28
Feb

ISVs do Well to Nurture Productive Partnership Relationships

Partner relationships broadly breakdown into two types:

  • an affiliation that benefits both barties or
  • an affiliation that serves a purpose, usually with regard to fulfillment, for both parties

ISVs should appropriately respond to either opportunity.

An Affiliation that benefits both parties
In this scenario an ISV produces products or services, which are promoted, directly, to an end customer by a channel partner. When these scenarios bubble up, ISVs should look to nurture them to capture what will likely amount to a much lower cost of product promotion. Usually this type of partner has a clear understanding of how products or services fit into a larger offer, saving an ISV the time and effort required to build a compelling case for target customers to implement products or services. The tacit recommendation represented by the partner’s effort produces a higher level of positive momentum for the prospect. The result is a shorter sales cycle for this type of opportunity.

An Affiliation that Serves a Purpose, Usually with Regard to Fulfillment, for Both Parties
When an end customer is required by procurement policy to go out to bid on any/all technology purchases, an ISV needs to work with whomever lands an order. Under no circumstances does it make sense to try to impede this process. The best way to look at an order of this type is that, without the partner who landed the order, there would be no sale to the end customer. It makes sense to have a pricing policy in place prior to contending for this type of business. This type of partner rarely expects a substantial margin. ISVs should be careful not to extend one.

Sales personnel at ISVs should have experience working with channel partners. Inexperienced personnel can make costly mistakes with either type of partner. Where management is not clear as to how to handle partners it makes sense to proceed very slowly on these opportunities. Better to be guilty of taking forever to finalize a sale, than to inadvertently make an obstacle out of a firm that can otherwise be a productive partner.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

27
Feb

IT Buyers in 2013 are Much Better Informed and No Less Willing to Spend

A lot has been written about serious changes in IT buyer habits in 2012 and 2013. The consensus is that IT buyers are not talking to sales personnel until much later in the sales cycle. One reason for this change, some contend, is tighter budgets in 2013. Tighter budgets aren’t driving less engagmement. Better informed IT buyers don’t have much to talk with sales people about.

Let’s look for a moment at spending levels. We think that total IT spending in 2013 will increase over past years. Enterprise IT spending will increase, as well. All of these buyers might not buy PCs, Laptops, or on premise software, but they will still buy tablets, phablets, smart phones, cloud services, or a combination of products and services (that may include PC hardware and software as well).

Products need to be promoted online. IT buyers are online researching requirements, solutions, and customer experiences with specific products or even solutions. Product marketers have an opportunity to present these buyers with communications copy to build their interest.

Here’s a design for this online content: start with a simple text statement that presents, broadly, a pain point typical of a buyer of your product or service. Display on the same page customer testimonials, awards and company news. Use back pages of your site to present your specific expertise, management team, etc. From this content design one can see that IT buyers in 2013 look for sellers with direct experience meeting their needs, who can be trusted to deliver, expertly, on requirements.

Of course, producing persuasive content is not so simple. The most important of the three design cornerstones that we just presented, presenting the pain point, requires that sellers thoroughly understand their buyers. Product marketing must produce a very clear picture of a promising prospect. It won’t hurt to display that picture to sales personnel, customer service, and even technical staff.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

26
Feb

Quality Sales Leads Shorten Sales Cycles and Boost Sales Team Morale

Providing sales teams with quality leads is a method of shortening sales cycles. Sales teams attain a higher close rate and feel better about their jobs when they have high quality sales leads to work with. Capturing quality leads should be the objective of any marketing communications effort.

We used the last posts to this blog to talk broadly about search engine marketing (SEM). We included examples from our current experience working with clients. We think that successful SEM can produce quality sales leads.

SEM should be coupled with a new set of direct marketing activities. Seasoned sales personnel should be included who can extract the highest possible value from any opportunities to engage directly with prospects that emerge from these programs.

We have done a lot of work with one of our clients defining sales prospects, and the people that use this client’s products and services. We found that these people usually do not make purchase decisions. The typical sale goes like this: a sales prospect (usually a technical person) likes a product or service, and requests a purchase from decision makers. Once the product or service has been purchased, any/all opportunities to engage with the customer take place between the technical user and our client’s sales team. The decision makers are somewhere on the periphery. Opportunities to sell additional products are few and far between.

Given the prospect and customer type, we decided to drop telemarketing as a direct marketing method. We have yet to find a direct marketing method that works for this client. Our experience with discussion groups and Twitter has been less than positive. We filled the direct marketing gap with more marketing communications work.

We focused our product promotion efforts on a redesign of our client’s online brand to develop more opportunities early in the sales cycle to engage directly with decision makers. We did this work through a combination of suggested changes in web site content, a press release campaign, and an online paid advertising campaign.

Another step that we took, after we took a detailed look at what was working and not, was to re-align sales strategy from a complex sale to a transaction sale model. The early results are promising. Sales cycles are shorter, and sales opportunities are more tangible. Stay tuned on this one.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

25
Feb

Google Analytics is a Combination of an Online Tool and a Shared Service

This post concludes our current series on Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

Google Analytics is a combination of a highly configurable online tool and a shared service. Using this web site traffic measurement tool successfully amounts to keeping both points in mind at all times. Some features will be immediately available while others will require a day, or more to work. Google Adwords advertisers can use Adwords customer service to help if features take too long to load.

Most views and custom reports for Google Analytics can be added immediately with a web browser, preferably Google Chrome. Be prepared for a difficult task finding documentation to add reports. We like the Google Analytics Visitor Flow View, but have not been able to successfully configure it to expose information about specific pages on a web site.

Linking Analytics to an Adwords account takes between 24 and 48 hours. If a problem arises, don’t expect an alert. We recently linked Analytics to an Adwords account for one of our clients. An incorrectly configured Analytics filter broke the linking procedure. The problem cost our client 5 days of traffic data, which cannot be retrieved. We found out about the problem by notifying Adwords customer service. A couple of days after notifying them we received an email from the Analytics support team identifying the filter as the problem with a recommendation that we remove it. Once we removed the filter traffic measurement returned to normal very quickly.

If it makes sense to expose an Adwords campaign to Google’s display network, then Analytics can be used to manage the display network domains. We recommend keeping a running list of “excluded domains” for display network sites that produce clicks with high bounce rates. Why pay $5.00 or $6.00 for a click that produces just a bounce off of a landing page?

Google doesn’t provide data about specific keywords for the display network. But the “content targeting” information that is provided, along with a review of specific ads can be used to fine tune campaigns for these sites. Curiously, opting to expose our client’s Adwords campaign to the display network provided us with some unexpected competitive information for our client. It turned out that several sites in the display network were either vendor sites for complementary products in our client’s market, or owned by industry partners.

Mastering Analytics and Adwords is certainly something worth doing for marketing teams supporting Independent Software Vendors (ISVs).

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

22
Feb

Keyword Selection is the Most Important Activity for Successful Search Engine Marketing

Selecting the right keywords is the most important activity for successful Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Web page content should be built around keywords. Structuring content to support keywords lends structure to web sites. Tools like Google’s keyword tool should be used to identify keywords worth studying.

The first step in researching keywords is to pick a set that is directly relevant to:

  • your product or service
  • and the most promising application that your product services for your market

Here’s an example, a software training business researches its customers and finds that most customers use its services, but do not make the purchase decision. This business decides to promote products and services online. The SEM expert selects keywords relevant to training and software. But the SEM expert goes a step further and includes keywords specific to the business case for purchasing the software. This extra step opens an opportunity for group orders for the software training business.

Continuing with this example, the SEM expert produces web page content to support the set of keywords selected for the campaign. Search engines will index the text content, thereby providing an organic basis for inbound traffic based on the targeted set of keywords.

To accelerate the process of capturing useful incoming traffic, the SEM expert produces a click ad campaign. The keywords in the campaign are all included in the set of keywords that the SEM expert used to build the web page content. Bids are placed that promise the software training business ad placements on the first page of search results. A budget is established to control the cost of the campaign.

A program built around this example will produce inbound traffic to a web site at comparatively low cost. Once the traffic reaches the web site, the on-page “calls to action” that we discussed in the prior post to this blog should be included to offer visitors a way to engage, while the content should provide them with a reason to engage.

In the next post to this blog we will discuss Google Analytics at greater length.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

21
Feb

Be Sure to Include Calls to Action in Web Site Content to Attempt to Engage with Visitors

This is the second of two posts to this blog on the topic of goals and events for Google Analytics.

ISVs looking to online media for marketing communications opportunities need engagement with web site visitors. Opportunities to engage are created by including “call to action” content on web pages. Test their effectiveness with events and goals in Google Analytics.

Registration forms, comment boxes, downloads are all examples of “call to action” content. The task is getting web site visitors to “take an action”, usually by filling in the form, or comment box. An event or goal should be set up in Google Analytics for each “call to action.” Actions taken by web site visitors are called conversions in Google Analytics.

