On-Target Marketing

October 30, 2012  7:46 PM

Are Registration Forms Standing Between You & Your Prospects?

StephanieTilton Profile: StephanieTilton

Content registration is often considered a given in the content generation and distribution process: write a white paper, eBook, etc., put up a landing page and reg form and you’re off, right? The problem is that registration can create friction in the lead generation and nurturing process. Tech marketers need to strategically decide when it’s appropriate to ask for contact details in exchange for content – and how much information to request.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Don’t assume prospects are willing to provide their information just because you’re delivering a meaty report or white paper. IT buyers don’t only base their decision to provide contact information on the value of the content you provide. (Plus vendors often associate the value of content with the time and money they put into producing the content; hardly the same gauge used by prospective buyers.) Rather, buyers are more often concerned about holding vendors at arm’s length until they’re far along in their buying decision process.

Consider these findings from TechTarget’s report, When Worlds Converge: Similarities in Brand Reception and Media Consumption of IT and Personal Technology Buyers. Of the 3,269 IT buyers surveyed, 43% said they are somewhat willing and 42% are very willing to share their contact information when they are ready to make a purchase. However, while 53% of respondents are somewhat willing to provide those details in exchange for “expert or editorial information,” only 19% are very willing to do so in the same scenario.

When are IT buyers willing to share contact information?

When are IT buyers willing to share contact information?

In fact, when IT buyers click to download your content, much like their consumer counterparts, the majority don’t want the vendor to contact them as a result.

What IT buyers expect upon downloading content

What IT buyers expect upon downloading content

Is it any wonder that 38% of the respondents give their personal email address (e.g., Gmail, Yahoo!, Hotmail, etc.) when registering for vendor information? In cases where registration is required but they’re not ready to talk to a vendor, IT buyers do all they can to maintain control over interactions. 71% of the IT buyers surveyed refuse to provide their business account so as not to get inundated with messages.

Why IT buyers use personal email when registering

Why IT buyers use personal email when registering

Keep it Short & Sweet

So how can you collect the information you need to start engaging and determining whether or not someone is truly a prospective customer? Ideally you build up the information using progressive profiling, rather than hit someone with a 10- or 15-field registration form from the get-go. (For a sample scenario — and a terrific article on why you need to change your view of lead nurturing — see this article by Ardath Albee.) Don’t forget you could allow people to register using social sign-in (e.g., “register using your LinkedIn account information”), and augment the information your collect with data from third-party providers such as JigSaw or ZoomInfo.

Test Your Forms, Formulate a Strategy

Approach registration from a strategic, analytical perspective, just as you do with your landing pages and emails. Run a test of your forms with a different number of fields and see what results you yield. Marketo, a company offering marketing automation software, did just that and found that the longer the form, the lower the conversion rate and the higher the cost per lead (see the table below).

Results of Marketo's A/B test of registration form length

Results of Marketo A/B testing of reg form length

Ultimately the reg information you request should logically relate to the content that people are accessing on your site. In other words, map out the buyer’s journey and how your content fits at each stage. Then determine which contact information you can reasonably request at each stage.

Map your registration requirements to the buying cycle

Map your registration requirements to the buying cycle

Demandbase and Focus hosted a webinar on this very topic. Watch the one-hour webinar Avoiding the Lead Gen Trade-Off: How to Boost Web Form Conversions without Sacrificing Lead Data Quality for insights into how to optimize your entire site for conversions.

December 9, 2011  2:49 PM

Are Your Sales & Marketing Teams a Power Couple?

StephanieTilton Profile: StephanieTilton

The Aberdeen Group just released a new report underscoring the importance of sales and marketing alignment in the era of the empowered buyer. Considering that IDC says B2B companies’ inability to align sales and marketing teams around the right processes and technologies can cost them upwards of 10% or more of revenue per year, this issue should be top of mind.

Highlights of Aberdeen’s findings include:

  • 40% of the sales-forecasted pipeline among Best-in-Class companies is generated by Marketing, compared with 22% among Industry Average firms and 13% within Laggard companies 
  • Best-in-Class companies report a 31.6% average year-over-year growth in corporate revenue, versus 18.7% for Industry Average firms and a 6.7% decline among Laggards

To achieve best-in-class performance, Aberdeen urges organizations to:

  • Tightly align marketing activities to specific sales goals and objectives
  • Establish or refine the lead management process

You can download the Aberdeen report for free until January 27, 2012.

Need help aligning sales and marketing? Download this 27-page eBook (no registration required) that I wrote last year for AG Salesworks. In it, you’ll find 8 steps for getting sales and marketing cranking in unison, featuring recommendations from leading experts including:

  • Ardath Albee, author of eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale
  • Andrew Briney, Sr VP and Group Publisher at TechTarget
  • Brian Halligan, CEO and Founder of HubSpot
  • David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR
  • Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling
  • Joe Pulizzi, co-author of Get Content. Get Customers.

October 19, 2011  7:12 PM

Study Reveals B2B Content Preferences & Trends

StephanieTilton Profile: StephanieTilton

Eccolo Media just published its fourth-annual report on B2B collateral trends and consumer preferences and technology marketers should take note. On behalf of Eccolo, Global Marketing Insite surveyed 501 C-level execs, vice presidents, managers, directors, developers/ programmers, and technicians involved in technology purchase decisions.

Highlights of the report:

  • B2B prospects are consuming a wider variety of content types
  • The influence of white papers, case studies, and product brochures/data sheets increased even as consumption decreased
  • Embedding social-sharing buttons significantly boosts the perceived influence of all content types
  • A growing number of respondents consume content on mobile devices
  • Adding interactive elements significantly increases the perceived influence of written content

Note that because Eccolo Media saw some marked differences in responses from this year compared to last, for the first time, it conducted a follow-up survey with respondents to confirm these are true trends and not anomalies.

Prospects Turn to More Content Types

Respondents reported consuming significantly less of three major collateral types year over year:

  • Brochures/data sheets: 72% compared to 83% last year
  • White papers: 62% compared to 76% in 2010
  • Case studies: 50% versus 67% in 2010

It appears the reason for this dramatic decline in consumption can be attributed to the fact that prospects are gathering information from a wider variety of sources, including company Web pages, eBooks, social media sites, blog posts, and presentations. That means technology marketers need to consider adding these content types/sources to their marketing mix.

Notably, respondents reported consuming more of the five “traditional” collateral types in the earlier stages of the buying cycle. And compared to 2010, respondents consume more content in the pre-sale phase, making consumption in this phase just about even with that in the initial sale stage. Marketers should take this into consideration as they’re planning what types of content will address their prospects’ needs throughout the buying cycle.

Growing Influence of White Papers, Case Studies, and Brochures/Datasheets

Even while consumption of key content assets declined, the perceived influence of these content types on the purchase decision has increased. Here’s how respondents rated these collateral types in the categories of “very” to “extremely” influential this year compared to last:

  • White papers: 65% in 2011 versus 41% in 2010
  • Case studies: 68% in 2011 compared to 39% in 2010
  • Brochures/datasheets: 61% in 2011 compared to 47% in 2010

The sway of podcasts and videos also rose tremendously, from 44% to 67% and from 48% to 62% respectively.

Sometimes Shorter is Better

The majority of respondents (48%) prefer 4-page case studies, as they did in 2010 (37%). They also still turn to written case studies more than to video or audio testimonials. What we’re missing from this year’s survey results is how these case study preferences align to the respondents’ company sizes. In 2010, those in larger companies preferred longer case studies, while those in small companies gravitated to two-pagers. This could be due to larger companies needing to check off more boxes across different areas of the organization to push a purchase through. In other words, they want/need to see how a vendor’s solution addressed the needs of the:

  • Business user
  • Finance group
  • IT department


Oftentimes, that level of detail isn’t found in shorter case studies.


Also just as in last year’s survey, the majority of respondents chose six pages as the ideal length for a white paper. This year, Eccolo doesn’t provide insight into how the overall preferences have changed. Between 2009’s survey and 2010’s, Eccolo found that respondents were slightly shifting their preference from shorter to longer papers. It would be interesting to see if that trend is holding true. (For a summary of last year’s Eccolo Media survey, see my post on the Savvy B2B Marketing blog.)

Looks Matter

For the first time, Eccolo surveyed about the importance of charts, illustrations, and tables in white papers. 77% of respondents find it extremely to moderately important that white papers include these types of visuals. This reinforces the importance of design in making it easier to consume and remember content. (For more on this topic, read my post on the Savvy B2B Marketing blog.)

Mobile Takes Off – But Still Lags Far Behind

While 37% of respondents say they’ve consumed content on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet, the vast majority are still viewing white papers, case studies, and brochures/datasheets on their desktops or are downloading and printing them. This finding comes as no surprise since it’s usually not enjoyable to read a lengthy content asset on a mobile device, especially a smartphone.


Getting More Out of Your Content

Making content easier to share and more multimedia in nature can go a long way in impacting how prospects regard content. Of the 52% of respondents that recalled seeing a social-sharing button in content, 77% said they perceived the collateral as “much more” or “somewhat more” influential. At the same time, written content that was enhanced with audio elements was viewed by 83% of respondents as more influential, and content with embedded video positively influenced the perceptions of 92% of respondents.


While it can take some effort to add interactive elements to white papers, eBooks, or other content, it appears to be well worth the investment. And considering how simple it is to add social-sharing buttons to content, technology marketers would be remiss not to embed these into all their content templates. Do a search on “how to add social sharing buttons to PDF” for instructions from a variety of sources.

For more on the findings from this year’s survey, download the 17-page report from Eccolo Media’s site (after registering).

September 14, 2011  8:51 AM

TechTarget Empowers Sales Reps to Better Connect with Prospects

StephanieTilton Profile: StephanieTilton

In August, TechTarget announced a major upgrade to its Activity Intelligence platform. I spoke to Jeff Ramminger, SVP of products for TechTarget, to find out more.

Q. Give an overview of Activity Intelligence.

First you need to understand that TechTarget goes to market in a very topically segmented way. We offer lots of editorial coverage around these topics, along with content from a thousand or so clients. Lots of registered users access the editorial and vendor content, while also engaging with each other via our social communities. Moreover, we see about 10 million searches per month across our 100+ Web properties. By analyzing content search and consumption patterns and trends, we distill valuable facts about a huge community of IT professionals.

We developed Activity Intelligence for two reasons: 1) to develop better mechanisms for targeting content to our users, which improves their experience with our sites and content and 2) to track and report on users’ journeys throughout their online research process on TechTarget sites in ways that are useful to our clients. In the first generation of Activity Intelligence, we added data to our lead reports to start sharing these insights with our clients. However, our clients found it was time-consuming and difficult to modify their systems to pull in the raw data and do anything meaningful with it. Plus, marketers want more guidance and counsel on the meaning and implications of this data.

We interviewed over 40 clients to better understand IT vendors’ pain points around managing lead data. While it seems simple, the latest generation of Activity Intelligence is very powerful. Rather than simply sending raw data to our clients, we display the data in a series of dashboards that our clients access securely via the web.

Q. What are the highlights of the announcement?

First is that we deliver intelligence about each individual lead. Each lead is associated with a unique link that provides details on that person’s interactions with your campaigns, meaningful activities across our network, and the content that has and has not been consumed. This helps marketers and sales reps understand the prospect’s mind-set and what content to offer to advance the conversation. In short, we’re making it much easier for marketing and sales to enable a meaningful follow-up with each lead.

Second is that we deliver enhanced data where possible for each lead. We do that by partnering with iProfile to append a variety of additional data points about each contact, such as their corporate phone number and email address, a link to their LinkedIn profile, and additional demographics where available.

The third, and most transformative, change is that we now roll up all information about an account to provide our clients with a comprehensive view. For example, oftentimes large numbers of employees from a single company will be registered users with us. Perhaps only one or a few have downloaded content about a certain topic from your campaign, however, others from that company may be also be researching on the topic related to your campaign – they just haven’t downloaded your content. We can show our clients what these other registered users – or undiscovered contacts – from that same company are doing on our sites. This overall volume of activity on a topic is typically a good indicator of an active project.

In addition to giving sales another piece of data as they determine the priority for a lead, this aligns better with how sales works – they’re assigned to accounts — not individuals — and this information gives them more of an account-oriented view.

Account Intelligence

Activity Intelligence Dashboard: Account Intelligence

Q. Why should tech marketers care?

Amazon.com has done a great job of personalizing the experience so it’s robust and rich for consumers. You can argue that a similar paradigm should exist when it comes to content online. By understanding interests and topics that are top of mind, TechTarget can create a richer experience for IT professionals while also paying dividends to the technology vendors trying to reach them.

Many IT professionals work on a variety of projects in a year and consume a tremendous amount of content as part of that. The basis for Activity Intelligence is that TechTarget has a “handshake” with its site visitors. In other words, when they register for content, site visitors understand their information will be passed along to the vendor as a lead. From the user side of the equation, Activity Intelligence allows us to create a more rich and robust experience by presenting relevant content. On the client (marketer) side, we provide more understanding about a prospect, helping vendors with follow up and nurturing. When we talk to our registered users, one thing that greatly frustrates them is when they receive a generic follow-up phone call from a vendor. If the technology marketer uses Activity Intelligence to enable a more robust and contextually relevant discussion, it’s good for both the user and the marketer.

Q. Does this tie into your research on hyperactive IT researchers and if so, how?

Conceptually, those taking more actions online have a much higher propensity to be in an active project and looking for a solution to a problem. In other words, they make better prospects.

Understanding their online activities is critical to better engaging these prospective buyers. But the reality of a salesperson’s day is that they get leads from a variety of sources. Salespeople need to get as much information and context about a prospect as quickly and simply as possible, as that helps them understand which leads to prioritize.

