Darren Guarnaccia’s Blog

My thoughts on Sitecore, WCM and doing business on the web

Archive for January, 2010

Continuing the conversation – The 7 Habits for Maximizing Website Conversions

Posted by dguarnaccia on January 29, 2010

I recently spoke on a double header webinar with several other organizations including the Online Marketing Institute, Jive Software, WOMMA and of course Sitecore.  We had record breaking attendance that day, for me personally, as well as the other organizations on the webinar.  As you can imagine, we had way more questions that we could answer, so I’ve copied the list of questions that were asked of me on that webinar, I’ve and tried to answer the questions as best I could without writing a novel. So, here goes….

 How do you optimize landing pages offering free products and services beyond highlighting the benefit of “FREE”?

By offering the customer expertise, and solutions to their problems or needs.  Customers, whether B2B or B2C want solutions to their problem. Build credibility by helping your customer understand how they benefit from your product, solution or service in a customer centric way.

Darren: To what do you attribute the decline of marketer credibility? What can marketers do to counteract this trend?

Let’s be honest, no one has believe marketing and sales people for a very long time. The only difference was that we were the only game in town. We had the biggest megaphone, and we shouted our brands out there and people eventually believed us through repetition. Nowadays, everyone has a voice, and can be heard. Everyone has a megaphone. So we as marketers, have less comparative credibility compared to everyone else who has nothing else to gain in their opinions.

What is a ‘good’ conversion rate? (b2b)

This is so dependent on market really.  I think it’s more important to think about quality.  Of course, you want to benchmark your conversion rate and work towards improving it, but I think it’s equally important to measure conversion quality and to work to improve that as well.

what type of advertising is dead? TV, Radio or print?

I think most mass media advertising is slowly dying. People are not watching TV ads anymore. The majority of us watch shows on our DVR and fast forward through the commercials,  we switch the radio when the commercials come on, and who exactly is reading papers anymore?  A week goes by and we head yet another paper is going out of business?  Don’t believe me?  Take a look at this: http://www.newspaperdeathwatch.com/

 Could you define convert?

Conversions are anything you find meaningful to moving prospect or customer closer to what you want them to do.  It could be signing up for a webinar, buying something from your site, downloading a whitepaper, etc. Not all conversion are equal, either.  You should think about applying some scoring to them so you can weight them in terms of value. We at Sitecore think of conversions in terms of points, as an engagement score, or lead score.  We measure the amount of points a customer accrues through their visits with us, and divide that by the cost of the advertisement to get a metric that helps us evaluate which advertisements perform better than others.

what are meaningful website response measures?

I like to tie thing to money when I can. Cost per lead, cost per Ad. Cost per dollar revenue acquired. All these things are possible with your website with the right infrastructure.

Where is the most effective place on your site (i.e., that leads to highest conversion) when asking for registration information?

Stephen Covey calls this “value for value”.  It’s not a place, it’s a time. It’s when you’ve demonstrated enough value to your customer, built enough credibility. And you’re asking for their information, so make sure you are giving that customer value right back.  So measure your customers interaction in real time, an d wait for the right pitch to convert them into a signup, while selling them on the value of what they’ll receive for that signup.

How does this apply to a service business? I am a communications consultant…I don’t have hotel rooms to take pics of…I don’t have a product to order…

Services are even better than products for this sort of thing. In the service businesses, you are even harder pressed to help the customer understand how you can help them, and what problems you solve for them. It’s even more important to build credibility, and help them understand your value from their perspective.

how can we add lead generation and conversion forms on our website if we use sitecore as our cms? can we link with our crm software?

Sitecore has a tool we call Web Forms for Marketers.  This allows you to build forms that can track user behavior on the forms (even when they don’t hit the submit button), trigger conversion goals, update user profiles, and automatically create accounts and contacts in a CRM system (MS Dynamics, and Salesforce currently).   Once this is done, all the data you collect about that customer, including their onsite behavior can be view from within the CRM system.

Does this segmentation drill down to individuals? I.E., storing CRM-like data (hotel room preferences, average length of stay, complaints) for use when you identify a repeat customer/user?

It does. In fact, you can view a specific visitors onsite behavior right from within a CRM system, and actually affect website behavior based on customer preferences from within that CRM system.

what is lead scoring and how do I install and measure on w web site?

There are tons of tools that can do leadscoring , including Sitecore. Lead scoring is simply measuring the activity of a prospect on a given channel, in this case your website.  You assign points to everything they do, such as searching for terms like pricing, downloading whitepapers, attending a webinar.  It can show you your prospects readiness to engage, or even their propensity to buy if done right. Here is a more exhaustive definition on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead_scoring

 If you wait too long before making an offer tere is a risk of losing him. Am i right?

