really sure, and suddenly now they’re hotter, how am I going to monitor when they get hotter? You’re going to monitor that by possibly calling them once every couple of months to see how’s it going. You’re going to monitor them by getting feedback from the field sales force who may be running into these people on location or at tradeshows, and stuff. You’re going to monitor them, perhaps, by using your Web Analytics, because maybe you’re going to see that suddenly a particular account has been visiting the website a whole bunch recently. That increased activity indicates they’re now really interested.

You’re also going to monitor them using your email data. You’re going to say, “Wow. Normally, they only opened one of every three newsletters, but now they’ve been opening and clicking and forwarding and going crazy with the email. I think they’re ready to move up. I think they’re more interested now”. You’re going to wield every analytic you can against these hand-picked accounts and say, “Okay. I think they’re ready to move to Sales”. The whole goal is to say when are they ready, when are they worthy, and then you’re going to move them on up. So I hope that answers that question.

Sean Donahue

Yeah, actually, it does, and it also sort of flows into the next question, which is a followup on the lead nurturing issue. If you got a system like that in place, at what point do you reach diminishing returns? When do you stop gathering all that data and pass it along to Sales? Or, if somebody, for some reason, doesn’t close, how many times can you put them back through the lead nurturing campaign and how much time do you have to allot when somebody drops out of the lead nurturing campaign, when you throw them back in?

Anne Holland

Sure. The problem with marketing today is there are so many analytics you can measure that you can get really overwhelmed with it, and then you’ve got all these reports and no time to look at anything and no time to do anything at all. So what you have to do is sit down and say, “What are the analytics, what are the measurements that will [tell] me whether or not a prospect is ready to be handed to Sales?” That’s the number one, the most critical one. If the data won’t tell me that, really, it’s not as important. So, what is the specific activity that’s going to tell me that Sales is going to thank me for this lead?

The next thing is what is the data that I need to do to prove to the CEO that Marketing is doing a good job. So what numbers are going to be so impressive to management that they’re going to let me keep my budget and they’re going to let me keep my job? Often those numbers are not things like email open rates or search/click rates. They could be the percent of closed sales in the past year that marketing nurturing touched. They could be very different things, and we discuss some of those politics in the Handbook. So you can get more of the idea of the kind of reports that CEOs like.

So, first of all, find out what’s going to thrill Sales to death. Find out what measurements are going to turn into a lead that makes them happy. And then second of all, find out what kind of data your CEO needs to believe in Marketing and to think that Marketing is the cat’s meow. That really is the big stuff.

Anything after that is data that helps you tweak your campaign to improve it, and that’s very specific. It could be an email open rate or a click rate or a search/click rate. Those are data that really are for the internal marketing department’s use to improve each one of your own campaigns. In that case, look at the data for the most expensive campaign first, because where you’re spending the money, you might as well optimize, and/or look at the data for the campaign that gives you the biggest response rates right now. If it’s doing really well, you can always make it do better. Don’t spend a lot of time focusing on the weak stuff, because weak stuff is weak. Play with the A ball.

When it comes to when should you stop gathering information from prospects and send that lead to Sales, well, you never stop gathering information from prospects. Even when a lead has gone to Sales, you should still be measuring when they’re coming to the site, when they’re opening their email, what they’re clicking on, if they phoned into customer service and asked a question. You’re still holding that record. It’s not that Sales isn’t holding the record too, but information is still flowing into records that inform everyone.

But when should you pass that lead to Sales is the more critical question, and that is when Sales tells you to. It absolutely has to be down to what Sales wants. A lot of marketers will complain about that because they’ll say, “Well, Sales just wants people who are ready to close, and they don’t want anybody else”. Fine. That’s all you should give them. If that’s what they want, that’s your entire goal in life, is to get them precisely that, and find out exactly how they figure out when is a person ready to close. You may have to interview them a few times and really find out what makes that person. It can be tough. Really find out.

Last of all, how many times should you put a prospect through the same lead nurturing program? Well, I hope you’re not putting them through the same program over and over again, because that makes me feel like I’m a robot, caught in voicemail forever until I die. That sounds horrible. I would assume that the prospect is going to put themselves through because they’re going to respond to things and end up in a drip campaign that you’ve got set up against that particular thing they responded to. And if they’ve responded to the same thing three times, maybe they end up in the same drip campaign. I would doubt that. I can’t imagine someone is going to want to go and download the exact same white paper three times. Actually, if they do, you might think, “Wow, maybe they need it to hand off to the committee. This is a great lead. Maybe I should be paying more attention to this person”.

Nurturing really should be determined by the prospect. They’ve responded to you. Now you are going to respond to them with some nurturing. So it’s being triggered by them, by their activity and then you’re letting them, you’re nurturing them. I hope that helps.

Sean Donahue

Yeah, that sounds good. Our next question – I think this question is sort of addressed by the lead nurturing best practices that you were just talking about. We had a few people asking us about the problem of delivering high quality leads versus quantity of leads. They were wondering what tactics help generate high quality leads, I guess as opposed to any old lead, and how do you assess which of those leads are high quality and which are really just the tire kickers?

Anne Holland

The first thing you can do is regression analysis. That’s a fancy word for – really, what you’re doing is you’re going and looking at the last year’s worth of sales, and you’re saying, “Of the closed sales in the last year, where did those leads originally come from? Can anyone figure it out?” Often, depending on the company, it isn’t like there’s that many bazillions of sales so it isn’t that hard to figure out. I know people who have hired temporary secretaries and kind of worked it out, “Where did that name originally come from?”

Now, that name may have come from multiple places because often, a lead, maybe they came in through Google, but also a sales rep ran into them at a show, and then a friend said something. You can have multiple sources for that lead, but look at all the different places that person could have come from and figure it out, and say, “Where do my closed leads come from now? What are these sources looking like? How can I get more people from these sources because these are proven? These sources are proven to generate sales. So I’m going to put more money into the ones that are proven to already generate good sales and less money into places that didn’t end up in a real lead”. That’s really the super most critical one.