With Activity Intelligence, they get easy access to a rich display of information about prospects in one place. What they see are the various activities – such as how much of the company’s content the prospect consumed versus how much of the company’s competitors’ content the prospect consumed – so they get context. They also see how many activities have taken place during a certain time frame, which helps to create a sense of priority.

Q. How is this an improvement?

For years, quantity trumped quality in the online demand generation space. Over time, quality became more important, but many marketers don’t know how to make sense of the information at their disposal, especially when it means tracking different activities associated with a single name in the database. For example, many disregard the value of someone downloading a white paper and viewing a webcast a few days later. For marketers without a systematic way to track and score these activities, the activities just become a duplicate record in the database.

With the Activity Intelligence Dashboard, our clients can see all the activities and content downloaded by our registered users. When it comes to pre-sales, it’s just as important to know what a prospect hasn’t looked at as what he or she has looked at. This insight makes the follow-up more compelling and productive, allowing the pre-sales or sales rep to leave a more useful and contextual message and send an email with pointers to other content.

Q. How should marketers expect to benefit from the new-and-improved Activity Intelligence?

We’ve gotten lots of positive feedback from clients during our beta. We expect clients to see better ROI because fewer leads will fall through the gaps. According to our analysis, only 15% of leads turn into a productive sales conversation. Even if we help move that to 30%, it’s a tremendous boost to the marketers’ ROI.

Q. How do you envision your platform further evolving?

Tech marketers will be excited to see what else is on our roadmap. For example, a marketer might want to see interactions with different assets in a campaign by volume, such as which asset is doing best by industry. We also see lots of opportunities to marry activity data on the brand side with activity data on the demand side to give sales and marketing a more comprehensive view of what’s going on. For example, a marketer might want to understand which companies have seen and/or clicked on one of their online ads. It may then want to determine whether anyone from that company has clicked on or downloaded any of the content assets being used to generate leads. The bottom line is that Activity Intelligence sheds more light on IT professionals’ online activity – giving our clients a much higher potential for meaningful engagement and program ROI.

August 23, 2011  9:01 PM

6 Social Media Stats that Tech Marketers Can’t Afford to Ignore

StephanieTilton Profile: StephanieTilton

If your company sells a high-priced product or service, it can’t afford to stand on the sidelines when it comes to social media. After all, Sirius Decisions and others have found that empowered B2B buyers are moving through as much as 70% of the sales funnel before connecting with sales.

The companies not answering the call are missing out on tremendous opportunities to engage with prospective customers, shape the online conversation, and influence purchases. Need proof? Consider this:

1) TechTarget has found that more than 93% of IT buyers visit social communities and more than half contribute content.

2) DemandGen Report’s second annual research study, Inside The Mind of the BtoB Buyer found that, in the early stages of the buying process, 78% of respondents said they start by gathering information around a business problem. And it turns out that they’re increasingly doing so via social channels. 59% of respondents indicate that they engaged with peers who had addressed the challenge, and another 48% followed industry conversations/coverage of their topics on blogs and social media. And get this – more than 20% connected directly with potential solution vendors via social networking channels.

3) According to Forrester, “80% of business technology buyers engage in some form of social activity for work purposes.”

4) In its research titled “When to Socialize Online with B2B Buyers,” Forrester also found that forums and discussion groups ranked highest for the information sources B2B buyers said they would use to inform and validate their purchase decisions.

5) More than half (57%) of B2B companies have acquired a customer through their company blog, according to recent research. (Source: Demand Creation Specialists email)

6) The 2011 Arketi Web Watch Survey: Inside BtoB Media Usage of Social Media reveals B2B journalists are increasingly using social media tools to ferret out story ideas and connect with sources. This year’s survey found that 92% of journalists have a LinkedIn account, 85% are on Facebook, and 84% use Twitter. Moreover, nearly 50% blog or read blogs regularly.

The TechTarget Media Consumption Benchmark Report “Closing the Gap between IT Buyers and IT Marketers” uncovered that IT buyers find information from unbiased sources (like blogs, online communities, and social networks) is more useful during the awareness and consideration stages of the buying process. So if you’re going to jump on the bandwagon, consider starting here.

July 27, 2011  10:28 AM

Content Marketing in Action: Paving the Way to Win Business

StephanieTilton Profile: StephanieTilton

These days, it’s hard for marketers to avoid the term “content marketing.” The practice is being discussed at conferences, in online groups and forums, and at networking events. But what does content marketing mean and why should your organization adopt it?

In a nutshell, content marketing is delivering the right information at the right time to prospects and customers. It’s what can set your company apart. Let’s walk through a fictitious scenario that helps illustrate the value of content marketing. (Note: this post is quite long but worth your time if you’re trying to understand how your content can play a strategic role in engaging and converting prospects.)

