Archive for June, 2012
Guest post by Lisa Cramer.
We used to analyze website effectiveness by how well it conveyed who you are as a company and how quickly and easily it informed visitors of the value you deliver to them. And while we continue to discuss website effectiveness in terms of conversions – providing content that prospects find interesting enough to be willing to give up some of their own information in order to receive it – now that’s no longer enough. Now, with more and more buyers doing their research online at your website and other sites, it’s important to be able to digitally track and see as much as we can about that company and person before they ever reveal themselves to us.
Online tracking of web visitors has taken on added importance for sales and marketing. While web analytics software tells us important metrics like how many visitors we have, which pages they visit and for how long, sales and marketing need more leads.
Using web analytics I can evaluate how my site’s doing as a sales and marketing tool, but now it’s time to take it a step further. I need to be able to actually see if the prospects I’m trying to attract to my website are indeed the ones visiting. I need to see what pages those companies go to and what exactly they are doing on my site. And even more to the point, I need to be able to turn that anonymous visitor into a known entity.
When a company visits your website anonymously, technology can’t tell you who the individual is, but it can certainly tell you their company. And, with links to readily available data sources (including LinkedIn) you can easily find the individuals with the titles that are your targets. When a company comes onto your website it’s an opportunity for you to proactively take its anonymous interest and turn it into a lead. We know from client experience that taking anonymous visitors and converting them into identified prospects directly leads to revenue.
The key criteria in converting an anonymous visitor to a known lead is to not only know who the company is but what they were looking at on your website. For example, if Company A was visiting the LeadLife website and it spent a long time looking at pages and blog posts related to lead nurturing, then we would know to engage the VP of Marketing, CMO and/or CEO in a discussion about lead nurturing’s value to sales and marketing, and ultimately, to the bottom line. Conversely, it would be much more difficult to generate their interest if we had instead initiated a conversation on lead scoring.
What’s now available in technology and supported through process change can help you to make sure your website is performing for sales and marketing in the most effective way. It’s no longer only important to analyze website metrics such as the number of visitors; it’s now time to convert those previously anonymous visitors to known ones.
About the Author
Lisa Cramer is president and co-founder of LeadLife Solutions, a provider of an on-demand lead management solution that helps drive revenue by bundling a state of the art marketing automation platform with highly-experienced marketing and sales specialists. In 2009 and 2010, Lisa was recognized as one of the top five “Most Influential People” in sales lead management, and in 2011 was named one of the Top 20 Women to Watch in sales lead management. Follow Lisa on Twitter @lisajcramer or connect on her B2B marketing blog.
Sales leads generated through inbound marketing–the combination of content marketing, blogging, social media, website chat and SEM–cost 61% less than those produced through traditional demand generation techniques (e.g., online or print advertising, trade shows, telemarketing, direct mail) according to research from HubSpot.
But as compelling as those cost savings are, the arguably larger financial impact is that social and content strategies change much of what marketing does from an expense (an expenditure tied to immediate consumption) to an investment (an allocation with a long-term payback). Buying a bag of apples at the grocery store is an expense; planting an apple tree is an investment.
While some aspects of inbound marketing (SEM, email marketing, webinars) clearly remain in the expense column, three of its key components clearly should be classified as investments, as long-term appreciating assets.
Blogging: for any new business blog, traffic typically starts out modest but grows over time. One reason is that reader subscriptions (when via email or RSS feed) tend to grow over time as the blog establishes its voice and readership. But the larger factor is SEO: the longer a blog is actively contributed to, the more content there will be for search engines to index, the more links it will attract, and hence the more search-driven traffic it will enjoy.
The major search engines also seem to give blogs more respect over time. Newly-launched blogs typically generate a very small share of total traffic from organic search, but the proportion builds over time. It’s not unusual to see clear upward inflection points in search traffic after the first six and 12 months a blog is active.
Social Networking: whether on an individual or corporate account basis, a social network grows over time as credibility is established. It’s difficult to build a large social following on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+ or any other such site right out of the gate. But if the user is consistent, helpful, and engaging, it’s virtually inevitable that the following will grow over time. Like a blog, each social media account is an appreciating asset.
Content Marketing: while some content is designed for short-term needs, much of it has long-term value. Blog posts, videos posted to YouTube or Vimeo, presentations on SlideShare–all can continue to attract new viewers years after they are first created. Well-written white papers can also serve as effective long-term lead-generation assets.
