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Jul 09, 2008
Event Presentation

MarketingSherpa Business Technology Marketing Presentation 2008 -- PowerPoints, MP3 and Transcript

SUMMARY: Find out what 900 B-to-B marketers in software, hardware and technology services industries revealed to MarketingSherpa about what works for lead generation.

This data, taken from MarketingSherpa's 2008-09 Business Technology Marketing Benchmark Guide, includes:
- Validity of open rates for emails
- Key information sources for the buying process
- Advantages of open pricing
- Fundamental factors in direct mail
- Importance of lead nurturing
This is a downloadable version of a presentation conducted June 17, 2008
Presented by: Stefan Tornquist, Research Director, MarketingSherpa LLC. and Jeanne Hopkins, Marketing Director, MarketingSherpa LLC.

Here's how to attend this previously recorded presentation right now (or download it to listen to at your convenience):

#1. Click this link to download the PowerPoint presentation PDF including eight new data charts (yes, you may share with colleagues):
(Open Access=permanent)

#2. Click this link to download the MP3 audio file:
(Open Access=permanent; approximately 49 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 to listen to later, just do a right-click with your mouse.)

#3. Here is a transcript of the teleseminar:

Jeanne Hopkins

Welcome, everyone, to today’s presentation by Stefan Tornquist regarding ‘New Research, Key Marketing Data to Drive Business Technology Results in 2009.’ Stefan is the Research Director and was responsible for this new book that we have recently launched. He is going to present a lot of very important information. We have over 1,000 seats reserved because we have over 1,000 people registered.

Stefan Tornquist

OK, Jeanne. Well, thanks very much for the introduction, and if we could move onto the first slide, let’s jump right in. Let me point out that all the information we’ll be looking at today comes from this newest addition of the Business Technology Marketing Benchmark Guide. This is, I believe, the fifth annual, although it’s had a couple of names, and what we attempt to do in these books is to have an equal mix of the benchmarks that marketers need to measure themselves against the industry, and 50 percent inspiration.

So that’s where all of the special reports and the ‘how-to’ research come in, showing people what’s working in business technology marketing, where we are headed, which of those can be applied in your businesses.

So, very quickly, this slide lays out some of the sources of the information that go into the book. It contains all of those benchmarks about the major tactics, about lead generation, and so forth. Most of that information comes from our proprietary survey of over 900 marketers, which we follow up with a number of post-survey interviews which, to me, are sometimes the most interesting aspect of the research because we get to look behind the numbers and get at the context.

We were also very lucky this year to have a number of really great partners that brought interesting audiences and technologies to the table. To be very clear, MarketingSherpa never has a financial relationship with any of our research partners. We simply look for cases where there’s a common interest in going out and exploring something.

We’ll be looking at a number of examples but, to give you one instance, we worked with GlobalSpec, which is a unique search engine that serves the industrial engineering sector, for example, and we used their database, their gigantic database of engineers, to field a survey for that unique population. So, both parties benefit by discovering this new and interesting information, and that’s a little bit different from most research organizations, and that’s why I wanted to point it out.

With that said, let’s jump right into the content. You’ve heard enough about the report for now. Over the next half an hour or so, we’re going to be looking at findings that are mostly from the special reports in the book. So, if you’re wondering, are the lead generation percentages still there? Yes, they’re still in the book. Are the budget percentages there? Yes, they’re still in the book, but we don’t cover those every year because we’ve got a lot of people who join us year over year and we want to present something new and different.

The slide that we’re looking at is about email open rates. We’ve been looking at these specifically for business technology for five years now and, year over year, we’ve seen some degree of drop. The largest was back in the 2004 to 2005 twelve-month period, and that’s when there was a change in email technologies, the email clients, specifically Outlook.

There was a change in how that allowed images – were images turned on by default or turned off by default – and that’s really been the big driver of the decline in open rates over the last few years. We’ve continued to see that year over year.

