Archive for June, 2011

Sgt. Phil Esterhaus

When following up with prospects, let's be careful out there.

Sometimes we marketing and sales folk seem to have a death wish when it comes to new technologies.

Not a death wish for ourselves.

A death wish for the technologies — and the possibilities for audience outreach and value-add, win-win each might enable.

Case in point:

Last week I clicked through to the website of a leading marketing automation company. I’d just read a third party’s blog which quoted one of the company’s execs. A new piece of content, an infographic, was mentioned. Curious, I clicked, poked around a bit, then downloaded said infographic.

Mind you, I’m NOT a qualified prospect for the company’s software as a service. To describe me as a potential influencer might even be stretching it. As a business developer and marketing strategist working for a content marketing firm, at best I might someday be on an account team that might someday be in a position to someday recommend this SaaS to a client. Even then, that solution would likely originate with, and be vetted by, one of my more technology-savvy colleagues.

Thanks for Sharing
Still I was not very surprised, but did find myself a little irked, when my brief web visit triggered an e-mail from a sales rep. I’d visited the company’s site once previously and downloaded an ebook. Clearly that earlier  “engagement” had earned me a cookie, plus status as a “lead” to be tracked and scored within the company’s lead management system.

But this particular example of sales follow-up triggered by a website visit left me wondering: Haven’t we been down this road before?

Haven’t marketing and sales types taken a marvelous new technology (e.g., e-mail, fax) for reaching out and engaging directly with audiences, and done our level best to turn that potential into something often intrusive, ham-handed and annoying?

I’m pretty sure this particular e-mail was Exhibit A for how NOT to do lead nurturing based on web visitor tracking. A few of the do’s and don’ts that jumped out:

DON’T make “Prospect on Website” the subject line of your e-mail. That’s right. This sales rep received an e-mail alert from his company’s marketing automation system, then simply forwarded that e-mail to me, adding a three-sentence message of his own. Although I did open his e-mail, “Prospect on Website” is not exactly an inviting subject line. In fact, it sounded ominously like a security system loudspeaker warning “Intruder on Premises!”

DON’T show the prospect your lead intelligence underwear. Because the web tracking alert e-mail was forwarded, I could see the lead scorecard the company is building on me. How many times I’ve visited their site. Pages viewed. Downloads. Date of last visit. Even a paragraph of directions for sales reps: “Your personal notification of activity on your website. Target prospects, identify visitors, and develop sales relationships with your online visitors.” Felt a bit like reading Big Brother’s dossier on me. Kind of creepy.

DO take a few minutes to customize follow-up. If this company were really interested in developing relationships, they might look to customize this type of e-mail. For example, they could require that reps research web visitors on LinkedIn prior to sending follow-up e-mails. If that were standard operating procedure, the rep would have discovered I work for a marketing firm.

Based on that, the e-mail might have had as its subject line: “How agencies win new business with marketing automation.” And the message might have read: “Would you be interested in talking a bit about how agencies likes yours can be heroes, and be more profitable, by recommending marketing automation to your clients?” Instead, the generic e-mail sent to me read: “I received a notification that you have returned to our website. Is there anything I can help you with? Let me know if you’re free to chat for a few minutes at some point today?

DO offer value beyond the opportunity to talk about your product. To simplify, let’s say there are two primary buyer personas for marketing automation. Corporate marketers who buy. Marketing consultants who recommend. Would it make sense to develop some relevant lead nurturing content for each persona? Based on a solid content strategy, the follow-up e-mail might have offered me a report on how other marketing firms have grown business with Fortune 1000 clients by implementing and managing their clients’ marketing automation systems.

DO try to recognize when it’s best to hold your fire. If this sales rep were really ambitious, he might have clicked from my LinkedIn profile to this blog. He might even have spotted a post in which I express irritation toward over-eager retail clerks who assault shoppers with “what can we help you with today?” before we’ve stepped both feet in the door. Granted, it would have taken some shoe leather to glean that insight. But it would have been a valuable clue to not send a standard follow-up to this particular web visitor.


Because We Can Doesn’t Mean We Should
If “do not track” sentiment and regulation gains momentum in this country, and if e-mail spam laws and penalties expand to include this sort of web tracking-prompted e-mail, marketers and sales execs will have only themselves to blame.

The ability to track visitors’ on your website, then respond via e-mail or phone, is now a given. Whether we do it carelessly or thoughtfully will determine whether this particular technological advance proves a relationship builder or an engagement barrier.

If your organization alerts sales reps to contact web visitors while they’re still on site, or shortly after, think through how best to leverage that communication moment. Start by making sure you have a relevant content strategy that extends to this particular touch point.

“People,” as Sgt. Phil Esterhaus used to caution fellow police officers during roll call on TV’s Hill Street Blues: “Let’s be careful out there?”


What do you think? Am I a luddite on this website visitor follow-up issue? Does your organization alert sales to the presence of web visitors? Any thoughts on best practices for effective follow-up? Would welcome your comments and discussion.


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