A typical scenario…

Susan is a 45-year old working in a small but growing law firm. As is common for employees in a 50-person company, she wears many hats, serving as both the accountant and HR manager. These days she’s feeling overwhelmed trying to keep billings straight in her spreadsheet – and it’s cutting into the time she needs to spend developing an employee training program. She assumes there’s a better way to manage billings and asks the firm’s owner, Margaret, if she can look into it.

Margaret gives her the okay but says she only has three weeks to figure it out – she can’t afford to have Susan distracted by this task for long. She also tells Susan that she doesn’t want to spend much money on this and that it needs to be easy to install and use. After all, Margaret’s nephew, Mark, provides IT support for the firm on the side and his availability is never certain. This last comment leaves Susan feeling a bit stressed – she’s not technically savvy and Mark is on vacation for the next two weeks so she won’t be able to ask him questions. She hopes it won’t be hard to figure out everything needed to make a decision.

The research process begins

As a first step, Susan jumps online and conducts a Google search on “law firm billing problems.” The top results are a story in a major newspaper about a well-known law firm that was found guilty of double billing its clients and a description of a conference session that will cover typical billing problems in law firms and how to resolve them. Susan wishes she could go, but the conference is two months away. Plus, it costs $695 to attend! The third search results catches Susan’s eye. The link reads “How Law Firms Can Save Time and Money Managing Billings“. She makes a note to check it out, but first clicks on the link below that pointing to an online forum for legal firms.

Reaching out to peers

Once on the forum, Susan takes a quick look at the discussion categories and is pleased to see one on “accounting.” She starts exploring the discussion threads and soon finds one about billing issues. Many people are talking about the firm caught double billing its clients. Susan jumps in and asks if anyone can recommend a better way to manage the billings in her firm. A few people chime in about their own daily pains in accounting, and one mentions that he’s heard about a software product. He thinks the company offering it is called Abacus but can’t tell Susan much more.

Running into a dead end

Susan does a quick search on the company’s name and finds its website. At first she wonders if this is the same company mentioned in the forum. She sees nothing about billing software for law firms. In fact, it’s not clear what this company does. The home page says the company provides “cutting-edge, integrated solutions that help companies leverage their assets for maximum ROI.” She clicks on the Products tab and sees a long list of meaningless product names. She’s about ready to give up when she notices a link to something called a white paper titled “Abacus: The Leading Billing Software.” She clicks on the title and is taken to a registration form asking for her contact info, including company name, her name, her title, phone number, email address, and when she expects to make a purchase. She can’t believe she has to fill all that out just to read this! In fact, she’s not positive she wants to read it since she knows nothing about it except the title.

Finding what she needs

Frustrated, Susan goes back to the search results on Google and clicks on “How Law Firms Can Save Time and Money Managing Billings“. Susan is taken to the website for a company called Make Your Case with a link to the full article. The article describes just the types of issues that Susan is dealing with, and points to research conducted by a reputable law school that highlights the potential problems associated with billing issues. The article even references the recent story about the law firm that got into trouble over double billings. Clearly this company understands what Susan is dealing with and is on top of the latest happenings. At the end of the article, she’s invited to sign up for a 30-minute webinar exploring these issues in more depth. Because she’s feeling pressed for time and doesn’t need more convincing about these issues, Susan doesn’t click on this link.

But she’s interested in the other links: to case studies showing how other law firms have benefited by using this company’s billing solution, and to a one-pager explaining how the solution helps solve the most pressing billing issues. Susan clicks on the link to the case studies and is brought to a page showing the stories categorized by law firm size and different billing issues. She chooses one that most closely matches her situation and sees a one-paragraph overview explaining the law firm’s scenario and a bulleted list of how it benefited from the vendor’s solution. She decides to download the case study for further reading. At the bottom of this page, she sees the same link to the one-pager about the solution and clicks on that. Again, she’s taken to a page that summarizes what’s in the one-pager and decides to download that too. At the bottom of this page, she sees a link to a 5-minute demo and clicks through. The page explains that the demo explains how easy it is to use the software for billings and what’s required to get up and running with it.

Happily exchanging contact info for access to a demo

Susan is asked to provide her name and email address in exchange for access. Because she’s been impressed so far with what she’s read – and because she’s only asked for minimal information – Susan fills out the form and watches the demo. She learns that this company offers the solution as both software and something called software-as-as-service (SaaS). She’s never heard of SaaS, but the demo made it clear it will make it much easier for her law firm to take advantage of the solution. In fact, it appears Mark will have to do very little to help Susan get started with this – or to keep it updated with the latest functionality.