The other thing you’re going to do is, when you’re assessing if someone is only a tire-kicker, you’re going to talk to your sales department. You’re going to say, “How do you tell if they’re a tire-kicker?”, because certainly Marketing has probably sent Sales some tire-kickers in the past, and Sales is probably bitter about it. So ask them. How did they find out? Dig around. Get a friendly sales rep, take them out to lunch, get them relaxed. Don’t sort of hit them in the office. They love lunch, in particular on a Friday afternoon. Often, that’s a really good time. You pay. Get them talking. They’ll tell you all sorts of stuff. What you really want to know is what they consider is a lead that’s good.

Now, the other thing that you can do to make your database better is once a name comes into your database, you can always – maybe somebody opts in just to get your newsletter or to attend something. You can always email them out a survey and say, “Hey, we’d like to learn more about you. Can you tell us more about you? How can we serve you better? Do you need to know more about this or that?” You can continue to collect information about that lead, or you can call them. It’s the lead qualification phone call. Ask them some more information about themselves. Slowly, you’re beginning to gather enough information about that lead to know whether or not they are a good enough lead to hand on to Sales. You’ll begin to find out.

Sean Donahue

All right. Well, moving on to another big meaty topic – this one is worth a teleseminar all on its own. We had a lot of question about landing page best practices.

Anne Holland

Oh, wow.

Sean Donahue

Yeah. I just want to ask you a few questions here just culled from the audience. Some folks want to know, landing pages versus your website front page, which should you use? Obviously, if you’re using a specific landing page, should you keep them very simple and not overwhelm people with too much information, or pack in lots of information that helps lower your cost per click by apparently matching lots of keywords to the page. And then finally, a third variation of the landing page question, what about personalized URLs? Can they increase response rates in B-to-B campaigns, and if so, what are the best practices for using them?

Anne Holland

Oh, wow. Those are good questions. First of all, landing pages versus your website front page: a really, really big question. If you are marketing via the mass media and – so these are campaigns that might be going out over TV, over radio, possibly a lot of speeches, an off-line speech, speaking at a lot of conventions or conferences, media that isn’t something that you would necessarily immediately click on, then you absolutely want to make sure that your home page has a hot link to your marketing offer.

So if you’ve been out there promoting a certain white paper, some research, Powerpoints from a speech or something like that, make sure that that offer is clearly on the home page. It doesn’t need to be fancy marketing. It can just be a little text link as part of your navigation because, certainly, people who heard the speech or saw the TV ad or whatever – maybe a print ad – they’re definitely coming to your home page and they’re looking around for an offer or for something relevant to what they just saw advertised somewhere. This is actually true with print ads that have fancy URLs. These people are usually going straight to your home page anyway. So make sure the offer is on there.

If you are marketing primarily through something that is mostly clicked on, you have to realize that actually 50 percent or more of the people who respond to your offer still are not actually clicking. Often, they’re just remembering, and then later on going to your home page and looking around for the offer. So add it to your home page.

That, however, does not mean that you don’t have to have a landing page. A landing page is super critical, because if you can get folks to click on a link for a landing page and go directly to a landing page, the conversion rate of those particular people is going to be so much higher than people who go to your home page, especially if your home page has all types of other stuff on it.

The key is, with a landing page, they immediately see in the headline that they’re in the right place. It’s got the name of the offer, or the same headline as they saw before, and hopefully the response device is right there. “Here’s the form you fill out right here. Here’s the offer you were responding to. Here’s the form. Here’s the best reasons to respond”. It’s very clear. It’s very clean. Hopefully there’s no other navigation and their only decision is reply to the offer or leave the page, just go away completely.

With a home page, the people can go to “About Us”, they can go to the press, they can go here, they can [get] lost in the FAQs. Who knows where they’re going to go, and you’ve just lost control of that person. Your message is very muddled and they may get lost. And, oh, the phone rings, and that’s it. They’re gone and they never go back to your homepage again.

So a landing page will always do better than a homepage. Do your best to have a really great landing page, a very clean landing page – and we outline precisely what landing pages should be, both in this B-to-B Handbook and in our Landing Page Handbook. But, in addition, make sure there’s a text link, at least, on your home page as well, so that people can find it if they do go there instead of the landing page.

Now, in terms of PURLs – and PURLs are the personalized URLs. That’s when you email or mail somebody something saying, “Dear Bob Smith, if you just go to, you’ll find a personal website just for you”. There definitely is an ego play. People [are] much more likely to go type in their own name to see, “What did you do? Is it really personal? That’s interesting. Okay. Yeah.” Maybe it’s a personal discount. Maybe it’s a personal evaluation. Maybe it’s something with just the products they need to renew right now. There’s a lot of really great reasons for something specifically for you. Every type of person on this planet that I’ve ever met responds fairly well to that. There are Fortune 500 CEOs who respond well to PURLs. There are rank and file staffers who respond well to PURLs. Everyone’s got an ego. Everyone enjoys that.

The key is there is cost involved. It’s not necessarily extraordinarily more expensive. There are now systems that make this much cheaper than it used to be. But there is an extra cost. So you’ve got to say, “Is it worth my spending this extra money to get the extra response rate or not?” And you have to go do your numbers and then perhaps run a test and see that.

The other thing is you have to make sure that people’s names are spelled correctly. And that’s hell. I can’t tell you how incredibly difficult that is, even if you’re using your prospect file. So if your database is one where people, themselves, typed their own names into registration forms and all you’re doing is mailing them back and saying, “Dear Bob”, it’s astonishing how many people will have typos in their names. You still have to clean the darn thing up. You really do have to clean those names because there’s nothing worse than sending Bob Smith a typo in his name, or the wrong capitalization, or something. It’s just horrible. There are software programs that can help, and also the human eye can help with that a little, as well. There are some other tips on that, and they’re in the B-to-B handbook. Next question.

