Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Optimization can help you work smarter, not harder

This is an update to the My Reaction of the Boston MarketingSherpa B2B Lead Gen Summit post.

MarketingSherpa just put out an article Seven Tactics to Improve Your Lead Gen: Top Takeaways from Sherpa’s B2B Demand Generation Summit ‘08 . I was quoted in tip #6. Optimization can help you work smarter, not harder, where I was talking about how we get together monthly to review results and see what can we test that will help move the needle.

These are some excellent takeaways, and I highly recommend reading all of them.

I also got kudos from my friends at ion interactive on my presentation in their blog entry titled Marketing Sherpa B2B Lead Gen Recap.

That's it for now; I'm headed home to catch the rest of the debate.

Monday, October 13, 2008

4 Important Lessons In Landing Page Optimization

For those of you that were unable to make it out to Boston to hear me speak at the MarketingSherpa B2B Lead Gen Summit; here is a segment of my presentation that a lot of people found very valuable, and for those that will be attending the San Fransisco version of the summit, consider this a sneak peak.

4 BIG takeaways/lessons that we learned from our paid search optimization program.

1. More Specific Landing Pages
When we first launched our paid search program we would send users to deep links within the site. This was a problem for many reasons:
  • Hard to convert: A deep link within a site is not geared towards getting a user to convert and therefore is filled with distractions. A user will end up not following the path that you want them to, and ultimately end up leaving the site and not converting at all.
  • Hard to track: Deep links made it difficult for us to accurately know which keywords and landing experiences were driving results.

Because of the challenges that we faced with sending users to deep links within the site we turned to landing pages.

We currently use ion interactive's LiveBall SaaS to easily create, test, & optimize our landing pages.

2. Match the experience to the search.
Now that we are using unique landing pages, we made sure that the pages were VERY relevant to the terms/intentions that the user was searching on. We also were able to keep the pages focused on conversion and distraction free.

3. Self-segmentation after the click
Our landing pages aren't the traditional pages that you may find in the space that have the standard headline, subhead, bullets, and form. We use multi-step landing page experiences that with start with a preconversion question. The question can be as simple as "What is your capacity size?" The user has 2 options to choose from, and based on their choice they are sent to a page that is relevant to their need. This simple question not only helps us provide a more relevant experience to the user, but it also helps us learn more about the user and what they are looking for. Finally it increases our odds of getting that user to convert even more.

Scott Brinker from ion recently posted an excellent article on this topic Why 2 clicks are better than 1.

4. Keep on testing
We were always testing. Monthly we would review the results from previous tests combined stats from google, and our omniture analytics; decide what's was working and what needed improvement. We used A/B tests to test elements like messages, images, and whole experiences to see what would move the needle. Our mantra was "Just Keep Testing."

Bonus: Analytics is key!
If it wasn't for the analytics that came with the LiveBall Software, and our implementation of Omniture SiteCatalyst we would just taking shots in the dark. They allowed us to easily measure the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that were key to moving the needle, and optimizing our campaign.

Just remember you don't need to have high-end analytics to be successful, you just need something that will allow you to measure the important KPIs for your business. If you don't have analytics, start with a solution like google analytics. It's free and easy to implement.

If I had to choose the 2 most important items from this list, I would have to say Testing & Analysis. In today's economy you cannot afford to not test, and optimize your landing pages. Also on the flip side testing without analytics is like taking a shots in the dark.

If you are going to the west coast version of the MarketingSherpa B2B Lead Gen Summit make sure you check out my session titled Optimizing SEM Strategies from Keyword to Conversion. It's on Monday Oct 27 at 11:15am. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My Reaction of the Boston MarketingSherpa B2B Lead Gen Summit

Since I have some time to kill before my flight back home I thought I would post my reaction to the Boston MarketingSherpa B-to-B Lead Gen Summit. Over all I thought it was a good summit. The case studies were insightful, there were the right number of "relevant" vendors, and there were plenty of chances to network with the attendees.

The one thing that I would change about the format is that I would make the summit on a track schedule and give the presenters 45 minutes instead of 30. I know the benefit of having all the presenters in one room is that you don't miss anyone. I just felt that 30 minutes wasn't enough time to really get into some of the topics, with ample time for Q&A. Also by having the summit on a track schedule you can omit the sessions that you are not interested in without feeling like a jerk when you walk out. We all know that there are those one or two session that don't peak your interest.