Digging into ROI

Having spent a couple of hours on this search, Susan decides it’s time to see if she’s missed any critical messages. She checks her voice mail and then her email. She sees a personalized email from Make Your Case, thanking her for spending the time to watch the demo and inviting her to submit any questions she may have. The email includes a link to something called an ROI calculator, saying this can help Susan prove the value of the solution to her boss. That looks interesting but first Susan needs an idea of how much this solution costs. She replies to the email, asking for pricing for a 45-person law firm. Within 30 minutes, Susan receives a response, laying out pricing for both the software and SaaS options. The sales rep, Dan, invites Susan to call him if she has any questions and also encourages her to check out the ROI calculator. He also offers to help her fill out the calculator.

Pleasantly surprised to see that the solution is pretty reasonably priced, Susan decides to check out the calculator. After all, the better armed she is, the easier it will be to convince Margaret that the money will be well spent. She clicks on the link and is taken to a page where she has to fill in details about the number of people managing billing, average salary for these employees, average number of billings per month, billing terms, and a few other details. She knows the answers to most of these questions but doesn’t know average number of billings off the top of her head and doesn’t have the time to figure it out.

Susan calls Dan, the sales rep, for assistance. Dan says he can give Susan a number based on the average that his company has seen for law firms of her size. He then asks Susan if she’s already started to fill out the calculator. She actually hadn’t because she realized she didn’t have all needed information. He offers to send her a link that will allow her to watch him fill in the numbers online for her. She accepts and he walks her through the calculations. Once the final number is displayed, Dan asks Susan if the value is what she expected. She says she honestly didn’t know what to expect but believes her boss will be happy with it. Dan asks if he can answer any additional questions for her. She says she may need him to talk to Mark at some point about the technical aspects of the solution but that she’s all set otherwise.

Feeling tension with a vendor who doesn’t get it

Susan hangs up, feeling excited about this solution. But she knows Margaret will want to compare this to at least one other solution to make sure they’re getting the best deal. As much as she dreads the thought, Susan revisits the Abacus site. She enters “ROI calculator” into the search field and sees a long list of results, some of which don’t seem related to her search. Finally she spots what appears to be the right thing and clicks the link. Again, she’s shown a registration form asking for a long list of information. She takes a deep sigh and fills out the form, realizing she has no choice since she needs this information. After she clicks the submit button, she’s surprised to see a message saying her request has been received. She wonders why she isn’t seeing the ROI calculator.

Hearing that an email message just arrived, Susan checks and sees a message from Abacus. It says a sales rep will be calling her soon about her request. Annoyed, Susan goes back to work. Near the end of the day, Susan gets a phone call from the sales rep. He jumps right in with a pitch about his company’s solutions and asks how he can help. Susan reminds him that she wanted to use the ROI calculator. Though the rep seems caught off guard, he says he can walk Susan through this. She agrees, but asks him to confirm that his company offers both software and SaaS and asks for the price of each. He assures her that it does, but insists that she should see the ROI calculations first. Aggravated, Susan demands that he share pricing first. He grumbles but relents. Susan’s actually relieved to hear that the solutions cost more than the other company’s. After her unpleasant experience on the vendor’s site and with this sales rep, she has no desire to do business with the company. She tells the sales rep she doesn’t need to see the ROI calculator and hangs up.

The decision is clear

Can you guess what happens next? Susan recommends the Make the Case solution to Margaret because her research process has been painless and the vendor provided all the information she needed – and made it easy to access. The vendor was able to provide the needed information because it had a solid understanding of its typical customers and the information they seek when researching possible solutions. It also made a point of providing value without being pushy about the sale.

Though this is a fictitious – and greatly simplified – scenario, it’s a reasonable model for how your company can set itself up to be the vendor of choice.

June 13, 2011  7:35 PM

Good Things Come in Small Boxes: What Tech Marketers Can Learn from MINI

StephanieTilton Profile: StephanieTilton

I recently bought a MINI Cooper, and was pleasantly surprised to receive a “Mini Adventure Field Kit” in the mail. The box was filled with lots of MINI goodness, including a:

  • Personalized welcome from the Head of MINI USA
  • Guide to the 101 Fundamentals of Good Motoring
  • Booklet about financial services
  • Travel journal and pen
  • Mousepad with a collage of MINI images
  • Foam antenna topper
  • Set of “trading” cards to hand out, featuring different MINI models
  • Pair of 3D glasses that allow me to decode messages in the MINI Owner’s Lounge

You can see the items laid out in this photo on Flickr, posted by another MINI owner.

Not only are these items fun, the kit left me feeling as though I was being welcomed into an exclusive club…and that I wasn’t forgotten now that the sale had been made. And the company gets plenty of mileage from its marketing. Do a search on Mini Adventure Field Kit and you’ll see plenty of MINI owners talking about their kits.

