Does This Pop-Up Make Me Look Fat?

Or, should say, does this pop-up below try to make the reader look stupid?

dont value technology

Or, how about this one:

I DONT NEED TODAYS MOST IMPORTNT NEWS

Or (I can’t resist):

 

It’s Not Me, It’s You. Really.

I usually just look for the “X” so I can close pop-up ads as quickly as I can and get on with what I was reading. But in these cases, and others I’ve seen recently, the “opt-out” line was so insulting I had to do a screen grab.

Assuming these aren’t intentional efforts to grab the reader’s attention, the common message is “Our site is so great there’s no rational reason you wouldn’t want to visit it. You must be stupid, uninformed or irrelevant yourself if you don’t click `yes.’”

Before trying this on your site, ask how you would respond if a sales or marketing person took the same approach with you:

  • Car shopping: Can I put you in this $100,000 Tesla right now, or do you not care about being on the cutting edge of style and technology?
  • In a restaurant: Do you want to try the pickled eel with curried aioli, or do you note like new, intriguing foods?
  • On a date: Do you want to see me again, or are you not interesting in being with the hottest, most fascinating person in the world?

Turn you on, or turn you off? Thought so.

Opting Out Without Put Downs

Seeing how content marketing is supposed to be about nurturing customers who aren’t ready to buy (rather than turning them off), here are some alternative approaches to “opt out” messages.

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Respect

Each of these alternative “opt out” lines:

  • Don’t insult the reader for daring to say “no” to your content.
  • Offer the reader other ways to get your content, or
  • Offer other content that better meets their needs.

And isn’t that a better way to nurture and engage prospects who aren’t ready to buy (or even subscribe) than giving them the back of our hand?

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

when is a hard sales pitch too much?I’ve always felt that if you’re going to educate customers, educate them. If you’re going to sell them, sell them. 

Think of when you’ve been getting what seems like great, impartial advice from a realtor or a mechanic and they slip into selling you something. You know it instantly and you suddenly start doubting everything they’ve said. Not good for the old customer/vendor sales process.

I got to thinking about that when I picked up a cool marketing tool from DZone Inc. out of Cary, N.C., at the recent Red Hat Summit in Boston. The handout was a “Refcard” on “Preparing for Continuous Delivery.” One of more than 150 the company has developed, it looks like one of those glossy two-sided cards you see in bookstores that provide a quick “cheat sheet” on anything from Algebra to European history.

On the “Refcard“ for continuous delivery, the goals include “delivering software more quickly and frequently,” “increasing software quality” and “increased efficiency.” They described prerequisites including “development practices such as automated testing” and “tooling such as source code management.” So far, so good. The presentation looked, as Fox News like to say, “fair and balanced.”

Cheat sheets for algebra, European history and now, continuous development.

Cheat sheets for algebra, European history and now, continuous development.

Then I stumbled on a separate section titled “The Key Building Block of Continuous Delivery: Release Automation.” It said, in part, “the overriding aim should be to increasingly automate away more of the pathway between the developer and the live production environment. Here are some of the major areas you should focus your automation efforts on…”

Get Your Hand Out of my Pocket

That’s when I double-checked the sponsors of the reference card. One was PaaS (platform as a service) provider CloudBees. The other was application release automation vendor XebiaLabs. Bingo!

Yes, automation is important, but giving it such an outsize role in a description of “continuous delivery” tainted, for me, what is otherwise an excellent, in-depth summary of a complex subject. Other sections of the Refcard went into great detail on vendor-neutral topics such as “implementing a deployment pipeline” and how to “capture audit build information.” In such a context, the specific focus on automation stood out all the more.

It also stood out because education is something you do with relatively “top of the funnel” prospects. These are the folks who are just beginning to think about whether they need what you’re selling. They need to know what’s involved in using your product and how it works before getting a hard pitch.

Now a Word from Our Sponsors

In a white paper, of course, after the (relatively) impartial discussion of the subject, it’s perfectly fine to end with something like “We provide an automated intelligent deployment framework that reduces release costs and delays, and supports agile, DevOps and continuous delivery strategies.” But in a white paper, I try to keep this “word from our sponsor” it short, sweet, and contained in one section where it isn’t confused with the higher-minded education.

Now, if I were to include my own pitch here, it would say something like: “I provide clear, concise and powerful white papers, product briefs, case studies and other marketing content for prospects at any stage of the sales cycle. Drop me a line or call at 781 599-3262 if you’d like to learn more.”

So how did I do with my pitch? And do you think DZone went over the line with theirs?

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

I recently described how the old fashioned business-to -business “marketing funnel” is now a chaotic and unpredictable marketing tornado. A recent Webinar featuring marketing automation (MA) success stories from Dell and Trend Micro showed how marketing automation can meet these challenges. But, these customers said, it is an ongoing process, not a one-time silver bullet.

The Webinar, sponsored by marketing agency Televerde, described how profoundly buyer behavior has changed with the advent of the Web as a channel for B2B buyers to research products and ask peers for advice and feedback. As Kathleen Schaub, VP of research for IDC’s CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) Advisory Practice, said today’s “buyers are never, ever, offline during the buying process” and often know more than the salespeople who are pitching them.

She called MA a fundamental requirement for 21st century marketing. But she said too many vendors “still do lead management like it was 1999,” spamming prospects rather than “express respect for buyers” with content and offers that provide value.

Moving from spanning to getting the most from MA takes time and hard work, agreed Vince Massey, director of enterprise security sales for Dell SonicWall and Maureen McCormick, director of U.S. regional marketing operations for Trend Micro. All three speakers also agreed that deploying and learning the MA software is only the first, and maybe the easiest, part of the process.

The real work – and the real benefits — comes in the ongoing work of training and staffing, change management and continual measuring and tweaking of the new MA-fueled sales cycle. Takeaways and key lessons in each area include:

  • Set aside money and time to train your sales and marketing staffs in how to not only use the software, but to use it to prospect for leads. Dell also learned it had to dedicate a staff to follow up on leads from the MA system, rather than leaving it up to staff that had “day jobs” in areas such as channel sales.
  • All three spoke of the need for collaboration not only between sales and marketing, but between these two groups and operations. This collaboration is crucial for everything from establishing appropriate SLAs for MA system performance to scoring leads.
  • Tracking is critical to understand what is working and what isn’t, and continually improving the MA program. This means assessing not only what content worked and what didn’t, but the quality of leads and the accuracy of your lead scoring.

The results include lower cost of sales, faster handoffs of opportunities to the sales staff, higher quality leads and improved close rates. For some companies, one of the greatest benefits is the ability, often for the first time, to accurately track marketing spending and its results. As Massey said, “instead of talking about whose data is better, we talk about results.”

 

I see customers demanding “industrialized” offerings in areas from remote infrastructure management to data backup. In an era of shrinking budgets and rapid change, they want services based on best practices whose results they can measure, and whose performance they can constantly and improve. Using MA to reach these empowered customers will require the same discipline, trackability and continuous improvement.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Editorial CalendarLet’s say you followed my recent advice on how to create, and execute, an editorial calendar for marketing content. Here’s how to use that content for lead generation.

If all went well, your subject matter experts have created (or are creating) posts describing:

  • Common problems your customers or prospects should know about;
  • Industry trends that could affect their sales or profits, and
  • Innovative things done by really smart customers their peers should copy.

Now, how do you use this content to generate leads? By mapping the topics they came up with to the needs of your most desirable prospects. Those are the pieces of content that, when read, signal to you which readers are a better, rather than a worse, fit for what you’re selling.

So how do you track who read what?

If you’re promoting this current to current customers or prospects, through an email newsletter, use an email distribution tool or marketing automation platform to track who read what and score them accordingly for lead generation purposes. You can then offer them follow-up content to further gauge their interest and how close they are to buying, forwarding their names to sales staff when you judge they’re ready for a call.

To capture contact information from anonymous readers (who find you through a Web search or social media) offer them something of value to capture at least their email address, such as an ebook, a “how to buy” guide or a subscription to your email newsletter.

Here are some examples of how content from your editor calendar can be used for lead generation.

  • A software vendor needs resellers to boost sales of the software it developed to enhances the performance of a popular database. Because they were asked to share common customer problems, tech support offers tips on how to configure the database to boost performance.  Resellers specializing in that database read the post, find it useful and provide their contact information in return for a subscription to the vendor’s newsletter.  (Check out my two-minute video on using custom content to also troubleshoot channel issues.)
  • A local network installation consultant is looking for new clients in the health care space. Because they were asked what smart customers are doing, someone in marketing describes how one customer took advantage of a little-known provision in Obamacare that provides tax breaks for implementing electronic health care records. The resulting post explains what those breaks are and how to get them. This attracts prospects who would consider such an upgrade if those tax breaks could help pay for it.
  • A global service provider needs to identify new prospects for its ERP implementation services. Because its consultants were asked about problems customers are facing, they identified five areas where shortcomings with ERP software increase the time and effort required to go live. The resulting “five things to consider” post links to a gated white paper with details on each of the five issues. Tracking which readers register for which of the five white papers give sales a detailed idea of what to discuss in the follow-up call.

An edit calendar requires too much effort not to put it to work generating leads. Subscribe here for more tips on content marketing and lead generation for IT providers, or contact me to discuss an immediate need.  Editorial Calendar

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

All I want to do is paste my logo in this email...

Chapter Three: Upon trying to create my first email campaign (one of my regular editorial calendar newsletters to tell my PR friends of upcoming assignments) I ran into a snag: LoopFuse lacks the type of drag and drop email design tool I had become used to in Constant Contact. While it supposedly has tools for designing and formatting newsletters, I couldn’t find them despite multiple good faith attempts by their tech support folks.

I spent several hours trying to export the HTML code for my existing newsletter from Constant Contact into LoopFuse. No go. I next tried downloading various HTML templates from the Web to LoopFuse and customizing them. Still too clumsy to edit. So I tried several editors to customize the templates. Close, but too much of a learning curve with so much else to do. As a stop-gap, I created emails using my existing template in Constant Contact, trusting LoopFuse will track readership through the tracking codes on my WordPress site even though I didn’t create the email in LoopFuse.

(LoopFuse tells me they have no plans to upgrade their email editing capabilities. They did, however, quickly link me up with one of their partners who is looking for a workaround. If anyone can tell me what obvious steps I’m missing, or how they tackle this, I’m all ears.)

In the meantime, after finishing several stories on my content map, I tried to post them only to run into sudden problems with formatting and preserving links in WordPress, and realized that on my Web site sub-pages weren’t showing up properly on the page menus. This meant several quasi-panicked emails to my on-call WordPress guru, and several hours explaining my needs and evaluating how several plug-ins would, and wouldn’t work.

Meanwhile, helpful emails about how to do SEO continued to cross my email, leading me to wonder just how important SEO is for someone like me selling niche services largely through word of mouth. For now, I’m doing the minimum (trying to optimize URLs and adding relevant keywords into my text) and focusing primarily on developing and implementing my content marketing plan.

Speaking of which, one expert commentary I just saw recommended 8-12 contacts with prospects over a four-week period to maximum effectiveness. That’s a good reminder to focus and refine my plan for delivering this content. Which means I need to get back to creating content for my first campaign, not to mention delivering some white papers whose deadlines have snuck up while I’ve been doing all this troubleshooting.

This week’s lesson: While you’re thinking Big Thoughts about personas, scoring metrics and lead flows, keep your tecchie troubleshooters close at hand. Good thing it’s only 12 degrees in Boston so I’m not tempted to venture outside and away from the computer.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Virtual Trade Shows for Mere Mortals

SAP appears to have done a bang-up job with its combined physical and virtual customer conferences, according to B2B Magazine. Not only did it focus on getting customers to talk to each other, (VS. SAP talking at them,) but tracked which content prospects viewed to learn about their needs, and will use a content management system to target future info and offers to them based on those actions.

The simultaneous physical events attracted 20,000 people to Orlando and Frankfurt, not to mention satellite physical locations where people watched live satellite feeds. More than 30,000 virtual attendees watched and heard content generated by editing studios, satellite trucks and a global broadcast network. Chief Marketing Officer Marty Homlish says that being able to see who viewed what information, and for how long, goes a long way towards helping SAP “capture demand.”

What can we in smaller companies learn from giant SAP?

First, get the customers talking to each other and stay out of the way, unless you can really help. I recently helped “cover” a customer summit for a multinational services company and was amazed by the amount, quality, and candor of the interchange among customers. Yes, account reps were accompanying their clients, but they spent most of their time listening to their customer’s problems. Which is about as good market intelligence as you can possibly get. It also cemented the reputation of the service provider as “different” than rivals who push marketing harder.

Second, integrate the physical and virtual events. This is tougher, and requires staff to capture the events (in Tweets, blogs, videos, etc.) and then to edit, process and post that information on-line quickly. It also requires paying someone to keep jogging the on-line conversations, offering new questions, insights, observations and thoughts before, during and after the event. And that costs. But it’s not really that expensive, I’d guess, compared to the total event budget, and it can pay off if…

You share (as SAP did) the information about which customers and prospects viewed which events with your sales force. That, of course, is the whole aim of content marketing (to help the sales force,) and if a trade show or customer conference isn’t an exercise in “content creation” I don’t know what is.

But designing an overall plan – which includes deciding on target customers, key issues to highlight, how you are going to score prospects and then how you’ll share their names with the sales force — requires time and thought, which are in short supply when you’re trying to stage a plain old physical (much less physical and virtual) event. I’d be curious to hear, six months from now, from SAP whether the extra effort was worth it.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Ask anyone selling marketing software or services what their “cost per lead” is and you’ll get a different, and self-serving, answer. I’ve seen estimates ranging from single dollars to tens of dollars to hundreds of dollars. The cost is always the highest for whatever mechanism (trade shows, telemarketing, direct mail, marketing automation software) the competing vendor is hoping to trash.

 

Of course, everyone cooks the underlying cost numbers to make their approach look best. But you’re actually asking to be bamboozled because you haven’t defined a “lead.” It is just a name and a possibly outdated title and email address from a purchased list? Is it the current name and contact info of someone who actually visited your booth or downloaded a white paper? Or is it the name, contact information who has indicated (either through a registration form or their readership history) that they’re feeling the pain you can solve, own the hardware and software your product needs to work, and are willing to sit down and talk for ten minutes?

 

Naturally, the price goes up the better the “lead” is. A veteran marketing director working for a social media startup told me recently that white-paper syndication services charge about $25 per lead, (names of individuals with certain titles, at a given size organization, etc. But identifying which “leads” have the right other products to make them a good lead boosts the cost closer to $80. Winnowing the field down to those who have the specific problem his product solves, and is open to a call, winds up costing hundreds of dollars per lead.

 

Some vendors try to ease the confusion by differentiating between “leads” (less qualified) and “prospects” (more qualified.) Other cite a CPL (cost per lead) and CPA (cost per action) with the “action” being a lead downloading a white paper or taking a call. But whatever terminology you use, “cost per lead” is useless for calculating ROI unless you define “lead.”

 

The CPA metric is a good start, because it defines success as a specific action. And most marketers (like my friend) have a good intuitive feel for what they want from a lead. Just adding a few words – a lead who will take a ten minute call, or who downloads our white paper – are all it takes to set a clear and level playing field.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.