A small risk, certainly. You have to ask yourself if you are more interested in quality or quantity though. We know what most interested buyers are going to spend 5-7 pages with us in general. We can spend the first 3-4 pages learning, and building credibility, then start to sell on the last few pages. If someone is going to bounce after page 2, it’s unlikely a call to action would have worked anyway.

Darren, What is MVT?

MVT stands for Multi-variate testing. It’s the big brother to A/B split testing, and allows you to test more variables. Here’s the Wikipedia page on MVT: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multivariate_testing

What are some of the ways to overcome objections and/or barriers to using social media with Agents and/or vendors for an insurance-based company

It of course depends on the objection, and the emotional motivation behind it. Ask yourself this question: How does my own sales force/call center/dealers/agents overcome this objection. Get a bunch of them in a room and ask them what stories they tell, what materials they use, and what counters they use in their own selling process. In many cases, you can use the same types of materials. In the insurance industry, it’s a matter of building trust. Trust they’ll be there when they need you. Trust that this is a good value. Trust that you understand their needs. Community based content is wonderful for this. Surface those community stories where your company came through for it’s customers.  Marshal your champions to echo your best stories. In a I talk about this in depth in a recent whitepaper I co-authored about molding the customer experience, and how to understand your customer and shape their experience to fit their needs. You can find it here: http://www.sitecore.net/Products/Resources/whitepapers/Molding-Your-Customer-Experience.aspx

can you please elaborate on habit 5 again? Wasn’t clear how community content is used

Habit number 5 was Overcome objections and barriers using community content and engagement. I talked a little about this in the question above.   The idea is that once you understand your customer’s objects in the sale process, you can start to offer expertise, content and advice through a combination of site content and community content. Community content is generally perceieved as highly credible, since it’s not comming from your company directly. It’s a great way to overcome fear and risk concerns.

Can you clarify what you mean by community content? Give an example? Thank you!

Community content is really anything that was end user generated in your community.  It can be comments on one of your company blogs where they talk about how great your product is, or a conversation in a customer support forum where a customer shares a success story.

What are the top tools related to content scoring?

There are so many tools you can use today. Certainly the major web analytics vendors have some capabilities here. An example of this is Webtrends Score product. Many of the WCM vendors are including this into their products. Sitecore’s Online Marketing Suite does this today.

I agree with everything you’re saying. Having challenges with cross-functional buy-in. Perhaps we can do something for my sales ops team and product marketing team along this vein?

Absolutely. One of the most compelling things about this is the impact for sales enablement.  Once you start to score and meansure your visitor sessions, you can also start distributing lead tracking and score information to sales. Imagine if you could automatically notify your sales teams when visitors from a company your sales rep is working with is showing strong buying behavior.  Likewise, imagine being able to route visitor information on the most tracked features and most asked questions on your website to the appropriate product manager or marketer.  Allowing your product marketing team to understand what features are most relevant to which segments can give amazing insights. (believe me, I find it very useful 🙂 )  Likewise, being able to track press and analyst behavior will make your PR and AR teams dance the snoopy dance.

How relevant are all these tactics for the average small business with a small web site used to market their business? Wouldn’t this be really time-consuming for a small biz?

I think we’re starting to see a lot of this capabiliy come together now in packaged, preintegrated suites which finally make these capabilites accessible to the SMB market. In the past, only the largest companies had the budgets to weave all of this together. Now, the technologies are getting pre-integrated, and are starting to offer more and more out of the box. In a lot of ways, small businesses can benefit from these concepts more. Having smaller organizations, they can react faster to the insights gained from these integrated suites.

Will we be talking tools?

I really tried to stay away from technology about a lot of technology. You can find a lot of these capabilities in web analytics tools, marketing automation tools, and of course web content management tools. I think it’s important to get the strategy right first, then pick the tool that enables the strategy.

As a rookie marketer and admirer of fashion magazines, I’m curious to understand if the magazine industry is truly dying?

Magazines are changing. More and more of them are transitioning more gracefully to the web than their newspaper counterparts. Sitecore has a variety magizine brands as our customers, and we’re seeing them migrate most of their magazine brands into the online space quite successfully.

What is a proper time frame for responding to comments online?

The golden rule for most social media is no more than 24 hours. Ideally, less than 4 hours, and of course the faster the better. In many cases, it’s a good idea to set up rules that automatically publish comments as long as they pass some filters (vulgar language, spam, etc) and then give the community the ability to report abuse.  If you feel you need to explictly approve, then setup strong alerting mechanisms that handle it quickly.

how much time should an individual with their own firm spend on their site content? What is the time budget that should be spent? What about financial budget–and what do yo spend money on?

This is a tricky one.  I’ll turn it around and ask this question: at what point does your site have enough content to satisfy your potential buyer, overcome objections, and improve revenue.  I think it’s important to start to think about your web site as an very important channel, just like a brick and mortar store is.   How much time would you spend maintaining other channels?  As a technology company, we spend roughly 20-30% of our time and money creating and maintaining content and material. It’s important for our business.  Your mileage will vary, but try to think about your website as a channel, and give it the equal consideration you would other channels. 

We have a big problem. We recently invested in SEO recommendations for our website, and our demo registration to our products decreased by 80% at the same time we launched a commercial video and most people have viewed it. However the web demo requests did not augment. So we re-added the buttons to attend a live demo on all pages and we still did not see a pick up. Should we remove our promotional video at all?

I’d need some more details to answer this one.  You could be seeing several things happening. You could be driving a lot of unqualified tracking through your new SEO efforts.  Do you have a way to track the quality of each visitor by lead scoring them?  Do you know what keywords these visitors are arriving from?  Are there any patterns to where they drop off your site?  We at Sitecore had a similar experience with some keyword buys where we drove a ton of additional traffic to our site, but our bounce rate went through the roof. We found out that our advertising was driving the wrong traffic. After looking at some of our reporting, we realized our efforts were catching the wrong kind of fish.   The other question I’d ask is what kind of calls to action that promotional video is driving. Is it the right one?  Is it qualifying out visitors that aren’t really prospects?  If so, perhaps that’s ok.   Remember, it’s not about quantity always, you want to start measuring and tracking quality as well.

Well, that’s all of the questions pointed my way. Please let me know if I missed your question, or didn’t answer what you were looking for. Feel free to comment on any of the answers, and even add new questions. I’ll endeavor to answer as them as best as I can. 

Thanks for reading!

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A look back at 2009 and the Web Content Management Industry

Posted by dguarnaccia on January 15, 2010

It’s a new year, indeed a new decade, so it seems only appropriate to take a look back at how we got here, in the field of Web Content Management and here at Sitecore.  2009 was a tough year for a lot of companies, and I’m often asked the question “How is Sitecore doing in this economy?” and questions to that effect.  They always seem surprised then I tell them that we’re doing great financially, and while we’re not growing at the breakneck 100% yoy rates that we’ve seen in the past, it’s still healthy, sustainable growth. 

While I think a lot of companies would like to forget about 2009, or in fact the entire decade (we industry vets that survived the first .COM crash wouldn’t mind forgetting it for sure), I’m of a different opinion. To me, 2009 was the year that Web Content management because cool and fun again.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always thought WCM was a great industry. It consistently grows faster than the rest of the Content management industry by a ratio of 2 to 1, and it’s the technology that refused to be swallowed by the big Enterprise content management suite in the sky.  I remember listening to Gartner Analysts not so long ago predict that Web Content Management would cease to exist as a stand-alone software market. In 2009, Gartner finally reversed their opinion, and promoted Web Content management market back to Magic Quadrant status.  You can read what Gartner has to say about the market in their 2009 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management report.  To me, this was validation of two things: WCM as a category was here to stay and WCM was about to move into its next stage of evolution.  

This next evolution I’m referring to is of course the rise of Online Marketing Suites in Web Content Management platforms. Sitecore shook up the industry by being one of the first movers in the field, but we were quickly followed by a great many vendors who are all trying to catch up.  To me, it only validates our direction. But the real value to me though is that we’re finally focusing on what I’ve always thought really matters.  Instead of fixating on managing, massaging and organization content, we’re now focusing on the business benefits of websites to the organizations that deploy them. Of course you must have good content, but we’ve been stuck in that rut for over 5 years.  In 2009, the Web Content Management Industry has collectively pulled ourselves out of that rut.  In many ways, I feel like the .COM bust set us all back 10 years, and we’re finally moving forward again.

Other trends that I noticed in 2009 was the continued dominance of marketing teams in WCM acquisitions.  Not so long ago, buying a WCM was dominated by the IT group in an organization. Now, I’d wager that the Marketing group has over 60% of the decision-making power in web projects. And this is as it should be.  An organizations website is a business application no different than a CRM system, and should be owned and managed by the business users.  I’ve also noticed that more and more organizations are starting to really see their websites as customer acquisition technologies, not just passive collateral pieces. I’ll talk more about this in my next blog where I discuss future trends, but the economic meltdown has made every company reevaluate everything they do. As someone once said, “Never waste a good crisis”, it’s a great time to reinvent and renew what’s not working well.

So that’s my take on 2009, what do you think?  Do you agree or disagree?  I’d like to hear from you.

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