So what’s stopping technology marketers from sending out something similar? Imagine welcoming your new customers with a well-designed kit containing a range of items that are both fun and useful. Playing off the list above, I can imagine such a kit containing a:

  • Personalized welcome from the company’s president or CEO, perhaps with an invitation to meet at an upcoming event in the customer’s area
  • Guide to 101 ways to get the most from your product or service
  • Booklet showing all available products and services, perhaps with mini case studies showing how others have benefited
  • Card showing all the ways your customers can contact you and stay in touch (including via social media channels)
  • Exclusive invitation – with log-in details – to your online community and/or customer portal
  • Cool notepad and pen (or something similar) for the recipient’s personal use

Let’s face it. Most people are thrilled to get a package in the mail. Imagine what fans your customers will become if you take this extra step to welcome them. It certainly beats an email that points them to all the resources that everyone can access on your site.

Do you welcome your new customers and make them feel like they’ve joined an exclusive club? Please share your ideas and experiences.

May 11, 2011  10:07 AM

How Fiberlink Uses Content Marketing to Connect with Prospects and Customers

StephanieTilton Profile: StephanieTilton

Last year Fiberlink’s main focus was on traditional management of laptops and desktops. In late 2010, it shifted its focus to mobile device management (MDM) and its bi-weekly, educational-focused webinar attendance skyrocketed. Here Jonathan Dale, Product Marketing Manager, and Joe Pappano, Director of Customer Platform Services, of Fiberlink share insights into how this 200-person strong company uses content marketing to connect with prospects and customers.

1. Who is responsible for Fiberlink’s content strategy?

Two teams within Fiberlink share ideas and develop content. The first is a combined product and product marketing team focused on understanding market needs and setting product direction. The second team, under Joe, is a combination of technical support experts and customer platform services (those who onboard new customers).

On any given day, the product-focused team is on prospect calls with sales, hearing directly the “voice of the customer.” And Joe’s team works directly with sales and customers. We also hold a weekly call between sales, product, and product marketing and always talk about what we need to do to better enable sales. The answer is usually developing new content to better help prospects understand a certain topic. The side benefit is you get validation of your product map!

Plus, our product, product marketing, and customer platform services groups are constantly talking to sales to find out what questions or objections they’re hearing, and how we help prospects better evaluate their options. We also conduct post-mortems on sales wins and losses. This consistent stream of interaction helps us understand trends and these voice-of-the-customer insights feed heavily into the content we develop. There is absolutely no substitute for this type of interaction. It takes a very dedicated, team effort.

2. Explain your content strategy and approach.

We spend lots of time identifying keywords, creating resources, and tracking the performance of our content.

Because MDM is a new and rapidly changing space, people need to be educated so they feel comfortable making a buying decision. Our content is focused on lead nurturing through education, which helps prepare prospects for talking with us.

Our educational approach eliminates the need to identify a lead, and make a cold call to try to set up an evaluation. Prospects will typically attend a webinar, download some content, and then try our software evaluation. Then when sales follows up, they know what content the prospect has consumed and where to start the conversation.

As another example: we exhibited at the Technology Managers Forum in New York and gave product demos. The audience included numerous folks from major companies who said they had attended our webinars. After sitting through our 3-minute demo, they asked for a meeting. If they hadn’t already been educated through our regular webinar series on how we solve industry problems, they likely wouldn’t have made that request. It’s nice to be known as a valuable resource, not just a company that wants to sell you something.

3. Fiberlink offers a wealth of content on its MaaS360 site, including trials/demos, the MaaSters Center featuring a forum, training videos, video and audio webcasts, white papers, case studies, and a blog. How did you determine which content would be best to offer?

We conduct research to understand information and content preferences mapped to the buying cycle. While we’ve nailed this down for prospective customers of our desktop management solutions, we’re still refining this for our MDM market.

From a theme and format perspective, we evaluated what leading companies are doing to attract and nurture prospects and build loyal customers. These best-in-breed companies have a content strategy featuring multiple dimensions and offer a variety of content that is quick, easy to digest. We talked to some of these companies and came up with a best-of-all approach that we thought we could realistically handle.

4. What was the process for developing all of this content?

We now have a roadmap for content. But early on, we had to get employees into the habit of sharing knowledge and asked them to describe how they solve problems, what information they share with customers, etc.

Using WordPress, we launched the MaaSters Center at the beginning of 2010 in stealth mode. We brainstormed the content we thought would be valuable and recruited employees to write it. We focused on simplicity by being loose with guidelines and aligning with people’s expertise. For a few months, we held weekly meetings to review content assignments. We quickly generated a few hundred pieces of content of 1-3 paragraphs each that we posted in the center. We knew we were successful when we saw that people were posting our content on other sites.

We also transformed some of the resources we had used internally or to help our customers into free tools we offered on our site. One of our most popular pieces of content is an MDM glossary that we had originally developed for employees. We came up with a consistent framework for how to market through these resources, such as by pointing users to our trial landing pages, and asking them submit questions and suggestions.

When we started our bi-weekly webinar program, we made a conscious decision to make it different than most other programs by

1) limiting each webinar to 30 minutes at most, and

2) focusing on education instead of sales pitches.

By keeping the webinars to 30 minutes, they’re more appealing for both our subject matter experts and attendees. And because we stay away from a sales pitch, we find that prospects are more likely to sign up for an evaluation. In fact, within two hours of giving a recent webinar, we had 250 of our 800 attendees sign up for an evaluation of our products. After each webinar, we email attendees with links to a PDF of the slides, the webinar via YouTube, and to the Q&A and polling results in our MaaSters Center.

5. How many participate in/visit your online forum?

Virtually all our customers have consumed MaaSters Center content in one form or another. On average, we get tens of thousands of visits per month. In fact, the number of visits grew tenfold from Q4 2010 to Q1 2011.

Part of that momentum is a result of interest in the mobile device management space. But we’re also offering the type of relevant, timely content that people are hungry for.

We also take a journalistic approach to creating our content and respond quickly to significant events. By being opportunistic, we drive more traffic to the site. This opportunistic approach is harder to pull off since you can’t always plan for it. That said, there are some industry events you can plan for, such as when Apple is going to make a major announcement.

6. While your webinars and case studies are free to view, you point folks to a registration form for your white papersHow do you decide which content to gate?

We’re still trying to figure out the right mix. If the content is about Fiberlink and our products, we don’t gate it. If we’ve spent lots of time creating valuable content for lead generation or if we sponsor a third-party analyst report, for example, we gate it.

Recently we’ve implemented progressive profiling via our marketing automation solution. We still need to trim our registration page, but we now can do progressive profiling, which will further impact how we handle registration.

7. Describe your lead generation and nurturing programs.

To ensure that content is relevant to prospective buyers, we map the first three touches of a lead nurture campaign to the source of the lead, whether from a marketing event, outbound rented list, inbound lead from the MaaSter Center or our free tools, or via a Google keyword search or LinkedIn ad. After these initial touches, depending on a variety of factors – including how much information we have about a lead, lead score, and purchase intent – we enter these contacts into 30-, 60- or 90-day campaigns aligned with our core products.

While our ultimate goal is to get leads to sign up for a free evaluation or trial, we don’t push those as our primary offer. But we always include those options as a secondary offer.

We are continually engaged in an internal debate about this, wondering if we’re missing out with this soft-touch approach. That’s why we balance an educational offer with a secondary offer, so prospects know how to reach us when they’re ready to talk.

8. You maintain a presence on Twitter, facebook , and LinkedIn and you maintain a blogWhen did you get involved in social media and how did you determine the best strategy for doing so?

We’ve had a presence on Twitter and facebook for the past 12 months and are still trying to figure those channels out from a B2B angle. We mainly use them to spread the word about our free tools and press releases, and industry news not directly related to us. In one instance, we tweeted about a tool and someone reviewed it and it was accessed by thousands within a couple of days, so the promise is there.

We post relevant, educational information on LinkedIn groups. For example, we recently launched a new free tool targeted to those who administer Microsoft Exchange. We posted about it on Exchange-related groups on LinkedIn and it ended up being the most popular post on a few groups for the week.

9. You conduct polling on your site and blog. How do you make use of the data you collect?

We’re stunned by how much reuse we get from our polling data. We carefully think through the questions, asking Fiberlink employees what’s important to find out or what we think others will want to know about.

We blog about results from the polls we run in our webinars, on our site, and in the MaaSters Center. We also share the results with analysts and reporters. Here you can see we share the results in a blog post. After making certain editors aware of the post, we were invited to submit a byline article to one trade publication.

10. How do you measure the effectiveness of your content?

Ultimately, we want to determine how our content contributes to revenues.

We review weekly stats for site visits, page views, and average time on site. We use heatmaps of our site to see what people find interesting and when we change our site, we monitor these heatmaps to see how site visitors respond.

We also track how many times each piece of content is accessed, the registration rate, how much time people spend with our content, and the exit rate after consuming our content. If we see significant interest in certain content, we try to figure out why. Similarly, if certain content isn’t popular, we’ll remove or alter it.

And if we’re running PPC ads, we measure click-through rates.

We capture open rates on email invitations and the sign-up rate for webinars. Based on webinar attendance, we can project how many people will sign up for an evaluation.

It’s challenging to piece all of these measurements together but that’s what we try do.

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