Inbound marketing therefore not only makes marketing more efficient, but also more strategically valuable to the organization. It’s no longer just about spending money to generate leads this month or this quarter, but about developing content and connections that increase in value and continue to pay off over the long term.
Twitter went down for about 80 minutes hours today (more or less, depending on where you are), reminding many people how psychologically dependent on it they’ve become. Here are the top 10 tweets (once service was restored, of course).
6. (I refuse to answer)
@BElizabeth8602 #Twitter was down – were you more productive? Or did you whine like a little baby like I did? | http://www.technolog.msnbc.msn.com/technology/technolog/twitter-goes-down-productivity-skyrockets-839685
5. (white people problems)
@Hilibofas #twitter being down was the worst thing to happen to me today. I couldn’t post any Justin Bieber leaders to my followers! Was so steamed!
And the number one tweet about the Twitter outage…
Got your own favorite(s)?
You’ve seen the statistics: mobile browsing (e.g., browsing the web using a smart phone or other mobile device) will eclipse desktop web browsing sometime in 2013. Yikes! More than half of my website traffic coming from mobile phones? I’m not ready!
Relax (unless you’re in the relatively small group of businesses that shouldn’t). Mobile browsing is unquestionably having an impact on website strategy, but the impact varies widely among different sectors based on a variety of factors.
Type of business: if you run a bar, restaurant or specialty retail shop that is dependent on local traffic, then by all means you had better have a sophisticated local and mobile web strategy. As recently as five years ago, many of your patrons were likely finding you through the (print) yellow pages. Most households don’t even want those tree-killing doorstops anymore, much less do they use them.
Local service businesses have a bit more breathing room, but only a bit. If you offer home repair, plumbing, electrical, landscaping or other types of services, your clients may use the “big screen” of a desktop or laptop PC to find your company, read about your offerings. and research reviews. But even this simple research is becoming increasingly mobile.
For B2B companies with complex offerings, however, the pressure is far less urgent. For considered purchases, where the research is generally conducted within the workplace environment, desktop browsing still reigns. Based on analysis of traffic patterns of b2b technology websites I’ve worked with (more than 40 are displayed in my Google Analytics home screen view currently), mobile browsing is a growing but still fairly small part of the picture. This is not a comprehensive study but is likely to be generally representative of B2B websites.
Note that, on the one hand, the share of total website traffic nearly doubled from the first quarter of 2011 to the first three months of 2012—a clear indication of increasing use of mobile browsers to access b2b websites. But note also that the mobile proportion is still only 1 of every 16 visitors on average, and as few as 1 of 50 at the low end of the range. Hence: prepare, but don’t panic.
That observation doesn’t tell the complete story, however, as a portion of those visitors are using tablets, with screens almost as large as small laptops. What’s really crucial to consider is how many visitors are coming to your site from a smart phone with a small format screen.
When tablets (such as the iPad) are excluded, the share of mobile visitors is considerably smaller; roughly 2/3 of all mobile visitors. These are the potential visitors for whom you really need an optimized mobile website experience. But though they have increased by nearly 50% in the past year, they still account for just 1 out of every 24 visitors to the typical B2B tech company website, on average.
Type of information sought: whereas desktop computers are used for a wide range of tasks including in-depth research, mobile devices (in a b2b context) are most frequently used for three purposes:
- • Fact-checking: is the software both Windows- and Mac-compatible, or better yet, completely cloud-based? What are the dimensions of a device, or specific properties of a material?
- • Location-based information: where is your closest sales office? Where can I take the item for service?
- • Communication: not surprisingly, as communications were the initial purpose of mobile devices, your customers and prospects will often visit your mobile site seeking to contact your company. Make it easy with click-to-call buttons, email links, and links to your Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts.
Demographics: while one has to be careful here to avoid stereotypes (and it is true that 82% of CEOs own smartphones), there’s no question that digital natives (those born in 1990 or later) are simply more immersed in mobile technology (having literally grown up with it) and are therefore likely to be, all other things being equal, heavier users of the mobile web than are typical b2b decision makers (generally in their 40s, 50s or 60s).
Again, a sophisticated mobile presence is essential now for bars, clubs, gyms, universities, restaurants, theaters, and any other business catering to 20-somethings. Digital natives are the b2b decision makers of tomorrow, so again, when it comes to b2b mobile web presence, companies need to prepare but not panic.
Specifically, here are three steps b2b marketers should take today if they don’t already have a mobile strategy in place:
1. Check you website analytics to see what percentage of your visitors are coming from mobile devices. If it’s more than 5%, you need to develop a mobile plan for website design. If it’s more than 10%, you need to develop a mobile website—quickly.