Sean Donahue

Great. Well, we had a lot of requests for advice for small teams, or marketers working with small budgets and limited resources. So maybe you could just help us out with a couple of quick tips. For example, what would be your top priorities for somebody who’s got a very lean B-to-B marketing organization, say one person, and maybe some advice on a tactic or two that delivers the most bang for the buck for those smaller teams with limited resources.

Anne Holland

Sure. The first thing I would do as a one person marketer is – well, actually, I’d do two things. Number one, I would try to gain control of the website. You need to know that you’ve got control of the content that’s going out there because you’re going to make a bigger impact if you can control the home page and most of the content of the site. Maybe an easy content management tool – something where you’re not having to go to the IT Department and wait in line and wait for months and months and months. You also need to have email tools that you can use where you can send out email drip campaigns for nurturing people where you can change the email newsletter; you can do [it] yourself fairly easily. I might still use an email service provider, but I’d use one that had some technology that made it pretty easy for you to do it yourself, because otherwise, you’re going to be in hell waiting for the tech team to help you out, and you’re never going to have any kind of huge impact because you’re the one guy in the company who’s the marketer.

So get control of the contact management system for the website. Try to make it search engine optimized. Bring in someone to help you with that – I would assume a consultant. And try to get control of email and the email systems, and get ones that are fairly easy for you to do yourself. There’s a lot of do-it-yourself stuff out there these days. So that will make it easier.

The next thing I would do is to really become absolute best friends with the Sales department. Again, go out to lunch with them. Take sales training. So if they’ve got a sales training course, take it yourself. Go and meet actual clients. I would try to get to know the clients better than anyone else in the world. If you have a broad marketplace, I would pick one particular niche. I would pick perhaps the most profitable niche, and I would say, “I’m just going to focus on these people. I can’t focus on every single possible client in the entire world. I’m going to focus on this particular job function, or this particular industry, or this particular region, and I’m going to be the king or the queen of the prospects in that region, and I’m going to build the most perfect database and I’m going to build the most perfect email drip system to nurture them. I’m going to get to know every single media person, reporter and blogger who this particular niche group reads and I’m going to develop releases for that. I’m going to do everything I can to build the most beautiful sales prospect database and the greatest Marcom materials, the best website, the best blogs, the best white papers, the best webinars just for this one niche. Love that particular niche, do a really great job of monetizing them and then move onto your next niche, because after a while, a niche can kind of run itself a little bit, and then you say, “Okay. I’m going to only spend ten hours a week on this niche. I’m going to move on to the next niche and do that really well.”

I would focus, in particular, as I said, on search engine optimization. I would focus on email and I would also go through the organization and see whether there is anyone else who can help you with content because it’s very hard to be a one person content machine. And if your selling is content-heavy, and you need to have a white paper, or advice, FAQs, or a glossary, or a webinar, any kind of content, who else can help you with it? Sometimes there’s somebody in the technical department. There’s someone in R&D. There are field sales reps. You may find that people who are executives already have their own blogs, or they love to speak at events. Often, there’s a couple of other people who you wouldn’t have even predicted who may be good sources to help with content, too. So you can be like a managing editor, but you’re getting content from them. That will help you out as well.

In terms of which tactics deliver the most bang for the buck -- search engine optimization: huge, huge, huge. And as I mentioned during the teleseminar, itself, those in-person speeches, in particular at local, regional and niche events: very, very powerful. And I’m not saying you have to be the speaker, but you do have to probably land the speech and help them with the Powerpoint slides. That’s very local, high impact kind of marketing. I would also say heavy, heavy segmentation. Just pick one little niche and go after it like crazy. That’s going to get a really high response because those people are going to respond like crazy because they think that you really understand them and you really know what they want, and you do. You use the taxonomy, you use the words they want in copy. Everything is perfect for them. They’re going to respond like crazy. Don’t try to appeal to the entire marketplace.

That’s it. Next question?

Sean Donahue

Okay. Great. Another one of these topics that’s worth a teleseminar all of its own, but we did have a lot of questions related to email marketing best practices. So let’s start with the big question. This attendee wants to know, with open rates, read rates and click-through rates declining, even among prequalified contacts, has email marketing outlived its usefulness as a push tool? And if not, what would you recommend people do to improve their email marketing? What are the most important elements in a marketing email? Where do you place the call to action? How do you boost the open rates? How often do you send promotional email? Where do you turn for new lists if you need to supplement your house list?

Anne Holland

Sure. Email marketing. By the way, we have a lot of information on email marketing in the Handbook, including samples, and I know how helpful that can be. So we definitely put some samples in there so you can see what it looks like. If you need specific data on email marketing, if you’re in IT marketing, high technology marketing; in the B-to-B Marketing Benchmark Guide, we do have email-specific data in there. So you have costs, response rates. All that sort of stuff is in there.

Last but not least, if your entire job is email marketing, if that’s your whole focus, be sure to contact MarketingSherpa to attend our annual Email Marketing Summit. It’s called Email Summit and usually about 1,000 people go to it, and we always have two whole days of sessions devoted to B-to-B at the Summit. So there are breakouts just for B-to-B that are really addressing your needs.

Now, is email declining as a push tool? I don’t know. First of all, open, read-through and click-through rates are declining. Open rates are declining more precipitously than anything else and have been for years. A lot of that is due to the way that they’re measured. So people are still opening more than you think they are. So it’s less to worry about than one thinks.

Click rates are also declining, mainly because people get so much email and they’re so busy. The thing you have to remember is if someone opened their email, just because they didn’t click doesn’t mean they didn’t go to your site later on and try to find that thing. Again, there’s a lot of what’s called a view-through or delayed response. So people are opening it – they may even just be seeing the message in their in-box. “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. That IBM webinar. I want to do that”. Then, a couple of hours later, they just go straight over to IBM and try to sign up for it, or they may just call their rep directly and try to sign up for it, or email a member of their team and say, “Hey, go sign up for that thing”. They may not be responding directly within the email itself. So email is more successful than you think. It’s still incredibly successful, despite the fact that it’s declining. That’s just because it was outrageously successful before and now it’s just really successful. So email has not outlived its usefulness at all.

Let’s talk about call to action. Call to action: Make sure that you have a call to action that is above the fold and the fold is actually very, very high up. It’s, I would say, within the first paragraph or at the end of the first paragraph of copy, if you’ve got copy there, because a lot of people, and particularly in B-to-B, are reading their email in the preview panel and they don’t even open the email all the way up. So they may just be looking at that little – it’s like 2 inches deep by 3 inches wide. It’s a different size depending on who you are. You can set your own preview panel. But it’s pretty small. So a lot of your prospects and clients aren’t looking at the whole email. They’re just kind of looking in the preview pane, making a decision and deleting. Maybe they’re scrolling up and down in the preview pane.

You can not tell from your email data whether or not they look at it in preview pane or open all the way. There is no way to measure that technically, period. So just assume you get a lot of preview pane reading. Be sure that you’ve set up yourself with an Outlook account, at least, possibly also some other basic accounts that a lot of your prospects use, and look at your own messages in the preview pane.

Sean Donahue

Great. Another big topic for questions was telemarketing. So let’s jump into a couple here. How do you make telephone solicitation a more productive lad generation factor? And, do you have any thoughts on how many callbacks are appropriate before you should give up and figure somebody is just unresponsive? Is there any way to take these leads that might not respond to telemarketing and use them, or save them for some future initiative?

Anne Holland

Those are good questions. In terms of phone solicitation, I assume you’re meaning a cold call that is not a lead qualification call. First of all, if I’m going to spend money on telemarketing, I would be spending money on lead qualification because that’s where I’m going to make the money. That’s where I’m going to do the best. If you’re not doing lead qual, put the money there.

Now, if you’re already doing lead qual, but you want to extend it and you say, “Hey, we really want to do telemarketing for lead generation, which is cold-calling, instead”, I would say, is there a marketplace where you can generate leads through less expensive methods? Telemarketing is expensive.
Maybe, for example, you’re in an international marketplace where there just aren’t any lists that are really good to rent, or you’ve rented what there is, but there isn’t much else to get. That’s really common. So telemarketing might make sense there. Or maybe you really want to saturate a particular niche marketplace. You could rent lists until the cows come home, but you’ll never get all just the right, perfect people, and that can make sense too. So it should be a situation where it makes sense to spend the money and there’s no other cheaper way of getting those names.

In that case, I would call up with an offer, and it would not be a sales offer, because the likelihood that those prospects are interested in your product right now and interested in a sales rep calling right now is pretty low. What I would do instead is call up with a really relevant content offer, maybe a white paper, maybe something you can send them in the mail or via email, and probably send them a mailed backup, as well. Something that is enticing. “Hi. We’re from IBM. I was just wondering if you were interested in receiving a salary survey we just did of IT professionals at companies just like yours. No obligation. If you give us a snail mail address, we’ll send that along. We won’t bother you anymore.” The thing is, people don’t want to say, “Yes, please sell me.” They don’t want a sales rep to call them. So if you can make it something really relevant, then you may get a yes.

The other thing you can do is just call up and ask what are the names of people. “Who’s in charge of this? Who’s in charge of that?” If you need to flesh out your database and it’s the only way of getting that information, if there’s no other list on the market. Now, you can get cold names that way. That’s not a response list, but it does tell you who is in the company and who is in what job, and, “Oh, we just got this mail returned. This email bounced. Is this guy still there?” Things like that are pretty valuable for telemarketing.

In terms of how do you make it more productive, make sure that you’ve got a really good telemarketer. It probably shouldn’t be a salesperson because they’re not going to be the right person. I would get someone from more of a customer service background who would really fit in well with that because they’re not going to be as aggressive as a salesperson. They’re going to be more, “I’m here to help you,” which is what people want to feel when they’re getting a telemarketing call.

How many callbacks are appropriate before you give up? I would say that it really just depends on the company, how much money you want to spend. I’ve seen people do callbacks up to 10 times. That doesn’t mean you’re leaving a message all 10 times. The last thing you want to do is leave 10 messages. So there’s a difference between callbacks and messages.

What we have found, though, as I mentioned in the teleseminar itself is, if you call back quickly, super, super, super quickly, if they just filled out that form or they just queried you and you call back five seconds later, the likelihood of a connect is unbelievable. So if you are really having to call a whole bunch of times, maybe you’re just waiting too long in between the time you got the lead and you should have contacted that person. So think about your timing. Think about time of day. Think about day of week. There’s data in the handbook on day of week and time of day, as well. So there’s some useful stuff for you in there.

Next question?

Sean Donahue

Several of our attendees wanted to know about how to reach small businesses. So do you have any thoughts on how to cost-effectively target those smaller companies, people with, say, less than 50 employees?

Anne Holland

Yeah, that’s a toughie because the problem is, of course, that’s the broadest marketplace of all. There’s millions and millions of them. So, in a way, it’s almost like consumer marketing because it’s such a broad marketplace.

The key thing for small businesses is most small businesses do not identify themselves as a small business. So, although you think you’re in charge of small business marketing for your company, the people you’re marketing to, if you ran into them at a cocktail party and said, “What do you do?”, none of them would say, “Oh, I have a small business. I am a small businessperson.” Instead, they identify themselves by what type of industry they are in. So, they would say, “I’m a florist” or “I’m a IT consultant” or “I’m an accountant.” That’s how they self-identify.

So, instead of doing all of this marketing to ‘small businesses’ and through publications ‘small businesses read’, you want to niche it down, segment the living daylights out of it, pick the most profitable segment first, and go after them, addressing them as they think of themselves, and then market to them through the publications they read.

A bookkeeper is more likely to read bookkeeping media than read small business media. So, go after the bookkeeping media. Niche it down and approach them that way.

The other thing is, small businesses do tend to use search engines very heavily in times of crisis. So if you are the kind of thing they would buy when something breaks, when suddenly they’re getting sued, when suddenly the IRS calls, when all the computers just went dead, in times when it’s a quick sales cycle when they finally decide to do it. Make sure that you are search engine optimized and that you’re doing pay per plick all over the place so that you catch them when they’re there. And remember that small businesses work hours outside of 9 to 5. This is not corporate America. Your average small business owner is probably working 10 hours a day. So, you might want to have your call center have a few more hours open, so that they can reach a real live human being when they need to.

Next question.

Sean Donahue

This was another popular subject for questions. A lot of people are wondering about the role of social media in B-to-B marketing. What do you think are the greatest challenges and opportunities presented by the emergence of Web 2.0 as a new customer acquisition channel, and do you have any thoughts on how you can incorporate some of these social media channels into your marketing strategies?

Anne Holland

Sure. It’s a big one. Social media is very hip and sexy right now. It’s been hip and sexy for about a year. People like it, I think, because it’s new and everyone gets bored with the things they’re already doing. They also like it because the CEO thinks it’s new and they’re saying, “Hey, what are you doing here?” Also, right now, there’s this perception that social media is pretty free. If you can do this clever, clever thing – it takes brains and, maybe time, but there’s not a lot of money involved. Even Facebook ads are pretty cheap right now.

Actually, the problem is it sucks up hours and hours and hours of time. A lot of these social media tactics are things that have fairly low response rates, fairly low readership. It’s a niche game, it’s a small game, and you may reach someone, but you’re going to have to spend a lot of time doing it. So there can be almost no cost, but you’re going to spend 10 hours a week blogging or answering your Facebook email, or running around trying to link to people in your Facebook group.

So, it’s a lot of hands-on work, and if you don’t have that time, and it’s not like your favorite thing to do for a hobby, it may not be worth the work right now. As far as I’m concerned, the hours that you’re working are a cost. There’s a cost factor there, and I think you need to begin tracking those hours and saying, “Is it worth this? What else could I be doing with this time instead that might help the company better?”

That said, I would make sure that I’m tracking what’s going on with Web 2.0 references coming into my website. So I would look at my Web logs and I would say, “What percent of links into our websites from possible prospects came from things that I can identify as Web 2.0?” So, from bloggers, from Facebook, from Wikipedia, from StumbleUpon, from all those different websites. And it’s pretty easily, actually, to do this because you can just cross off all the incoming links by large swaths. You know how much came from Google, you know how much came from Yahoo!, you know how much came from your various email campaigns and your house campaigns. Then you can sort of say, “Okay, who are the referring ones that aren’t all those things? Let me see the other stuff.” Then you can say, “Okay. What’s really working right now? Where’s one of these ones where I really could put a little more effort into it?”

For example, when we looked at our own inbound traffic, we found we were getting an extraordinarily large amount of traffic from Wikipedia and we’d never done anything on Wikipedia. But there had just happened to be this one random link someone had put up to us there and it was working like crazy. So we went and we said, “Okay. What can we do with Wikipedia?” So, I would look at what’s already working, what’s going on.

Last but not least, I would be sure that if we had our own blog, I would optimize the blog for lead generation, as I discussed in the teleseminar earlier. So go check out those slides if you didn’t see that. If I want to find out what blogs key decision-makers read that are in my niche, I would ask all the sales people, I would surf Technorati, I would constantly be looking for new blogs, and I would also be advertising on Google AdSense, specifically to find out where contextual ads end up running, because you may find blogs that you hadn’t known about just from your own ads. So I hope that helps.

Sean Donahue

Let’s see. Our next question is getting back to the subject of events and event marketing. You mentioned in the small business question, the value of those in-person events. Here are a couple of questions. People want to know about the value of smaller high-touch events such as regional dinners with a guest speaker or a breakfast seminar where you give an overview of your products or some big technology breakthrough. What do you think about these? Are they good marketing tactics, and what are some key things to consider to make it a successful event?

Anne Holland

They can be fantastic. In particular, they can be fantastic for those prospects who normally would not come out. They’re very, very busy people and very, very important people, and if you can put together something that’s just too sexy for them to ignore, a kind of exclusive feeling, especially high-level people from big organizations, they’ll go to something that sounds very exclusive.

We’ve done case studies about marketers who did a breakfast for 10 CEOs only at Tavern On The Green and it was a big deal. It worked very, very well. Often, you want to invite a sexy guest speaker who may not be someone in your own company. Maybe it’s a business book author or someone famous in their field. And make sure you don’t have bitter direct enemies in the same room because, in that case, prospects won’t feel free to talk and to chat and everything because they’ve got their competitors sitting next to them watching what they’re doing. So be a little careful about that.

There is one case study we did about a super clever event – it’s one of my favorites – where a company got their actual clients to agree to give seminars on site at the client’s office. This was, I believe, for technical products. And the client took prospects through and showed them how they were using the product, and “Here’s our plant. Here’s a tour of our physical plant. This is what we do.” The prospects loved it. They rolled this thing out to the universe. They did like 50 a year, and all of the clients loved doing it. They loved giving a tour and becoming a star for a day. That worked extremely well, and that case study is in the B-to-B handbook.

Next question?

Sean Donahue

Great. Just a couple of questions that came up about search marketing, which I know you’ve talked about a little bit already. Do you have any thoughts on where to start with a search engine optimization process? And kind of on the other side of the spectrum, do you have any advice on using specialized search engines such as TIAC, the travel search site, versus Google?

Anne Holland

Of course. First of all, if you don’t know already, we do an annual Search Marketing Benchmark Guide. So, if you’re full-time in search, this is really the focus of your whole job, or you’ve got a search marketing department, make sure they get a copy of the MarketingSherpa Search Marketing Benchmark Guide because it’s got all the data. It’s actually got a whole lot more than just data. It’s got charts. It’s got eyetracking studies, all sorts of incredible, useful information, numbers, cost, what to do, what not to do. Everything’s in there. So that’s super, super useful. The B-to-B Handbook, though, does have some information specifically on B-to-B search marketing and it’s more basic information.

In terms of where to start with search engine optimization, the most critical thing is your own IT department. Is your IT department – in other words, the people who manage your website – if you want to change something on your website, either the content, the text writing, the navigation structure or the page structure, if you go to them and say, “I know what’s right for SEO and you guys have to change it me,” will they do it? Do they have the bandwidth or not? That’s the number one most critical thing because there are organization including, actually, for a while, MarketingSherpa, where we just didn’t have the bandwidth. We had so much else going on in technology and they had so much other stuff. We could beg them until the cows came home. They didn’t have the time to do it. They weren’t going to do it.

So you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the team there. If you don’t, and you don’t have the power to go get that team and get control of the site from an SEO standpoint, then you better start developing alternate sites. In other words, you need to set up some websites that you control that will link back into the company website, so that you can have things where you do control the search engine optimization, so you can at least get some lead generation from the search engine any way you can. And of course, the easiest way, as a lot of marketers have found, is through using blog software. You’re not necessarily writing a blog. You could be writing a blog, or you could just be using the blog software to set up a glossary site or a quiz site or anything else. It enables you to set up a website. Then you can stick your company logo on it, or just say, “A division of this company,” whatever. Make sure it’s clearly indicated that you’re a marketer for that company, put up the content you need, get the attention you need – hopefully it generates some leads – and crosslink into your company’s website where it makes sense.

In terms of the specialized search engines, if you’re a business to consumer marketer, then definitely check out the Search Marketing Benchmark Guide because we address all the shopping search engines there. If you’re a B-to-B marketer, I’m assuming you’re going to do things like go to GlobalSpec, Thomasnet, Thomas Register’s website, some of the engineering websites, some of the legal websites. You have to be in those places, in particular, if you’re dealing with procurement people. Procurement people tend to go directly to those instead of going to the biggies. So, go in, optimize yourself, make sure that your listing looks good, has complete contact information and you have your complete catalogue of products in those websites. Get as much – this is a long tail game when they’re in there. So, get as many products from your catalogs into those places as humanly possible, and that will do you very well.

Next question?

Sean Donahue

We had a couple of attendees who were looking for tips on how to get response from prospects who seem very happy with their current provider.

Anne Holland

Okay. If they’re happy with their current provider, stick that information in your database and don’t get back to them for six months. But, also, if it’s somebody who is just key, you really want to land that prospect, assign an intern or yourself, assign somebody to put them on a watch list for changes. You’re looking for management changes, key management changes. You’re looking for anything big financially; the launch of a new division, mergers and acquisitions, trouble, who knows. You’re looking for changes that could affect their happiness and that could just be a new executive in charge.

What I would do is go to their website and sign up for their email newsletter, sign up for anything that I can get as a prospect of theirs and set up an email address that you’re watching that at. I would also routinely search Google News and I would go to Google News and set up a news alert, and use their company name, as well as even their stock ticker, and have that news alert forwarded to that email as well, so that you’re alerted very quickly if there’s a major change in that company, at which point maybe that’s a great trigger for you to go in and say, “Hey. Now that you’re CEO has just delivered a speech to Wall Street saying that you’re about to do blah, blah, blah, maybe you should reconsider vendors because we’re going to help you do that.” So you’re looking for that trigger to get in. You’re watching them, and you can use technology to do that for free.

Next question?

Sean Donahue

Well, we have one attendee who’s looking for an example of a good product marketing campaign. Can you think of one?

Anne Holland

Sure. There’s a fantastic product marketing campaign for CD ROMs that I really loved. I think it was CD duplication, and it’s in the handbook. They had this super cute little Quote-o-Matic, where you could just go on to the website and you just input what you were looking for and, bing, they get the quote right back to you. It was just so fun and so easy to get a quote that it worked very well. Then they had an email drip campaign that went on for, I think, two weeks, along with the Quote-o-Matic, so it reminded people again. “Hey, here’s your quote. Hey, are you still interested? Hey, here’s a discount,” and just kind of pinged them until they closed. So it worked extremely well. We do have a lot of campaigns like that in the handbook.

Next question?

Sean Donahue

Okay. We have an attendee who wants to know about profiling best practices. Which variables can be, or have been proven to be, key?

Anne Holland

This is again where you’re going to go back to the accounts that you’ve already landed. What accounts have already landed and who were the executives, who were the people on the committee – not just the final approvers, but who were the evangelists? What was the profile of that evangelist? Who were the people who were super critical; if that person hadn’t been on the committee and said yes, or pushed you forward, you wouldn’t have gotten the account.

So, you’re going to go back and you’re going to look in the back and say, “Who were the super-critical people that we need to profile and what were those people like?” Now, let’s move forward and say who do we want? You’re going to involve the sales team and ask them to really profile who they want, and what does this person look like. And you’re going to say, “Are they likely to be working from, or likely to be working long hours?” You’re going to look at things like when does their media use affect their job? When are they working? Are they just 9 to 5 or not?

You’re going to look at all those different things and say, “Well, what do I then need to know about them in order to make a media buy, in order to write the copy that’s in the language that they care about?” Do I need to know, in particular, of course, their taxonomy, the wording they tend to use when they describe things? Do I need to know their fears? Do I need to know what’s going to get them promoted? What are the things they’re the most scared about these days? What keeps them up at night? Anything with a high emotion factor around the buying decision or just around their job in general. Sometimes it’s not about you, it’s just around their job, in general. What are the things freaking them out right now? How do they spend their time during the day? Are they checking email? Are they in meetings? Are they on a plane? Things like that.

