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


Quickly Recognizing Website Visitors Leads to Shorter Sales Cycles

We use VisualVisitor on this blog and Talking-SharePoint (a week day blog we write for one of our clients, Rehmani Consulting, Inc).

One of our clients is also using the product to quickly identify visitors to several pages on the customer’s website. In both cases we can say the product is contributing to shorter sales cycles. Here’s a couple of examples:

  • Our second online meeting with one of these prospects included the funding decision maker
  • The business information provided by VisualVisitor helped us identify an influential contact who had gained substantial familiarity with our products from a past employer. So this contact turbocharged the process with her endorsement of our product.
  • In a second case our first online meeting will include several contacts. With different groups represented in our first meeting, we will have a better chance to understand how decisions are made at the prospect’s organization
  • We identified website visitors from a couple of deals in progress. By observing the pages they visited on our website, including the length of their visit to each page, we could catch early indication of a change in purchase direction on the part of one prospect.

We don’t know of many businesses likely to complain about a shorter sales cycle.

We are also big users of Google Analytics. So reviewing historical information about website visits collected with VisualVisitor against data collected from Analytics helps us understand better how our overall market is reacting to the marketing collateral we publish on these websites.

It’s also very useful to have access to the search engine queries leading businesses to our websites. One of our clients purchases click ads with Google. When we correlate queries to click ad campaign objectives, we can remediate market place misunderstandings, while, at the same time, we add value to this client’s campaign by helping them fine tune impressions to communicate the right message to a realistic audience, given their objectives.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Early Stage ISVs Can Use email2lead from netFactor To Rapidly Add Business Information for Website Visitors Produced by eMail Campaigns

Emerging technology businesses, and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), in particular, often operate with a small group of staff members who are comfortable multi-tasking between administrative, sales and support requirements. Email campaigns are a popular promotional method for these businesses. But the multi-tasking nature of daily activity can make it difficult for these businesses to extract the full value from their campaigns. When two people are doing the work of twenty, how will they find the time to collect background information on campaign recipients who pay a visit to the company website?

We’ve been using email2lead from netFactor. We think this product can fill the gap we’ve just described. The online report produced by this tool (which works very well with most email service providers, including MailChimp, iContact, Vertical Response and Jango Mail, just to name a few) provides a very rich set of information in one view, including:

  • Business Background Information for Website Visitors produced by email campaigns
  • The date and time of visits
  • the name of the campaign producing them
  • and the landing page for the visitor on your website

Business background information includes a link to the business’ website, the industry for the business, each geographical location for its facilities and the parent company name.

Exposing all of this helpful information online fuels a very rapid process of collecting important information on site visitors, responding to email campaigns, literally as they happen. Once the campaign is sent to recipients, the report starts to compile, and is ready for access. Sales teams can work with the results in optimum fashion, meaning as soon after a site visit occurs as possible.

Subscribers to the email2lead service can distribute accesss to online reports of campaign activity to all of the personnel who should have this access. This feature streamlines the process of notifying sales teams about prospect site visits. With email2lead there is no need to wait for one or two administrators sharing costly access rights to spread the word. Everyone with access to a web browser can get the same information simultaneously.

We’re keen on the product and also like the business information features, which smaller businesses can use in lieu of separate accounts with marketing lead services and likely save some substantial cash in the process. But the condensed report format is the biggest draw for us. Having all of the information available on one screen, with an option to click on a link to get further information, makes email2lead into a rapid response system, which can be used to capitalize on prospect interest with a perfectly timed sales call.

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


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


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


Use Marketing Communications Programs to Deliver High Quality Leads to Sales

Tech businesses should include marketing communications programs as the primary method of producing high quality leads. Never look to sales teams to produce comparable quality leads through cold calling techniques. In 2013, online product promotion should be the focus of marketing communications efforts.

It is surprising how many small tech businesses continue to look to cold calling as the primary method of developing leads. Somehow cold calling is regarded as a very low cost method of promoting products. But actually the opposite is the case. In 2013 sales people are simply wasting a lot of time placing cold calls.

We have written extensively over the last month about online marketing communications programs, SEO, SEM and pay per click online advertising. We have not written much about cold calling. We need to present some of our concerns about this alternative method of developing leads.

Cold calling programs are rooted in direct marketing. These programs certainly have their place within a product marketing strategy; however, most of the cold calling programs we have participated in lacked the product marketing strategy protective envelope. They simply were not planned correctly. Small tech businesses have to first build a product marketing strategy. Once this cornerstone is in place it may make sense to implement cold calling as a tactic, but not before. Nor does it make sense to push sales people into bully mode when the products they are promoting are complex and require substantial consideration on the part of customers.