We’re now at a point where really the validity of open rate as a measure of success is truly in question. It’s very easy to look at those most accessible metrics, open rate and click rate, and it’s very hard to see a declining open rate and not assume that there is something real happening underneath because, of course, something real might be happening underneath.

The problem is, we just don’t know. In the business technology world, Outlook is still, by far, the dominant email client, and even for those who may use something else, almost all of them block images by default. As a result, opens are not counted.

If you think about your own email newsletter-viewing experience, you probably read a great number of newsletters without ever enabling images. As a result, people are getting this content. They’re just not getting counted. We would strongly recommend using click rates, or even better metrics down the line – conversions, page visits, what have you – rather than opens as a measure of success.

Now, you can still think about open rates as a measure of how compelling a particular piece of content is, perhaps. One week over the next, if there’s a spike in open rates, perhaps that does reflect some improvement in how interesting something is. But, chances are, what it’s really showing is that there was something visual that people needed to see.

For example, we have recently launched a newsletter that is quite short. It’s called ‘Chart of the Week’, and it is only a few paragraphs of text around some chart that we’ve pulled from our own research. The open rate for that newsletter is approaching 80%. Now, that is quite a bit higher than our standard open rate, as you might expect, and the reason for that is that without opening, without specifically enabling images, the newsletter is of very little use. So the real underlying message of this chart is: If you are looking at declining open rates as a symptom of your overall email program’s success or failure, it’s really an extremely inaccurate measure.

OK. That’s enough about email. Let’s take a look at our next slide. This comes from a study that we conducted with CMP TechWeb. We did a study of over 880 technology buyers, and we, among other things, looked at all of the different sources that they used for information in the technology-buying process. In fact, there were so many that one chart can’t hold them all.

So, one of the distinctions we made was to divide those sort of static marketing factors, things that we go out and find, whether we open up an email newsletter or we see a banner and that sort of thing, versus those things that require some degree of interaction with a vendor. So, as you look up and down this list, the reason we’re calling them “Interactive Factors” is because there is that degree of someone is logging in, someone is able to ask questions, someone is even meeting a company representative.

Now, these are of particular interest because we see certain things really rising in their importance. And if you look at the number two factor here – and as in most cases, we’ve tried to split out the influencers in the decision-making process versus those people at the end of the line who actually write the checks or say yes and no – and for both, 35% said that in relation to a specific major technology purchase that they had made in, I believe, the last 90 days – although it might have been six months. So we asked them, “You made this purchase. What were the different factors that you used? What were the different sources of information, and where did you use them in the process?”

We see online user community at 35% for both of them, and this is of particular interest because the degree to which our non-personal network is growing and the way we use it is expanding, so that non-personal network might include all of those folks on LinkedIn. Now, sure, to some of them you might just shoot an email and say, “Hey, I’m looking at a new CRM and you did that last year. What do you think?” But, it’s becoming more and more common that we simply send out messages to that first layer group, and then, very quickly, it can go virally to second and third layers. So there’s a tremendous amount of virtual word of mouth that’s starting to play a role – not starting to, but is increasingly playing a role in the technology purchase.

The effects of this are still something that we’re continuing to research, but the key takeaway for marketers is what happens when someone puts out a call about our products? What happens when you go into Webmaster World or any number of the niche social networking sites around an industry? What information about our organization, about our product, is sitting out there?

If somebody is starting that research process, or maybe they’re at the point of creating a short list and they want to dig – they’re comfortable with the product, but they don’t know the company yet, for example, what happens when they dig into these various news groups? What kind of information are they getting? If there are negatives, they need to be addressed, and if there are positives, they need to be highlighted.

Now, just as with blog posts or any sort of user-generated content, it’s never a good idea to simply go in and scream bloody murder about something that may be inaccurate. Typically, when we talk to PR experts about dealing with these kinds of issues, we find that the most successful tactic is to engage at a civil level, acknowledge any issues that might have been, and talk about the solutions that are being put in place. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it is certainly more effective than starting a war on a social network or on an email list – is rarely something where – the company almost always comes out the worse for wear.

