Monday, May 30, 2005

Life Follows Art

Just in time to coincide with rave reviews of Alan Alda, Lev Schreiber and Gordon Clapp in the revival of David Mamet’s "Glengarry Glen Ross" on Broadway comes a benchmarking study on best practices for handling online leads from KnowledgeStorm and the Artemis Group.

The breathless conclusion of this study was “Leads get cold quickly, so it is vital that vendors implement prompt, effective lead follow-up processes.”


Is there anyone alive that doesn’t know this? Does anyone need to study or to benchmark anything to figure out that if you don’t follow up, leads die?

These geniuses also discovered that most sales guys, like the actors in the play, think the leads they get suck. And that as many as 1/3-1/2 of all viable leads aren’t going to buy anytime soon and need to be nurtured for as long as a year – a task salespeople are allergic to.

Anyone working in B2B marketing confronts this daily.

It could be a universal truth. It could be a persistent conundrum. It could be a comfortable strawman for sales and marketing managers to use as a credible excuse. Or it could be evidence of bad management.

But stating the obvious only captures our imagination on stage.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Is E-Mail Prospecting Over?

Two disappointing experiences using opt-in e-mail lists to prospect for new retail customers suggests that opt-in e-mail has little or no prospecting value.

Case 1. A highly regarded multi-channel retailer sells me 15,000 double-opt-in names which I select by age and geography. I pay $83 per thousand. We create a target-centric, time sensitive offer which gets through SPAM filters for all major ISPs. I get less than 100 clicks to my site and zero sales.

Case 2. The leading tech site sells me a skyscraper in a weekly newsletter. 150,000 readers opt-in for a weekly dose of niche information. I pay $19 per thousand to expose my page-dominant relevant message. I get less than 300 clicks and 6 sales.

In both cases , performance is much worse than any public industry benchmarks and worse than DM norms. Both are credible vendors. Creative is on-point, less than 200 words, above the fold, offer-oriented, well-designed and gets through tight filters.

It makes you wonder:
Has opt-in e-mail been debased into the dust?
How many people have signed up for things they ignore or delete without opening?
How many list owners are carrying these names as active?
How much longer will anyone buy these lists?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Spam Filters Spark A Creative Revolution

Spam filters are driving a creative renaissance in direct marketing copywriting. As technologists set filters to exclude the most proven and the most effective words and phrases used to cue feelings of need and urgency, writers are being forced to change vocabulary, tone and phraseology.

Surprisingly this is not a bad development in spite of the fact that it has torpedoed long term control messages that have proven effective time after time. Though it is giving fits to firms that have lived off or over-relied on proven control messages to drive their businesses on autopilot.

The loss of “FREE”, “Act now”, “Try it today” and “Don’t Delay” is forcing direct marketers to use a conversational tone, a more personalized appeal and a more relevant messages, all of which have a reasonable chance to resonate with target audiences. To some extent, without these verbal crutches, copywriters have to work harder to get into the hearts and minds of those they hope to persuade. But this forced innovation is a blessing in disguise since getting through the Spam filters is the only realistic chance DMers have at maintaining predictable response rates.

In the cat-and-mouse game of e-mail deliverability, copy is just one factor. Yet if you can finesse the technical issues, copy is the most potent tool to generate awareness, interest and response. A forced revolution in phraseology can’t possibly be bad.

In fact loosing those effective, yet shop-worm terms and copy lines could save e-mail. Losing the phrases that prompt stored audio memories of cheesy announcers saying “Act Now Supplies are Limited” or Try it today and Save” can only give marketers increased credibility in a very skeptical, fragmented, attention-poor and filtered marketplace.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Heckling the Upfront TV Market

Have you seen the VidLit about the Upfront Media Market?

It represents a confluence of two cool things – a book on how out of whack the value of TV advertising is and a use of online video that is very powerful.

You don’t have to know anything about advertising to agree with Joe Jaffe’s premise that the upfront is an anachronism. TV audiences are fragmented and declining while prices for TV spots, that increasing numbers of viewers zap, are soaring.

Reliance on 30-second spots are the last gasp by ad agencies and clients who really don’t know how to address the impact of the internet and who can’t get ahead of the curve on how real people have taken control of the media and the message. These big marketing dinosaurs mostly hope things could go back to the way they always were.

In contrast is an innovative use of short videos on the web. Founded by Liz Dubelman to publicize books, she’s created a bunch of very funny and effective marketing pieces that can be viewed on her site. Is it ironic that online video would be used to highlight the shortcomings of broadcast advertising?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Tactics for Using Lowly Text Link Ads

Text link ads are considered ephemera by online advertisers. These tiny underlined generic words crammed into out-of-the-way ghettos at the end of right or left columns on large sites are easily ignored.

Sold by jobbers like to entrepreneurs and small companies, you can find them in out of the way corners of big traffic sites like NY,,, and others whose publishers are happy to take the money and run.

Yet according to these little puppies are both the poor man’s entry to big-time traffic and a stealth technique to improve natural search results.

Being on high volume sites, these tiny links are on Main Street, though not in prominent positions. But all things being equal, marginal brands and direct marketers will get occasional clicks; probably as many as purchased key words might yield. Pricing can be parsed and predictable, like on Google, with comparable results based on volume and investments.

But the bigger value, say the text link savants, comes from the fact that the code underlying these ads makes a direct connection between the big sites and the guppy sites. So when search engine spiders survey the situation they credit the little guys with serious incoming links which, over time, boosts their natural search ranking on Google, Yahoo and Overture. For the spiders these obscure links are silent digital votes of confidence which shuffle the natural search rankings.

The resulting added traffic more than justifies the throw-away costs of the text links because it drives business directly to marketers’ sites. Evidently there are peddlers of insurance, business cards, gadgets, printing, and an array of products claiming positive ROI from this tactic even though it’s hard to believe that this will remain under the radar for long.
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