Year over year site stats…

I’m pretty happy with my company’s site improvements year over year.

Online Marketing % Increases – FY2009 v. FY2008

Adjusted Percentages (highest & lowest data points removed)

New Visitors: +62%

Repeat Visitors: +68%

Total Visitors: +62%

Leads: +133%

RAW Percentages (all data points included)

New Visitors: +69%

Repeat Visitors: +67%

Total Visitors: +69%

Leads: +161%

Gotta keep that arrow moving up and to the right for 2010!

Retrospective on my year as an online marketer

I have to say that this has probably been one of the most enjoyable years of my professional career. 2009 was my first full year running the Online Marketing functions at my company, Attivio. To say I learned a lot is an understatement. Most of my professional experience until 2009 centered around Software QA testing and engineering management. When I decided that I wanted to make the career change I wasn’t really worried, but there were many, many things I knew I had to learn. So yep, you guessed it, here’s my list of observations from the past year from the perspective of an R&D guy turned Online Marketer.

1. Don’t discount how much everyone thinks they know marketing, even though they don’t.

Messaging, collateral, graphics, web design, fonts (yes, even fonts) are seen by everyone in the company when it’s produced by the Marketing team. This is a lot different than say, some software code in a module in an application. No matter how awesome you think it is (or how hard you worked on it) be prepared for someone to NOT like it.

Takeaway: I’ve found that it’s necessary to be able to handle criticism, especially when it’s something you’ve built. That’s ok though, it’s better than not hearing any feedback at all (which can be worse).

2. Don’t wait.

Have wireframes? Send them to stakeholders for review.

Have mock-ups or draft copy? Send them to stakeholders for review.

Site updates on a staging server? Send them to stakeholders for review.

Takeaway: Nothing sucks more than hearing that something has to change because a stakeholder is seeing it for the first time right before you’re about to release, publish or send it out. If the CEO, CTO, CFO, C3PO need to review it before “it’s done”, then get them advanced previews early, even if it’s not the way things are typically done. It will save you time and headaches later. This is no different than in the engineering world, test early and often.

3. Inbound Marketing rocks, but don’t discount the power of Outbound too. It’s all part of the Marketing circle of life.

Face it, not everyone in the world knows about your company’s website. Even a kick-ass, highly-SEO-optimized site with great content isn’t going to be read by all your potential prospects. Outbound methods, coupled with optimized conversion pages on your site are really powerful.

Takeaway: Our most successful campaigns this year generated leads by using a multi-pronged approach of outbound (targeted emails with compelling calls-to-action to a purchased or home-built list) and inbound (a conversion page designed to compel the visitor to convert and thereby become a lead and even some SEM complimenting the whole thing). I still firmly believe that any lead you convert on your site (opt-in) is 1000 times more valuable than some name & email that’s bought off a list, but the magic is when you get that person to come to your site, connect with your content and then ask for more. My sales people LOVE the inbound leads and gathering more intelligence on them when they convert is one of my 2010 goals.

4. Video is powerful, video is cool, video is fun, but just another tool.

First off, let me say that producing video content is fun. It’s an avenue to be creative, to interact with people, to try to deliver content in new, compelling ways. However, it’s resource intensive if you want/need to produce high-quality production styles. Consult an expert. That being said, I’ve received more positive feedback on the video content on our site than anything else. Sometimes there are just concepts and ideas that aren’t easily conveyed in writing or with clever graphics. Video simply helps provide people another way grasp ideas, concepts or messaging.

Takeaway: Know your boundaries. If you’re producing video for a blog, don’t sweat the production quality. If it’s an intro video on your company homepage, it should be of the same quality as your homepage graphics/theme. Also, don’t be afraid, pick up a Flip or a Kodak Zi8 and start shooting content, the quality gets better as you learn what works and doesn’t. I would say 50% of the video I shoot is only used internally (Sales training and enablement), but may be the most valuable.

Takeaway #2: Buy external flash drives. Digitized video takes up gobs of space and you’ll quickly have a mountain of hours and hours of content that you’ll be sitting on.

Takeaway #3: Be prepared to invest some time. Planning, shooting, post-production, reviews can quickly suck up ALL of your time which, depending on many resources you have, can kill other objectives if your not careful.

5. Measure & course correct.

Are you tracking:

  • site visitors over time?
  • lead conversions across campaigns (inbound and outbound)?
  • what happens to a lead once it’s given to your Sales team?
  • the effectiveness of your SEM strategy?
  • the content on your site that performs well (and poorly)?
  • the latest trends/tools (there’s more than just Twitter)?
  • how well your message is conveyed on your site?
  • what your competitors are doing?

Takeaway: You should be. Understanding what works and doesn’t and being able to try different approaches in an agile manner is key to the role of an Online Marketer. Data analytics is your friend and can help support budget or kill ideas you know or feel are misdirected. There are many tools out there for all of the above. Research them and use them. It will make your life easier.

Happy New Year and thanks for reading. One of my resolutions is to post more in 2010 too.

Example of buyer-led video using the VisibleGains platform

I’ve been working pretty closely with the crew over at VisibleGains (formerly known as PermissionTV) and thought I’d share a link to a page that hosts one of my latest creations.

This page is an organic landing page I built to present resources to a targeted persona group. The page consists of on-page content, video, links to collateral and other calls-to-action (phone, email, contact us, twitter, facebook).

Of course, the fun part is in the video content develop and application building. The cool thing about the VisibleGains platform is the back-end reporting that shows me exactly what path users take through the video app and where & what content they’re engaged with.