Now, before we move on, I wanted to mention something about webcasts and the role that they play. Unlike something like a white paper, which has a high viral component to it, webcasts don’t typically have this. They also don’t typically get used at the same point in the buying process. White papers are used closer to the top of the funnel, whereas something like a webcast often plays a role later in the process. That may well be when a decision-maker, for example, will log in to a webcast, not as much to hear about the specifics of that product, perhaps, but to get an idea of the organization, get a feeling for who the executives are, and that kind of thing. So it’s a good idea, if you’re a regular producer of webcasts, to do the necessary work to figure out who is attending and why.

We’ve done a number of pieces of research that have suggested that the level of people attending webcasts, especially down the funnel – and you can use the topic of the webcast to determine when the relevant people are going to be logging in. So the research suggests that people are perhaps more senior than those who are getting white papers, which tend to be a little more technical and specific.

That’s plenty about that. Let’s move onto point number three. This is the first of two charts that look into a survey that I studied and found really interesting. It was based on a theory that we had started kicking around last year about the availability of pricing, thanks to the proliferation of our use of online social networks, as well as user groups. The contention was this: Basically, because of the research process, we know the first thing that people want is a rough idea of pricing. Right? It’s only natural.

The problem is, for those of us vendors, we want to keep as much control over that pricing information as we can, whether that’s to give salespeople pricing flexibility or it’s because we know that we sell the sort of product that is going to have a wide range of prices as a result of the number of users or the complexity of inflation, customization, etc. And, for a lot of organizations, being more open about pricing is a very difficult task to undertake.

But, the truth is that, increasingly, people are getting pricing, and it’s up to us to respond to that phenomenon. So, let’s start off with why open pricing might be an advantage. On this chart, we see that the vast majority of people – again, decision-makers versus influencers, the vast majority say, “Yes, I can think of a specific example where I’ve trended towards, or actually purchased from a company because they were more open, better able to get me pricing when I wanted it”. And, of course, when they wanted it is very early on.

If we go to the next slide, we see where they’re getting some of this pricing information. Sure, the top two factors here are the vendors themselves, but when you look at the third and the fourth factors, which are quite dominant, around 50%, colleagues that I know personally, number one, and then right behind that there are those online sources that aren’t managed by a vendor, and then the social networks. So here are two major sources of pricing information that are beyond our control. And, in fact, colleagues that I know personally, that’s beyond our control, as well. So here are three major factors that are beyond the bounds of the vendor, and what can happen here, the worst case scenario, is that someone doesn’t get accurate pricing information.

So, danger number-one is that you are not up for consideration along with other vendors simply because you don’t offer pricing information. So you don’t ever make it on the list to begin with. Major danger number-two is that the information they get isn’t accurate. If they get pricing that is more than – we did some research as to what degree people expect that initial price to be accurate.

Basically, people would prefer prices to be within 10% of the final dollar amount, but they’re certainly able to live with 25%, sometimes a bit more, depending on the type of product. So there is some flexibility built in there, but not a tremendous amount. And, if they get a price that is quite different – and there are any number of reasons that that price might not be accurate – that’s a real danger because it either sets you up for being out of their price range and off the list, or if you come into a sales scenario, no salesperson ever likes to sell into a situation where there’s an expectation that pricing is substantially lower than it’s really going to be.

The takeaway: If it is at all possible to address the issue of pricing up front, try it. Experiment with it. How can you do that? Some companies are using intermediaries, where the website will gather a lead and provide some degree of pricing information back. Some are very open. Some of the largest technology companies do have fairly specific pricing sheets. But, again, those are the types of products that can be very accurately priced, down to the last decimal. For those that have a much more flexible pricing structure based on those factors, that needs to be referenced anywhere that the initial bid or ‘ballpark figure’ is offered. People understand that the pricing changes with specificity, but being totally closed in is probably shutting the doors on some potential deals. Again, that was a study we conducted with CNet, with over 3,200 respondents, I believe. So it was very large and very interesting. In the report, we go a great more into detail.

