Use Leads from Anonymous Website Visitor Data to Build Online Exposure

We’ve been using VisualVisitor for just about a week as of today, April 29, 2013. The best application we’ve found is to use this tool to build online exposure for our websites.

Once a business is verified as a website visitor we search our existing contacts for matching names. If we can’t find any (often the case), we use LinkedIn, JigSaw, etc. to identify any contacts likely to have an interest in the products on our websites. If we find the names we’re after, we’ll place a telephone call to solicit a valid email address for the person. If we aren’t able to locate a legitimate email address for one of these leads, we usually delete it. There have simply been far too many leads coming in to spend extra time trying to engage with prospects where we can’t produce a working email address or telephone number.

But where we’ve come up with reliable contact information, we’re using it to spread word about our sites. We compose an email message with a broad set of information about our sites. We don’t try to determine if a specific contact actually visited our site, or not. A couple of conversations we had with contacts early in this trial produced revealed contact sensitivity about the sites they visit, why they visit them, etc. So we decided to entirely drop this effort from our campaigns.

As we mentioned in earlier posts on this topic, where a business is small enough to produce a workable set of prospects, a prompt follow up email should produce some useful results, meaning opportunities for direct engagement. But we can’t make claims to have produced this type of result, at least as of now, with the follow up editorial content we’ve sent out to date. We expect to see an increase in site traffic, as well as some repeat visits and will report any successes we experience right away.

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about VisualVisitor, or its competitors please contact us.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Good Guys Don’t Always Look the Part — Concluding Our Review of ‘Facebook Leans In’ by Kurt Eichenwald

This is our final post on Kurt Eichenwald’s article on Facebook, Facebook Leans In.

But what’s potentially more damaging to Facebook about Mr. Eichenwald’s article is the very digital nature of the editorial content, which amounts to a set of ones and zeros. Facebook is all good. Mark Zuckerberg is the most polite guy, etc. The analysts just don’t get it, etc.

Neither the subject of the article, nor publisher benefits from this type of one-sided prose. If the PR team at Facebook had an opportunity to review the draft of the article prior to publishing, they should have asked for a more critical view, if for nothing else, then to ensure the prose would depict a credible business.

Certainly PR campaigns benefit, to some meaningful extent, when independent authors (Mr. Eichenwald) decide to write about them, and a prominent publication (Vanity Fair) decides to publish this type of article. But the fine line, especially for larger businesses (Facebook is now, comparatively, a very large business), must be used to demarcate “helpful” from “damaging”. This “line” has a lot to do with the plausibility of the content. Facebook would have benefited more from a balanced treatment of the gap between wall street analysis and management’s objectives, with some meaningful description of the mistakes the company has made, not only in its message, but how it’s opted to deliver the message to the market.

But, in our opinion, this type of hyperbole is typical of other articles on technology topics we’ve read by Mr. Eichenwald as published in Vanity Fair. In August, 2012 he wrote another lopsided piece, this time highly critical of Microsoft®: Microsoft’s Lost Decade. As we now enter the ninth month since this article was published, the resurgence in Microsoft’s share price is comforting to us and indicative of how the marketplace appears to have shrugged off Mr. Eichenwald’s unbalanced view of the business.

Bottom line: early stage ISVs will do well to pick their PR opportunities carefully, ever attentive to their brand and marketing communications objectives.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Using Public Relations to Rebrand a Business — Now Facebook has been Misunderstood

The positive or negative impact of a marketing communications (MARCOM) campaign is often not considered by early stage ISVs. For very early stage tech businesses, MARCOM is either an after thought, or entirely non existent. This oversight is a big mistake. After all, as we were once counseled, “no message is a message”. Entrepreneurs do well to factor in a brand, even where they’ve made no effort to build one. The marketplace will build one, anyways.

But what’s even worse, in our estimation, than no brand, is an ineptly managed one. We think a prominent tech business, Facebook, is an example of a business mismanaging its brand, at least since its IPO.

So how dangerous are MARCOM mistakes? To use Facebook as an example — very dangerous. Simply consider the poor performance of the company’s stock, post IPO. We don’t think the appearance of the CEO, the treatment of Wall Street Analysts, and the general public impression of the business do much of anything, if at all, to correct these mistakes.

But it looks as if the public relations (PR) team at Facebook thinks they can solve the brand problem. We aren’t sure. In an article published in the April edition of Vanity Fair, Kurt Eichenwald spends a lot of words transmitting a picture of Facebook, and Mark Zuckerberg in particular, as just “misunderstood”. The article is titled Facebook Leans In. If Mr. Eichenwald is correct, then the MARCOM team at Facebook has certainly failed their mission, at least at the level of subliminal message for the marketplace. It’s s MARCOM job to make sure the public gets absolutely the right message about a business. If the CEO is misunderstood, the big problem should be laid on the doorstep of MARCOM.

We don’t think PR works well where the campaign theme must point a critical finger over at MARCOM. But perhaps we’re missing something. Perhaps the implications of the “misunderstood” theme simply escaped the PR folks at Facebook. We fear something else is at work here. The object of the “misunderstood” theme is to rally the public around the CEO and the company at the expense of the Wall Street Analysts who just don’t get it. After all, the public could care less about what “misunderstood” implies, right?

More on this real life example of MARCOM and PR at work in the next post to this blog.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Don’t Forget the Cyclical Nature of Trends in Software Development

On April 24, 2013, The readwrite web site published an article by Brian Proffitt: The New API Gold Rush. We think this post is important. If APIs are re-emerging as a necessary feature of software product offers, then the “universal client” moniker for the web browser may be up for a challenge.

What’s driving market interest in APIs is the explosive growth of interest in small, smart mobile devices (SSMDs). Sure these devices provide buyers with lots of ways to use the Internet and multi-tenant cloud services. But the devices, themselves, are highly branded at the hardware and software levels. Therefore, vendors need to provide partners with APIs to port applications over to their platforms.

We think this trend will continue to build momentum over the near future. We also think it’s likely that the kind of highly individualized computing experience of the mid 1980s, when the market for PCs was in explosive growth mode, has already started to recur around SSMDs.

We’ve gained useful first hand experience with two of these devices: the WindowsPhone 8 (HTC 8X) and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1. We can say, conclusively, with regard to the Galaxy Note 10.1, some of the important PlayStore Apps required a substantial rewrite to work. For example, we grappled for over a week simply to get the Wall Street Journal App working correctly on the tablet.

We also experienced a lot of issues when we attempted to use the Galaxy Note with a Bluetooth keyboard manufactured by Belkin. The keyboard communications issues not only impacted the usefulness, for us, of the entire device, but also the individual software components — meaning different browsers. Of course, browsers are the cornerstone of “universal client” computing. So when browsers aren’t working right with keyboards, then some important obstacles are at hand.

Brian Proffitt’s article reports on today’s hot market for APIs. We think this trend will continue.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Implementing a Direct Marketing Process for Online Promotion is Mandatory for Smaller Businesses

Despite all the talk of difficult tech buyers in 2013, an essential component of any successful marketing communications plan for a smaller business must be a direct marketing effort. While sales and marketing personnel wait for the telephone to ring, or for an email to pop up expressing product interest or pricing, they must be engaged doing something productive. Why not a direct marketing effort?

VisualVisitor, or netFactor provide the rationale to directly engage with businesses with the potential to become sales prospects. A timely combination of careful use of social media (for example, LinkedIn), telemarketing, and outbound email messaging should be used to follow up on at least the businesses that appear to have the most potential.

Careful use of social media means respecting the privacy of other members. A feature of membership in a group, for LinkedIn, includes an option to send messages to other members. Any message sent to a recipient who will interpret the engagement as unsolicited must include an apology for intrusion. The phraseology needn’t be especially formal. Merely a “Sorry to bother you, but . . . ” can work wonders. LinkedIn monitors messaging very closely. A very limited number of “LinkedIn Messages” are included with paid subscriptions. Even one or two complaints about messages can be damaging, not to mention the basis of restrictions on one’s ability to send messages in the future.