Usually cold calling is associated with a particular type of personality, someone who is much more a sales person than a marketer. But the rationale for the tactic for tech product sales, most of the time, is not to close deals, but to build leads. Would it not make sense to use marketers to place these calls? Aggressive techniques do not produce warm reactions across enterprise IT prospects who are already stressed.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


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


Curation is a Method of Presenting a Theme, through Selected Content, to an Audience

Curation is a tactic of driving engagement through online product promotion. Curation is a subtle (we think subliminal) technique of setting a tone (or you might say it is a process of building a theme) with content, or for that matter, products. In our opinion, a definition offered by Minter Dial, What is Social Curation? The 3 key success factors is helpful on the topic, and certainly worth a read.

Curation is nothing new to the Internet. In fact, Delicious, which has been around for years, is an almost pure example of curation. What’s different about curation in 2013, and of interest to us from an online product promotion perspective, is the opportunity afforded to tech businesses to pursue joint marketing opportunities, reciprocal blogging and even linking, within the context of an active content curation program. In fact, strategic alliances can be presented, quite effectively, to an audience through a shared content theme, which has been assembled by curating specific content which is presented, consistently by all parties in the strategic alliance.

Certainly every social media venue, whether one looks to Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, or LinkedIn, is built on curation. In the case of Facebook, at its purest level, the content curated amounts to the personal artifacts of friends who all like the same things. These artifacts can amount to no more than electronic scribbling on Walls. Not to be outdone, the same process can be accomplished with Google Plus, LinkedIn and even Twitter.

We think the day has still not arrived when curation will successfully demonstrate its usefulness as a method of driving engagement. For example, do Twitter users really care about who they follow for any other reason than to attempt to capture an opportunity of collecting a new follower as the result of re publishing someone else’s Tweet at just the right time to capture the interest of a new set of eyes.

On the other hand, if a tech business marketer understands the role, which we think is a subtle one, that curation plays as a nevertheless essential method of building an appealing, familiar surrounding for one’s audience, then we think the important points will have been communicated. For the record, we have no success, to date, implementing curation as a method of driving engagement. Further, from what we understand of the history of Delicious, we think that a truly effective method of capitalizing on this activiy has yet to be found for online product promotion.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Engagement is the Holy Grail of Online Product Promotion

Engagement is the holy grail of online marketing. Broadly speaking, like any other type of product promotion, there are two methods of promoting products online:

  • Passive
  • and Active

Several recent posts to this blog have focused on the active method of using online resources to promote products. Specifically, we’ve talked about email marketing, and, specifically, why, in 2013, it makes more sense for tech businesses to use email marketing as a method of stimulating engagement than it does to use traditional cold call telemarketing.

It’s worth noting that there are several other tactics specific to online marketing at tech businesses can, and should exploit to actively pursue engagement. These other tactics offer users opportunities to push information out to an audience. The tactics, in one form or another, are included in social media applications like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and GooglePlus. They include:

  • Group Discussions
  • Activity Updates
  • Targeted News and Announcements
  • and Annotation

We have substantial current experience with 3 of the above tactics. It’s worth taking a few moments to look at the last of these, annotation. After all, we, ourselves, were slow to understand this tactic. Therefore, we hope that, at the start, our readers will benefit from a definition of annotation. The literal definition of annotation, per the Merriam Webster online dictionary is a note added by way of comment or explanation.

A useful definition of the term, which, perhaps, better presents how it is commonly used in 2013 as a method of pushing engagement, is specific to venues like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus, Yammer (within the confines of an enterprise) and even Salesforce.com (the Chatter feature). Each of these online applications provides an activity feed or status text box. In the case of Twitter, this text field (which offers no more than 149 characters) constitutes the top level feature. All of the engagement features of Twitter depend upon the 149 character text box, and what a user does with it.

What we do with the Twitter text box is usually publish short, pithy notifications to our audience of the availability of content elsewhere, in other words, on blogs, news sites, or even other Twitter pages. Usually we produce the pithy notifications by simply republishing information already published somewhere else. This republishing process is referred to as a “retweet”.

But, rather than simply “retweet”, we like to annotate these pithy notifications with our own very short (usually no more than 20 – 25 characters) original content. Often this original content is produced in the form of an opinion about the pithy notice that we opt to “retweet”. These annotations have produced engagement for us. Specifically, we have engaged directly with the authors of the content promoted by the pithy notices and also, directly with other readers of these notices. In the next post to this blog we will take a look at curation which is very closely related to annotation.

Ira Michael Blonder

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