Next question.

Sean Donahue

Here’s a question. Somebody was wondering about some new tools for trapping leads on websites and they want to know if you know anything about how effective they are. They cite a couple of examples: LeadLander and netFactor. Do you have any thoughts on these types of tools?

Anne Holland

I don’t. I really don’t. I think the whole idea is – let’s just say, if someone is a truly qualified lead and they’re really interested in buying from you, then they’re
going to raise their hand and they’re going to ask you for information. You need to just make yourself very, very, very available. You need to have your 800 number at the top of the page and at the bottom of the page. You’ve got to have a “call me now” button, a button they can click on to generate that call immediately on every page that they’re going to look at. You want to have plenty of offers on your navigation, including pricing. Pricing information, technical specifications, key facts, guarantees, everything they want to know. Get the information there. They will contact you.

It’s not about grabbing them harder and using cute little technical tricks to grab them. It’s about being so open and so appealing and so useful that they say, “Oh, that’s the one I want.” That really is a new relationship.

Next question.

Sean Donahue

Do you have any evidence about how B-to-B marketers are consuming content such as white papers, podcasts or videos on mobile devices like Smartphones or other portable devices like their laptops or MP3 players, things like that?

Anne Holland

Sure. We do know that the majority of people who listen to podcasts are actually listening to them on a laptop or a desktop. They’re not actually listening to them on their iPod unless maybe they’re in New York or LA. Most of them are actually listened to on a desktop or a laptop. It just depends. So just because it’s called a podcast doesn’t mean it’s being listened to on an iPod. We do know that a lot of people tend to print things out and read them, more than you would think, especially if you’ve got a white paper that’s longer than a page or two. That’s getting printed out, especially if the executive is age about 38 to 40 or older. They’re printing it out. Or, if the person who downloaded is now going to give it to someone else, they may be printing it out and handing it to that person with a little stickum on the top, “Bob, here’s the information you wanted’.

So assume that things are being watched, viewed and listened to on a regular computer screen, and assume a lot more is being printed out than you ever dreamed. Make sure that you’ve got complete contact information on every single page that might be printed out.

Next question.

Sean Donahue

Here’s an interesting one. How do you create ‘customer testimonials’ when a business is new and doesn’t have any customers?

Anne Holland

That’s a classic problem, in particular in the software industry or the technology industry, where no one’s ever tried it before. That’s why you have beta testers; that’s one of the main reasons. Obviously, they’re also giving you feedback on the products, but you often will lead with a beta tester or someone who gets to try out the product, perhaps at a reduced rate, or even free. But that said, they should be able to reveal that they got it at a reduced rate, or even free, and they should be able to feel like they are going to be completely honest about what they say about it, so people don’t feel like, “Well, they bribed them to say that”.

It’s very critical to be very open and honest about these things, even to say, “These people were beta testers. They did get it at a reduced rate. But these are their open and honest thoughts and you can certainly contact them directly. We urge you to because we don’t want you to think we’re putting marketing copy in their mouths.” So there’s openness there. People don’t trust marketers for a reason.

The other thing that you can do, as in advertising: pro bono. Pro bono works great. You find a charity, find someone’s who nonprofit or a division who can’t afford something and just give it to them and say, “What do you think?” That’s how people get book reviews or quotes for books. You send it out and say, “What’d you think?” Sometimes they’re friends of yours. Sometimes they’re not friends. Sometimes they’re famous people. Contact them and say, “Would you mind if I sent you a trial copy? Would you mind taking a look at this and letting me know what you think?” Do the same with the press. You can cite press if they take a look at something and give you a review. These are all time-tested things that you can do.

Next question.

Sean Donahue

Okay. Here we have an attendee who wants to know, how can I improve on my 50 percent-plus rate of top executives attending our online conference calls?

Anne Holland

Congratulations on that rate. That is an excellent rate. The chances you can improve on it? I’m sure you can always improve, but they are slim because you’re already getting a much higher than average rate. I would assume that some people maybe can’t attend because their day changes. So perhaps you might want to do a redo of the call and make it kind of a live redo, but make it a time-limited thing, or just let them know that the redo is available. That’s classic.

Another thing, of course, is to ping everybody about an hour before the conference call and just let them know, “One hour. One hour warning,” because it’s easy to forget, when your day gets crazy, that that conference call is coming, and I would ping them via email, frankly.

We have tried doing a phone call into their voicemail the night before. I never felt that made a difference. We didn’t see any discernable difference from that ourselves, so I wouldn’t say that’s a good one. I do know one company who actually sent everyone who’d signed up for the teleconference – and it was very high level people and a big deal – and they actually sent all those people breakfast via FedEx. It was a breakfast call, and they actually FedExed them a packet of coffee and a donut and stuff. You could go crazy. I don’t know if it’s going to make a difference, though.

Next question.

Sean Donahue

Interesting tactical question here. Do companies ever set up clone companies with higher prices and market to customers who have a higher acquisition cost? For example, these customers are acquired through radio or telemarketing, where the cost per lead is higher than with SEO or PPC and they need the higher prices to recoup that higher acquisition cost?

Anne Holland

The short answer is no. If you have a clone company – in particular, if you’re marketing on the web and you’ve got clone websites, you can actually get in trouble because Google is going to think that’s a mirror site. They’re going to think you’re trying to be skanky with search engine optimization, and they could shut one of those sites down.

The other thing is that real people will find those offers and go, “Wait a minute. How come I can get it cheaper over here and I can’t get it over there?” People will become aware of the fact that there’s two different ways of getting those products and they will become angry. The last thing you want is to make your prospect marketplace very angry. I’ve seen this happen in my own life very recently. People do price check. People do search around. Why gain a reputation for gauging, which is what you will be doing? Don’t do that to yourself.

Instead, what you should be doing is saying that the acquisitions that you make through the cheaper media are more profitable. Yeah, just take it. They’re more profitable. Or, average your acquisition costs and say, “Okay. This is our average acquisition cost. This is our average profit”. If an individual acquisition happens to be cheaper or more expensive, whatever. The average is the one that I want to stick to and I’m comfortable with it in my budget. This is a good acquisition cost for me. The key is what is the good acquisition cost? How much are you willing to spend before you go broke?

Next question.

Sean Donahue

A manufacturing related question. Why do manufacturing companies, over a period of time, try to eliminate distribution channels and sell their products directly to the end user? And do they succeed?

Anne Holland

Mainly because distributors can be hard to work with. It’s like working with a field sales force, only harder because they don’t even report to you. You can’t even fire them. You could fire them, but they don’t owe their jobs to you, and they may be distributing for more than one brand. So you’re competing with many brands and trying to get the attention of this sales force. And they may not be as good as they could be.

What you usually find is that distributions, a certain percent, maybe 10 percent, are just incredible. They do a great job; they’re closing as many sales as possible. You send them leads and they do a fantastic job of closing them. The other 90 percent, a lot of them aren’t even worth doing business with.

The key is, are you marketing well to the distributors? And there are a lot of case studies at MarketingSherpa in the Membership Site. Again, you can go on and get a free trial. It’s a free seven day trial, and you can go and read all those case studies all about how you can market better through your distributors; tactics real-life companies have done to provide distributors with leads, to educate and train distributors’ field sales forces and to get distributors to report back on what they did with different leads, how it just was more effective. A lot of companies are spending more time doing better with these value-added resellers and distributors. You can too. You can focus on that. I promise you it’s not impossible.

Next question.

Sean Donahue

How do you choose the market that you want to pursue?

Anne Holland

Well, again, look at the people you’ve sold to in the past. Who was the best customer for you? Who had the longest lifetime value? Who had the least amount of hand-holding and customer service kind of nightmarishness? Who had the lowest cost for you in terms of, were they hell as a client? Who was most likely to renew? Who was a pleasure to work with? Who really fit your bill of goods? Who’s the perfect customer for you? Then go after more people like them.

If you’re new to market, then that is a period where you’re going to go and do market research, you’re going to do focus groups and you’re going to find out who’s buying what, find out what their buying needs are, what their buying cycles are and pick from there who you’re going to go after. We’ve got a whole market research chapter in the Handbook. So there’s a lot of information on how to do that in there.

Next question.

Sean Donahue

Sounds good. This is our last question. How can a virtual assistant generate leads?

Anne Holland

Virtual assistants have become very famous lately because there’s a New York Times Best-Selling business book, “The Four Hour Work Week”, by a guy who claims that you can set up your own company and only work four hours a week. But if you set up things properly and you have a fantastic virtual assistant, then all the work is getting done and you can just lay back and learn how to salsa.

Actually, one of the executives at Sherpa is a good friend of this guy. We actually have a connection there, and I can assure you he works a lot more hours than four hours, but that’s because he’s a very passionate person. So even the author, himself, is not really into a four hour work week.

That said, what I would do is say, “What can my virtual assistant do to qualify leads and to research companies?” Your virtual assistant probably should not be taking the place of a telemarketer, and you certainly can not “generate leads” by scraping names off of websites. A lead is generated when a prospect in the field raises their hand and says, “Tell me more about you”, and you’ve got a whole bunch of marketing campaigns that can make that person raise their hand, or entice them to raise their hand.

What a virtual assistant could do is to help you do qualification on the back end. They can research a little bit more about particular companies. They can help you rate and rank the leads that you’ve got coming in. They can help you decide which leads to hand over to Sales. They can help you even contact each field sales person, maybe on a Friday afternoon, and say, “How did it go?”, and input the data on how well it went back into the CRM system so you have a record of how well that sales lead did. They can sort through all of the different web analytics reports you’ve got coming in and tell you which traffic is the best traffic, which ad got the most clicks, what converted, what didn’t. They can do a lot of administrative things.

So a virtual assistant is very good at administrative tasks. So that’s what I would put them toward. I would be unlikely to put them on the phone so much because that really is a job for a telemarketer or inside sales. And the last thing I would have them going over is just trying to put together a list. There are lists that you can buy that are already put together and that’s not a response, anyway.

So I hope that answers the questions, and I’m sure there are many more because that’s the nature of MarketingSherpa. If you have any more questions, what you can do is just email customer service at and if the question is specific to B-to-B, be sure to say that in your email. Customer service will make sure that Sean gets that email because Sean writes our B-to-B weekly.

You can sign up for it on our website. We do a case study or new data every single Wednesday. So you can email over and say, “Sean, I’d like you to do a story about this”, and usually he’ll go out and do it.

Sean Donahue

Yeah, that would be great. We’re always looking for advice, what people need to know about, so we can go track down the answers for them. Thanks a lot, Anne, for answering all of those questions, and thanks everybody who submitted your questions during the teleseminar. This is great. It gives us a lot of stuff to talk about, and hopefully a lot of good advice for you guys out there to help you do your jobs better.

See Also:

Post a Comment

Note: Comments are lightly moderated. We post all comments without editing as long as they
(a) relate to the topic at hand,
(b) do not contain offensive content, and
(c) are not overt sales pitches for your company's own products/services.

To help us prevent spam, please type the numbers
(including dashes) you see in the image below.*

Invalid entry - please re-enter

*Please Note: Your comment will not appear immediately --
article comments are approved by a moderator.

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly Case Study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions

Best of the Week:
Marketing case studies and research

Chart Of The Week

B2B Marketing

Consumer Marketing

Email marketing

Inbound Marketing

SherpaStore Alerts


We value your privacy and will not rent or sell your email address. Visit our About Us page for contact details.