ExactTarget and Socedo enable direct marketing in an online, otherwise inbound contact world

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthDirect marketers feeling lonely in 2014’s online world can take heart. ExactTarget and Socedo have the tools required to potentially transform an outbound strategy into an online, social media winner.

I’ve been using Socedo for about a month, and recently sat through a couple of ExactTarget product presentations. In my opinion, either of these tools provide direct marketing professionals with methods of proactively engaging with prospects online. The opportunity for this type of, hopefully, person-to-person interaction (as opposed to person to bot interaction), in a world of online product promotion otherwise dominated by inbound marketing solutions (like HubSpot, Pardot, Marketo), is no small feat. Certainly the prominence of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, (along with the information-heavy alerts/newsfeeds they each provide) near the top of the heap of opportunities, online, for personal engagement, contributes to the promise of these tools. But readers are advised not to get sidetracked: the tools themselves are definitely worth some study.

Both tools can be used to identify online content matching patterns, including keywords, prospect profiles, etc. The ExactTarget demonstration I attended included identification and aggregation of online content matching pattern targets in real time. The presentation method included a set of browser widgets, which a user can run, ad hoc, by simply refreshing a browser window.

Socedo and ExactTarget each include a workflow engine. So some of the task of engaging with prospects can be automated. Socedo’s workflow is complex and includes a component which can be configured with a set of criteria the solution will then use to analyze targets prior to presenting them as “leads”. The brief glimpse I had of ExactTarget’s workflow leads me to assume their automation engine is more useful for routing information along to designated contacts within a marketing team, than it would be as a means of placing the whole outbound engagement process on auto pilot (which is where Socedo looks to be going with their processes).

As far as scope is concerned, ExactTarget presents online direct marketers with a panoramic view of just about all of the social media venues they could imagine. In contrast, Socedo is limited (at least at present) to the Twitter fire hose.

Bottom line: early stage ISVs after a method of neutralizing the “passivity potential” of inbound marketing should take a look at one, or better yet, both of these tools. Feel free to contact me for more of my thoughts on either product.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved


Telemarketing Continues to Provide Very Strong Returns Against Investment As Compared to eMail, or Social Media Approaches

Despite an enormous amount of material arguing to the contrary, in this writer’s opinion, telemarketing continues to provide the best return on investment of any sales lead development approach. Recent conversations with personnel from a number of prominent ISVs (active in markets related to Microsoft’s Office platform) indicate these organizations share the same opinion.

Perhaps it can still be argued online product promotion (web content in all its forms — online press releases, web site editorial content, blog articles, status updates to prominent social media venues, etc) is, nevertheless, the best method of driving prospect interest in a product. Further, it may be the case the best method of nurturing prospects through a series of interactions leading up to a purchase interest in a specific solution is to periodically contact these people via email messages. But, ultimately, as these leads transform into consumers with a defined appetite for a specific product, the best method of engagement available to ISVs remains telephone contact, meaning telemarketing or teleprospecting.

To provide some sense of how much more effective telephone contact can prove to be, at the right time, we refer to some work we recently undertook for one of our long standing clients. This ISV had recently exhibited at 3 prominent trade shows for its market. The initial effort to engage with booth visitors, after each event, took the form of a comparatively impersonal broad email message sent to each visitor, in HTML format. In each case the level of incoming activity from booth visitors, post receipt of this email message, was weak. Further, the follow up efforts we undertook immediately after the broad HTML email had been received by booth visitors, which took the form of a personalized text email message, produced equally anemic results.

In contrast, a serious effort to reach out to each booth visitor via a telephone call exposed healthy interest in our client’s solution. Approximately 5% of visitors contacted even expressed some serious interest in purchasing the solution albeit at a later point in time (for example, the next fiscal year).

Bottom line: telemarketing (and, by extension, cold calling) should play a prominent role in any ISVs lead generation planning.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved


Use Direct Marketing to Build Brand Awareness by Sending Press Releases to Website Visitors

Anonymous visitors to websites identified by VisualVisitor, or one of their competitors, can be successfully targeted to receive the type of promotional collateral proven to build brand awareness.

Press releases are an excellent choice for this type of activity. Here’s how to identify recipients:

  1. Select businesses to receive your press release information from the leads list provided by VisualVisitor for your website
  2. Check your internal CRM system for any identified contact from the businesses selected in 1)
  3. Use social media resources, including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google + to add contacts who you can reach
  4. Add these contacts to your internal CRM system
  5. Where possible, send a link to your press release, along with a one paragraph précis of the release, directly to targeted recipients by email
  6. Where an email address is not available, make careful use of messaging features of social media to send the same message to targeted recipients
  7. After sending the press release, note the activity in your internal CRM and schedule another message three (3) months out

This system will help you build marketplace awareness for your brand. We write and publish press releases with PRweb We’ve seen a marked improvement in clicks to our client’s website since implementing VisualVisitor on a blog that we produce for the client.

