ASP Atomz used to base its marketing on no-cost trials, and no-cost services for smaller clients who presumably would tell their larger friends about the service.
It worked well at first, the Company became one of the best-known players in the low-cost-software-to-run-your-Web-site space.
Then just over a year ago, Atomz upgraded and repositioned its services, moving to compete with enterprise-level software in the $10,000-$30,000 range.
Director of Marketing Seth Brenzel had to completely change his focus from offers to impress millions of small-biz webmasters, to offers that generated qualified sales leads from the more limited pool of medium-to-large corporate Web department heads with decent budgets.
These prospects do not choose software or ASP solutions based solely on word of mouth from a friend, and trial offers are not always appealing to them because they do not want to go through the work of integrating your service into their site and then ripping it out again if it is not perfect.
Brenzel needed a sexier offer, something that would get these corporate execs to hand over their names and info so a sales rep could follow-up.CAMPAIGN
Brenzel spent the spring of 2002 researching the mindset of his new prospects. What were they like? What made them react favorably to an offer?
His biggest revelation: They are not all alike. You can not rely on one approach or one offer to do all the work for you.
"Some people want to get a pitch right away. Some want to read and read and read before they pick up the phone." Some need educational tools so they can learn about the category they are shopping in. Others need tools to help them get their software purchasing requests through the maze of corporate politics.
Instead of settling on one offer, Brenzel created four different ways prospects could interact with Atomz.
The first was the old stand-by, white papers for people who like to read. The second was a regularly scheduled product demo Webinar, which took place weekly, for people who like things explained to them verbally or who are far enough along in the sales cycle to require a demo. The other two offers were a bit more creative:
-> Regular series of three educational webinars
The third offer: A regular series of educational webinars, was an inspired child of the first two offers. Brenzel wanted a way to offer authoritative white-paper-style educational info in a format for people who do not like to read.
He has learned the following nine lessons about webinar success over the nine months since he launched the series in May 2002:
Lesson #1: Do not just offer one topic. You can not guarantee every prospect will be interested in every topic you offer, so cast a wider net by offering a variety.
Lesson #2: Offer more than one at a time. If your webinar is only a one-shot, then you will miss prospects who might have been too busy to attend but would still like to. Plus, once you have developed the slides and speeches, it makes sense to leverage that investment over a few months. This means, however, your topic should be somewhat evergreen and not too news-driven.
Lesson #3: Even in high tech, do not assume your audience has been to a webinar before. "You can't make assumptions that your whole audience is savvy. Think about first time users."
Lesson #4: You are *not* a loser if everyone who registered does not attend. "I used to cry 'Oh what's wrong?' when 20-30% of sign-ups actually attended. Now I know, it is called human nature," notes Benzel.
"If I've got 30 people signing up and I get 6-7 attendees, I'm in good shape. Plus, if they don't come, there's still an opportunity for sales people to call and ask 'Can I invite you to next week's?' It still meets the objective in terms of needs."
Lesson #5: "People typically show up five minutes late, so you should never start until five minutes after the hour. You should also end five-10 minutes before the hour. You really don't have more than 45 minutes (10:05-10:50)."
Lesson #6: Start with a quick welcome. "We learned we didn't set it up well enough. At first we launched straight into the topic. Instead you should act as though you were a hosting a party. Welcome people, thanks for coming, set expectations, walk them through how long it will be, etc."
Lesson #7: Do not incorporate sales materials or a regular product demo into what is advertised as an educational webinar.
You are offering the webinar to gather leads on a registration form that your reps can follow-up with to make individual pitches, do not turn them off with clumsy general sales talk during the event itself. Instead use the event to show off your expertise and establish your company as an authority on the topic you have chosen.
Brenzel notes, "We don't allow a product pitch. There aren't any slides that say, 'About Atomz.'"
Lesson #8: Make your webinar slides, and other static presentations such as white papers and slides from trade show speeches available on a special Web page that is open to webinar attendees afterwards.
"Almost everybody wants slides from our presentations afterwards, so we have a special hidden URL on our Web page we point them to. That page has every presentation we've ever done on it. They see we've also talked at Internet World and Seybold. It's a branding experience, they say, 'Oh my god look at all this other information.'"
Lesson #9: Do not force prospects to re-register again to get more info or sign up for other webinars you hold. "People don't want to register again." If you can cookie them so they do not have to remember user names and passwords, that is even better.
-> Buyer's Kits
Brenzel's fourth offer, Buyer's Kits, was again inspired by prospects' real-life needs.
He describes how he invented it, "I was in a brainstorming meeting to figure out our market positioning, and we started making a visible grid, with all the product features you could possibly have, to see how we stacked up. As we went through this exercise, I thought, 'If it's this hard for us to differentiate products, I wonder what it's like for our customers? There are literally hundreds of solutions on the market. How the hell do you figure out what's going on?'"