Few conversions indicate problems with the surrounding web page content. But make sure, first, that the call to action has been carefully positioned to provide the web site visitor with an easy opportunity to engage. Move the call to action as close to the top of the web page as possible, and then retest before revising web page content. Keep in mind that web site visitors will only scroll down an unfamiliar web page for attractive content.

If the surrounding web page content looks like the problem, change it. Keep this process going until a satisfactory level of engagement with web site visitors has been reached. Lack of engagement with web site visitors is a very common problem and shouldn’t be tolerated. The best way to fix it is to continue to revise site content until web site visitors start engaging.

This same strategy can work for pay per click advertising campaigns. Dedicated landing pages should be built for each click ad. The content on the page should:

  • quickly inform the web site visitor about the specific product or service presented in the click ad
  • and present a call to action, or an opportunity to place an order

It is surprising how few click ads are supported with dedicated landing pages. Including the front page of a business web site as a landing page for a specific click ad seldom produces satisfactory results, but is a very common practice. Save a lot of wasted money by building landing pages for click ads before starting a campaign.

In the next post to this blog we will talk about keywords.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

20
Feb

Goals and Events can be Used with Google Analytics to Pinpoint Problems with Web Site Content

ISVs interested in online marketing can use goals and events with Google Analytics to identify problems with web site content. Google Analytics is a free tool with a lot of features and capability, including goals and events. It isn’t easy to successfully set up Google Analytics goals and events, but we think it is worth the effort. The information collected by these tools can shed light on where, and why web site visitors drop off.

Conceptually, Google Analytics goals and events are two versions of the same tool. By building goals or events, online marketers create a method of tracking visitor activity through a web site. Different visitors drop off of web sites at different times, and for different reasons. Therefore, it is useful to collect information about visitor activity within a web site.

Goals are usually mentioned in the context of conversions. A conversion in Google Analytics is a measurable action taken by a website visitor. What makes the action measurable, is that the online marketer has exposed the action as an option for site visitors. Examples of actions include an opportunity to fill out a registration form on a web site, or to place an order for an item with an online shopping cart, or even to download what we refer to as “level two” content, meaning a white paper, case study, success story, or even a product brochure.

Events are very similar to goals. The same measurable activities can be set up in Google Analytics as events. Online marketers should set up events for visitor actions that take place on complex web pages. To understand what constitutes a complex web page, think about a web page where a “thank you” message appears once a visitor fills out a registration form and sends it for processing. In comparison, on a simple web page, the visitor would be served a “thank you” web page after completing the registration form.

Online marketers should offer web site visitors activities, strategically, meaning at points in a web site where historical information indicates that visitors have dropped off. By collecting data about the rate at which site visitors either choose to perform an action, or not, it should become clear, over time, whether web site content is working as planned.

Simply making changes without data doesn’t make sense when a measurement tool like Google Analytics is available at no charge.

In the next post to this blog we will look closer at events and goals in Google Analytics.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

19
Feb

Complex Content Publishing Systems Pose a Challenge for SEO Efforts

We publish all of our online editorial content with the WordPress blog publishing tool. While this tool poses few challenges to users simply looking for an accessible method of online self publishing, ease of use becomes an issue for WordPress as users require additional features.

WordPress is an option worth some serious consideration for businesses that need a method of quickly publishing no more than marketing communication content. When these businesses need a traditional web site, and want to build it with WordPress, the level of complexity of the application goes up very quickly. WordPress is an application. In other words, WordPress is a software program, which, like other software programs, includes a lot of variables, functions, and more. Any method of transforming the look and feel of a software program like WordPress will likely be put together with even more of the same variables, functions, etc. The end result is a very steep curve, indeed, for anyone looking to build a web site with WordPress. The same challenge faces businesses that need to measure visitor activity on a web site.

Online marketers using a publishing engine like WordPress for ecommerce purposes should carefully consider the resources required to deliver the web site traffic information they will require prior to building the site. If the objective is to collect web site traffic information to support an online advertising campaign with a system like Google Adwords, it makes sense to either:

  • keep the design for the site as simple as possible
  • or build the cost for specialized technical help into a business plan so that the funds will be available to enlist professional help as needed to expand on the functionality of the site

Our preference is the first option. We have lots of experience with static web sites, which are very simple. We now think that building simple static web sites, with, or without a WordPress blog, makes more sense for businesses than committing everything to the WordPress blog platform.

