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Share Your Quote for Sherpa’s Wisdom Report

December 18th, 2009
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The year is almost over, which means it’s time for us to compile our annual Marketing Wisdom report.

So before you enjoy some time off for the holidays, please take a minute to share a story about a great test result, campaign lesson or other insight you gained during 2009. The deadline is Dec. 31, 2009.

Here’s the form where you can share your contribution:
http://sherpa.wisdomreport.sgizmo.com

In January, we’ll release our 2010 Wisdom Report at no cost to readers. It’s like a crowd-sourced marketing guidebook, compiling the best campaign lessons, test ideas, inspirational stories and creative solutions to common problems — all based on the experiences of the Sherpa reader community.

Here’s how it works. Your quote — a short story told in your own words — must be based on a real-life experience.

A few suggestions for your entry:
– How you coped with the recession and limited resources to execute your 2009 marketing strategy
– A test campaign that worked better (or worse) than anticipated
– Lessons learned about specific tactics, such as social media marketing, lead scoring, email autoresponders, etc.
– Career stories — everything from hiring to budgeting to dealing with office politics

So think back on your challenges and achievements of the past year. We’re sure you’ve got a great story to tell that will help make us all better marketers in 2010.

Here’s the entry form link again:
http://sherpa.wisdomreport.sgizmo.com

Thanks!

Convincing Skeptics that Social Media Belongs in your Marketing Strategy

December 10th, 2009
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Last week, I sat in on a webinar presented by HubSpot and MarketingSherpa that discussed the importance of inbound marketing tactics for B2B lead generation. Sherpa’s research director, Stefan Tornquist, and Rick Burnes, Inbound Marketing Manager, HubSpot, shared data and real-life examples of how the combination of relevant content, social media and search engine optimization is helping marketers reach out to prospects and engage them in their nurturing funnels.

But as in many webinars, it was something from Q&A segment that really caught my ear.

One attendee asked how to get executive buy-in for a serious content development and social media marketing strategy. It seems this attendee’s boss, like some other C-level executives, isn’t convinced that content like videos, podcasts, tweets and blog posts really count as marketing — or that social networks are where marketers need to spend their time.

Here’s the advice that Stefan and Rick offered (with a bit of my own thoughts) to help explain the value of social media to C-level executives:

Tactic #1. Ask your bosses where they get their information

A simple conversation with executives can open their eyes to how much they use social media every day. Do they read blogs? Do they interact with their peers on social networks like LinkedIn?

You can point out that your team needs to create the same kind of content and features that attract them to these information sources.

Tactic #2. Show them the case studies

Most executives can relate to proven results, so provide examples of other companies that have achieved strong results from social media or inbound marketing. I’ve talked to several marketers who have numbers to demonstrate their success, such as:

– The team at Acoustics By Design, who created a company blog that now accounts for 53% of natural search visits to their site.

– The team at BreakingPoint systems, whose big push into blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other channels helped increase unique Web visitors 155%. As a result, inbound Web visitors accounted for 55% of their leads, and 75% of their marketing-influenced pipeline.

Or just look at HubSpot’s own results: Rick Burnes said his team’s SEO leads have grown 12% since July 2008, and social media leads are up 72% in that same period.

– Tactic #3. Quietly launch a pilot program to prove the concept

If you’re able to operate with a lot of freedom, Rick Burnes suggested launching a small pilot program, like a blog or social network discussion group. Testing tactics and measuring the results you achieve on this small scale can give you the data you need to lobby for a broader push.

Interviewing In-House Experts for Audio/Video Content

November 23rd, 2009
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Our recent case study about Level 3 Communications’ video eBook highlighted a great tactic for getting non-marketing colleagues to help create marketing content. It can be hard to convince a busy VP or engineering-type to write something for you, but they’ll often agree to be interviewed on a subject for a video or audio piece.

Interviews are a great way to let knowledgeable staff members share their expertise in a low-pressure, low-commitment way:
o You can give them questions in advance so they can gather their thoughts
o The process can take as little as 15 or 20 minutes
o A little post-production editing can highlight the best bits, even if they ramble a little.

But you have to choose the right people to interview and manage the process carefully to ensure the content is trustworthy and relevant to your prospects. Here are a couple more tips on getting the best out of your subject matter experts:

– Avoid using salespeople for lead-gen interviews.

Nothing against salespeople – they are great at what they do, and know your products’ features and benefits inside and out. But using a salesperson may send the wrong message to prospects.

The vast majority of the audience for your video or podcast isn’t yet ready to talk to a salesperson. Instead, you should feature an authoritative voice from within your organization, such as a technical expert or product manager, who can project an educational, authoritative tone. Save the sales team’s role for negotiating with leads once they’ve been qualified through your marketing process.

– Don’t let subjects read their answers.

People reading off a script almost never sound natural. You want the content to be conversational, not scripted.

If the interview subject is working off of notes and it’s not sounding great, ask them to try it again without reading their notes. Tell them to focus on talking to the interviewer as if it were a one-on-one conversation — not a presentation.

And remember, editing is your friend. You can always delete pauses, “ums” and “ahs” or repetitive statements after the fact.

Nominate Your Best Email Campaigns

November 3rd, 2009
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We’re currently accepting nominations for MarketingSherpa’s 2010 Email Marketing Awards. But hurry — the deadline to submit your campaign is Friday, Nov. 20.

Here’s the link to the entry form:
http://sherpa.EmailAwards2010.sgizmo.com

The competition recognizes the best B2B and B2C email marketing campaigns of the previous year — with a focus on savvy testing tactics, personalization strategies, automation, and creative that gets results. Think response rates, conversions and ROI.

Got a campaign you think is worth a Gold or Silver award? Share the details with us, and you could be among the winners announced at MarketingSherpa’s Email Summit ’10, taking place Jan. 20-22 in Miami.

Here’s the link again:
http://sherpa.EmailAwards2010.sgizmo.com

We’re always blown away by the caliber of the campaigns nominated in this competition, so we can’t wait to see what you’ve achieved in the past year.

Sherpa B2B Summit Kickoff: 5 Ways to Increase Lead Gen Performance

September 23rd, 2009
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We’re in San Francisco for our 6th annual B2B Marketing Summit, and this year we’re trying something a little different. In addition to the Case Studies and panel discussions attendees have come to expect, we’re kicking off the event with a new feature we hope will help marketers process all the information that you typically have to absorb at one of these shows.

Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Director, MarketingExperiements, and Brian Carroll, CEO, In Touch, are leading a training session this morning to outline the top five ways to improve your lead gen programs. They’ve identified the five key “levers” that make the fine-tuned lead generation machine run.
Those levers:

1. Increase campaign response rates to drive more inquires
2. Optimize lead qualification to focus on “high quality” leads for sales engagement
3. Develop Service level agreement between marketing and sales to increase lead acceptance
4. Intensify leads in the marketing funnel with lead nurturing
5. Accelerate leads currently in sales pipeline

Think of those five levers as a framework to examine each aspect of your lead generation campaigns. Look for tweets and blog posts over the next two days, and a summit wrap-up report next week, that will use those levers to help categorize great lessons learned, key takeaways and data points from the show.

And we’re off…

Social Media Marketing: What Questions Do You Need Answered?

September 1st, 2009
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We’re planning several studies about social media marketing, and we’d like your help targeting our research on the information you really need.

We’ve set up an online form to collect your questions about social media. Let us know if you’ve got questions about social media strategy in general, or questions about specific social channels, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or MySpace.

Here’s the link:
http://www.surveygizmo.com/s/174250/smq

NOTE: This isn’t a formal survey that’s going to require a lot of your time. It’s a just blank field where you can supply as many questions or topic suggestions as you’d like.

Thanks for your input!

CompuServe Is No More — But Will Email Addresses Remain Active?

July 7th, 2009
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CompuServe, the pioneering online service, quietly ended its 30-year run on June 30. Current owner AOL made the shutdown announcement via email to its dwindling ranks of subscribers, prompting blog eulogies from nostalgic fans — and a little bit of snark from the peanut gallery (“CompuWHAT?”).

The news caught my eye, not only because I’m a former user.

I remember logging on to CompuServe to check stock market quotes and search a Lexis-Nexis-style periodical database during my first reporting job out of college. I also shared one of those now-ludicrous numerical email addresses with about four other reporters.

More relevant to the here and now is the notice that current subscribers can retain their existing CompuServe Classic email addresses.

The process requires subscribers to migrate their old accounts to a new, Web-mail service through an online registration form — but how many of those address will, indeed, remain active?

Subscriber apathy, user error, or technical glitches could cause many of those addresses to stop functioning. And if you’ve got CompuServe address in your email database, that could mean more bounces in the coming weeks.

So take a look at your database. See how many @compuserve.com addresses you’re currently mailing, and watch for bounces or other signs of inactivity in future campaigns. You don’t want to purge those addresses from your list immediately, but you also don’t want the ghosts of past ISPs threatening your list hygiene.

CompuServe Classic Mail Migration:
http://member.compuserve.com/mailcenter/default.jsp

CompuServe Eulogy from The PaperPC
http://paperpc.blogspot.com/2009/06/compuserve-classic-so-long-old-friend.html

Capitalize on media attention to build relationships: Two approaches

May 29th, 2009
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This week brought us dueling product announcements from Google and Microsoft that, naturally, got a lot of attention from media and bloggers. But as I was reading about Microsoft’s new search engine, Bing, and Google’s upcoming Wave communication tool, I noticed something interesting about how the companies are trying to capitalize on crush of media attention and Web traffic.

– Google’s Wave homepage features a prominent blue button that says, “Let me know when it’s ready,” which takes users to a quick survey and email sign-up form to be sent future updates about the product.

It’s a smart tactic: Product-launch alert campaigns are a great way to capture opt-ins, and those messages tend to generate strong open and clickthrough rates.

– Microsoft’s Bing homepage, on the other hand, doesn’t feature an email sign-up form (as far as I could see). Instead, it appears the Microsoft team is using social media to make connections with interested visitors.

The Bing site features a link to a Bing Facebook group, and invites visitors to follow Bing on Twitter.

I haven’t seen data or done a case study yet on using social media to keep potential customers in the loop about product announcements. I’d be very interested to see how it compares to email in generating interest and activity after launch.

But in both cases, Google and Microsoft are being smart about weaving an engagement strategy into a big publicity push. Whether you’re using email, Twitter or another channel, you can make a direct connection with your audience that turns a sudden, transitory wave of interest in your company or products into the first step of a long-term relationship.

Two Weeks Notice: Seeking Speakers For Demand Generation Summit

May 7th, 2009
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In case you haven’t seen the link in our newsletters or on our homepage, we’re currently accepting speaking proposals for our 2009 B-to-B Demand Generation Summit.

With the deadline for submissions just two weeks away — May 21 — I wanted to give our readers another heads up. This is your chance to stand up and share your best practices, most successful campaign tactics, or insights into what works now in B2B marketing.

Again, we’re most interested in your own experiences, campaign war stories, case studies and lessons learned in areas such as:
o Lead nurturing
o Lead scoring
o International demand generation
o B-to-B email
o Paid search advertising and SEO
o Social media marketing
o Events
o Creating marketing content

Take a few minutes to submit your proposal here.

Don’t forget, this the the Summit will be held September 23-24 in San Francisco, and October 5-6 in Waltham, MA.

The Cardinal Sins of B2B Search Engine Marketing

April 9th, 2009
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I recently came across a great free resource for B2B marketers looking for tips on starting or refining their PPC campaigns for lead generation. Todd Miechiels, a B2B search engine marketing expert, has compiled his list of the “7 Cardinal Sins of B2B Search Engine Marketing.” It features such missteps as:
o Not Establishing a Clear and Realistic Goal
o Not Being Diligent About Testing and Refining

The upshot of Miechiels’ report is that PPC campaigns are so easy to start that marketers often jump into a project without the proper planning, research and budget required to generate significant results and actionable lessons to improve their campaigns.

After reading the report, I was inspired to humbly offer an eighth “cardinal sin”:

– Sin #8. Neglecting your PPC landing pages

When developing a PPC campaign, marketers may be so focused on the mechanics of the search channel – such as keyword selection, ad placement, or bidding strategies – that they forget to focus on the action prospects are supposed to take once they’ve clicked on a search ad.

Landing pages are the lynchpin of PPC campaigns. A click isn’t a lead until you’ve convinced that prospect to take an action and provide some information about themselves that will allow you to continue nurturing the lead.

So when planning a PPC campaign, you may even want to work backwards from your landing page, focusing on key elements that will influence your conversion rate, such as:
o Headlines and body copy – Does the searcher know they’re in the right place and understand the value of your offer?
o Design and layout – Do the text and graphic elements offer a clear eye path to get prospects toward the call to action?
o Call to action – Is it obvious what step you’re asking prospects to take next?
o Registration form requirements – How much information do you *really* need from prospects in exchange for the offer?

If you’re confident that your landing page is optimized to generate conversions, you then can build out the PPC campaigns you’ll use to drive traffic to those pages.