Placing a call to a business to solicit an email address for an appropriate contact makes sense and is worth the effort. Where possible, approximately 80% of outbound email messaging should be sent directly to business email addresses, with no more than 20% sent through LinkedIn, or another social media.

Sales and marketing personnel should be trained to skip over website visitors from businesses either unlikely to move forward with genuine product interest. or simply too complex to penetrate. Verizon, AT&T, Bank of America all fall into the “too complex to penetrate” category.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Successfully Using a Service like VisualVisitor Requires a System to Manage Lead Volume

For a moderately high traffic website, meaning one with at least an approximate 4K new visits per month, a successful implementation of a website visitor identification system like VisualVisitor requires a method of managing the volume of “leads” the system will produce.

We maintain a site targeted to a B2B audience. Our site meets the traffic profile of a moderately high traffic web site. We implemented VisualVisitor on Friday of last week. We’ve received in excess of 200 “leads” since implementing the system. What to do?

A management system is required. This system can either be built with inhouse resources, or a service provider (for example, IMB Enterprises, Inc., please contact us to learn more) should be selected to manage the supporting system.

A broad objective of the lead management system is to identify high value prospects. One of at least two options can be used to organize leads to successfully deliver this objective: either face the leads to a key account and prospect lists, or structure website architecture to provide a path for higher value prospects to traverse, thereby automating the process of unearthing where it makes sense for your staff to spend time.

Here’s how the latter system works. We implement the type of “call to action” structure for web site pages usually used for pay per click advertising campaigns, but now applied to our campaign to expand the visibility of our website via organic promotional efforts. So when we receive leads from VisualVisitor of visits to our call to action pages, and other important spots on our site (for example, a page with a download link for whitepapers, case studies, etc), these visits are immediately scrutinized. Staff takes the steps required to attempt to engage with these prospects as soon as possible. Keep in mind that freshness is absolutely crucial to maintaining the pace of a progressive engagement with prospects.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


How to Successfully Reach Out to Otherwise Anonymous Web Site Visitors Once You’ve Identified Them

We got our demonstration code for the VisualVisitor website visitor tracking service going on Friday of last week. As we wrote in an earlier post, the service cannot identify specific individuals from the businesses identified as visiting a specific web site. But we still think there is a very good chance the service will quickly pay for itself (the monthly cost is $39.00 per website).

It is certainly possible to identify web site visitors without a tool like VisualVisitor. JavaScript developers can likely use the core Google Analytics tag structure, or their own custom design, to match IP addresses to the businesses that own them with publicly available WHOIS servers. The same developers can also write filters to exclude visits from ISPs. But the cost of writing this custom code far exceeds the $39.00 per month charged by VisualVisitor.

Once site visitors are identified by business, VisualVisitor can be configured to connect to a specific LinkedIn account. We experimented with using our LinkedIn account to identify personnel at these businesses involved with the type of product our web site promotes. We went as far as to identify the right people at these visiting businesses, and used the groups feature of LinkedIn to send messages to contacts.

But we need to highlight the importance of keeping the content of these messages very closely aligned to a product or service announcement (in other words, a press release type of format). As we noted in the last post, be sure to include an acknowledgement at the start of your message of the unsolicited nature of the engagement attempt. A couple of the responses we received back through LinkedIn included an assessment, by the recipient, of the “appropriateness” of our message. LinkedIn very carefully monitors the basis for engagement between members. Be sure to carefully build the right content to avoid any restriction on your ability to use this service in the future.

Wherever possible, use either a web site form or an actual email address of a recipient rather than the LinkedIn feature.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


VisualVisitor and netFactor Combine Lead Lists with Web Site Data

We refer to VisualVisitor and netFactor as hybrid lead services. Both offers combine the kind of data Hoovers, and its competitors, offer along with the web site visit data we’ve discussed over the last few posts to this blog.

It makes sense for any service in this category to present a similar combination of features. As we explained in the last post, it’s simply not possible to positively identify a specific business (let alone a specific individual within the business) as a visitor to a web site based solely on an entry to a traffic log. So these services combine lead lists with the visitor data. If nothing else, the lead list information will be useful.

At an advertised monthly cost of just $39.00, VisualVisitor is certainly less expensive than either a monthly subscription to Hoovers, or even a monthly subscription to a direct competitor, for example, netFactor. We’ve registered for a free trial of the service and plan on reporting on our experience shortly.

But it makes sense for small businesses to consider a subscription to a service like VisualVisitor for other reasons. Inside sales teams can be tasked with reaching out to the companies identified as probable visitors to a web site. We recommend opting not to refer to the site visit at all. Just to recap: you can’t be sure anyone from the prospect actually visited your site. Even if they actually visited the site, they decided not to complete your contact form, or any other call to action on your site.

Either a carefully scripted outbound telemarketing call, or an email message makes sense as a first effort to engage with these anonymous visitors. We like to include an apology in the script for the call, or the content of the email message. Don’t lose sight of the fact that your prospect never requested the call.

Once the apology is out of the way, a short statement of why it may make sense for the prospect to give you some of his or her time should follow right away. We refer to this “slight taste of product presentation” as a method of qualifying the real interest level of the prospect as early into the engagement process as possible.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Just How Much Information Can You Get from an IP Address About Visitors to Your Website?

Before we look closer at VisualVisitor and a competitive offer from netFactor, it’s worth taking a post to present some general information about the technical foundations of online marketing.

The internet is more than just a location for a business web site. “Internet” is also the name of a data communications protocol, otherwise known as “IP”. It makes sense for web site owners looking to use their spot on the world wide web (WWW) as a marketing communications tool to understand more about the features of IP data communications. Some of the difficulties most businesses encounter when they attempt to use online marketing techniques to produce sales leads can be directly attributed to the unique character of IP data communications.

Visits to websites are recorded in web server logs, which, in turn, provide the basis for one approach to tracking web site visitors. This approach takes the IP addresses of web site visits and compares them to the public records maintained by IP address registrars, for example, GoDaddy.com, to obtain contact information about the actual visitor to the web site.

GoDaddy offers a look up service called “WhoIs”. Trained personnel, or computer programs, run IP addresses through a WhoIs look up and produce a report of visits by name. But, very often, the IP address is actually provided by an Internet Service Provider on an as needed basis. In these cases it isn’t possible to directly correlate an IP address to a specific business.

Even an alternative approach to the same type of service, which is much more popular today, cannot provide substantially more useful information about visitors. This approach, which provides the backend to a service like Google Analytics, uses JavaScript to deliver similar information.

But by collecting a lot of data about specific IP addresses and visit patterns to other web sites, services likely VisualVisitor are now able to go a lot farther than either out of the box Google Analytics or even a sophisticated study of web server logs. These new techniques provide the basis of the claims VisualVisitor and its competitors make about their ability to deliver truly useful web site visitor information.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Converting Anonymous Web Site Visits into Lead Opportunities

Another component of our online marketing solution is a better understanding of the behavior of visitors to a web site. The purpose of this component is to provide our clients with the information they need to hasten conversion of anonymous web site visits into business leads. For most small businesses with a web site, including persuasive call to action editorial content in site content has been the only accessible method of converting anonymous visitors into business leads. But the task of designing truly persuasive call to action content has become increasingly more challenging as the world wide web approaches a twentieth anniversary. Using pay per click (PPC) advertising campaigns to present this content to the online market is, potentially, a very expensive strategy, especially so if the intended results are not forthcoming.

We’re looking closely at a company called VisualVisitor. They claim their analytics can be used to connect the IP addresses of anonymous web site visitors with telephone numbers. Imagine what a direct marketing team at your small business could do with the telephone numbers of your site visitors, regardless of whether they complete a registration form on your web site or not. If we hear what we think we will hear about this service, we plan on combining it with ClickBack in our online marketing automation offer for small businesses.

Before you run off to the VisualVisitor web site to sign up, you’ll need to design a plan for your direct marketers to gracefully place a telephone call to your site visitors. Most of the visitors, if not all of them, opted not to respond to your call to action. Simply calling them and referring to a visit to your web site will seldom work. We have a better way to make that connection. Contact us to learn more.

We’ll provide more information about VisualVisitor in tomorrow’s post to this blog.

Ira Michael Blonder

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