Marketers looking to communicate with customers through their Web site should consider the following tips:
1) Include an RSS feed. Customers can subscribe to the feed, choose the information that interests them and have it delivered directly. Any content posted on a site can be organized into an RSS feed. It's easy for you and optional for your customer.
2) Start a blog. It's an opportunity to share more of who you are and what you do from an insider's perspective. It's easy to maintain and shows your customers that you are widely available and keeping information fresh. The common misperception is that blogs are informal, which does not necessarily need to be the case. If you want it to be, it's an up-to-the-minute newsfeed to which visitors can post comments, allowing them to connect directly with your company.
3) Provide “ways in.” Identify when a particular audience needs their own community and create a separate site catered to them. Though it's possible to tilt your messages so each segment of your customer base has a way in to your company, you might consider creating an entire site devoted to one particular segment. For example, depending on your product, you may consider creating a site through which consumers can make transactions, and have it be separate from the site where expert users or professionals can gather information. Clearly a solution for larger companies, this allows you to show your customer base how much they are valued, and likewise enables you to easily connect with a specialized segment.
4) Allow customers to communicate with one another. Provide a forum in which your customers can communicate with one another. Software companies have shown that even if it's not positive feedback, if your company is responsive, it shows you're growing, developing and evolving, and not avoiding even negative criticism.
5) Gather FAQs from clients. Take FAQs from your customers, not your team. You may think you understand the wants and needs of your customer base, but only they can tell you what they're looking for. Supply them with an easily accessible feedback link or contact form to show that you're encouraging a response, and then be certain to actually be responsive. Be reliable by supplying a time frame in which you'll respond to inquiries—then be sure to stick to it—and likewise, prepare and train your team so they're ready to answer questions in a timely manner.
6) Communicate, communicate, communicate. Regardless of how large your organization is, remain in contact with your customers. Give a more personal voice to your business and make it look like an organization of individuals, not a monolith. Stay in contact with your clients.
Siobhan Kelleher is director of client services and digital media at Sametz Blackstone Associates (www.sametz.com), a strategic communications consulting firm.
Problem: Creating custom content to increase search engine visibility.
Solution: In the crowded sphere of online marketing, your product or service and its accompanying Web site need a competitive edge to get noticed. Tapping into the power of search engine optimization can help you capture as many results about your company as possible.
In simple terms, you need to do all you can to stand out. Give potential customers more opportunities to find you. And when someone's looking for relative information about your product or service, you need to be in the right place at the right time.
An easily executable way of accomplishing this is by creating your own custom content and seeding it across the Web. One valuable and cost-effective means is to develop multiple single-page sites, or microsites, that contain articles, reviews and other useful information about your product or service. Although you can create these sites on your own, it's best if the content is written from an outside point of view. After all, there's nothing better than a third-party endorsement. And if done well, visitors won't know that your company was behind it all. This is a great way to get under the “marketing radar” of potential clients, while offering valuable information they are actually looking for.
It's also important when writing the content to integrate relevant keywords and phrases throughout. This further increases a search engine's likelihood of returning multiple results. And last, these custom-made landing pages serve as the perfect medium to incorporate banner advertising and links that lead people directly to your primary Web site. After reading the content, visitors are more likely to click on a relevant banner ad or link to find out more.
So don't get lost online. Let custom content help you find more b-to-b customers. It's simple, inexpensive and most important, it's effective.
Jordan Mauriello is the founder and creative director of moreYELLOW (www.moreyellow.com), an integrated marketing solutions agency.
Problem: Successfully nurturing leads through an e-mail marketing campaign.
Solution: The key to successful lead nurturing is to move away from the traditional mindset that one can generate demand from prospects and to realize that customers control the buying process and will tune out, screen out or toss out any marketing that isn't relevant to their needs. Today, the marketer's job is to synchronize marketing activities to the buyer's process. This means moving from a “demand generation” mindset to one of “demand management” or “demand facilitation.”
The key to this is relevance, which we all know means sending the right message at the right time. Here are three key tactics b-to-b marketers can use to increase relevance:
1) Use segmentation to target messages to the right customers. It's important that you segment not just based on demographics, such as job title and industry, but also on prospect behaviors, such as visiting specific pages on your Web site.
2) Use e-mail dialogs, also called “drip marketing”campaigns, to deliver the right message at the right time. Even simple automated programs can yield a fourfold improvement in the percent of marketing inquiries that eventually turn into sales opportunities. The key is to define and automate the process so you ensure that the right message is delivered to prospects based on where they are in their buying process.
3) Trigger the e-mails based on specific customer behaviors—for example, registering for a webinar or engaging in various activities on your site. By integrating this level of data into your e-mail targeting, you can obtain dramatically higher response rates. JupiterResearch reported in late 2006 that targeting e-mails based on Web click-stream data increased open rates by more than 50% and increased conversion rates by more than 350%. Similar research from Gartner Inc. found that event-triggered campaigns performed five times better than traditional batch campaigns.
Jon Miller is VP-marketing for Marketo (www.marketo.com), a provider of marketing automation software.