I’ll post more details on my experiences with their platform as time allows, but thought I’d at least share a link here for anyone that wants to check out buyer-led video in action.

Would love to hear comments and/or feedback.

Click the image above to go to the page with the video app on it.

My web TV debut on PTVLive

Even with a face made for radio I don’t think that my debut web TV session with Matthew Mamet on PTV Live went too bad.

Click the thumbnail below to check it out…I’d embed it into this post, but WordPress and I aren’t getting along at the moment.

ptv-live-thumb

Why, as a brand, you should follow back followers.

In addition to my personal Twitter account (@smith_drew), I also handle my company’s account (@attivio). While I don’t spend as much time as I’d like to promoting/conversing/sharing via that account I do check in daily, try to post an interesting nugget or two and check on any new followers.

As I’m sure most people that have been on Twitter for a while know, there are a lot of spammers and people that just follow for the sake of trying to build up their following counts. I’m ok with the latter, doesn’t bother me, whatever gets you by.

When a new person follows @attivio I typically try to log on and check them out right away. I usually triage (maybe not the best word) the follower by:

  • Do they have a picture?
  • Do they have anything in their profile describing themselves?
  • Do they have a link to their site or blog?
  • Then I read through their recent posts and go back a page or two.

If, after that, they don’t seem like a spammer, I follow them back.

For the most part, I just try to use my best judgment.

Sometimes, I’ve run across followers that seem to be more about gaming or some other topic that doesn’t seem pertinent to my company’s business, but I figure that they’re still worth following back.

The reason I do this is because you never know if a person that follows your company Twitter account might actually be a customer or user of your services. If you don’t follow back it can send a message that you don’t value their effort to follow you or engage with you.

Recently, I had this exact case happen. I followed back a person that had a gamer-centric profile and as it would turn out, they ended up having used our software in their job and they were kind enough to send us a shout out and say that they liked our product.

Example of why you should follow back if you're a brand on Twitter.

Example of why you should follow back if you're a brand on Twitter.

In addition, I think it’s important for a brand on Twitter to acknowledge when someone gives you praise (or offer help to rectify a problem if they give you critcism).

Most importantly, turn off the auto-DMs. Nothing is more annoying than following someone or a brand and getting a canned reply back with zero personalization. It takes about 30 seconds to craft a quick thank you response and include their name or Twitter id. Don’t try to sell them something via a pre-canned auto-DM without engaging with them at some level first, if at all.

This may be tough if your brand is reaching huge numbers of followers, but it’s still a good idea in practice if you can do it. After all, initial impressions are important.

Are you capturing and analyzing your site referrals?

We’ve been doing this for a while and it’s probably not news, but it is an effective way of seeing what kind of reach your different messaging channels are getting.

We use a string at the end of URLs that point back to any content on our site.

For example http://www.mywebsite.com/?source=article-abc-123

Now, in our analytics software, we’d see that any visitor that came to our site via that link would be tagged with that source id [article-abc-123].

What’s really cool about this tagging is that our sales people love it.

They tag URLs that they send in communications to prospects…like a link to a demo or a whitepaper. When the links are clicked our analytics captures the referral source id. The sales person can then have an idea of whether or not the content they sent was even viewed and this can then help on follow on discussions.

For example, in an email to a prospect, they include a link to a demo video, so it might look like this:

http://www.mywebsite.com/demovideo?source=email-follow-up-to-John-Doe-with-demo-link

Another great use of the source id tagging is when you include links in forums. A discussion might lend itself to including a link to some info on your site, why not capture the exact referral v. just the linking domain? Maybe you link back to a blog article from a LinkedIn forum post, it’s easy enough to add the source tag at the end of the URL and then convert the URL using something like TinyURL to shorten/mask the referral tag.

Hope you find this useful, it’s a very useful trick that I like a lot.

Inbound Marketing and Outbound Marketing – Will it blend?

I love the Will It Blend vids from BlendTec.

I think in the B2B space you have to continue to blend your marketing approaches. Having a highly optimized website, engaging content and ways for visitors to convert to leads is all solid ‘inbound marketing’. However, I still see the value in email campaigns if they’re paired with a solid landing page on your site that you can get conversions on and actually track.

A recent campaign we ran followed more or less this process.

1. Email campaign has to contain compelling content/call to action. Keep it simple stupid (KISS principle).

2. Landing page has to contain compelling reason to get them to convert. What do you get for conversion rates typically for your landing pages? Our last run net was 63% and we average about 40%.

3. What you give them has to compel them to return to your site to find out even more. If what you gave them isn’t educational about helping them solve a problem, then why would they come back?

4. What’s on your site has to compel them to engage with you when you contact them via the sales cycle. Demo videos are a great tool. They get a taste of what your product can do. Putting a request a custom demo form right below that is a solid way to get them to engage further while it’s fresh in their mind…if you’re willing to go there, which you should be in this market.

5. You also need systems in place to track these conversions and ensure they’re followed up on. In B2B, relying solely on word of mouth is tough, especially when Sales needs leads to follow. Our inbounds go right into our CRM system and go right into the inside Sales bucket for follow up. We give the visitor time to digest the content they’ve already got and then engage them with a follow up to see if they have any questions.

We tune the process each time around and experiment to see what works and doesn’t, but we’re happy with the progress we’re making and the sales team is converting leads to opportunities to sales a lot faster now too.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.