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Apr 30, 2002
Case Study

B2B Marketer Gets High Ticket Sales Leads from a Cheap B2C Publicity Web Site

SUMMARY: When Nathan Rudyk joined business software firm Databeacon as VP Marketing, the first thing he did was to yank down their old Web site (which had been so awful that he called it "marketing suicide") and put up a highly professional new site. While having a great corporate Web site is important for impressing prospects and customers, it is not always the most effective way to generate a heck of a lot of sales leads. With the help of three part-time student interns, Rudyk tossed up a fun consumer site as a quick publicity stunt. Can you get qualified...
CASE STUDY

CHALLENGE

Nathan Rudyk groans about what his current Company was
named when he came on board in January 2001, "It was
Internetivity. Nobody could spell or pronounce it."

As the new VP Marketing, his first order of business was to
change to a better name. He chose the name Databeacon because it
was the name of the Company's flagship product, and luckily it is
easy to type, say, and remember.

Luckily the Company already had a site up at the corresponding
URL, Databeacon.com. Unluckily that site was actually hurting
their sales. Rudyk explains, "It was a free service showing
partial functionality of our software. From a marketing
perspective it was a suicide tactic. People were going online,
doing a search on Databeacon and coming to this thing that had
'free' written all over it. Salespeople hated it because
prospects mistook it for full functionality, and it confused the
heck out of the marketplace. People said, 'Why should I pay
$10,000-$90,000 for your software when this looks like the same
thing for free?'"

Rudyk took swift action, "Within 60 days we put a knife in it and
buried it in the closet."

Creating the new Databeacon site was fairly easy. Rudyk put up a
standard corporate information site with all of the usual
materials you expect to see on a B-to-B company site -- press
releases, product descriptions, client names, etc.

With that project completed, Rudyk still had two holes to fill:

1. How could he use the Internet to collect high quality sales
leads for the sales department to act on? A standard B-to-B
company site just was not proactive enough.

2. How could he create a free demo version of the product for
sales reps to use in their pitches that would be exciting
for prospects to try out, without making the product
appear too "lite" for its price tag?

CAMPAIGN

Databeacon's sales reps helped out marketing by asking
some of their clients to allow them to copy the actual ways they
used the product as true life sample demos for prospects. It was
a great idea. Unfortunately the resulting demos were, as
Rudyk puts it, "boring as hell."

He explains, "We had supply chain data, ebilling analysis data;
but if you weren't a VP Manufacturing or Senior eBilling Manager,
you weren't interested in the demo. The data was intrinsically
boring for you. 95% of our prospects didn't care about it."

When the sales team could not find any more interesting data to
plug in for the demo, Rudyk, who wrote a book entitled 'Free
Stuff from the Internet' back in 1995 and describes himself as
"an able-bodied surfer," spent the next three evenings surfing at
home. He discovered hundreds of government and non-profit
sources with "really interesting data," such as data from the US
Center for Disease Control on the potential costs of a regional
biological terrorist attack ($26 billion).

In fact, it was so interesting that he wondered -- instead of
just creating some demos for the sales team with it, why not
create a whole new Web site featuring Databeacon's software
applied to this free data? It might be good publicity and send
some sales leads back to the corporate site.

On September first Rudyk hired a cheap "digital Ninja team," three students from the local university, and tasked them
with helping him put together and promote an entirely new Web
site entitled "StoryData.com" featuring demos of Databeacon's
software using these free, interesting data sources.

"It took about four weeks to create. We looked at content
portals like Yahoo and CNN in terms of layout and presentation.
I wanted to be a typical news portal that presented data instead
of text." What the layout did not feature was a big banner from
Databeacon. The Company's presence was limited to a small logo
and a simple hotlinked note on the site's home page.

When the site was ready to launch on October 3rd, Rudyk's PR
firm, HighRoad Communications who specialize in high tech
companies, were "a little skeptical." Could a publicity site
targeting consumers have any value for a B-to-B technology company?

Rudyk admits his own hopes for the site were minimal, "My honest
thought was this will create some PR pop for three-four weeks and
then we'll take it down." Then his sales reps could burn a
CD ROM or put it on a private site for prospect pitches.

In total the whole experiment cost less than 10% of his marketing
budget. (The remaining 90%+ of Rudyk's marketing budget is spent
on more traditional activities such as trade show booths, print
magazine advertising and marketing materials for resellers.)



RESULTS

"It went ballistic!" Databeacon's cheap publicity site costing less than 10% of budget has been responsible for
driving more than 60% of traffic to the main corporate Databeacon
site ever since StoryData.com launched.

Despite the fact that this traffic comes from a consumer news
portal, the resulting sales leads have been of higher quality
than you might expect. Rudyk says, "We got Bluebird Buslines, our
fastest-closing sale in history, because of StoryData. We've
tracked $300,000 in direct sales from StoryData so far, and our
sales process is typically five-to-six months, so a lot more is
in the pipeline."

Instead of taking the site down after a month as planned,
Rudyk's added it to his regular scheduled marketing activities
for the long haul. However, that does not mean he's investing
much more money in it. The site continues to be maintained and
publicized mainly through the efforts of his inexpensive student
Ninja team.

The team continues to drive traffic to StoryData.com by using
two, low-cost tactics. The first is sending a regular press
release about twice a month when there is new, truly interesting
content posted.

Rudyk explains, "We won't send something every time we publish
new things. We also try to go to a different journalist
community with each release -- the healthcare community,
financial community, etc. It allows us to go after fresh targets
on a regular basis."

The Ninja team also spend a few hours each week posting non-salesly notes on related newsgroups. (In fact they've posted to
and received traffic from 465 newsgroups so far.) They find
these special interest groups at Yahoo Groups, through Google
searches and at MSN. Then they post data that is explicitly
interesting just to that group. For example, they might post a
hotlink to a story about comparative gas mileage at a Honda
owners group.

The results have been stunning. Yahoo Internet Life magazine, TV
Guide, the Seattle Times and many other mainstream media outlets
have done articles referencing StoryData.com.

The total unique traffic from PR and newsgroups has been about
36,000 unique user sessions in less than seven months. 73% of
unique visitors click through to visit the Databeacon site to
learn more about the company behind this consumer portal.

Rudyk believes that a publicity Web site featuring interesting
free content is a great idea that other B-to-B marketers could use.
He says, "The portal concept is fascinating. It's like a large
banner ad. Our experience has shown it's a pretty powerful
promotional tool."

http://www.storydata.com

http://www.databeacon.com

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