Friday, August 31, 2007

Off Topic: 8 Random Things

Since Brian Carroll at the B2B Lead Generation Blog tagged me for this, I guess I'll play. For what it's worth, here are eight random things about me:

1. I think Boston is the greatest rock n' roll band ever.

2. Speaking of music, my trivia expertise is one-hit wonders from the 80s.

3. My mother wanted me to be a priest.

4. I have four brothers. We've all owned our own businesses at one time or another (financial services, trailer manufacturing, wholesale supplies, painting, and marketing consulting in order from oldest to youngest).

5. My undergraduate degree was in industrial engineering. I'm an efficient marketer.

6. I graduated second in my class in MBA school at the University of Minnesota. I would have been first in my class, but I got a B in, of all things, Marketing Management.

7. My wife is named Jolene. Dolly Parton released an album in 1974 titled "Jolene." The engineer on that album was...Tom Pick (no relation). How spooky is that?

8. Two of my great-grandfathers fought on opposite sides in the Napoleonic wars. A great-grandfather on my father's side was in the Prussian army, while one from my mother's side was a lieutenant under Napoleon.

*****

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My Podcast with Paul Dunay


Marketing guru, podcaster and blogger extraordinaire Paul Dunay has developed a reputation for interviewing smart, interesting people about their knowledge of web marketing, blogging and social media tools. In case you missed it, last week he took a break from that practice—and interviewed me instead.

In this podcast, Paul and I discuss blogging, thought-leadership content and how social media sites can be used to drive B2B website traffic. I cited three specific examples of promoting client thought-leadership content through Web 2.0 social media tagging:

I also talk about the results of my research on using Web 2.0 social tagging to drive B2B website traffic. You can listed to the podcast on Paul's blog.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Optimizing B2B Lead Generation through White Papers


White paper syndicator KnowledgeStorm and the marketing case study experts at MarketingSherpa recently published the third white paper in their series on Connecting Through Content, Putting It All Together—Driving Content Marketing Program Success. The series focused on research and best practices in using thought-leadership content, primarily white papers, to drive B2B lead generation efforts. The key findings from this study include:

Marketers need to make better use of privacy policies to improve registration quality. While marketers rated the quality of lead registration data from their own website twice as high as that from syndicator or other sites, B2B technology buyers said they provide valid registration information regardless of site type—as long as they are confident that their contact information will not be misused. Buyers rate IT publications and vendor websites as the least trustworthy, with just 30% expressing confidence in these sites. To improve lead registration quality, marketers need to make their privacy policy prominent on registration form pages, and provide credible, high-quality content throughout their websites.

Put your content where your buyers are looking. While 95% of marketers view their own websites as the best sources of leads, B2B technology buyers seek out a wider range of sites. 84% of buyers view directory/syndicator sites as very important, and 64% investigate publication and analyst sites. This point may seem a bit self-serving to the white paper authors (KnowledgeStorm is a syndicator and MarketingSherpa is a publisher), but it passes the common-sense test: the more places in which your content can be found, the more likely it is to be seen.

Following up on leads, promptly and properly, is marketing's job. There is a disconnect between lead follow-up processes as reported by marketers and their prospects: 73% of marketers say that their company always follows up on white paper registrations within two days, but most buyers say they are contacted less than half the time. Crucially, three-quarters of buyers say that timely follow up impacts their impression of the company and its products or services.

Buyers report that they provide valid phone numbers on registration forms less than 40% of the time, but a valid email address in nearly 70% of situations. As the white paper states it, "the buyer wants to be in control of the vendor/prospect conversation." Given this information, and the fact that B2B technology buyers often download white papers early in their decision process—well before they qualify as what sales would call a "hot lead"—marketing needs to be in charge of the lead-nurturing process at this point, starting with a courtesy email. To maximize opportunities, the first email should be followed up with a second (unless the prospect opts out, of course), then ideally both a direct mail piece and phone call to those prospects who provide valid contact information.

By disseminating your content through as many outlets as possible, giving prospects confidence that their contact information won't be misused, and following up promptly by email, marketers can maximize the lead-generation potential of their white papers and other thought-leadership content. There's much more; again, you can download the complete white paper here.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The ROI of Website Redesigns per Forrester


Forrester Research makes a collection of its past webcasts on various online marketing topics freely available (registration required). I recently checked out one of their presentations from about a year ago titled "The ROI of Web Site Redesigns Made Simple" by Harley Manning and Jeffrey North. Like any presentation from one of the big analyst firms, the research focuses on very large companies, and is vertically unfocused (in this webcast, they divided websites into three groups: e-commerce, manufacturing [including B2B] and financial services), but still provides some nuggets of value for smaller organizations.

Forrester's key findings from their website redesign research:
  • By Forrester's standards, 97% of business websites fail to earn a passing grade for usability. Among the biggest sins—79% fail at basic legibility (adequate font size and contrast with background). They cite the New York Times website as the gold standard for legibility (not logic, truth or common sense mind you, just legibility).

  • It's almost impossible not to get positive ROI from a competent website redesign project.

  • The top goals in website redesign projects were to provide more and better information, increase leads/sales, improve customer service, and build brand loyalty. Participants in Forrester's study for the most part thought they had achieved these goals, although building brand loyalty was the most difficult to measure: 28% of respondents had no idea whether or not they had accomplished this.

ROI results

Results varied across the three broad vertical groups, with e-commerce sites not surprisingly achieving the highest ROI from site redesign projects. All groups benefited from the effort, however. For B2B websites:
  • Among the companies Forrester studied, site traffic increased anywhere from 0-15%. Traffic increases were driven by two factors: improved SEO to drive new traffic, and increased repeat visits (due to having better content on the site).

  • The conversion rate (of visitors to leads) increased by 20-50%, from an average of 1.5% to somewhere in the range of 1.8-2.25%.

  • Service calls were reduced—through deflection from phone to web—by 10-20%.

  • Total ROI varied from 70% to 500%.

  • While larger redesign projects produced a higher return in dollars, smaller projects produced a higher percentage return—at lower cost and lower risk.

How to keep costs down
  • Use interactivity and integration with back-end systems (e.g. lead collection straight into a CRM application) wisely; this is a major cost driver.

  • Limit the number of approvers involved and the number of review cycles.

  • Use high-production value assets such as Flash and online video sparingly.

  • Target only as many unique customer segments as you really need to.

  • Re-use as much existing content as possible.

  • Limit use of personalization—while this is pretty much required for e-commerce sites, it's less crucial for B2B sites (though it can be very helpful in the customer service area).

How to generate positive ROI
  • Start with an understanding of your unique target customer segments and their information needs (the approach KCA has always taken—nice to get validation).

  • Develop metrics for measuring ROI so you can get an accurate "before" and "after" picture. These include new site visits (SEO-driven), repeat visits, conversion rate and service call deflection rate.

  • Develop a schedule and stick to it, avoiding scope creep.

  • Content is king; visitors will be attracted to your site, and ultimately to doing business with you, based on quality and relevance of your site content.

  • Involve customer service staff intimately. No one knows how to reduce support calls by providing and making it easy to find common answers than this group. Also make sure sales is involved—they (should) know better than anyone else what information your prospects want, as opposed to simply what you want to say.

Finally, how do you know if you need a site redesign? If your current site design is more than four years old—you need one. At three-four years old, it may be okay but is worth a review. If your existing site is less than three years old, it shouldn't need a complete makeover, but still may benefit from a face-lift and content refresh.

Again, you can check out Forrester's free webcasts for yourself here.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Monday, August 20, 2007

B2B PR - Social Media and Press Release Optimization

Melodramatic and obvious perhaps, but news sites, online press release distribution and social media tagging have radically altered the PR landscape. PR is no longer just about writing press releases announcing your internally-focused company news to select industry media (though you should still do that), but also about writing news releases that demonstrate your expertise and provide valuable content for your prospects. These releases need to be written and distributed differently than traditional press releases, with the goal of reaching both traditional and new media outlets indirectly through increased market exposure.

All press releases and news releases need to be search-engine optimized. Much has been written on this topic, but the best single piece I've seen is Rob Garner's Yes, You Should Still Optimize Press Releases. Rob brings all of the elements together in one excellent, concise post. Among Rob's tips:
  • Include popular keyword and keyword phrases in the release summary, or the secondary release heading.

  • Reinforce the major keyword theme in the body of the release. Once again, what works for optimizing Web pages goes for releases as well.

  • Include the company URL in the first paragraph, after the company name.

Rob's post has ten tips like these—very much worth not only reading, but printing out and hanging where you'll see it every time you write a new press or news release.

Finally, promote your releases directly to your market through outreach to influential industry bloggers, an online distribution service such as PRWeb, and through tagging on social media sites.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Possibly the Coolest Tradeshow Toy Ever


More crowd-pleasing than a premium trinket give-away, more alluring than booth babes, even more powerful than free beer—Danish advertising film agency viZoo has teamed with engineering firm Ramboll developed what may be, thus far, the ultimate tradeshow gadget: a giant 3-D holographic projector. Check out the movie here:

http://vizoo.com/showreel_wmvs/EPK_Cheoptics360_XL.wmv

Scott at the MediaPost blog said it gave him a "nerdgasm," a term I find deeply disturbing, but nonetheless, you've got to see this.

The 3-D projector is available in various sizes from a relatively compact 5x5x5 foot unit up to a massive 30x30 behemoth, with prices ranging from 85,000 Euros (about $100K) to 575,000 Euros (close to $800,000). Both indoor and outdoor models are available.

You can more about the Cheoptics 360 XL here or check out the online brochure (PDF).

*****


The web marketing resources portal: WebMarketCentral.com

The only Minnesota-based marketing, PR and SEO agency exclusively focused on B2B IT clients: KC Associates

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Email Campaign, Newsletter and Banner Ad Click-Through Rates (CTR)


When planning online advertising and email promotion budgets, it's critical to calculate the likely ROI upfront whenever possible, as well as to establish campaign benchmarks. The first step is understanding the average and likely range of CTRs for various programs. The growth in online advertising, the proliferation of enewsletters, the emergence of new forms of information delivery such as RSS and the emergence of social media sites have all affected CTR, so planning based on current data is crucial.

It can be challenging to find current statistics, but based on several studies, these are typical CTR ranges for email newsletter ads, email campaigns (blasts or internally-produced enewsletters), and banner ads.

Email newsletter advertisements
  • Open rates range from 28-40%, with an average of about 33%—meaning that roughly one-third of the subscriber base is likely to see your ad. The Advertising Is Good For You blog tracks these statistics from DoubleClick.

  • The average CTR for industry trade newsletter ads is 7-8% of "openers," or 2-3% of all recipients. CTR can be as high as 20% of openers (7% of total recipients) for exceptionally well-performing ads.

Email marketing campaigns
  • The average open rate is slightly lower than that for enewsletters from business publishers, at about 27%.

  • Average CTR is 2.5%, with various sources reporting a range of 1.5% to 7%.

  • The average conversion rate (percentage of clickers who buy an item or provide lead contact information) is 4-5%.

  • There are several sources of reasonably good and current data on email campaigns (most of which ultimately point back to DoubleClick). Marketing Today has summarized recent results Pro Publishing Services provides a breakdown based on sending frequency; and U.K. marketing agency eMarket2 has published a highly informative white paper with statistics from both the U.S. and EMEA markets, for B2C and B2B campaigns.

Banner ads
  • The average CTR for banner ads is roughly 0.25%, with a reported range of 0.17% to 0.40%, although rich media ads can produce significantly higher CTR.

These statistics give you some idea of the results you can expect from newsletter ad, email campaign and banner ad campaigns, as well as benchmarks to help measure (and hopefully improve) your results.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Friday, August 10, 2007

PR and Blogging Outreach: Macro Issues

This content has been moved to PR and Blogger Outreach: Macro Issues on the Webbiquity blog.

*****

Contact: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Quick Personal Note on the 35W Bridge Collapse

Thank you to everyone who emailed inquiring about the safety of my family following last week's tragic collapse of the 35W bridge here in Minneapolis. Thankfully, my family and I are safe, as are our close friends and relatives in the area.

Still, it is amazing and a bit frightening how close to home a disaster like this can hit, even in a large metropolitan area. Two of those listed as "missing and presumed drowned" are just two degrees removed from me professionally. And two of the confirmed dead were neighbors.

Patrick Holmes, a young father of two and a baseball and soccer coach, lived just four blocks to the north of us. Paul Eickstadt, the driver of the truck so horrifically engulfed in flames in the initial videos of the collapse, lived just a few houses down. A couple of years ago, when our little dog went missing and my kids were frantically scouring the neighborhood on their bikes searching for her, it was Paul who found her and returned her safe and sound.

We all respond differently to tragedies. If you feel compelled to take action, one of the best things you can do is to contribute money or give blood to the American Red Cross or its Minnesota affiliate.

God bless you, and be careful.

*****

Contact me: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Viral Marketing for B2B Lead Generation, Part 3: Caveats and Links

Viral marketing campaigns can work for B2B lead generation with the right media and promotional methods. Even with the most careful planning and execution, however, not every campaign will be a huge success. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when design viral marketing programs:

Viral Marketing Caveats
  • To maximize your odds of success with viral marketing, create a yearly plan for viral campaigns (the operating principle here is that even baseball's best sluggers don't get a hit every time they step up to the plate, but more at-bats generally means more hits).

  • Humorous campaigns are the most likely to be passed around—but white papers or other content that addresses real-world business problems and solutions are more likely to drive responses from IT buyers and influencers.

  • Very few viral campaigns really “explode” online; half produce a decent return, but less than 1 out of a hundred is a true “home run.”

  • Avoid using a committee to create viral campaigns; these have the lowest success rate.

  • Online games, contests and video clips have become ubiquitous on the Internet; it takes something really special to stand out.

  • Viral campaigns are generally much more effective at increasing brand awareness than actual lead generation.

  • B2B viral marketing campaigns are most likely to be shared among mid-level decision makers and influencers. While blogs and podcasts can be effective at reaching senior managers, C-level executives are much less likely to forward ANYTHING than are lower-level employees.

  • According to MarketingSherpa, “Unless you are marketing to a community-centric target audience, such as IT professionals, many B-to-B customers/prospects will tune out nontraditional messaging in favor of a direct sales effort.”

  • It's rare to find an individual with both viral and traditional B2B PR skillsets, which is why marketing agencies (such as B2B IT specialists KC Associates) are often used to assist with viral campaigns.

  • Campaigns that are outrageously successful in terms of the number of viewers reached can nevertheless produce a very small number of qualified leads (e.g., because many viewers are curious teens rather than B2B buyers and influencers).

  • Evangelism is different from viral marketing; it has a smaller spread but greater actual business impact. White papers remain one of the most effective tools for evangelism.

Viral Marketing Links

Links to award-winning B2B viral campaigns from MarketingSherpa (free):

Viral Hall of Fame 2007: NetQoS' Netcosm


Viral Hall of Fame 2007: The Gobbledygook Manifesto

Viral Hall of Fame 2007: Exeros Inc.

MarketingSherpa case studies and reports ($$ required):

MarketingSherpa Case Study: How to Make Your Technology Brand Famous Via Podcasts, Blogs & Games: 12-Month Viral Marketing Plan

MarketingSherpa Special Report: Viral Marketing 2007 - 15 Data Charts, Top Tactics & ROI

MarketingSherpa Case Study: Video + Humor + Viral = Lead-Gen Success for Data Backup Firm

Previous posts in this series:

Viral Marketing for B2B Lead Generation, Part 1: Viral Media

Viral Marketing for B2B Lead Generation, Part 2: Viral Promotion

*****


The site for B2B web marketing guides, books, news and tools: WebMarketCentral.com

The only Minneapolis-based PR, marketing and SEO agency focused exclusively on B2B IT companies: KC Associates

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Viral Marketing for B2B Lead Generation, Part 2: Viral Promotion

Part 1 of this series rated the various types of viral media; this post focuses on promoting your viral content to get maximum exposure and pass-along. Once again, these recommendations are based on personal experience as well as research from the experts at MarketingSherpa.

Top Viral Promotion Tactics
  • Sending an email to a house list is the most commonly-used form of viral promotion. It's not the the most effective tactic, but nearly everyone does this because it costs virtually nothing. Obviously, this tactic isn't available to start-up companies that haven't built a house list over time, and emailing to a rented list should always be done with great caution.

  • Getting mentioned by relevant and influential bloggers is one of the most productive means of viral promotion (and free, other than the outreach effort). Independent bloggers don't want to be corporate shills, but they do love to write about cool stuff.

  • Having your campaign cited in online industry trade online publications is also a highly effective viral promotion tactic—and again, it costs nothing other than the PR legwork. Trade publication editors are more likely to write about viral media that are industry-related (and creative) than those that rely primarily on humor.

  • After blog and trade press mentions, social media and social tagging sites such as Digg and del.icio.us are the most effective means of spreading viral content. This includes sites like YouTube for video; iTunes for podcasts; and Insight24 for B2B webcasts, video and podcasts.

  • Another highly useful tactic is producing video-linked press releases, then sending them along with personal notes to individual reporters and distributing them online through services such as PRWeb.

Other Viral Promotion Tactics
  • Trade shows – promote your viral content (microsite, video, blog etc.) in your booth.

  • Arrange cross-promotion campaigns with partners; another tactic that's tough for start-up companies.

  • Spread your viral campaign through direct mail postcards to your house list ads in trade publication print ads. These tactics can be helpful, but aren't at the top of the list for effectiveness.

  • Running online ads on industry trade publication sites and ads in trade magazine e-newsletters are potentially helpful though expensive tactics.

  • Build links from relevant technology forums. A valuable technique for viral campaigns that are relevant and NOT purely self-promotional.

Next: Viral Marketing Caveats and Links

*****


The site for B2B marketing and lead generation resources: WebMarketCentral.com

The only Minneapolis-based PR & marketing agency focused solely on B2B lead generation and go-to-market strategy for IT companies: KC Associates

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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