The slide we’re looking at now, this comes from that study I mentioned that we conducted with GlobalSpec, and again, that’s a search engine for industrial engineers. Many people in our world think of engineers as computer programmers. These are the folks that are building bridges, designing product, and they’re quite a different group from the technology buyers that you might be used to, but they’re an extremely important one.

They control billions and billions of dollars in annual purchases, and much like the influencers in the software technology buying process, these engineers have a long research cycle. They are increasingly moving online. They’re somewhat more traditional, still using print directories and other offline sources, but we see a very strong movement into online, and most report that not only do they use the internet as a primary product research source, but that it accounts for more than 50% of that research.

What we’re looking at here is a chart I picked because I thought it applied very broadly beyond those of us who are marketing to engineers, but just so you know, this study does look in the same way that the CMP TechWeb study looked at the different sources of information, the role of webinars, the role of white papers, that sort of thing. We also asked those questions. But this one looks at something that is universally true which is, as organization, we do not have the proper systems in place to really take advantage of email inquiries.

So engineers, when you ask them, “What is your preferred way of communicating with an organization or a company that may become a vendor or already is?”, by far and away, their number-one response is email. These are folks who are married to their computers. They like to shoot out an email and they’d like a response quickly. Only 17% of the responses that they get to email inquiries from suppliers – only 17% arrive within 24 hours. Now, 50% arrive within one or two days, but I would suggest that even that is too long. A number of studies on the auto industry, airlines, several in high technology suggest that if you do not respond within 24 hours to a customer inquiry, your chances of an ultimate connect drop dramatically. That’s certainly true with this group. It’s certainly true with whatever group you’re selling to.

So, one to two days, that sounds pretty good, but it’s not. And 17% responding within 24 hours, that’s clearly a number that needs to go up. Not only do you lose the momentum, the current state of interest, but you also lose those people who are intensely interested in moving forward with a project. For example, a colleague recently wanted to have a Facebook application built. This was not something that they bought often. This was a one-time thing. So, some of the formality of the product research process wasn’t there. A quick email went out to an online network for suggestions. Four or five suggestions for small development houses came back and an email was written to all of them; more or less, the same email.

The difference between those suppliers we’ll never really know because it was the one that responded that day that ultimately got the business because they started the conversation early. Especially in a case like that, where a company is not used to buying something – it’s a one-off – they’ll more or less go along with the – think back a couple of charts to those who were more open with pricing are more likely to get the deal or get the inside track? Similarly, those who respond first are more likely, as well.

Here we’re looking at conference attendance, and this is going back to the CMP TechWeb study. The economy is really the key driver here. We’ve seen conference attendance sort of rise back up from the dead since the internet bust in 2001, 2002, when really the bottom fell out of the technology conference industry. We’ve seen very strong numbers over the last few years. With the decline in the economy, a lot of organizations are concerned, whether it’s as sponsors, as attendees or as organizations that give conferences themselves.

We poked in both in general, and in the specific. We asked people, how many conferences did you attend last year, how many are you planning on attending this year, etc. So, this is sort of a general response. The good news, such as it is, is that 43% are saying there’s not really going to be a great degree of change, and 17% are actually planning on attending more conferences. But, a whopping 40% are saying, “We’re not attending as many conferences as we did last year”, and almost three-quarters of those say that it’s because of the economy.

One of the distinctions we made here was – in technology, you tend to have two major categories of event. There are educational events, and then there are the more vendor-oriented, lead-gen-oriented events. When we asked people about their specific attendance to these two types, we saw approximately a 10% drop in the number of shows they plan on attending when it comes to those educational conferences. We didn’t see that similar drop – it was only a couple of points – when we looked at the more vendor-oriented, sales-oriented conferences; the suspicion being these are conferences that are important to salespeople. They go beyond simply educating our people and go towards, hey, this is a place where we can really generate leads.

So, for those that give conferences, an emphasis on networking, an emphasis on lead generation and the various things that, as a conference promoter, you can do to quantify the attendance rolls, etc., those are going to much bigger selling points this year than exclusive content, perhaps.

OK. Let us move on to point number seven. Here, we’re looking at direct mail. Now, most of those who attend our teleconferences know that our primary – we spend a lot of our time with online factors. This year, we’ve tried to emphasize some of those offline factors a bit more and, in this case, we worked with a company called Lapis Business Solutions. They’ve been doing direct mail for the technology industry for a very long time, and they were good enough to open up their databases to us and their expertise, and we were able to look at a lot of data around direct mail.

This is sort of where we get started in the section around direct mail, and it emphasizes something that, in the email world, we can often forget, which is that the list is up to – 75% of the effect that a direct mail campaign is going to have is a direct result of the list. Now, many people have reported they’ve seen a decline in the efficacy of direct mail over the last three or four years, and many are asking the question, is it still a good tactic?

First, let’s talk about why there’s a decline. Number one, I think, is the competition with other sources of information. If you think back just a few years, all of those controlled circulation magazines, glossy flyers, etc., those were a more unique source of information about our industry verticals than they are now.

There has been, obviously, a proliferation of online sources, regardless of what niche you’re in, and as a result, those direct-mail pieces don’t have that same – they’re not as unique as they used to be. Someone can have a very vigorous intellectual engagement with their industry, be really up on what’s happening, using almost entirely online means. So that’s one factor.

Another factor – and this is one that’s extremely hard to quantify – is the degree to which we’re measuring the online effect of offline direct mail campaigns. Some companies are better at doing that kind of tracking than others. Most companies, especially small companies, have little or nothing in place to really measure that. So, if someone arrives at the website and they searched for the brand, that lead often goes to the search bucket, or new subscriber to the email newsletter, for example. It’s rare that we’re doing a good job of tracking, OK, this person, our first touch, or our most important touch, was a direct mail piece.

Is direct mail still effective? Absolutely. I had the pleasure of speaking at a Fast Forward Conference for a number of direct mail marketers and, off the record, learned a great deal about the kinds of campaigns they’re running and their efficacy, and from the flip side, we’ve talked to a lot of marketers who are still devoted fans of direct mail. Has the response rate trickled down from 2% to 1.5%? Yes, in many cases it has. But, those companies that are really taking advantage of it are taking advantage of the incredible wealth of information that we’ve got about direct mail.

People have been testing direct mail long before the internet was a twinkle in Al Gore’s eye, and it is a highly exact science. For a firm, it’s as close to an exact science as it gets in marketing, and those companies that have been around for a long time and addressing the same audiences year over year are quite good at delivering value. Is it as easy as it was? Absolutely not. And in that way, it’s comparable to email and other online sources, as well.

So, after the list, we’ve got the variable impact of the offer and the creative, but it’s one of the most important factors to remember and one that varies tremendously in its ultimate effect on direct mail, and we don’t really need to go back to the direct mail slide. We can stay here at number eight. But, timing is a powerful variable and one that’s very difficult to predict. It needs to be something that is tested. We find that there’s a surprising degree of seasonality to what seems to be non-seasonal technology purchases.

We also find that the timing of direct mail for specific named leads, based on what we know about them, is really where some of the most effective work is being done in direct mail, when somebody gets onto the database through their reading of a white paper, or their attendance to a webinar, for example. And, because of the content of that white paper or that webinar, we know a lot about them. We know, perhaps, where – or can make an educated guess, where they are in the cycle. And so, that’s when the direct mail follow-up can be very effective.

All right. So, now we’re on point number eight. We’re going to close out the content slides in a few moments, so I would encourage anybody who’s got a question about anything that we’ve covered to send it in. We’ll be answering those in just a few minutes.

So, nurturing leads. This is an area that is of perennial difficulty and it’s only getting more difficult. What we’ve done here is, first of all, asked organizations, what are you doing in regards to a number of lead generation best practices. So, with nurturing leads, we simply asked, do you have a process for those leads that aren’t ready for the sales force? Surprisingly, only 56% have a solid plan in place. It’s a priority for 26%, but if I recall, it was a priority for a number pretty close to that last year. And, by the way, we’ve tried to eliminate those organizations that have very short sales cycles from this equation.