Here are some of my important takeaways from the summit.

People buy from people, not websites
Make sure that your website, landing page, email blast, etc has a human feel to it. Consider the users intention or motivation when your are creating these elements. At the end of the day people would rather buy from people. Your website is just a tool to pass along your message.

Change your thinking when it comes to lead gen.
Think of People rather than Process.
Think of Touches rather than Attempts.
Think of Relationships rather than Contacts.

There are 4 areas of the buyer cycle Invitation, Initiation, Intensification, & Consummation.

The key to moving a prospect through this process is to know what the prospect is thinking at the transition of each of these elements, and act accordingly. At the transition from Initiation and Intensification you are building trust. This is when the user is looking closely to character, and how effective you are.

Clarity trumps persuasion
In regards to landing pages, no matter how strong your call to action or offer is if your page is not easy to use and clear you are going to loose that user.

There should be a marketing funnel and a sales funnel
Leads should not go to sales till it has been worked through the marketing funnel. Some people may consider this the "nurturing" process. In this phase you are establishing trust, building thought leadership with the user. The fact is salespeople don't have time to deal with leads that are not ready to buy. Also by having a sales person call too early is an easy way to scare the lead.

70% of all leads are not "sales ready"
Because of this fact you need to make sure that you have a marketing funnel with processes in place to move the lead through the funnel. That way you only deliver high quality leads to sales.

Every company needs a Universal Lead Definition (ULD)
A ULD are the elements that make up a "sales ready" lead. With a ULD in place you will have no question on if the lead is "sales ready." Brian Carroll used the acronym BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline)

There should be a process in place on how to hand off a lead from marketing to sales
If you do not have such a process in place you there will be problems. You will have leads that fall through the cracks, and know one will know why. This process will also establish accountability.

People, Process, Technology....In that order
Once you know the people that you want, and the process to get them, then bring in the technology. Dennis Head quoted IDC, and said that "Technology alone is not going to move the needle, you need a defined process."

Those are a few of top themes from the summit; if I get some time over the next couple of days I will post some more. I would love to hear what your thoughts are on these topics, so if you have an opinion or something to add please leave a comment.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Microblogging can be used for more than just recapping your actions

For the longest time I wanted to know what was the big deal with microblogging sites like twitter. Do your friends and colleagues really want to know what you are doing at every moment of your life. Since I like to think of myself as a Web 2.0 enthusiast I decided to give it a try. Soon after I created an account I got bored with it. Even though I was able to update my account from my phone it was still a very tedious experience from me. Plus I really didn't see the benefit of being on twitter, because everyone was doing the same thing. Sure it gave me a bit more insight into the lives of my friends, and it allowed me to pimp my blog. It was still too overwhelming at times. It was almost like watching 100 different reality shows at once.

Well recently my opinion of twitter has changed. I realized that I was seeing the concept of microblogging from the wrong angle. Twitter allows people to give commentary in a way that they could have never before. I am noticing that people are starting to use hashtags as a way to group a collection of related topics so they form one mass conversation. Last week at OMS was my first time getting involved with using hashtags. I wanted to try it out for 2 reasons: 1. To see what the big deal with hashtags was about. 2. To see if using twitter was a good way to take notes. I was really impressed to find out that twitter makes an excellent note taking tool. Now if I want to review them all I have to do is search on the OMS hashtag #OMSSD08 and I get a transcript of whole day. It includes my notes along with everyone else who participated. This also gives me info on sessions that I didn't get to sit in on. Using hashtags is also a benefit to the organizers of the event, because they get instant feedback on how the conference is going.

I also feel that Twitter is making watching TV an interactive experience. Twitter allows everyone to become participants of the event, and give their commentary on the program. I used twitter as a tool while I watched the last 2 presidential debates. It made something that would be normally "dullsville" a rather enjoyable experience. Along with giving my own feed back I got to hear in real time what other people thought of the debate. If you are interested do a search on #tweetdebate or #vpdebate to view the commentary. Social Media Analyst Jeremiah Owyang also did a recap on the #tweetdebate experiment if you care to take a look.

The online news site, Current is taking this phenomenon to a new level by allowing people to "Hack the Debate." If you post tweets with the #current hashtag they will overlay it on their broadcast of the debate in real time. I'm curious to see how this concept will evolve over the next couple of months, or even the next year. If you have any ideas leave a comment and let me know.