Technologies, needs and customers change over time. If your website is still optimized for the same keywords as 18 months ago (or longer), now is a good time to re-validate your key search phrases. Start by looking in your analytics program to identify the top phrases prospects are using to find you.
Next, run those phrases through a keyword tool to find similar phrases and their relative search frequency. Finally, make sure your site is well optimized for those phrases that are both frequently searched and most relevant to your prospects.
In addition, since those phrases resonate with your prospects, make sure to incorporate them in your copywriting and SEM programs as well.
Speaking engagements are an excellent source of high-quality leads. When budgets are tight, focus particularly on local gigs to minimize travel-related expenses. To spread your reach without breaking the bank, seek out opportunities to be interviewed for podcasts by well-known traditional and social media types in your industry.
Optimize Ads for Content and Search
MarketingSherpa recommends setting up completely separate accounts for search and content network ads. At the very least, keep the two in separate campaigns. Why? The environments are completely different—in search, people are looking for relevant ads. They are on a search page and are going to click on something based on the results of their search. Your ad is competing only against the other search results.
On the content network, people are doing other things, such as reading articles, so ad copy has to be punchier and more action-oriented to get someone to click away from the page they are reading.
Also, on content networks, investigate the sites your ads are showing on, particularly those sites which are drawing the best results. This research is excellent for finding new sites for PR, direct advertising buys or blogger outreach.
Test Their Knowledge
Quizzes are a relatively inexpensive, easy and fun way to collect leads. People love to be tested on their knowledge, particularly engineering and IT audiences. In addition, you can mix in "research" type questions that can be used to collect information for later production of a research report / thought-leadership piece.
Small companies can use tools like SurveyMonkey, SurveyGizmo or Zoomerang to create quizzes. Larger enterprises and government agencies may already have an enterprise survey management application such as Vovici or Kinetic Survey in place.
Quizzes can be promoted through PR, blogger outreach, AdWords, home page promotion and through company email.
Give Your Knowledge Away
Studies have shown that dropping registration barriers for content such as white papers, webcasts and podcasts significantly increases the exposure to your materials—according to MarketingSherpa, by about a factor of seven on average.
Still, many marketers are reluctant to do this; "If I give away my white paper, how will I ever capture the lead?"
The answer, again according to MarketingSherpa, is to offer some knowledge of value free and then ask for contact information once you have the prospect's interest. For example, Red Hat software has provided no-registration-required webcasts. At the end of each webcast, prospects are presented with another offer (such as a whitepaper download or live webinar registration) which does require them to provide contact information.
Love the One You're With
Maintaining and even increasing sales during an economic downturn isn't just about generating new leads, but also moving the prospects already in your database along in their buying process. In round numbers, 80% of the leads in your database are people who aren't immediate prospects, but do have longer term potential.
According to MarketingSherpa, about 10% are mid-term prospects who could potentially be converted to more immediate opportunities. The remaining 70% are either long term prospects (who could be converted to mid-term prospects) or influencers (who could help immediately with lead generation).
Follow-Up is Crucial
When you manage to capture a precious lead, handle with care. Make sure your auto-responder email is engaging and interactive. And follow up with a phone call quickly—if you are slow in responding to a sales opportunity, prospects assume you'll be even slower to respond once they are a customer in need of technical assistance or inquiring about a billing issue.
IT staff in particular work all hours and expect fast response. The first vendor to respond to an inquiry—particularly if that response is fast, within the first 30 minutes or so after contact—has an inordinate chance of winning the business.
Use Plain Old Snail Mail
With email burnout increasing and ever-tightening spam filters in place to keep out anything that smacks remotely of marketing, email promotion is becoming less effective. Although physical mail obviously costs more, it can help your offer stand out. First, the medium has become less crowded as more marketing dollars have shifted online. Second, it shows the prospect that you're willing to pay to get their attention; they know as well as you that email is easy and virtually free, while postal mail requires greater effort and expense. Third, it offers unique creative possibilities (and people will almost always open "lumpy" mail, curious about what's in the package).
Evangelists, Branding and Measurement
A few final points from the webinar:
- Few companies do a good job at reaching out to evangelists in their industry, such as bloggers. Flag evengelists in your marketing database, court them properly and you'll both increase your credibility and generate more pre-qualified leads.
- Even in a downturn, branding is critical. A CEO isn't going to download your whitepaper. But the CEO may very well be asked to sign off on a final purchase, and is likely to question a purchase from a vendor he or she has never heard of. PR, brand advertising, and speaking opportunities are all great ways to go beyond lead generation and increase brand recognition with C-level executives.
- Measure the right things. Particularly in a downturn, it's crucial to have metrics that demonstrate the value of marketing to sales and the business. Tracking the right measurements will not only protect existing budgets (and maybe even make room for small experiments), but also ensure that you are focused on the highest value-added activities for the organization.
Update: the audio from the webcast is now available here.
Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom