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Friday, May 7, 2021

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Technology & Manufacturing: Marketing, Web Development, E-Business

Capturing Leads Online

By Shari L.S. Worthington

We recently discussed the 21st century version of the "leads vs inquiries" dilemma with fellow marketer and friend Rich Merritt. As Rich says, "Everybody wants leads now, not just hits to the company web site." The good news is that such an attitude is progress. Not long ago, many marketers didn't understand the difference between "hits" and "leads." Publishers would try to woo our clients by touting the number of "hits" to their publications' web sites. And companies would tell us how great their web site is performing because they're getting XX hits per month.

The problem is that "hits" is a useless number when it comes to web site analytics. It may tell you the number of times a particular page has been opened, but that number is almost always artificially inflated. Many sites are designed so that all graphics on the page also generate a "hit" when the page is opened. So one person looking at one page could generate one hit or 10 hits or more. For a core measure of how well a site is doing, start with "unique visitors," a statistic that is available in most web analytics packages. "Unique visitors" is as close to a measure of unique individuals opening a page as you can get without requiring registration. Make sure you dig through your monthly web stats report and review this number.

Another problem with measuring web activity is that site stats don't always reflect the actions of real people. If your site is designed right, the major search engines will spider through your content at least once a month. We've seen search engine bot activity (a stat found in good web analytics packages) account for as little as 2% of site traffic and as much as 40%. Ideally, you want that number to be between 2% and 10%. If it's lower, you're not doing enough to encourage search engines to index your site. If it's higher, you're not doing enough to encourage real people to visit your site.

When is an Online Lead a Lead?

Which leads us to the next issue. Just because people visit your site, it doesn't mean they're the right people. One of the primary jobs of the web site is to convert site visitors into leads...real leads, the ones you can classify according to the A-B-C matrix (ready now - ready soon - ready eventually with work). Unfortunately, a lot of self-proclaimed "lead generation" sites aren't helping the matter. These sites tend to throw a lot of "leads" at their advertisers, but many of these contacts are merely window shoppers.

In fact, a fair number of visitors to your web site are window shoppers, whether they come from a "lead gen" site, a search engine, or an industry publication. That's because the web functions as the world's largest directory. Your marketing program seeds your message across a variety of online channels. Some people will click through to your web site because they're ready to buy now, some will be ready later, some are curious but will never buy, and some are just confused and thought they were clicking on something else. That's why your web site must be able to sort the wheat from the chaff, then capture the contact information of those who are really leads.

So, how do you capture leads from your web site? You start by creating a site filled with compelling content that addresses potential buyers' needs. Some people know what they want and are ready to look at data sheets. Others aren't quite sure what they want and need industry or technology overview material. Yet others know what they want but aren't sure you're the right resource so they want to see tech briefs and case histories. Site visitors represent all phases of the buying cycle and your site needs to be ready no matter what.

Not Enough Inquiries

One company contacted us with this question: 322 people visited our web site last month but only 45 downloaded a paper that required registration. Which is better, 322 downloads with no contact information or 45 leads? The answer is, you want a happy medium.

We recommend you pick a few key articles and put them behind a registration form. Otherwise, let site visitors see how incredibly smart your team is! The company that asked this question required registration for all of the articles, papers, and PDF-formatted data sheets in their site's resource library. That's a big no-no. A lot of techies will fill out a form for a compelling piece of information, but some won't. So you don't want to restrict access to data sheets. These are your primary selling tools. You want prospects to be able to easily get their hands on them so they know how wonderful your products are. You also don't want to restrict access to all the articles and tech briefs in your online library because they demonstrate your expertise and leadership in the industry.

Content First

The key to conquering the web is to focus first on content, especially when it comes to online marketing. Make sure you've got a strong resource library. Whether you're selling to an IT manager or an automation engineer, they're looking for information to help them solve business problems. Make sure you've got a good selection of unbiased, industry articles as well as company-specific application briefs and case histories.

Once the content is in place, pepper your site with ways to capture contact information from prospects. Put a registration form in front of a couple of really meaty technical articles. Add a registration form for your e-newsletter. Don't have one yet? You better get one because that's one of the most cost-effective drip marketing vehicles today. Include registration forms for webinars and to set up interviews with key personnel at trade shows.

Most of your site's registration forms should require the minimum amount of contact information, typically name and e-mail address. The "Request More Information" and "Customer Service Inquiry" forms can ask for more, but don't force people into more than 2 or 3 questions or you'll chase them away.

Too Many Inquiries

While the above company was frustrated that they didn't have enough downloads, one of our clients had the opposite problem. We used an article about a revolutionary new technology as the lead generation device on their web site and in paper and online promotions. It worked amazingly well...there were so many downloads, the company's sales force couldn't keep up. We soon discovered that a lot of researchers and students were interested in the topic of the paper, but they were just window shoppers. And there were so many window shoppers, they made it hard for sales to find the real leads. So we took the article and made it the centerpiece of a different kind of promotional vehicle, a magalog that was part technical magazine, part product information. It was still a popular download, but it attracted real prospects because it focused on technology AND how to solve specific industry problems. And we asked for name, company, and e-mail in the form.

There is no magic formula for online lead generation, but here are some interesting data points from a recent MarketingSherpa survey that asked marketers which marketing vehicles were the best tactics:

Best Tactic
Good ROI
House E-mail
Direct Mail
Public Relations
Online Banners
Print Advertising

The one place we disagree with the findings is direct mail vs public relations. For the technology sector, we find PR works much better than direct mail these days. The one exception is highly targeted, dimensional mailings.

Find out how Telesian's integrated marketing process, The Communications Value Chain™, can help you generate inquiries and leads!