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Beyond Brochureware: Affordable Personalized Marketing For B2B
Beyond Brochureware: Affordable Personalized Marketing For B2B
Posted Jun 17, 2002
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The web, from its very inception, has always presented marketers with a unique opportunity: it's the only medium that can be truly personalized. The problem is, most personalization solutions are very expensive to implement, and as a result, few applications have the potential to yield ROI. It's easy for businesses and applications like public portals (Yahoo, Lycos), online banking and brokerages, (Fleet, Citizens Bank), auctions (eBay) , and organizations with direct consumer marketing to justify the costs for implementing large, expensive systems like Vignette, Siebel, ATG, Onyx, Interwoven, etc., because there simply is no business without personalization. But how can B2B companies, for whom the web is no less important than these other businesses, take advantage of targeted messaging without the costs of the enterprise class solution? The marketing opportunity for B2B companies is broad, and the requirements for an effective personalized experience are less cumbersome - and less expensive, if one deconstructs "1-to-1" marketing to a site visitor. Most businesses have a limited number of marketing messages for a relatively limited set of segments (e.g., vertical markets, application of the solution they provide, size of customer). The need is to manage the segments, not the individuals. There are essentially three steps a business can take to capitalize on the promise of targeted messaging without tremendous expenses: 1) Thoughtful information architecture of the web site; 2) A relatively inexpensive customer/prospect/lead management database that allows visitors to register themselves, and a marketing administrator to manage the lists and segments; and 3) Ideally, minimal integration of the two. Thoughtful Information Architecture of the web site All corporate web sites need some kind of standard controls for finding information "about the company", "products", "services", "contact info", etc. However, the vast majority of web sites miss out on the opportunity to speak directly to their top prospects, regardless of how they may be segmented.
An excellent example of an elegant execution of thoughtful architecture can be found at: http://www.internetphotonics.com. This optical networking equipment manufacturer has a set of "brochureware" controls to navigate to the basic site content, but what makes the site especially effective is the breakdown of the of the technology's applications. It's not unusual for there to be a larger number of applications for a company's products than the actual number of products, or for certain solutions to be comprised of multiple product offerings. The only way to elegantly address these issues in the Internet Photonics example is to call out the applications from the home page and throughout the site and provide excellent content (typically with critical visual elements like diagrams) that explain that application in the context of the product offering, while also presenting contextually sensitive links into the product content. The result? Two clicks in (first on the specialized segment page, second on the appropriate product), the prospect knows which product solves their problem, and the only step left is to get the visitor to call or fill out a contact request form. Integrated database tools Segmenting the web content as outlined above is all well and good, but the key is to try and convert the visitors into bona fide leads, right? Anyone who's run a web site for a small business or an even larger startup company has probably been through the pain of collecting inquiries via forms that send emails, and then entering the inquiries into some non-internet enabled lead management system. Let's think about this for a moment: if a prospect is contacting your company via an opt-in form on your website, it's reasonable that they will tell you what application they're interested in. This is valuable for the sales team to qualify the lead, but it's equally important to the marketing team in terms of how the content on the site might be personalized to the visitor. With a little bit of technology, this can be a reality for marketers. There are a number of licensed data-driven products on the market today that can accept online inquiries, and are built with list-management in mind. Rather than simply parsing the results of the inquiry form and emailing them, the results are written to a database. The questions on the opt-in form actually correspond to lists in the database, and those lists can be used for a number of "1-to-1" purposes, including personalized content on the web site, email broadcasts, surveys, and more. An example of the integration of these two concepts The Brix Networks web site (http://www.brixnet.com) uses vertical markets as a way to segment their content, for thoughtful information architecture. In addition, the company uses a centralized database to collect inbound inquiries, using the inquiry form to collect specific information about those markets the potential customer is interested in. Once the visitor submits the completed form, the information he or she transmitted is registered in the database, which then powers the news area of the website to present a different view of the content depending on the individual's particular interests. For example, if a prospect has indicated an interest in SLA's for Virtual Private Networking, the news is re-prioritized so that they see the press releases, articles, and events that are related to VPNs before any other news. The visitor is visually aware of this by the presence of their name at the top of that news and a different visual treatment of those articles. These two web sites both use a combination of best practices in site development and inexpensive tools to accomplish their objectives-provide some important aspects of site personalization without breaking the bank.
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