"I wondered if we could take our expertise on the solutions, make it as unbiased as we possibly could, package it up and wrap it up with a bow, and put a registration on the front end."
That is exactly what he did. The resulting kit included six items that corporate shoppers frequently require in their buying process:
1. A detailed guide giving a tech background and the process most buyers tend to go through when choosing new software of this type. This includes a post-sized wall chart showing all the players in the field compared.
2. A sample of a text-email that prospects can use to poll other decision makers and influencers in their organization to find out what their needs are.
3. A sample email the prospects can send to others in their company containing links to useful educational materials online (including those outside Atomz's site).
4. A generic customizable PowerPoint presentation prospects can use to give higher-level execs an education about the business case as a whole for investing in this type of software.
5. A PowerPoint presentation prospects can use to educate internal decision makers and influencers about the steps in a product review/buying process for this type of technology.
6. An Excel file and accompanying PowerPoint presentation prospects can use to add up the total cost of investment and compare and contrast other vendor's costs.
Brenzel notes, "They can type in info from various vendors to the Excel file. It gives them some way of figuring out, 'How much is this realy going to cost me?' When a vendor says their solution costs $25,000, typically there are 27 other hidden costs in addition. You have to install stuff, maintain it, update it. With us being a hosted model, you don't have those costs."
He redesigned the home page to include all four offers (the Buyer's Kit, educational webinars, product demo webinars and white papers), as well as phone numbers and email contacts, so everyone coming directly to Atomz would hopefully pick the offer most suited to their needs and register for it.
However, when driving traffic to the site, Brenzel was careful not make multiple offers in his advertising. Each ad message focuses on just one offer for stronger impact. (Link to samples of ads and landing pages below.)
Brenzel's print ads just feature the regular home page URL because it is quicker and easier for prospects to type in. His campaigns featuring hotlinks where only a click is required all bypass the general home page to land directly on special registration pages geared to the particular offer.
He has tested putting the regular Atomz navigation links on these landing pages and stripping them off entirely, to see which gets him more registrations.
Many of Brenzel's ads, especially email newsletter sponsorships, are very limited in space so he can not describe the offer thoroughly. Therefore he includes a long loving description of the offer on the landing page above the registration form.
However, recognizing that some people just want to cut to the chase, he also includes a hotlinked button fairly high up that non-reader personalities can use to get to the form right away without scrolling down.
Brenzel's tests to drive prospects to the registration forms include pay-per-click Google and Overture ads, sponsoring email newsletters, and renting email lists from related trade magazines for one-off broadcasts.
The Buyer's Kit offer generated more than 5,000 "real sales leads" (not including unqualified prospects or jokers who claim to be Mickey Mouse) in just nine months.
"It's been incredibly successful for us as a lead generation tool," says Brenzel.
However this does not mean he is abandoning other offers entirely. He still believes in serving multiple personality types. After all, some very good prospects may not want a Buyer's Kit.
- The percent of Google ad click throughs who submit a completed registration form is 15-20%. Overture ads yield 10-12% sign ups.
It is worth noting the creative is different for each. The Google ads focus on the Buyer's Kit offer, while Overture ads are more general. (Link to samples of both below.)
- Email broadcasts to rented trade magazine lists get a 2-3% conversion rate (percent of registrants who ultimately sign up. Note: This is a different calculation than the search engine ad click-to-register numbers above).
- Email newsletter ads get a 1-2% click rate if at the top and a .3-.4% rate if in the middle or end of the newsletter. Although the lower positions are cheaper to make up for this, Brenzel says they are not worth investing in because you still have to take fixed costs such as cutting insertion orders, trafficking creative, making a special registration page, etc. into account.
- The registration pages with the regular Atomz navigation bar stripped out perform significantly better than those that have links to other places on the site, or even those that mention other places on the site without a hotlink.
Lesson learned: Do not include your regular site page links and bars on landing pages. It just distracts people and they pull away from the process you wanted them to complete before moving on.
- Follow-up emails to registrants, which Brenzel only sends when he has news regarding the specific item they signed up for (such as the quarterly update of the Buyer's Kit), get a 2-5% click through rate.
- Brenzel did get one big surprise from his registration forms. Although he sets up campaign links so he knows exactly which ad each click came from, he also asks registrants where they heard of Atomz to see if their awareness springs from other sources.
Turns out PR efforts have been responsible far more awareness than Brenzel had initially given them credit for. "I didn't know how good and effective working with press and analysts was. Now I'll pay more attention to it."
Samples of Atomz ads in all media and a Kit landing page: