Tag Archives: online lead generation

Word Association: To Push or To Pull

It can be a real challenge for a marketer to successfully market online a product or service or solution that hasn’t previously existed before or that nobody knows even exists today. Perhaps you’ve created an innovative new product or taken advantage of an emerging technology or perhaps you’re solving a niche problem for a specialized marketplace through a unique application…how do you get that exciting news into the appropriate hands when people may not be searching for that kind of news or solution – I mean how would they know to search for it let alone how to search for it?

Rather than trying to directly market to a specific type of search, interest or “query” that may not exist yet – you might be more effective simply marketing to the right audience and creating the interest with them to begin with.

This type of campaign is often referred to as “push” marketing as you are attempting to push your message in front of your target market to create interest and demand. The opposite of “push” marketing would be pull marketing – where you are trying to market to someone already looking for a solution, and attempting to pull them towards you as a vendor of choice.

Push marketing messages often have a bit of an education or awareness angle, although they certainly aren’t limited to just this approach. This education can take shape in numerous ways that provide value to potential customers: 

  • Whitepapers
  • Press Clippings (Articles) / PR
  • PDF data sheets or catalog downloads
  • Case Studies or Application Notes
  • Online videos or Webinars
  • Email newsletters
  • Blog postings / Social media commentary

Other online marketing vehicles (like paid search or search optimization) can be creatively employed as well; but take some thought to effectively utilize well in new market / application scenarios.

To promote the availability and accessibility of this kind of news and information; you should give consideration to a combination of E-newsletter campaigns, broadcast banner advertising to a wide, but targeted audience, and direct email campaigns to your target market. Social media is of course another method to use.

To determine whether you should be using “push” media – give some thought to the words you are using (even internally in your own marketing meetings) when describing your “new” product, service or solution and the market you are trying to reach.

For example –

Product Attributes: If you are describing the product, service or solution using words like the below – you should consider “push marketing”: 

  • New
  • Cutting Edge
  • Emerging
  • Innovative
  • Replacement (e.g. it’s the “new”)
  • Alternative
  • Substitution
  • Equivalent
  • Comparative / Compare To
  • Advanced
  • Creative
  • Unique
  • Special

Target Market: If you are describing the target market (e.g. potential customers) using adjectives like the below – you should consider “push” marketing:

  • Niche
  • Special
  • Unique
  • Focused

Marketing Approach: If you are discussing or describing the possible marketing approach or vehicles you plan on using with the following terms – you should consider “push” marketing:

  • Educate / Teach
  • Introduce
  • Inform
  • Create Interest
  • Stimulate
  • Awareness
  • Roll-Out
  • Learn

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Virtual Tradeshows vs. Traditional Tradeshows

Exhibiting at traditional trade shows is one of the most utilized marketing tactics by companies targeting the industrial and manufacturing marketplace. The opportunity for direct engagement with prospects, customers and other vendors who could be potential partners or customers is invaluable and the opportunity to “shake hands” with key clients to thank them for their business is often perceived as priceless. On the flip side, exhibiting also tends to have the highest cost of other marketing alternatives when factoring in space fees, booth setup, storage & shipping costs, associated communications & promotion and travel, meal and lodging expenses. It’s also a challenging media to tangibly and quickly prove return on investment results as exhibitors have very real time and logistic demands from the show that can impact timely attendee follow-up.

It should be no surprise then that the worldwide economic situation has led to many companies having both scaled back budgets and staffs; creating a very real decline in attendance and in exhibitors at many industrial shows. The challenges facing the traditional trade show market due to the economy have only been exacerbated by the additional very real issues of travel woes & hassles due to scaling back nationwide of flight choices, the continued dominance of the web as a primary research vehicle and the explosion of social media options.

These realities have created a ‘perfect storm” opportunity for the emergence of virtual tradeshows or e-Events as a viable alternative or supplement to both attendees and exhibitors alike.

Almost everyone is comfortable interacting online today. People attend webinars and view video presentations, they earn online university degrees or certifications, comment on blogs and rate products, and engage in social networking via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Industrial professionals are no different and they have largely migrated online for work-related purposes. Online events are an emerging online option for these professionals to gain the information and insight they require for their jobs; without many of the downsides associated with the traditional tradeshow.

For attendees, online events:

  • Provide opportunities to interact with suppliers in a comfortable online environment
  • Give quick access to information from multiple related vendors in a centralized manner
  • Avoid the hassle and expense of travel, hotels, meals, and time away from the office
  • Offer a wide array of educational and professional opportunities
  • Enable attendees to easily abandon the event if it’s not meeting their needs or expectations (marketers take note)

 For marketers, online events:

  • Provide you with many of the benefits of location-based events, including branding exposure and lead generation at a fraction of the cost and hassle.
  • Help you reach a targeted, yet broad & global audience
  • Offer the convenience and productivity of allowing you to remain in your office at a computer while hosting and managing an event
  • Generate important and relevant sales lead information on attendees such as their interest area and online activity in a timely and organized fashion.
  • Position you and your company as a thought leader
  • Allow you leave the giveaways behind (no more booth visitors feigning interest just to collect the goodies!)

Online tradeshows can be highly interactive, allowing attendees to visit suppliers’ “booths,” chat with suppliers, ask questions, participate in discussions, and access content such as white papers and collateral. Much like traditional tradeshows, these events provide the opportunity for one-on-one conversations with attendees, and many attendees of virtual events gain a sense of empowerment and comfort in the ability to interact with you the way they prefer—online, from their own desks.

Exhibiting at an online tradeshow is in many ways like a traditional location-based event, complete with multiple vendors showcasing their products and services, branding visibility, and interaction with a target audience. Of course, there are no travel costs and time away from the office—for you, or your attendees.

Are there trade-offs? Sure – a chance to be face-to-face with an existing or potential customer or the opportunity for someone to see your products “in action” are two big ones and virtual experiences will never replace those in person opportunities. However, the economic, time and resource benefits of virtual tradeshows and e-Events are too big to not experience or explore.

Before you exhibit at an online tradeshow, determine what content would be most valuable for attendees, such as white papers, data sheets, and other collateral—just as you would for a location-based event. Also, line up the people in your company who will staff the booth and interact with attendees. Then, be sure to choose a virtual event that offers the following:

  • Targeting of your audience and marketing to attract them to the event.
  • Opportunities to visibly brand your company within the virtual environment.
  • Rich opportunities to engage your audience, such as online chat, real-time Q&As, online panel discussions and more.
  • Tools for attendees to interact with each other.
  • Tracking and reporting of attendees’ online activity in your booth, so you can discover their area of interest.
  • Complete intelligence reports on attendees with full contact information and other relevant data for your sales team to follow-up.

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Best Advertising is Quality Content

Nice blog post from Josh Gordon on a presentation Gordon Borell gave at the Digital Magazine Symposium.

According to Josh’s post – After surveying the financial results from thousands of local media Web operations for the past eight years Borrell concludes there is no direct correlation between large amounts of traffic and large amounts of money. Many of the most profitable websites make money because their content functions like advertising did years ago, as a customer educator for product sales. 

According to Borrell, visitors of these sites are “leaning forward” to read the content while probably ignoring the banner ads.

Read the whole blog here:


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Google Testing Full-Contact Lead Capture

Google AdWords is testing a type of full contact lead capture for Adwords; the below link has more details but looks like “PPC Hero” was the first to roll out details on this beta, named contact form extensions.

Contact form extensions provides a contact form directly in the search ad, which a searcher can fill out and the advertiser can then use in the future to contact that lead. It is very similar to a lead acquisition form, but this one is found directly in an expanded Google AdWords ad.

Link to article from Searchengineland; which contains links to th PPC Hero content as well.


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B2B Buying Process Simplified

Many of my posts allude to the “buy cycle” and I have a series of posts on this blog that cover the various phases of the buy-cycle in pretty deep detail; but I was recently asked to summarize my thoughts as part of an executive presentation.

I thought my simplified version was worthy of a post – so here you go:

“As someone involved in the Industrial Marketplace – when researching or reading or searching online – are you doing this with a mouse in one hand and a credit card or purchase order in the other hand just itching to buy?

Chances are – probably not; and neither is anyone else online.

 There is currently over 150 years of research on HOW and WHY consumers of all kinds make decisions about WHICH and WHAT products to buy and well over 10 years of this research dedicated to just online “buying” behavior.

The results of this vast amount of research consistently reveal that there is a process or “buying cycle” to how people behave…

1. People become aware of, or INTERESTED-IN a particular product or service
2. As a next step, they CHECK IT OUT by doing some kind of RESEARCH
3. They then COMPARE & DECIDE which to buy; if any

 This simple buying process reveals two big things:

  •  Not every visitor is ready to buy all the time
  •  “Impulse Buying” does not generally exist in the Industrial B2B space

Of course this isn’t meant to imply that these people have no value; in fact the opposite.

Potential B2B buyers spend a lot of time online and see a lot of ads. Their purchases are therefore generally the outcome of multiple influences over time. We know that the impressions and results from the first few exposures and searches by a potential customer create the baseline used to compare all options under consideration as final selection nears.

As a result, a marketer needs to build awareness, consideration and purchase intent before the purchase is made.

If you aren’t marketing to all aspects of the realities of the buy cycle; your marketing plans and media campaigns will fail to reach their full potential.

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Top Five Reasons Lead Generating Initiatives Fail

Lead Generation is hot…you don’t need this blog post to tell you that – but if you still need evidence: 

  • A recent article from the Wall Street Journal in October stated “…marketers continue to put their ad dollars towards performance-based advertising, which includes search and lead generation inititives”
  • The Center for Exhibition Industry Research has identified the #1 objective of trade show exhibitors today to be lead generation
  • An August trend report from GlobalSpec on Industrial Marketing identified customer acquisition and lead generation as the top two priorities of industrial marketers

There are countless additional examples and 3rd party articles to support this as well but something tells me you likely already knew lead generation is a hot topic…

However did you know likewise that lead follow-up is the #1 concern of marketers?

Whoa…something is out of whack.

How can my #1 objective also be my #1 concern?

Why isn’t “Fixing Lead Follow-Up” the #1 priority over generating more leads that are going to continue to have follow-up issues?

Is it because lead follow-up is perceived as not being a marketing issue and therefore sales has the problem and therefore needs to find the solution?

Unfortunately for many organizations, that seems to be the common excuse to which I call bullsh*t – let’s just use common sense and see if that blame game make sense :

Who’s catching hell when leads don’t convert to sales?

When was the last time you heard sales budgets were being cut due to lack of ROI?

Compare that with what we are all dealing with  in regards to our marketing budgets – At best they are flat but more likely they are being reduced due to lack of ROI and we’re being tasked with accountability measures like never before.

Seems marketing is catching hell for lead follow-up issues vs. sales, but let’s revisit Lead Follow-Up responsibility. 

Aren’t we all on the same team with the same objective regardless if I’m in sales or if I’m in marketing?

Aren’t we both trying to help the company sell more stuff and do so efficiently and profitably?

I continue to be perplexed as to how companies end up in these sales vs. marketing silos with finger pointing as to where blame resides.

Ultimately it appears to be a sales/marketing culture issue; to which blame truly resides with executive management. At some point; a CEO needs to demand that their sales forces become more effective and that marketing departments help them get there and equally hold them accountable.

A guy can dream…right?

In the interim; reality continues to exist and millions upon millions of ad dollars are getting thrown against lead-generation initiatives and many of these initiatives will fail. By fail I simply mean not live up to the full potential they could have through a better integrated sales and marketing culture and process.

So why do they fail to live up to their promise? 

Here’s my perspective on the top 5 reasons lead generating initiatives fail:

1. No Follow-Up At All
All of us at some point have heard, read or experienced the statistics that continually tell us that less than 20% of sales leads ever get followed-up on. It’s a sad statement of business reality but most companies do not have a detailed, documented process that covers even the basics of how a lead will get nurtured or routed to sales. So when a marketing program takes place, the leads are never given the necessary attention. Test this yourself; do you have a documented process for “what happens” when an email comes into your website or a phone call comes into your office or a visitor pops by your booth?

Does it get logged and coded or does it just get forwarded as an “FYI” and left to an individual in sales or a marketing admin to ensure follow-up occurs?

Scary isn’t it?

Brian Carroll, a lead generation (and more) expert has a great quote on this – “To me it’s better to not be involved with a customer at all than to start a relationship and then drop the ball”

2. Slow Follow-Up
Like Bread or Beer – leads go stale. When people inquire, they’re interested right then and chances are they’re aren’t just looking at your solutions to satisfy their interests, especially in the B2B space. In addition to their interest in your offerings, you have to expect that your competition is also in the mix and maybe responding while you sit on the sidelines.

 As communication platforms like twitter, facebook and linkedin have pervasively grown; people are also going elsewhere beyond vendors for opinions on your products and competitive options while you twiddle your fingers ignoring the lead at its source. 

Who would you rather have following up on an inquiry that came directly to you? Someone from your marketing or sales group or an anonymous source on twitter?

Don’t just take my word for it; Knowledgestorm has years of research on purchase behavior in the IT and related space and they’ve repeatedly told their advertisers “Leads Get Cold Quickly”.

Almost as bad as ignoring them altogether – if leads aren’t nurtured quickly – it’s a waste, because you aren’t leveraging the original investment made to generate the inquiries.

3. Limited Follow-Up
I’m guessing some of you are thinking #1 and #2 don’t apply to you – because you have a system in place where 100% of your leads are followed up via an email or phone call within a reasonable time frame.

So why are your programs failing to reach their potential?

Maybe because that initial follow-up is all that is occurring and a process for continued follow-up and nurturing isn’t mapped out.

Let’s start with the basics – the majority of leads, even good leads, aren’t ready to buy right away. The buying process itself, depending on the complexity of the “product” or “service” being sourced, may not be a single person process and may be stretched over several months. Additionally, in the B2B space “Impulse Buying” does not exist  and potential B2B buyers spend a lot of time doing research and comparing options.

How the hell are you going to add value to that complex process with one-off emails or a single qualifying phone call?

According to Reed Business Information Systems statistics – the number of personal sales calls necessary to close an order is 5.2 and an average buyer sees nearly 2 sales people per week. Factor in the realities of the buyers also hiding behind automated switchboards, voice-mail, spam and junk e-mail filters and it seems that even legitimate leads are actually discouraging sales people from trying to connect. In my world – we call that “noise”; and you have to elevate and rise above all that noise for your message to be heard….and trust me; one phone call or one follow-up email isn’t going to do it.

True lead nurturing builds relationships with the right people at the right companies through relevant and consistent dialogue and touch points,  regardless of their timing to buy. This nurturing helps turn an initial lead into a sales-ready or transactional lead when the timing is right.

4.  Wrong Follow-Up
One of the challenges of following up on leads is agreeing what a lead is to begin with. Ask a sales rep and they’ll likely tell you a lead is a thoroughly qualified potential customer who is ready to buy today, credit card in hand. Ask a direct marketer and they’ll like tell you a lead is anyone from a targeted potential customer who gave up their contact information, whether it was to download a white paper or they checked a box on a Web site or dropped a card in the bowl at a trade show.

Common definitional issues wreak havoc on lead generation and follow-up programs; and all it takes is one sales person calling a marketing defined lead and getting blown off to summarize that all these marketing defined leads “stink”…or what we call “poisoning the well” and you are right back to Issue #1 – leads start to get ignored.

If you are resource constrained and can’t afford to extend incremental resources to qualify and nurture leads before handing them to sales; at a minimum sales should fully understand how the leads are being generated and the context of the inquiry; not just the content of who’s contacting. A well integrated sales and marketing group, even an understaffed one, can make huge gains in lead conversions simply by better understanding how to best follow-up and nurture an early stage lead.

In other words, if you are currently just dumping leads over the fence to the sales side of the house – STOP!

Take the time once a week, once a month or once a quarter to review how the leads are being generated and have an open / honest discussion on how to best follow-up to ensure maximum success.

5. Losing Sight of the Buy-Cycle (Not Qualifying Leads)
I mentioned it in #3 above and if you’ve read much of my blog posts; you’ve probably picked up that I frequently mention the “buy-cycle” when talking about marketing trends, research or studies. I do this because I happen to be a big believer in tying marketing strategies and tactics back to common sense buyer behavior.

At the risk of sounding “basic”, essentially the buy-cycle simply means that there are natural steps or stages we go through as consumers before we ultimately decide to purchase (or not); and I think this is true whether we are talking about software, cranes or even product certification services. Some other marketers refer to this as a purchase funnel – either way…

1. We become aware of, or INTERESTED-IN a particular product or service – whether by direct need or curiosity

2. We CHECK IT OUT, maybe do some research or talk to peers

3. And then we COMPARE & DECIDE which to buy; if any.

Depending on the complexity of the “product” or “service” being sourced, this may not be a single person process and may be stretched over several months; but in the B2B space one thing is certain and that’s “Impulse Buying” does not exist. Potential B2B buyers spend a lot of time doing research and comparing options; and numerous third party studies support that this research is increasingly being done online. While online, it’s just commons sense that these potential buyers see a lot of ads, messages and brands  – and those messages that are contextually related to the research they are pursuing are going to be noticed and retained; and who they ultimately do business with or purchase from is generally the outcome of these targeted multiple influences over time.

Targeted impressions and results from the first few exposures and searches done by a potential customer online create the baseline that the buyer uses to compare all options under consideration as final selection nears.

In short; if a buyer frequently sees ads, comments or references towards Brand A while they are researching Topic X…Brand A is going to stand out as a market leader or, at a minimum, a baseline to compare other options.

As a result, a marketer needs to build awareness, consideration and purchase intent before a purchase decision by the buyer is ever made.

What does all the above mean to your lead generation initiatives?

Without first qualifying a lead – you have no clue where in the buy-cycle an individual is; it’s like timing the stock market.

How can you add value to a complex buying process if you aren’t sure if they are just in preliminary research stages or narrowing down to a final few options for purchase in the next few days? Without qualifying; you can really flub your lead follow-up and waste your time and your potential clients time if you try pitching an early stage buyer just as bad as you can by trying to re-educate a late stage buyer.

All lead follow-up activities; regardless of who is handling it, should have minimum qualifying questions. 

BONUS (#6):
Whenever possible; use a phone – nothing can compete with a real, live phone dialog to qualify and nurture a genuine lead, regardless of where they are in the buying cycle. The phone is the #1 sales and marketing tool to maximize any lead generation program.

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How Accurate Are Your E-Mail Delivery Rates?

Most email service providers will report messages that have been passed on to the Internet, and not “bounced”, as ‘delivered’; and subsequently reporting those metrics back to you in the form of a delivery rate. These delivery rates are often pretty high, and if your subsequent click thru rate is low…it must be the copy – not the quality of the list…right? 

Think about it, when was the last time you saw any email service provider report saying delivery rates were less than somewhere in the range of 95-99%? What this figure typically means is out of every 100 emails sent on your behalf, only 1 to 5 of those come back as a bad email address or undeliverable (also known as a bounce). Once an email is sent, and it doesn’t register as a bounce, that has to mean it has been successfully delivered to a recipient’s inbox, right?


According to the Email Deliverability Benchmark Report released by “Return Path” back in July, deliverability failures continue to plague marketers but not necessarily revealed in deliverability reports. According to Return Path, what these reports don’t take into consideration is that some ISPs may go on to block the message or that the recipient may have spam filters in place.  These exceptions leaves marketers with the impression that they are getting delivery rates of over 90% whereas around 80% was more likely. The reports goes on to say that for the first half of 2009 (January thru June); the average inbox placement rate for permission, commercial email in the US and Canada was 79.3%. Of the nearly 21% of email that is not delivered to the inbox, only 3.3% is sent to a “Junk” or “Bulk” email folder, while nearly 18% is simply not delivered at all – but not indicated as a bounce. Business email addresses protected by systems like Postini, Symantec or MessageLabs are even tougher where on average, only 72.4% of commercial email is delivered to the inbox through these enterprise systems. These systems are more likely to deliver messages to a junk folder as compared to consumer ISPs that are more likely to block email altogether. In the United States, of the top ISPs, the toughest inboxes to reach are those at MSN, Hotmail and Gmail. Marketers fare slightly better at Cox, USA.net and Time Warner Cable/Road Runner.

So what’s a smart marketer to do?

1. Don’t believe the bounce myth, that whatever gets sent and doesn’t bounce must have been received.  The metric that simply uses emails sent vs. emails bounced is a bounce rate…instead ask for a deliverability rate. If they don’t know the difference…shop elsewhere. You should also inquire about the availability of other metrics like open rates or click-thru rates…if the so-called “deliverability rate” is high, but open rate low (say <10%)…you should question the accuracy of the “deliverability rate”.

2. Verify the accuracy and activity of the subscription base: Focus on those e-newsletters or list-builds that are acquired through proven online publishers who themselves have a vested interest in aggregating accurate and responsive online addresses and audience for their own business purposes and promotion vs. perhaps a 3rd party provider who is aggregating addresses from a  mix of sources. Messages that your target audience doesn’t have access to will not generate a response.

3. Proven circulations are the way-to-go: E-newsletter publishers, especially those publications with a lengthy, proven track record, are likely to have a proven success rate and active readership. As a result, not only is the message more likely to be seen – the publishers should be able to give you a reasonable expectation range for subsequent activity for your campaign. 

4. Take some responsibility for the issue: According to Direct Path most of the major drivers of poor deliverability rates are the direct result of marketing practices, not technical ones. These include complaints, which spike when email is unexpected or undervalued by the recipient and spam traps, which are most often found on old lists or have been built with poorly sourced data. 

 Link to the report (registration might be required): http://www.returnpath.net/downloads/resources/NOAM_deliverability_study.pdf

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