You will note we recommend scheduling a second email, or social media message to targeted recipients ninety (90) days from your first direct marketing effort. We chose a date several months out to spare the contact from the type of excessive contact activity we’ve noted as the norm for drip email marketing campaigns. Keep in mind, your effort is meant to introduce your brand to the recipient, not to sell your product. Should the recipient have a need for a product in your market in the future, chances are he or she will look further into your offer once your brand has been introduced through this method.

IMB Enterprises, Inc. has considerable recent experience working with direct marketing programs for early stage businesses with technology products. If your business can use a more effective direct marketing program, please contact us to discuss what you need.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Lead Generation Systems for Smaller Business: A Sensible Approach to Outbound eMail Marketing

Direct marketing should be an ongoing activity for businesses of any size. But frequently smaller businesses either overemphasize this lead generation strategy, or complete ignore it. The familiar picture of a small consulting firm with two or three representatives placing lots and lots of unsolicited telephone calls usually lacks one or more smiling faces. This approach is very difficult and expensive when you factor in the amount of time required to identify targets, place calls and, hopefully, finally engage with a contact. As a client once explained to us, “when you do finally find someone who’ll listen to your story, you can bet they’ve got a real hard problem to solve”. So there ought to be a better way to implement a direct marketing strategy for a smaller business on a tight budget.

Let’s start by categorizing direct marketing efforts into “sensible” and “not so sensible” buckets. The picture of a consulting firm’s “boiler room” falls into our “not so sensible” bucket. Lots of work, lots of irate recipients of unsolicited telephone calls, burned out sales representatives and a miniscule contribution to the bottom line. But a plan to use direct marketing efforts to produce leads rather than sales makes more sense and is a worthy addition to the “sensible” bucket. Better yet: this type of program may not be very costly to implement.

VisualVisitor is an example of a Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud system designed to provide website owners with leads, in this case information about visits to their websites from businesses. At a monthly cost of $39.00 we think VisualVisitor is worth some investigation. By focusing direct marketing efforts on the smaller businesses identified by the VisualVisitor system, smaller consulting firms have a better chance of identifying specific individuals who may want to hear about what the firm has to offer. Keep in mind, the reason why the smaller firm is on your radar is a visit placed to your website by someone employed at the firm. So a genuine rationale for a call is available, which is important when placing unsolicited calls to businesses.

In the next post to this blog we’ll look further at this system.

If your business is struggling to identify a sensible lead generation system, please contact us. We’ve put together a package of service specifically for smaller businesses.

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


Product Presentations Do Not Make Good Content for Drip eMail Campaigns

We receive a lot of emails with content designed for drip marketing. Most present product information. An invitation to a webinar on a product topic is a popular call to action for these unsolicited messages. Sometimes they offer white papers, case studies, etc. We don’t think these campaigns work. Here’s why:

One reason for implementing a drip email marketing campaign is to revive dormant leads. Recipients with minimal interest in products aren’t likely to warm up to presentations about them, or success stories, white papers, etc. In order to revive someone’s interest, first give them an opportunity to see themselves in a mirror. Acknowledging someone’s pain points, the likely day to day realities of their job, etc. will go much further to gain their interest.

As we noted earlier in this series, Marketo and Eloqua both take precisely this approach. They use editorial copy to focus on pain points and the challenges most mid level marketing managers at mid to large size businesses in 2013 face. Recipients who choose to read a message will be more likely to maintain an interest as emails later in these campaigns present other reasons to engage of a more substantive nature.

But the companies buying the services that Marketo and Eloqua offer somehow miss the need to communicate to recipients that their position is understood as a first step towards engagement. When we receive an email from VMware to attend an event on a highly sophisticated topic specific to enterprise class IT organizations considering virtualization as a solution to on premises hardware lifecycle challenges, our interest is not piqued. VMware hasn’t paid attention to who we are, or why we registered for their mailing list, so their whole campaign amounts to wasted effort.

There is certainly a better way to implement drip marketing campaigns. The actual first step, meaning before the first email is drafted, is to construct a registration form that collects the right information to ensure that the campaign is built on a truly useful theme for a recipient. More about the form in the next post to this blog.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Drip eMail Campaign Recipients Must be Managed with Courtesy

Regardless of whether recipients opt out of drip email campaigns, or not, businesses responsible for the campaigns must adjust the timing of messages to adhere to the guidelines of courteous behavior. Building an acceptable schedule of mailings can be a problem.

If a target list of recipients has been put together from the dormant leads mentioned throughout this series, sending a first unsolicited email message can be interpreted, perhaps rightfully, as a discourteous act. We always include an apology for intruding on a recipient’s time at the very top of email messages for these campaigns. Any requests to opt out should be received as quickly as possible. Recipients are more likely to let you know they want to be removed from a campaign recipient list when an apology has been included in the first email message.

You need to carefully mail unsolicited content. If you use a service like iContact, MailChimp, or ConstantContact, to distribute your drip messages, you will lose your right to use the service if the frequency of spam reports crosses a threshold. Learning quickly that someone wants to be removed from your list benefits your campaign. Just be sure to comply with the request and completely remove the individual from your recipient list. We advise deleting the recipient’s information entirely from your list to avoid any inadvertent future mailings.

