"In b-to-b marketing to very large complex organizations, you need to fan out and develop as many relationships as possible within a prospective account," says Peter Mahoney VP Worldwide Marketing for the SpeechWorks division of ScanSoft.
But, how do you actually do that?
Mahoney's team tried the classic evangelist marketing tactic -- asking eager-beaver internal champions at key companies to forward SpeechWork's marketing materials to other execs at the organization.
"You make a presentation they can email around internally, but there's no real trackability. Plus there are some real tactical problems -- our product is audio-driven and it's difficult for a lot of prospects to send around large audio files."
Mahoney's team deeply researched and targeted the 450 companies -- mainly in the Global 2000 -- they most wanted to get accounts at. They called it their BEA, Bull's Eye Account, list.
Now they needed to educate a wide circle of influencers at each account so sales could walk in the door and nail the deal. CAMPAIGN
The team figured instead of emailing out materials through an evangelist, why not post everything online and ask the evangelist to help them drive traffic to a Web site?
The problem is most Global 2000 executives have short attention spans online. You have to post extremely compelling content to get them to read it. What these execs would find most compelling was obvious -- their own company (ie. don't tell me about yourself, tell me about myself).
The answer -- build a customized microsite for each prospective account. There were five angles to consider:
Consideration #1. Content & personalization
The team came up with a basic Web site look and feel, and then created interchangeable content elements to personalize it for each company. For example, Cigna execs visiting the site the team built for Cigna would see a "Welcome Cigna" headline. (Link to sample screenshot below.)
Plus, the Cigna folks would see marketing materials including sales points, Case Studies, ROI projections, and a custom demo of the product in action specifically about the financial services industry.
The team created sets of content for eight different vertical industries in total including healthcare, utilities, and telecommunications.
Consideration #2. Lead generation
Mahoney decided firmly against requiring microsite visitors to log in or create accounts to see the majority of the content. "We wanted to be relatively open so people could just go peruse the site without feeling they had to give up any information. We want to provide as many people as possible with a basic set of information required to know our product can be valuable."
So basic ROI data, vertical industry applications, and other types of general questions were all addressed in an open access section of the site.
However, the team still wanted to generate a few more leads, so they also added special offers ranging from "Speech Champion" t-shirts to webinars to entice visitors to register. Consideration #3. Security
Mahoney knew it was inevitable that as with all other marketing materials, competitors would someday get their hands on this content. So, his team only put content on the microsites they felt comfortable revealing publicly.
However, they did code pages so search engines would not pick them up, and they created a unique URL for each company's microsite so you couldn't easily surf all of them once you found one.
Password protection was out of the question because it would have stopped too many legitimate visitors from accessing materials.
Consideration #4. Getting traffic
The team went through their opt-in email lists and carefully sliced out the names from each of the companies they'd built a microsite for. Then they emailed an invitation to those names for their own microsite. The URL always included the prospects' company name to help gain clicks from the curiosity factor.
Here's a non-working sample URL www.speechworks.com/cigna58897 (not a real link)
To encourage repeat traffic, from then on, all emailed communications to prospects in that organization also included their company microsite link.
Consideration #5. Adding audio
SpeechWorks offers speech recognition software, so they had to have audio clips on the site to serve as a demo. That said, we've talked to other b-to-b marketers in completely non-related fields who said adding audio to marketing sites helped response rates.
So, we asked Mahoney's Web team to recommend their top six best practices for adding audio to a site:
1) Tell the user that audio is coming. Give them a chance to turn up (or down) their sound.
2) Make it obvious how to launch the audio. Use standard audio icons (a speaker with sound waves) and make sure the user knows what will happen when launching the demo.
3) Don’t overdo it. With a business audience, only use audio when it is compelling – don’t use audio just to read text on the screen or add superfluous sound effects.
4) Keep it short. Really short. We like to keep clips to under 30 seconds or you will lose the audience.
5) Augment with animation. You can make an audio demo more compelling if you augment it with animation. This will allow you to play slightly longer clips.
6) Embed the audio in Flash. We use Flash to play all our audio files. We can control the user experience, keep the file sizes small and for our audience, it is the most likely to work all the time.
The good news was prospects and SpeechWorks' sales team found the microsites so valuable that the marketing team wound up building more than 400 of them in the past two years.
The bad news was there was a moderate cost to launch each -- roughly $500-$1000, plus a full-time marketing salary to run the program. That's not too bad until you do the math. Mahoney didn't want to spend a half million or more each year on microsites alone.
His site stats also showed that visitors tended to swamp a microsite the first week it was up ... and then traffic sharply trailed off to about zero from then on. The sites were more like marketing brochures that are glanced at and then tossed away than ongoing educational tools for a long sales cycle.
Obviously Mahoney needed to add fresher content and new offers, etc. to each site on an ongoing basis -- creating legitimate reasons for prospects to visit repeatedly. Equally obvious, the budget couldn't stand it.
This year Mahoney invested in creating a content management system that allows a non-technical staffer to quickly and easily launch or change a microsite in a matter of a few minutes. Plus, sites across verticals can be updated with the click of a button.
So far his team is thrilled and repeat visits are on the rise. Now the team is launching microsite capability for key sales partners as well to use with their prospects. Useful links related to this article
Creative sample: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/scansoft/study.html
e-tractions - the interactive marketing agency ScanSoft relied on to build the system they use to create microsites quickly and easily: http://www.e-tractions.com
Eloqua - the marketing management software ScanSoft will use to integrate email and other campaign data together with microsite data: http://www.eloqua.com