So, 56% have some defined lead nurturing process in place, but only 36% of them are satisfied with that process. So I would suggest that that dissatisfaction is a good thing because we do know that most of the lead nurturing programs out there are not really as successful as they could be in learning what we need to know about the lead, what area is it in the process, who is it; all of those things that we’d love to get in the CRM system, but usually don’t.

What do you do about it? Obviously, a lot of companies are turning to marketing automation. It’s a fast-growing side of this industry. There are a lot of very good companies in this space. They are competing tooth and nail and they’re developing their product sets very quickly. So that’s one thing. But, whether you’re using someone else or not, whether you’re just working internally, one thing that makes a big difference is tagging prospects as early in the process, and when I say tagging them, designating them based on what you know, and then adding to that pool of information.

If they came in via search, that search term should tell us something about who they are and what they want to know. If they came in via a white paper or a webinar, by the same token, the topic of those things should tell us a great deal. Is this a highly technical person? Is this someone who may be an influencer, but certainly isn’t a decision-maker? Is this someone who downloaded the ROI analysis of our product? Well, now that’s someone who’s probably an economic evaluator or an economic buyer.

The more that the information can be added to throughout the process – and when I say process, I’m talking about what is now an average of almost nine months in the average sales cycle for big technology purchases, and it’s shorter, but still significant for smaller numbers. Because the internet has allowed research to start very early, the process has gotten elongated and we’re encountering people, very often, before they have a budget. We’re encountering them before they have a timeline.

If you depend on that first contact to get all the information you want – you’ve got a long registration form that asks for a great deal of information – not only are you going to suffer from tremendous attrition from people not filling it out, if all of those fields are required, but you’re also going to get a lot of inaccurate information, whether it’s people don’t know the answer or don’t want to give it to you. Either way, you’re going to get a lot of inaccurate information. Inevitably, we find that it is a better tactic to look at that nurturing process truly as nurturing, something that is going to get deeper and expand over time. It’s not easy. It’s a sore spot because there’s a tremendous amount of complexity, a lot of moving parts. People understand their sales cycle, and they understand what people want at different times, but they have a very hard time tying that content and, more importantly perhaps, tying the information that we’re given into our CRM systems, etc.

But I do take it as a very strong sign that there’s that dissatisfaction because it’s really driving a lot of very creative innovation, not just on the part of the vendors, but inside of marketing departments, as well.

OK. Let’s look at our next slide. I think this is our last content slide. We wanted to look at something vaguely fun for the end of our presentation. This is part of a study we did of over 1,100 technology buyers in Survey Sampling International’s B-to-B panel. In this survey, we were specifically looking for those things that are emerging. So, we asked, have you visited Second Life? If you did, did you stick around? By the way, most haven’t, but those that did stuck around, a surprising percentage, actually. So, we asked a lot of questions about those things. How many LinkedIn contacts do you have, that sort of thing. Very interesting stuff.

What I wanted to point out with viral video is that it’s very good for certain things and it’s also something that most people participate in. It’s not really an emerging tactic anymore. Well over 70% of the respondents said they could recall a specific viral video that came from a vendor in their space. So that’s pretty strong, and a lot of people report very regular trading of videos back and forth, and surprisingly, decision-makers, who really ought to have better things to do, they’re right there with the researchers and influencers, in terms of watching viral video, although they’re not as good at forwarding it along.

Anyway, this chart just says, yes, these things are memorable. That doesn’t tell you what viral video is good at. This is largely anecdotal, but we find that it’s very good as an introduction to a new product. It can be a very effective way of creating a sub-brand around a product that can, in some cases, escape some of the brand momentum of the larger organizations. So, if you’re a – I’m making this up, but if you’re an IBM, you’ve got a very strong brand that carries with it a lot of adjectives in someone’s mind, but perhaps those adjectives might not work for a blogging platform that you’re selling inside of your consulting practice, for example. Viral video is the sort of thing that can create sort of a stand-alone brand around a product.

The other thing it can do is really contribute to a brand shift. Naturally, the more brand momentum you have as a big organization, the more difficult it is to affect those things. But many people on the call will remember the Microsoft internal video about packaging, and it was what if Microsoft packaged the iPod. It’s a brilliant little piece of video. It was done inside of Microsoft initially, basically for their internal people to get a laugh, but also to be reminded that they had a way of going about things that was very different from Apple. That video got out – there’s some debate as to whether it should have or not, but what was interesting was the response inside of programmer news groups was remarkably positive around Microsoft, and they’re a company that, very often, as the market leader, they’re subject to a lot of criticism naturally from, especially, smaller programmers.

This one video had a remarkable ripple effect. It showed an organization that was able to laugh at itself, that was self-aware, and this cost $10,000 on the outside, for an organization that spends hundreds of times that. So, viral video, it has that potential. Is it something that’s easy for every organization to do? On the technology side, yes, because YouTube has allowed us to create videos that are a very low-resolution but are still acceptable to the audience. But, it does, of course, require some creativity, and on that, you’re on your own.

So with that, let’s take a look at a couple of quick slides about a special offer we’ve got for webinar attendees. This is, of course, the Fifth Annual Business Technology Guide, from which we’ve been drawing all of the information that we’ve talked about today, and let me again say that the findings we’ve talked about today are just some of those that we got from the special reports. There are, of course, all of the benchmarks that past readers have come to know and hopefully rely upon, and as you see here, there’s a $100 discount.

On the next page, we’ve got an invitation to you all to join us in Boston or San Francisco at our Business-to-Business Demand Generation Summits. Both Summits have essentially the same content. We simply go coast to coast for geographic convenience. This is an event that I look forward to every year because the audience is an extremely engaged audience, and the speakers are all real technology marketers. They’re out there. They’re doing it. And it tells you something that one of the best sessions that we have, year over year, is an open session where conference attendees pose questions and offer answers to each other. So, it’s the strength of that audience coupled with the high quality of case study presenters that really make it a great show.

With that, I will stop hawking our product and get to a few of your questions.

Jeanne Hopkins

Thank you, Stefan. I have a number of questions here, actually 103 questions to be exact. There are so many people –

Stefan Tornquist

We’ve probably got time for about 100.

Jeanne Hopkins

OK. Well, let me take care of 50 of those right out of the gate. Yes, we will be sending you the slides that Stefan presented during today’s webinar, and I just want you to know that we will be sending that along with any valuable links. So that’s just taking care of about 50 questions. Wendy wanted to know, is there an ideal number of data fields to request from leads, people asking the questions on the website or email? Do you know the answer, Stefan?

Stefan Tornquist

Boy, Wendy, wouldn’t you like to know. The answer is, unfortunately, the analyst’s stock answer, which is you’ve got to test it. But what we do know is this: The fewer fields you’ve got, the more leads you’re going to generate. If you are looking for straight volume – and we’ve talked before about the Red Hat experiment. They decided to take all of the barriers off of some of their white papers entirely, and they saw a tremendous expansion in the number of people getting those white papers. Now, it’s very difficult to quantify. Is this mystery expansion worth more than my ability to grab named leads? That’s absolutely going to be an answer that’s individual to organizations.

The rule of thumb, I would say, or the first question to ask is, to what extent can you handle a large volume of leads? Some organizations are in a position where they are better off having sort of the kind of lead-gen form that does get rid of a lot of people because if they did get 500 downloads tomorrow, they wouldn’t be able to do anything with them in the kind of time that is required. Now, if you’re just looking to expand your email list, for example, then you want to go with fewer fields, without question.

But, if you are looking for the kinds of leads you can pass along to Sales, then clearly you’re going to want to ask more questions.

Now, the last thing – and this is a topic about which we could talk about for a long time, but the last thing to consider is -- is it reasonable for the person at the other end of the field, of the form, to know the answers to the questions you’re asking, and are they the kinds of questions that people like to answer?

If you are asking about budget, people understand why you want to know, but they don’t want to tell you. Very often, you’ll get inaccurate information because people know very well, that if they told the truth and said that they had a $3 million budget and they wanted to spend it in the next two weeks, that they’d be getting sales calls. If they want sales calls, they’ll let you know. So it’s an intricate mix, and it’s something that’s truly worth testing.

Of the many, many tests that we recommend throughout the year – and I’m sure any regular listener is tired of having tests recommended to them – but your key registration pages, how those pages work, the number of fields, the kinds of information on that page, that is as good a test as you can conduct if you’re a lead generation marketer. So I didn’t answer that, but let’s move on.

Jeanne Hopkins

OK. There are a lot of other questions and they keep pouring in. Will had a question. Are we seeing marketers getting smarter about creating content that is more in line with the B-to-C experience online, for example, ezines, short form, etc.? Will had another question, but I’m going to let you answer this one first.

Stefan Tornquist

Well, the simple answer is yes. We do see some movement toward Business-to-Business marketers remembering that the people that are arriving at their websites are, in fact, consumers in their own way, and they’re taking the lessons of some B-to-C marketing to heart. We see a much higher use of things like personas, so getting an idea of who are our major types of buyer and what are the kinds of content that they’re going to want, how do we provide it and that sort of thing.

We still have an awfully long way to go in B-to-B marketing to really see marketers – not so much getting smart about it. I think most marketers know what they’d like to be doing. It’s just not very easy for them to do it. The classic conundrum that most people have right now is, how do I produce all of the different content pieces that I need to reflect the different buyers, the different stages in the buying cycle and different industries? How do I produce all of those things? And then, how do I match them up with the different prospects I’ve got and how do I learn from which piece they’re using?

One of the reasons we looked at the pricing study, actually, was because this is something that was known about in the consumer world for years. You can’t keep anything under wraps in the consumer world, and you see a lot of great comparison pricing sites. That was actually pioneered – I think it was Progressive Auto Insurance was a notable example because they were one of the first to show these very straightforward grids. “This is when we’re more expensive than Geico. This is when we’re cheaper”, that kind of thing. You really don’t see that kind of openness in B-to-B, but our suspicion is, because as online consumers, this is what we’ve come to expect, and we know that there are sources for that information, that we’re going to go out and get it, and it’s incumbent upon the company to worry about whether that’s accurate or not.

Jeanne Hopkins

Thank you. We have time for just one more question. Has RSS had a significant impact on email open rates declining over the past few years?

Stefan Tornquist

You know, that’s a great question, and we just asked a question of a great number of people about that. What was interesting was that the vast majority, anyway, say that their consumption of email hasn’t really been affected by their use of RSS. But what was more interesting was, as I recall – and I don’t have the data in front of me, but – by a 3:1 ratio, for the people who said that RSS had affected their use of email, a surprising majority said that they actually subscribe to more email as a result of exposure that they had had within RSS. So that’s one factor that plays a role.

Is RSS having a deleterious effect on email open rates? It must, certainly for those organizations that are good at pushing out RSS information, there’s probably a negative effect at least on their specific newsletter, but when you look at the number of people who use RSS devotedly – and there’s quite a debate about how many people there are – my guess is that effect is there and it’s significant, but is probably only a couple of percent of the overall decline that we’ve seen. Again, we file that under yes.

Jeanne Hopkins

Thanks, Stefan. I know that there are a lot of questions that are still unanswered, and we will answer all of these questions and produce a podcast for download and send it to all of the people that attended this webinar. In addition, we will also address the questions in an upcoming MarketingSherpa newsletter. Again, thank you very much for attending, and look forward to a follow-up email.

See Also:

Comments about this Event Presentation

Jul 09, 2008 - Dale Ouellette of Edify Direct Multimedia says:
Did you know we can link the PowerPoint to the audio file so it plays back in a single browser window? No need to have two programs running to hear the talk and view the slides. It's a great online marketing technique.

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