Another useful option, especially where the recipient list is made up of dormant leads, is to stagger mailings over a longer interval. Sending out unsolicited messages once a month, or perhaps no more than twice a month may be acceptable to recipients. We include apologetic language in our content for these mailings, as well, along with an explanation of why we think recipients may want to take the time to read the message.

If recipients do not respond to mailings over a set time frame — we think six months makes sense for most campaigns — best practices dictate transitioning recipients to a different schedule with longer intervals between emails.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Cost to Benefit Realities for Drip eMail Marketing may be Attractive for Smaller Businesses

It may make sense for truly small businesses to implement drip email marketing campaigns to try to resuscitate dead leads.

Email campaigns for small businesses usually amount to a sales pitch directed to specific recipients. But the process of sifting through contacts to find leads with genuine interest in products and services, which is what drip email marketing is all about, should be as productive for very small businesses as it is for their larger counterparts.

What is the cost of developing a set of 24 email messages, usually with less than 100 words per message? Even at $1.00 per word, a one-time fixed expense of $2400.00 can buy a very small business a six month campaign of timed emails on a specific product or service. This type of campaign can certainly be applied to an unlimited number of contacts.

If we expand on this idea, for a small business with 5 core products, then the cost of developing a drip email marketing campaign for each product amounts to $9200.00. If the average price of a product is $100.00, then the total cost of all of the campaigns is entirely recouped with 92 sales.

There is no limit to the number of contacts who can be scheduled to receive the emails. As long as products are not changed, the same investment can pay for itself over and over again. Human intervention is only required to review the results of campaigns and to make adjustments to improve performance. Autoresponders can be used with complete success to send out emails to contact lists on specific dates.

A cost per click online advertising campaign does not represent a fixed expense for a very small business and cannot be reused without additional expense. A significant amount of management time is required to optimize CPC campaigns, especially when advertisers need to use display networks.

The success of neither a drip email marketing campaign, nor for a CPC search engine advertising effort can be guaranteed by anyone. But the cost of drip email marketing campaigns may be within the reach of established very small businesses.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Drip eMail Campaigns Should be Built Around a Consistent Prospect Profile

The is the second of two blog posts on what makes sense for direct marketing in 2013.

Eloqua’s drip marketing campaign service is a direct competitor to Marketo. The picture of an ideal prospect that we put together from the Eloqua campaign looks like a mid level manager at a $100 million small business and up. Neither Eloqua nor Marketo has a solution for truly small business.

The editorial content positions Eloqua as an authority on the topic of “marketing automation.” The emails focus on industry best practices. We also found some of the old “fear, felt and found” structure that big companies made use of back in the mid 1980s. The reader is advised to follow the leaders who are all adopting the type of campaign analysis that Eloqua markets.

A closer look at the reader reveals a junior professional who needs the tips an authority like Eloqua can offer. This picture is consistent across each of the email messages that we received.

What can smaller ISVs learn from the examples set by Eloqua and Marketo? As we noted in yesterday’s post, the object of both campaigns is to inform recipients about features of products. There is no effort to sell recipients anything. But each email includes a call to action, usually for a download or to sign up for an online webinar.

Therefore, smaller ISVs should implement similar methods when they design drip email marketing campaigns as their principal direct marketing effort. The objective should be to identify sales leads from dormant contacts.

For editorial content requirements, we think that ISVs should use the type of writer capable of producing blog post content to craft an original set of emails. Twenty four email messages should be satisfactory for a 6 month campaign to revive dormant leads. No more than 75 words per drip email should be required to get an effective offer in front of recipients.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


What Kinds of Direct Marketing Tactics Work in 2013 for ISVs?

ISVs in 2013 need to ask what works for direct marketing. Editorial content, activity updates to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, together with content annotation, are all useful methods of stimulating online visitors to engage, but telephone cold calls no longer promise the big returns of the past. What should direct marketing teams do to productively contribute to lead generation efforts?

Dormant leads are a great target market to serve with product information. As we wrote earlier this year, drip email marketing is the preferred tactic for this type of campaign. Direct marketing teams are a perfect choice to lead this effort.

We are on the lists of two of the most successful proponents of this tactic, Marketo and Eloqua.

Marketo emails content to its targets every 7 to 10 business days. Each message includes a call to action, usually to either download a report or to register for an event. Marketo uses free offers to encourage email recipients to engage.

Themes for drip email messages are crafted to illustrate a set of problems that target audiences usually experience. Different features of Marketo’s system are designed to solve each of the common needs presented by the emails. Recipients are kept interested with a range of different topics. Content is almost never repeated, but the same system features are regularly covered each month.

The goals for engagement, for example, analyst reports, or participation in discussions on industry best practices, are strictly made up of “advertorial” content. White papers present problems common to recipients, but the solutions are specific to Marketo’s system.

The typical recipient for the email drip marketing campaign is a mid level marketing manager who reports to either a head of marketing or sales. Recipients are kept on the contact list, regardless of whether they reply to emails, or not.

We do not have any familiarity with the direct mail version of Marketo’s method. We hear that target recipients are usually senior managers.

In the next post to this blog we will look at how Eloqua puts together a drip email campaign.

Ira Michael Blonder

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