Archive for the ‘Online Marketing’ Category

Marketing Strategies: Is performance-based vendor pricing the best value?

April 12th, 2011

Every advertising agency, SEO specialist, and PR firm likes to be seen as a partner, not a vendor. And that may well define your relationship. But, go down to accounting and explain that relationship, and they’ll laugh in your face.

And for good reason. While, hopefully, you do have that close knit partner relationship, at the end of the day, this is a financial arrangement and you must maximize the value of that arrangement.

On the face of it, performanced-based pricing seems like a no-brainer. You get a guaranteed result, or you don’t pay.

Is this a great country, or what?

Like many things, the devil is in the details. First of all, you have to keep in mind that the vendor knows the metrics far better than most prospective clients do. That means, in many cases, the vendor is selling the illusion of risk.  Second, and more importantly, you have to be sure the result you are paying for is the result you really want.

Let me show you what I mean. I’ll use a teleprospecting vendor as an example, and highlight the lesson you can get out of each example for the type of vendors you work with every day.

What intermediate metrics truly contribute to your success?

In B2B lead generation, a common result is defined as an appointment for sales people. The cost per appointment generally runs from about $400 to $800, depending typically on volume, your brand and the target.  If you can provide the vendor with the people your sales team absolutely, positively wants appointments with, you’re in business.

In my case, I would gladly take appointments with CMOs of B2B companies with $500 million or more in revenue. At least, that would probably be my immediate response. Of course, there might be a few CMOs in that target that oversee pure e-commerce plays, or highly commoditized, low-end products that do not require lead generation, my area of expertise (or, so I would like to think). Therefore, I might pay for some appointments that I don’t really want. So, the real cost for a qualified appointment might be a bit higher than I originally agreed to.

Then there is the hidden cost: sales productivity. The purpose of such services is to increase sales productivity. For these kinds of top executive-level appointments, the representative might very well expect to meet face-to-face with the CMO. So, you have to add to the equation the cost of the commuting time and meeting time. Loaded field sales costs for complex solutions often start at about $100 an hour and can be $500 an hour or more, for elite, high-end key account sales people.

Very quickly, a $500 appointment can become an $800 or even $1,500 appointment, especially if any serious commuting takes place. If the conversion-to-deal is high or the revenue-per-deal is high, then who cares? In many cases, however, buyers find out that 20 to 30 percent of the appointments are not a fit. Now the cost of the qualified appointment goes way up, and the soft cost of sales expense goes to the moon, not to mention the hit on sales productivity.

Unless you are absolutely certain that your sales team wants appointments with a particular set of individuals, then you really need to focus more on qualified leads, not just appointments.

LESSON LEARNED: Make sure you pick the correct intermediate metrics when paying for performance.

Are you helping  your vendors be successful?

OK, now you have learned your lesson, the hard way. You won’t do that again, right? So you negotiate a cost per lead fee structure. Before you do, you wisely work with sales to define BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline) lead criteria and structure the deal accordingly. Again, the devil is in the details. What if sales discovered, after further review, that what they really wanted was to get in to larger accounts before the prospect had finalized a budget? In those cases, maybe the deal takes longer but the win rate is higher and the deal size is higher. Happens all the time. Now you have to try to change the deal. At least for some accounts.

With leads, there is also often subjective information, open to interpretation. Is the prospect really acting with authority? Do they really have a budget? Even seasoned sales people can be mistaken about such things. In short, lead qualification is almost always nuanced, complex and evolving, as the teleprospecting operation figures out how to qualify leads precisely and the sales organization figures out what it really wants and needs. This reality often creates conflict with the vendor initially, because the fee structure negotiated is not really the right fee structure and so one side or the other loses.

Finally, if the vendor is taking all the risk, many people understandably put vendor support on the back burner. It’s human nature. In reality, teleprospecting operations fail, including those that are in-house, without proper support from marketing and sales. For example, from marketing, this operation needs lists, assets and tools, and an appropriate supply of reasonably qualified responders. From sales, the team needs training and mentoring on qualification and precise, rapid feedback on leads..

After all, the fee is fixed and the operation should run on auto-pilot. You also might not bother investing in effective demand generation that feeds the vendor or even list development, instead allowing the vendor to get by on cold-calling decaying lists.

Your program then becomes the dumping ground for new hires. The vendor might also park underperformers there before giving them their walking papers. In other words, both you and the vendor try to extract some value out of the effort. But, some of what matters isn’t getting measured, like the cost in the market place to your brand because of the quality of the calling.

LESSON LEARNED: A business relationship is a two-way street. Your vendor can’t help you be successful, if you don’t help it be successful. As Jerry Maguire said, “Help me help you!”

Is there transparency in your relationship?

So, what’s the right approach? It really depends on what you need and how clear you are about your needs. If you have a reasonably well-oiled, well-documented process and approach to teleprospecting, then asking the vendor to share in the risk and the upside can serve your mutual long-term interests.

If things are not going so well and you need to figure out the right approach, then pay-for-performance is going to create unnecessary conflict. You might be better served in that case to put your focus on determining the right model or strategy for teleprospecting and the parameters of a pilot. Insist on a level of transparency during the pilot and then use the pilot to optimize the approach. Then, after the production level has begun to plateau, start working on a shared risk model.

The right shared risk fee structures ensure that both the vendor and the client win if the program is working and lose if the program is failing. To arrive at such an arrangement, there must be clarity on both sides about mutual obligations and the consquences for non-compliance. Mutual trust and respect are also necessary, including a win-win approach to the fee structure.

To those who might argue that every dollar of profit a vendor makes is a dollar of margin that is lost to its clients, I would point to the free enterprise system. Everywhere in free markets, the quest for profits drives higher levels of efficiency (and losing money drives companies out of markets and out of business). If the vendor makes above average profits for driving above average efficiency, then its clients are the beneficiaries. And the profits that the vendor makes must always be tempered by what its competitors offer or what its clients believe they can achieve in-house.

LESSON LEARNED: A rising tide lifts all boats…as long as everyone is clear on how “tide” and “boat” are defined in the process. So, before you dive in, dip your toe in and start with a pilot that has flexibility to evolve over time. Once the proper success metrics have been discovered, and a working relationship is established, you can create a more successful payment model that truly shares risk and reward.

But don’t stop there. Look at this as an evolving fee model. Continue to optimize as you learn more about what creates a mutually successful relationship.

Related Resources

B2B Marketing: The 7 most important stages in the teleprospecting funnel

B2B Lead Generation: Why teleprospecting is a bridge between sales and marketing

B2B Marketing: The FUEL methodology outlined

Free MarketingSherpa B2B Newsletter

B2B Lead Generation: Why teleprospecting is a bridge between sales and marketing

March 24th, 2011

For complex B2B sales, there is no better capability than teleprospecting for optimizing funnel efficiency.  I suspect that is one of the reasons more and more marketing executives have taken ownership of this function from sales.

One of the reasons that teleprospecting is so important is that it is (or should be) a bridge between upstream marketing campaigns and downstream sales teams.  For marketing, the teleprospecting team cannot only convert marketing responses into sales-ready leads, but provide marketing with clarity on how to improve its demand generation efforts.

Let me provide two simple examples:

1. Fine-tuning lead scoring models

There is probably no more promising capability than lead scoring.  To evolve the rule set, marketing must take aggregate funnel data from teleprospecting and fine tune the scoring model.  For example, usually 20-50 percent of the leads will be unreachable after four or five dials and three or so personal emails from the teleprospecting representative.  By comparing a large pool of these unreachable leads with leads that do respond to follow-up of teleprospecting representatives, marketing can often find different characteristics that correlate to responsiveness and dial up the lead score accordingly.

2. Fine-tuning messaging and media strategy

If a large percentage of potential customers the teleprospecting team does reach are out of the target market, then marketing can often fine-tune its messaging and its media/search strategy to improve the percentage of responders who are actually in the target market.

If the teleprospecting team receives similar, simple feedback on the sales-ready leads, that feedback can help the teleprospecting team improve it’s practices.  For example, if there is a disproportionate percentage of sales-ready leads that do not respond to the follow up by sales, then the teleprospecting team (or some subset of the team) most likely needs additional training (or talent) in order to better qualify prospects.

What’s important is that there is a repeatable process and that the operation measures the right things.  What’s also important is that marketing views the teleprospecting capability as a mechanism for improving upstream marketing efficiency and that the teleprospecting operation views sales feedback in a similar light.

In this light, the real question isn’t whether sales or marketing owns the teleprospecting function, but that everyone sees the potential for teleprospecting to better connect marketing to sales and drive optimization of the funnel.

Related resources

Free Web clinic, March 30th — Converting Leads to Sales: How one B2B company generated $4.9 million in additional sales pipeline growth in only 8 months

B2B Marketing: The FUEL methodology outlined

How and When to Use Content in the B2B Sales Process (Members library)

Free MarketingSherpa B2B Newsletter

Informed Dissent: The best marketing campaigns come from the best ideas

March 18th, 2011

“There are no bad ideas.” When I was an advertising copywriter, this is the line we would always use to enter a realm of, essentially, suspension of disbelief and start concepting our next ad. The idea being that, even if I come up with the absolute worse idea, it might spark a concept in my art director partner that would eventually lead us down the road to riches for our client and our names engraved on a gold One Show pencil.

But, of course, there are bad ideas. And according to an article in Ode magazine about research into ways to spur creativity and innovation, those bad ideas are…well…bad…

“These revelations are all the more potent considering that many organizations continue to embrace the ‘brainstorming’ technique developed by advertising executive Alex Osborn in the 1950s. According to Osborn’s now debunked system, criticism and conflict squash new ideas and should be discouraged; in hindsight, those brainstorming sessions of yore were more likely to act as echo chambers in which bad ideas were amplified by fake enthusiasm.”

“In praise of dissent” by Jeremy Mercer

A dissident is here

In essence, to get better marketing work, you must not be pulled into the groupthink.

And, while this is the first time I have personally heard anyone admonish the idea of reality-free brainstorming, dissent shouldn’t be a radically new idea, right?

More than 50 years ago, General Patton said, “If everybody’s thinking alike, somebody isn’t thinking.” More recently, we’ve heard the bland embellishments to “think outside of the box.” And yet…

So many times we don’t. From the financial crisis to the heap of blasé, color-by-numbers marketing that proliferates across the Web, so many people don’t pop their head out of the cubicle and say, “Our current way of doing things isn’t a good idea.”


Hang on, Voltaire

It’s not easy now, is it? It’s hard to be the outsider. It’s hard to tell the group, “You’re all wrong and I’m right.” It’s hard to, perhaps, put your job on the line by separating from the pack.

As Voltaire said a few hundred years ago… “Our wretched species is so made that those who walk on the well-trodden path always throw stones at those who are showing a new road.” Pretty harsh. Can you imagine how much more biting those words would be if he ever had to ask for a LinkedIn Recommendation from a former co-worker that he publicly disagreed with?

But, perhaps, as with marketing itself, it’s all how you communicate your dissent? Both your attitude and approach? To wit…

So, how do you disagree agreeably?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this as well, but here are a few ways I’ve learned to buck the status quo in my career…

  • Ask questions – “That’s a horrible idea, our audience will hate us for it.” Or… “That’s an interesting idea. How do you think our audience will react if we sell our list to Viagara salesmen from Nigeria?” When you disagree, the last thing you want is a battle of wills, head-to-head confrontation.

    Put your ego away for a moment, and serve simply as the advocate for the idea. The best (and most non-confrontational) way to bring someone along to your side is by giving them gentle triggers to aspects they may not have considered. This way, they are discovering why an idea won’t work, instead of having you ram it down their throats. This also helps them (and you) save face. After all, no one wants to lose a head-to-head battle.

    As in the movie “Inception,” you can’t plant an idea in someone’s head, only introduce the seed, nurture it, and hope to watch it grow.

  • See things differently – In the famous “Think Different” TV ad, Richard Dreyfuss talks about those who “gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels.” You don’t have to be quite that visionary, but simply looking at everyday things in a new way can help.

    Take data, for example. I was very impressed by a comment by Greg Sherry, VP, Marketing and Business Development, Verint Systems. During his MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2010 presentation, he mentioned that he invested in direct mail because he read in a MarketingSherpa Benchmark Report that less marketers were investing in direct mail. He figured he’d have less competition. How counterintuitive.

    Or in a recent article by Adam T. Sutton about the origin story of Orabrush’s YouTube sponsor channel, which is second only to Old Spice. This small business sponsored market research by a college class and found that 92% of people wouldn’t want to buy this product online, so the class advised against it. One dissident student raised his hand and said, “That means 8% might be interested in buying it online. That’s millions of people.”

  • Let others challenge you – Here’s what Jeremy Mercer advises in the above-referenced Ode magazine article:

    o Have executives lead by example by allowing subordinates to challenge their positions
    o Hold meetings at which diverse perspectives are welcomed
    o Surround yourself with people who think differently than you do.

  • Be right – There’s nothing worse than putting yourself on the line for a cause and being wrong. Don’t create “facts” that support your decisions, base your decisions on the facts. A great way to do this is with real-world, real-time online testing. In this way, you can experiment with your dissident idea as well as the ideas you disagree with and let your customers be the judge. Just make sure you know what those test results really mean.

In the end, you have to be a little bit Patton (the hard-nosed general shepherding an idea past any obstacle), and a little bit Voltaire (the outspoken writer finding creative means around strict censorship to criticize your organization’s dogma).

Related Resources

Marketing Wisdom: In the end, it’s all about…

The Last Blog Post: To understand life is to understand marketing

From Corporate America to Entrepreneur: Giving up steady pay for a steady say

Free MarketingSherpa Newsletters

Marketing Career: Free salary guides for direct and online marketing

March 11th, 2011

How much money do you make?

For whatever reason, that’s a question most of us never ask our peers. It’s such an uncomfortable topic to discuss. Yet, you’re curious, aren’t you? And well, you should be. How can you benchmark your salary without knowing what other VPs of Ecommerce, Search Engine Marketing Analysts and Advertising Agency Copywriters are earning?

That’s why I was so intrigued when I received a “Dear Editor” email from Wendy Weber, President, Crandall Associates, with two marketing salary reports attached (the DMA directs inquiries about salaries to Crandall). I gave Wendy a call, and she was kind enough to share these guides – for free – with the MarketingSherpa audience. So, here they are:

“The guides were compiled using salary data from conversations with over 1,100 direct and online marketing professionals, including both hiring managers and job seekers,” Weber said. The executive search firm, which specializes in the direct and online marketing industry, chose not to conduct a mail survey, as they generally have a bias toward larger companies and are never random, as respondents select themselves.

So, aside from the fact that there is a Corporate Copywriter banking $135,000, what else can you learn from this data? Here are two points that stuck out (and we’d love to hear your takeaways as well):

  • Digital marketing salaries continue to grow The average annual salary for digital marketing positions has shown a steady increase, according to Weber. For example, the average salary for Web Analytics Manager has grown 2.8% since 2010 to $78,200.
  • Optimization is a valuable skill – The top-paying Internet jobs require knowledge of optimization. For the VP of Online Marketing ($169,300-$198,200 with 7+ years experience), the job description calls for the ability to “manage and merchandise…site navigation and shopability, transaction processing, onsite promotion management…” And the Director of Ecommerce ($146,200-$168,700 with 7+ years of experience) specifically asks for “landing page optimization.”

In fairness, since we just announced our new Optimization Summit, I may have optimization on the brain – so I’d love to hear your takeaways as well.

Related Resources

Optimization Summit 2011 – June 1 -3

From Corporate America to Entrepreneur: Giving up steady pay for a steady say

Marketing Career: You must be your company’s corporate conscience

Marketing Career: Can you explain your job to a six-year-old?

“How to Become Indispensable to Your CEO” Special Report

MarketingSherpa Job Listings

MarketingExperiments Careers

Content Marketing: How to get your subject matter experts on your corporate blog

December 17th, 2010

At MarketingSherpa, we’ve noticed that inbound marketing is a growing tactic that is starting to show consistent results for marketers, which is why we’re launching an Inbound Marketing newsletter in 2011. For example, according to the MarketingSherpa 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, the majority of B2B organizations are increasing their marketing budgets for inbound tactics like social media and SEO.

How to get your subject matter experts on your corporate blog

So, I was a little surprised by a recent statistic that came across my desk. Out of 534 Fortune 1000 CMOs surveyed byBlog2Print, only 23.2 % utilize corporate blogs. As a content marketing insider, I thought everyone and their sister (well, my sister is at least) is blogging. But that’s my problem. As a content marketing insider, I get all tingly when I see my blogs’ names up in lights on a tree (no, that’s not a Christmas reference. For a creative interesting inbound marketing tactic, check out The Blog Tree by Eloqua and Jess3. And thanks, Joe!)

So I pulled another Sherpa book off my shelf (the 2010 Social Media Marketing Benchmark Report, for those keeping score at home), and noticed that while marketers find blogging to be one of the most effective social media tactics (behind only blogger relations and microblogging), it is also one of the most difficult (second only to blogger relations).

So, to help you kick start your blog in the new year (or kick start the new year with a new blog), here’s a three-part answer to a question that I find marketers often struggle with: How can I get subject matter experts onto my corporate blog?

Step #1: Make it easier

While I have the luxury of a highly talented team of reporters and writers here on the MarketingSherpa blog, over on the MarketingExperiments blog we rely on subject matter experts who have better things to do than write blog posts. Their time is valuable. And one way they don’t want to spend it is figuring out a blog platform.

Yet, when I first started with that blog, our research analysts were publishing their own posts. They were going into WordPress, wrestling with picture layouts, the whole nine. We quickly removed that impediment. All we require is a poorly written Word document. Sometimes just an interview. Heck, once I even received a blog post written in Excel from a data analyst.

We don’t need their writing (or blog posting) skills. We can do that for them. We just want their subject matter expertise. Because these guys (and gals) are smart, and there is no way we can replicate their years of research and experience.

You might not have the exact same infrastructure, but ask yourself this – is there any way I can make the entire process easier? Ask them to forward an email they’ve already written. Take them for a walk and pick their brain. Heck, check out what they scribble on whiteboards throughout the day. After all, while they may be engineers or architects, they certainly aren’t writers. And they don’t need to be.

Step #2: Show them what they know

Another thing I’ve found with subject matter experts is that they are, as the name implies, experts. That means they have extremely deep knowledge. So, sometimes they set too high a bar for themselves. They don’t realize that their likely audience is not…well, experts. So when it comes to putting themselves out there in the world, they want to write a deep, knowledgeable post that will take them three weeks to compose and possibly will only be understood by three people.

Or they could swing in the other direction. They assume that everyone knows what they know and they would be mocked for even thinking about writing about such a simplistic topic. “Pssshhh. Everyone knows a 3.89-meter transinducer couldn’t stand up to the shock of multiple neutron bomb strikes with a 12 parsec velocity” Substitute the word “transinducer” with “server specs” or “mortgage regulations” and you’ll likely face the same challenge.

It’s something we wrestle with on our blogs as well. Where is the sweet spot? We don’t want to write content that is too elementary or too advanced. But sometimes I overshoot as well and forget that simple blog posts can be very helpful, as we’ve found with recent blog posts about email marketing and landing page optimization.

So challenge your SMEs (I love that abbreviation…so Peter Pan-esque) with this question – if I was new to our industry, what are the first three things you would want me to know? A treasure trove of blog post lies in the answer to that question.

Step #3: Reward them (differently)

While doing good is its own reward, writing a blog post is not. It’s one more task you’re throwing onto an already too big heap. After all, they (like you) are busy.

And, essentially, what you’re trying to do here is make a sale. Getting a subject matter expert to write a blog post is a conversion. So work up some of your marketing mojo and make sure there is a true value exchange. You are buying some of their precious and scarce time, and what do you have to offer in return?

While it is part of everybody’s job to help make the company more successful, in fairness, you will be getting more than you’re giving. Still, it’s important to reward your SMEs (more than Captain Hook did for Mr. Smee, that’s for sure) for the time and effort they put in to help grease the wheels for you as you try to get future blog posts from that subject matter expert.

But there is no one-size-fits-all solution that makes a good reward for a blog post. So, you must ask yourself – what motivates my subject matter experts? Here are a few types of subject matter experts and the rewards that might be most helpful to them (most people are a combination of the below archtypes):

  • The Aspiring Industry Rock Star – Show them all the recognition they’re getting around the Web and particularly in your industry. Show them how their post was tweeted or quoted by an industry luminary.
  • The Plumber – As Eddie Vedder said, “I want to be the plumber of rock stars.” Some people just like helping others and making a difference. For these people, share feedback you’ve received from your audience showing them how they helped move the needle in people’s careers and in their lives.
  • The Ladder Climber – For these people, it’s all about career growth. So, do what you’re doing for the plumbers and the rock stars, just make sure that their boss (and their boss’s boss) knows about it as well.
  • The Bottom Liner – It’s all about the Benjamins, baby. One of the reasons we all work, we all leave our loved ones and head out on that 6:35 train, is for filthy lucre. Try to work with your management in getting a little something extra for bloggers. A $25 Starbucks gift card for the blogger with the most tweets every month. A small year-end bonus for the person with the most comments. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth properly incenting.

And always, always, always give credit where it’s due. Speaking of which, thanks to Ruth White-Cabbell of Cisco for a conversation that inspired this post, and our own Joelle Parra for copy editing and Sean Kinberger for designing and posting what you just read.

Related resources

Create and Manage a Team-Authored Blog: 8 steps to reap SEO gains

How to Keep Your Blog Out of a Courtroom – Advice from a Legal Pro on Providing, Creating Content – Member’s Library

The MarketingExperiments Quarterly research Journal, Q3 2010

photo by: Mai Le

Online Marketing: Cyber Monday reactions from 17 of your consumer marketing peers

December 3rd, 2010

The swirling vortex of shopping and hype that is affectionately known as Black Friday to Cyber Monday always draws plenty of ink, both virtual and actual. Here at MarketingSherpa we prefer metrics to hype, and real world stories over vague lifestyles “reporting.” With that in mind, following are some facts about this past Monday online, a chart and below the fold an entire host of actual reactions to Cyber Monday from e-tailers, industry insiders and more.

Just the facts, ma’am

  • Email is big this year – Experian CheetahMail found email volume around Black Friday was up 23 percent over 2009
  • This year’s Cyber Monday was the most profitable e-commerce day in the history of the Internet
  • ComScore found online retailers broke the $1 billion sales barrier, a 16 percent increase over last year
  • More than nine million people shopped on Cyber Monday – up four percent over 2009 – and spent an average of $114.24
  • Amazon won the most trafficked Cyber Monday e-commerce site title
  • Walmart was the most searched term on Cyber Monday
  • US visits to the top 500 retail sites were up 16 percent
  • Search and cross-shopping across other retailers sites accounted for 44 percent of referrals last week

And now the chart …

Head below the fold for Cyber Monday reactions … Read more…

Online Marketing Conversion: “Free” is a Pretty Strong Incentive

November 18th, 2010

I recently ran across a somewhat informal, but interesting none-the-less, study on the power of “free” to drive a conversion. Behavioral economist, Dan Ariely, heard that a New York nightclub was promoting an event featuring “free tattoos,” so he sent a research assistant to see if this incentive led to a conversion in the form of a tattoo.

The power of “free”

The resulting research isn’t scientifically or statistically rigorous, but it does offer a little insight into the command that the simple incentive of “free” adds to an offer.

  • The average age of “participants,” that is club-goers at that establishment on that night, was 26
  • Of the people in line to get a free tattoo, 68 percent said they would not be getting the tattoo if it wasn’t free
  • 90 percent of those in line were aware of the free tattoo promotion
  • Only 15 percent made the decision to get a tattoo after arriving at the nightclub
  • 85 percent arrived that night planning on getting the free ink

The results of this informal test:

The results indicate that the power of “free” is surprisingly influential.  When we face a decision about a tattoo, one would hope that the long term permanency of the decision, coupled with the risks of getting different types of infections would cause people to pay little attention to price, and certainly not to be swayed one way or another by the power of free.  But sadly, the reality (at list in the nightclub scene in New York) suggests that the power of free can get us to make many foolish decisions.


The big incentivized picture

Okay, not scientific. And plenty of test subjects were likely fairly impaired by chemicals in the decision process, but the raw numbers show that 68 percent of the people made their conversion decision (getting a tattoo) based on the incentive alone.

Where does that fit in the larger world of marketing? In the Landing Page Optimization training course found at our sister company, MarketingExperiments, incentive is defined as an appealing element you introduce to stimulate a desired action. That action might be a clickthrough, or to fill out an online form, or even an actual sale.

And the incentive has a key objective – to “tip the balance” of emotional forces from negative friction elements to positive to achieve conversion.

Here’s a chart from the MarketingExperiments Landing Page Optimization course illustrating that concept:

Here’s the thing with incentives, even if they are free – some are better than others. Depending on the goal of the offer, the incentive might be a free webinar, or a free computer mouse, or $100 off of a training session. The possibilities are practically limitless, so the key is to test incentives. All too often companies will try one incentive offer then quit. For any offer, an “ideal incentive” probably exists – you just need to keep testing until you find it.

Related Resources

Become a Certified Professional in Landing Page Optimization

Dances with Science: Are you better off not A/B testing?

Landing Page Optimization: Clean air or a free backpack? (Which is the bigger incentive for Sierra Club members?)

Internet Marketing: Landing page optimization for beginners

B2B Marketing: Are tradeshows on the way out?

October 28th, 2010

Bet that title got your attention. And the answer is, “Of course not.” Tradeshows, seminars, expositions and conferences have been a key way to connect with customers and colleagues for a long time (see the recently completed MarketingSherpa B2B Summit for just one example), but these events are facing some stiff competition from cyberspace.

The MarketingSherpa 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report just came out and I had the chance to review it a couple of weeks ago. The report covers B2B marketing tactics, budgeting, challenges for the coming year and more. The information was gathered through 935 marketer surveys and the report includes 167 charts and tables.

The Benchmark Report is full of great material, but one particular chart really caught my eye:

The effectiveness of webinars is significantly greater than tradeshows

Now you’re probably thinking, “What gives?” I grabbed your attention with a dramatic title and immediately calmed things down with a reassurance that tradeshows aren’t going away anytime soon. Now this bit about effectiveness? The strong numbers for the effectiveness of virtual events and webinars are very intriguing, but maybe because they are so much less expensive to execute, marketers are placing too much value in the online events.

I asked Jen Doyle, Senior Research Analyst at MarketingSherpa and Lead Author of the 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, if some of this effectiveness is related to savings over tradeshows. Here is Jen’s response, “Absolutely. In addition to the benefit of cost effectiveness, webinars also offer a balance between having one-on-one conversations with prospects as with tradeshows, and reaching a high volume of prospects which isn’t always easily accomplished at these events.

“Our 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Study of nearly 1,000 B2B marketers revealed that the effectiveness of webinars is significantly greater than tradeshows.”

The emphasis on her final sentence is mine. So virtual events and webinars are seen as effective, but that view comes from a lot more than simple savings over tradeshows.

What makes live events and webinars effective?

Just how effective do marketers find virtual events and webinars? Here is Jen once again, “When executed properly, virtual events or webinars can be highly effective methods in both lead generation and lead nurturing. With the execution of webinars, organizations are able to generate interest, build brand credibility and gain thought-leadership recognition – all of which will lead to results that impact a B2B organization’s bottom line.

“In this year’s B2B study, we learned that 43% of B2B organizations found virtual events or webinars to be highly effective, and another 48% to find them somewhat effective. When we compared these ratings of effectiveness to other B2B marketing tactics such as email marketing, search, telemarketing, direct mail, etc., webinars came in as the second most effective B2B marketing tactic overall, just behind website design, management and optimization.”

At MarketingSherpa, we host both live events (like the upcoming Email Summit) and webinars (like the upcoming B2B Marketing Summit Wrap-up which, ironically, is “virtual” yet based on a live event).

Webinars are a great way to maintain a regular conversation and provide consistent information to our audience throughout the year. Live events offer the opportunity to really have some deep interaction with our audience, and allows them to share knowledge peer-to-peer, marketer-to-marketer.

So both live and virtual events work for us. It’s about finding the right place and time for each, and ensuring we have a steady stream of information for our audience through the year. What about your company? What have you found works best for you?

Related resources

2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report

Free Executive Summary: 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report

Marketing Webinar Optimization: Five questions to ask yourself about webinars

Internet Marketing Research: A behind-the scenes look at MarketingExperiments Web clinics

Testing Interactive Ecommerce Features

June 21st, 2010

Social ecommerce technology has lifted sales and turned one-way websites into two-way conversations. Ratings and reviews, for example, have tremendously improved the consumers’ shopping experience, as well as many marketers’ conversion rates.

Frank Malsbenden, VP and General Manager, and his team are already looking for the next winning interactive ecommerce feature. The team maintains several footwear ecommerce sites, including, which Maslbenden calls “the perfect sandbox.”

The team often tests new ideas on this smaller site, giving it a unique feature set that’s worth browsing for ideas. Features include:

– One-click voting and tagging

On product pages, visitors can click to declare they “like” or “hate” a product. A score is tallied on the page. They can also tag products, similar to how blog posts are tagged. Visitors can view the most “liked” or “hated” products, or products bearing the same user-generated tag.

– Drag-and-drop sharing

On product category pages, visitors can click product images and drag them onto icons to share their links on Facebook, Twitter or via email.

– Profile and live feed

Customers are given profile pages, where they can track all the shoes they’ve “liked,” “hated,” tagged and shared. They can create a vanity URL and have their profile’s page views tallied and displayed. The profile also shows a live feed of all activity on the site, such as:
o Products recently viewed
o Products recently liked, hated, shared or emailed

Malsbenden’s team is testing these features and others, such as a possible live feed integration on the homepage. Features they deem as winners will be incorporated into the fall redesign of the team’s flagship website,

New Resource: The MarketingExperiments Quarterly Research Journal

April 30th, 2010

I wanted to let you know about a new resource available from our sister company, MarketingExperiments. They’ve just released The MarketingExperiments Quarterly Research Journal.

This new publication collects the some of the best writing and research published during the last quarter by the three companies in the MECLABS Group: MarketingExperiments, MarketingSherpa, and InTouch. It’s free and available online for anyone to read.

This issue includes 22 articles to help you optimize your marketing, including:

• Analysis of the latest site, search and email optimization research by the MarketingExperiments team
• Lead nurturing and lead management advice from Brian Carroll, CEO, InTouch
• Social Media research and advice from Sergio Balegno, Research Director, MarketingSherpa

Here’s the link to get your free copy now:

Enjoy! And if something you learn there helps you improve your own marketing campaigns, I’d love to hear about it.