2. Check to see how your current website looks on a variety of mobile devices, or use mobile device emulators. If it isn’t the experience you’d want your customers and prospects to have, you need to develop a mobile plan.
3. When developing your mobile site plan, be sure to incorporate best practices in mobile website design.
When it comes to mobile and b2b, don’t freak out over the hype, but do take action.
Guest post by Christopher Wallace.
Believing that your posts to Twitter or Facebook are more important than those of your friends may be a sign of egotistical delusion (or perhaps your friends just put up lousy, boring posts).
Regardless, Facebook may soon give its users the opportunity to leapfrog their status updates to the top of the pile.
The social media giant recently launched a pilot program in New Zealand that allows users to pay to ‘highlight’ a post, meaning that it will appear near the top of friends’ News Feeds and remain their longer, even if it doesn’t receive the clicks, comments, and ‘Likes’ that usually push a popular post to the top.
In the Kiwi-based trial run, the costs of a highlight range from 40 cents to $2 (New Zealand dollars). Various iterations of the ‘highlighted post’ are being tested as well, including some that indicate a post as highlighted (read: paid).
Let’s look for a minute at the pros and cons for Facebook of a paid post program launching for all users:
- It’s Not Unprecedented
- In February, blog platform Tumblr launched an option for all users to pay $1 to highlight a post. The company has been vehemently anti-ads from the get-go, but had to find a new revenue source to remain in business (custom template themes are still their primary cash generator).”Every now and then, a post comes along that’s meant for big things,” read the official announcement, urging users to utilize the feature to promote shows, causes, and new projects.
- Tumblr’s decision wasn’t met with the sort of animosity from users that a similar move by Facebook likely would be. People recognize the need to monetize online platforms, but it’s hard to look at Facebook and see them as needing more money when all the talk is of founder Mark Zuckerberg’s billions of dollars in net worth and a massive initial public offering (IPO) on Wall Street.Still, it helps to have Tumblr as a good example leading the way.
- Paid Posts (Kind of) Already Exist
Since January 2011, business pages on Facebook have been able to promote their status updates with “Sponsored Stories.” These posts reach the eyes of users who ‘Like’ the business, without cluttering up their News Feed. Considering that the average status updates reaches only about 12 percent of a user’s friends, the feature has proved an effective tool for businesses that already have ‘fans’ on Facebook (meaning that the posts don’t spam unsolicited users).
- Investors Will be Happy
Facebook desperately wants to avoid being the next Groupon, whose IPO last year was followed by a collapse of stock value, dropping to a third of their peak value within four months. By demonstrating initiative to increase cash flow, Facebook will build confidence in investors and maintain share value.
- User Backlash Could Be Brutal
Any changes to the user experience on Facebook have to be conducted extremely carefully, and a shift in how posts are prioritized on News Feeds will have far bigger ramifications than just updating every user to a new aesthetic like they did with Timeline.
Currently, Facebook ads are fairly unobtrusive. That may contribute to their dismal 0.5 percent click-through rate (and General Motors’ high profile pullout of their $10 million advertising campaign).
Still, dropping what essentially amounts to ads prominently into News Feeds could drive users away to smaller, less-commercialized social networking options.
- Spammers Will Figure Out How to Take Advantage
If Facebook launches paid posts, they will immediately be forced to devote heavy attention to combating spammers. Companies will likely ‘hire’ users with high friend counts and traffic, using personal profiles to market their products and services. This could lead to users cutting back on their friend list to ‘trim the fat’ and reduce the number of spam-like posts on their News Feeds.
Fewer friends could mean fewer users, leaving a corporate-ad laden wasteland in its wake when users migrate to the next platform. (MySpace, anyone?)
- Paid Posts Will Be Divisive
Some users will pay to highlight their post, even if they’ve got nothing to sell. Still, the majority of paid posts will have a marketing motive behind them, and many users will simply not agree to start spending money on their personal social networking. Their posts will become less sticky and less important, and they’ll eventually decrease their use of the site as a source of information, relying on Facebook more for picture sharing and e-vites.
Grasping the implications of paid posts on Facebook is difficult, which is why the company is carefully launching beta trial runs. Whatever they decide could spell major changes for the company’s forecast.
Christopher Wallace is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, a leading provider of custom pens and other promotional products such as imprinted apparel, mugs and customized calendars. He regularly contributes to Promo & Marketing Wall blog.