Category Archives: Marketing

Online Forms: Green, with Benefits

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

The use of online forms helps your business become more productive, helps you provide better customer service and as an added benefit saving paper is green!

Being “Green” is trendy. Being “Green” makes you feel like you’re doing the right thing. Giving the impression of being “Green” makes you look good to your customers. Appearing to be “Green” is an effective marketing tool for products that, according to one study, are only 1% likely to really be beneficial for the environment. As a business person, you know that in a competitive environment you can’t afford to fall for Greenwashing and hype when the time comes to find ways to make your operation more green – it makes sense to be skeptical. On the other hand, when you can find genuinely environmentally friendly practices that have additional benefits for your business, that’s a win-win situation.

We’ve found that one such win-win situation in our work is the use of online forms for collecting information from customers. Using an online form instead of a paper form saves the paper and the resources that went into making it, transporting it, and printing on it. But there are many other benefits to an online form that have nothing to do with saving paper. For example, the data you receive is in a format that you can cut and paste, reducing retyping time and human errors that take time to correct and can cause delays in a project. If your customers are in the habit of leaving out important information on paper forms, you can make those fields required on an online form, and the customer will not be able to send the form without completing it. This not only eliminates the time it would have taken to contact the customer for the necessary information, but also you will be able to turn around projects more quickly, which improves customer service and your profits. Another productivity increase that comes with online forms is the ability to send the data to multiple recipients with one click, saving time that might otherwise be spent gathering the information and making it available to colleagues who need it. With online forms there is an opportunity to upsell or give your customers better service by providing links to information that you want your customers to have, either on the form itself or on a web page where they are directed after completion.

None of the benefits I’ve mentioned so far are new – online forms have been around for awhile. What is new are some of the added functions that you can add to forms and landing pages with products like email marketing by Exact Target and automated, on demand voice messaging by Vontoo. It is now possible to send a voice message or a text message to a customer’s mobile device at their request with forms and other triggered sends. It’s possible to show them a personalized image on a landing page that is generated by completing a form or by a click in an email – for an example see this Personalized Landing Pages demonstration – or wow them even more with a rich media Brainshark presentation with customized content that reflects the customer’s input from the form.

Please contact us if you would like to deploy any of these exciting new techniques in your customer acquisition program.

Social Media in Business – Part of 4 of 4: Provide the same level of respect online as you would in a on-site meeting

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

It all adds up to: let your "Subscribers Rule" and let your customers communicate with you the way THEY like to communicate with you, which these days is very likely to include Social Media. I am a recent and enthusiastic convert, but I am trying very hard to be careful and not offend anyone with my Social Media experiments. I know what it’s like to get unwanted commercial messages, just as you do. For example, I’ve taken the rather drastic step of having the text messaging function on my cell phone disabled because I resented having to pay to receive spam messages. This past June I saw the rock band Rush in concert for the 15th or 16th time and would have loved to have been able to text message something like "Geddy Lee Rules!" and have it show up on the big screens during intermission (as if people didn’t know that already), but that’s one of the small pleasures of life I was deprived of when I gave up on text messaging with my phone!

People can get resentful toward you for much less egregious cyber-offenses than that. One reason for the popularity of Social Media is that users feel it’s something they can control better than their email inbox, so please keep that in mind when you are thinking about how to use Social Media for business lead generation. If you take the time and learn the technology and the culture by using the media for more casual, personal purposes first, you should get a feel for what is acceptable behavior and what is not, and then get ideas for how it can help with customer acquisition.

If you want to learn more about the kinds of concepts that were discussed at Connections ’08, which include the customer acquisition process, personalized marketing campaigns, and effective lead generation, try visiting the Subscribers Rule Blog.

Image Personalization Used to Help Launch New Product at Graph Expo

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

As you read in Mark’s recent blog post, Discovering the Discovery Light at Graph Expo, we attended Graph Expo in Chicago in October to promote Discovery LightTM, an interactive system for helping young children learn to read by using a special light that creates discovery through hidden messages.

Some of the hidden messages are revealed through a font that produces tiny printed text that can only be viewed with a magnifier.

Other hidden messages are revealed by shining a UV light source, the Discovery LightTM, on certain areas of the book. Below is a demonstration of the flourescent text in action.

Hidden Messasges Revealed by UV Light

We also put variable data into the books we were displaying at the show. To demonstrate that the books can be personalized for the child that will receive them, we put an assortment of different sample names in the giveaway copies of the book.

Kids aren’t the only ones who like personalization – adults take notice of it too. To emphasize the personalization theme, we personalized the emails that we sent out to invite customers to our booth at the show also.

Mark has written about embedding personalized images into the body of an email before in his blog post How to Acquire Customers and Influence People with Personalization. For the Discovery LightTM, we decided to go a step further and create personalized landing pages for each recipient, a feature available in the ExactTarget email software that we use, that the customers would reach if they clicked on a link in the email. The behavior of the individual customers who clicked on the link is trackable through the landing page.

Personalized Landing Pages

With these powerful tools we were able to generate interest in our exhibit at the show, the brand new Discovery LightTM web site, and the value of personalization all at the same time.

If you would like to see my photos from my short but interesting trip to the show, please click here – Graph Expo ’08.

Social Media in Business – Part of 3 of 4: OFFERING A PREFERENCE OF AVAILABILITY

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

In my last post I talked about how social media gives your audience more ways to receive your content. They can choose many different ways to send you information as well. In addition to calling you or filling out a form on your web site, depending on what services you make available to them, they can for example leave a comment on your blog, or write on your wall in Facebook. Effective lead generation includes giving more choices to your audience so that they can have the kind of relationship with you that suits them.

Other than the natural instinct to make it as easy to contact you as possible, what other reasons might there be for making the effort to branch out into social media? At the Connections ’08 conference, I took lots of notes. Here are some excerpts from those notes:

  • “Relationships with customers are one thing that competitors can’t copy.”
  • “79% of customers buy from companies that they are in a relationship with, rather than just on price.”
  • “About 30% of email addresses go bad every year.”
  • “22% of Internet users are using social media instead of email.”
  • “Facebook – must be on it to understand what is going on.”

Those random notations lead me to some ideas about why businesses might want to have a social media presence to help with customer acquisition. If about 30% of email addresses go bad every year, then you can’t count on email alone to keep in touch with your customers. It makes sense to have other channels available.

Relationships with customers and personalized marketing campaigns are clearly important – how can social media help to build those relationships? Blogs can help a great deal by humanizing your company through informal communication that allows transparent feedback. Blogs are also a great way to possibly get on social networking and bookmarking sites without you having to do anything – for example on our Webinar Resources Blog, at the bottom of each post is a Share This chicklet. If you click it, you will see dozens of chicklets that a visitor to this blog can use to share our posts using the service of their choice. This is just one of many ways that the people who really like what you’re producing can do some of your marketing for you by their own free will.

If 22% of Internet users are using social media instead of email, as effective as email is, it’s clear you are going to have to reach those particular customers some other way. If your customers are looking for you, it’s important to be where they are. If you are using a social networking service, are fellow users on that service manifesting their relationships with different causes, organizations, brand names or products? Can you get any ideas from how they are doing it?

Connections ’08 – ExactTarget Users Conference

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

Mark, JoAnna and I just got back from the ExactTarget users conference, Connections ’08, which was held in Indianapolis earlier this week. We brought back a lot of new information and inspiration about email marketing, lead generation, social media, customer acquisition, and more. I’ll be blogging about some of the topics that inspired me soon. In the meantime, here is a link to some photos of the conference. Enjoy!

Give Yourself a Break – Give Yourself Some Links

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

Your website is a valuable tool that can be used in concert with just about any other marketing strategy you care to employ. Do you participate in email marketing or direct mail campaigns? Use your web site to collect subscribers. Are you a presenter or speaker? Archive your presentation content or audio or video of yourself on your web site as on demand presentations. Are you participating in a trade show? Use your web site to invite visitors to your booth. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

In order to use your web site to leverage your other marketing activities, you need visitors. Search engines are very important for bringing in web site traffic. Your website needs as many incoming links as possible to be competitive in the search engines, and there is no denying it’s a lot easier to give yourself a link than to get other people to give you a link. It also helps to have good keywords inside hyperlinks, since text in hyperlinks carries more weight with search engines than plain text.

  If you have a large web site with lots of content that is updated frequently, or more than one web site, you are in a good position to take advantage of those facts about search engines.

One way to do that is by putting a site map on your site if you don’t already have one. This is simply a web page with a linked outline to all the pages on your site. Here is an example of a site map.

Another way is to add a What’s New page with listings of what is new on your site and links to any new content you add. I recently started updating this What’s New Page again after a long period of neglect. It was foolish of me to deprive myself of the benefits of all those links. I resolve to be smarter in the future!

So why not give your visitors a break by making your content easier to find, and give yourself a break with the gift of  valuable links?