Keep in mind that regardless of whether the measurement method one chooses for Google Analytics amounts to conversion goals, or events, it will be necessary to add code to pages. Obviously it will be easier to add complex code to simple static pages than it will be to add complex code to pages which are dynamically produced by complex code.

In the next post to this blog we will look at the kind of information about visitor behavior on web sites that can be collected with Google Analytics.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

18
Feb

Pay Per Click Advertising Campaigns Need Lots of Management to Deliver on Objectives

With this post, we return to a topic that we revisited on February 12, 2013 in a post to this blog, Search Engine Optimization Continues to be an Essential Component of Online Marketing. Note that we refer to our current interest in SEO as a revisit. In fact, we’ve looked at SEO on several occasions during the life span of this blog; therefore, the present interest that we have in the topic is really nothing particularly new. Rather, we have to be interested in this topic, presently. The web site of one of our client’s promises to produce a lot of useful leads. The gating factor is we need to optimize the site to unlock its treasure.

It’s worth taking a few moments to repeat some of our earlier remarks on this topic, which we made in the context of briefly reporting on an exploration of Dr. Michael Porter’s Five Competitive Forces that Shape Product Strategy.

Back then we noted that the SEO task is very much a task for a product marketer who understands, clearly, that the promotional playing field (if not the commerce playing field, as well) for these online marketing activities is ultra competitive. Obviously, there can only be one number one SERP for a product targeted by a search engine query. There are absolutely no shades of gray on this question. Either your product is at the top of the first page of search results, or not. Sure, one can argue that positions two through ten, are, in fact, the very shades of gray that we just said do not exist, but when one looks closely at results two through ten, one will likely note that the real binary factor is whether one’s product comes up on page one of search engine results, or not.

In any case, getting to the first page, and, even more, getting to the number one spot on the first page of search engine results is exceptionally competitive. Nevertheless, the task of improving SERPs for one’s product, as a means of establishing residence on page one of search engine results, is an activity worth careful consideration as the rewards of a successful effort to attain objectives should be very promising, in deed.

But, when one looks carefully at the market for these services, one cannot help but note a marketplace ambivalence on the topic. In fact, the cost of SEO tools has gone up, substantially over the last several years, but end customers seem less than feverish as regards their level of interest in so-called SEO expert services. Further, a number of the tools manufacturers, themselves, do not seem to be in the best of health. All of this leads us to approach this topic with skepticism.

In the next post to this blog we will present some of our own recent experience with SEO.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

15
Feb

Cost Overruns for IT Projects for the Pentagon Are, Unfortunately, Consistent with Enterprise Experience

This post constitutes our final annotation of an article published on February 11, 2013 by the Wall Street Journal, Send in the Tech Reinforcements. The article was written by Arthur Herrman and John Scott. We found three points in the article to be worth an expression of our own opinion:

  1. One of the clearest presentations that we have seen of a tangible benefit offered by cloud computing for enterprise business and other large organizations in the public and not for profit sectors
  2. A controversial position on the question of whether or not it makes sense to implement operational risk management policies and procedures over IT project implementations
  3. and, finally, a presentation of substantial cost overruns as a characteristic emblem of IT projects implemented on behalf of the Pentagon here in the United States of America

With regard to 3), we are in full agreement with the article authors. The substantial gap between planned IT project costs and the actual cost of delivering the very same IT projects for the Pentagon is extreme and certainly worth an effort to control. We, ourselves, wrote quite early in this blog on a similar topic, albeit strictly with regard to the history of IT project implementation for enterprise business.

In our piece we noted our own lack of familiarity with the concept of Portfolio Management for IT. We then provided a definition for this function for modern enterprise IT organizations, and our opinion that the function has taken on the prominent position that it presently has in enterprise IT organizations as a direct result of the same extensive gap between planned IT project costs in the private sector and the actual expenses associated with them once these projects have been completed.

Now that we read the same type of information in an article on IT project implementation experience in the public sector (the Pentagon), we have to go a step further and posit that, despite 30-40 years of methodology evolution (and a good bit of that evolution effected by prominent, well respected universities like Carnegie Mellon), IT project management continues to fail to deliver on organizational expectations.

Larger ISVs and the consulting firms that typically partner with them on behalf of larger customers, have to do a better job of projecting costs. But is the empirical process of analyzing past experience, and, then projecting a likely outcome, itself, flawed and highly unreliable? In the aftermath of reading an article like the one written by Messrs Herman and Scott we have to answer in the affirmative on that one.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved