Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Open Up Already

Are web forms which capture a person’s name, company name, and email address (and often, additional fields) as a mandatory pre-requisite to downloading white papers, analyst reports, data sheets, etc. a conduit for lead capture, or a hindrance to proliferation of your content? Should organizations open access to reports, papers, and other content by removing these forms?

As this continues to be debated in online marketing circles, here’s an overview of both sides:

Open Up: People are more inclined to access, and in turn share, your content when the barrier of the mandatory web form is removed. You will be able to track the leads most relevant to your selling objectives (i.e. meeting requests, inquiries, trial, etc., depending on your product/service and level of touch required) when the content, standing on its own merit, inspires action.

Keep the Web Forms: This level of sharing, sans any tracking, eliminates a common practice in lead capture, and a crucial step in the sales cycle. Foregoing web forms as a means of tracking all leads could cost an organization the opportunity to reach out to cold leads through the inside sales process.

OK, I can see both sides, and the answer really depends on what you are trying to achieve from your online content with respect to lead generation. In general, I am inclined toward opening up, in conjunction with the ongoing pursuit of community involvement and feedback on the content itself, incorporation of which will serve only to increase its value to customers and prospects.

Regardless of the asset type, incorporate strong, consistent messaging throughout your writing, and always include a strong call-to-action. David Meerman Scott in his upcoming book, World Wide Rave, challenges us to relinquish the fear and lose control of the content in order to make it meaningful.

Go ahead. Remove the web forms. Defy the fear. Open up.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Social Media, Are You Kidding?"

Objection-handling--My fellow product marketers will relate to this because it’s a regular function of our jobs to understand the common objections customers and prospects will have relative to our product and service offerings, and to train our sales teams in how to best respond.

The same holds true for your internal audience when it comes to deploying marketing programs in accordance with strategic campaigns, product launches, and offers. Common objections to exploring how social media can improve your bottom line may include such things as:

  • “Are you kidding? We cannot possibly add new programs during this time of cost-cutting”
  • “We don’t have the people/cycles to sustain these efforts/update content/track responses”
  • “What are you smoking with this Web 2.0 talk? Our customers don’t use (insert social media tactic of choice here).”
  • “How redundant. All of our content is on already on our corporate website."
  • “If we allow things to reside in too many places, we’ll lose control over what people say about our content”
  • “This stuff is too confusing. We’re already tracking leads through online registration forms for our content downloads.”

….and so on. The list is by no means exhaustive. Resist the temptation to take a one-size-fits-all approach. This is a conversation that should be fostered with the particular revenue and marketing goals of your business at the core. Kyle Flaherty lent good perspective in his Nov 6 blog post, Stop Talking, Start Doing when he advised us to stop asking how the economy will affect social media, but rather to ask, “How can I improve how social media effects my business?” And to those who resist a conversation focused on revenue, I have to ask, Are You Kidding?