Generating marketing responses: is it a numbers game?

The implementation of a marketing dashboard built using Cognos (a plug for what’s proving to be an indispensable tool) has meant that, for the first time EVER, we’ve had a single view (almost real-time) of all the responses generated from our marketing activity.  I’m building a scorecard for my team to ensure we generate sufficient web responses (i.e. someone has given us their contact details) to meet our targets…

And the data is giving me a headache.

I’d like to say that my headache is caused by analysis paralysis.  But no – the data is giving me a headache because the numbers DO NOT STACK UP.  In a B2B environment we don’t have the luxury of generating thousands of responses.  Current conversion rates for web responses are low, in part because of the complex solutions we sell and the lengthy sales cycles involved.  It’s almost impossible to attribute a white paper download to a deal worth thousands (hundreds of thousands/millions) of GBP£.  (How we’re able to attribute the same opportunity to a customer attending an event has me shaking my head in exasperation…)

In fact, current measurement systems make it very difficult to justify the investment in digital tactics FULL STOP.  And the measurement issue drives self-perpetuating behaviour.  Tactics are chosen because they are easier to measure, not necessarily because they are the right thing to do.

So I look at my lead targets, the number of responses required to meet these, and the lovely Cognos cut of what the web is generating, and a couple of things become clear:

  • We will NEVER meet the required response targets.

Even with an unlimited budget (and when has that EVER been a possibility?!) we won’t be able to drive the number of responses required at the current conversion rate.

But what can we do to try to boost our response numbers?

  • Where we’re investing in paid media placements we need to drive publishers to commit to meet response targets and move away from advertising measurements (e.g. impressions) that don’t deliver responses.
  • The reports from our new analytics package need to track conversions.
  • Content distribution is necessary because, crazily, our prospects aren’t necessarily looking for information on our website.
  • Social media is a must – we need to ensure alternative sources are driving traffic to our website.  Plus, the right vehicles, if they provide value to our prospects, will encourage them to provide us with their contact details.
  • Search engine optimisation in order reduce the amount spent on paid search and ensure our pages rank naturally.  This is a challenge in the tech marketplace but essential if we want to intercept demand.

However, as I mentioned above, a single-minded focus on generating responses will not help us achieve our lead targets.  Therefore we need to focus on QUALITY, not quantity.

The current mantra is for the web to become a volume engine to drive leads.  The same fate fell to telemarketing and this didn’t work.  In fact, we saw a shift away from outbound lead generation tele activity to telenurturing of inbound responses.

We need to encourage the web to become a volume engine for better quality responses, thus improving conversion rates and reducing the number of responses required.  And we can improve conversion rates  by using digital techniques such as:

  • Social media – again, social media is key to engaging with people and qualifying their interest to ensure that sales are engaged with the right prospects.
  • Live chat – implementing chat facilities on the web to engage with prospects whilst they are on-site, to answer queries and to pass them onto sales if they meet certain criteria.
  • Implementing nurturing techniques – though I’m starting to think that if we could ensure better qualified responses than our nurturing activities would perform even better.
  • Planting relevant offers and harvesting responses from organic web visitors, analysing performance and testing offers to maximise conversion rates.

I’d love to hear if you’re encountering similar issues challenges in your organisation regarding response volumes, and how your using digital techniques to improve the quality of these responses.

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