Email lead generation — perception vs. reality.

It’s my pleasure to introduce David Ariss, President of Ariss Marketing Group, a small, “boutique” direct marketing firm in Denver, Colorado who has agreed to share his insight with you today. Susan Fantle, B2BMarketingSmarts


As this recession lingers on, more and more of our B2B and B2C clients are asking about using email in lieu of direct mail campaigns to generate leads and sales. The cost of email marketing is less and the results are learned quickly, so the perception is that email has great advantages over direct mail.

When this request is made, no matter the size of their company or their market, this is the story I tell:

EmailA large national B2B publishing company on the East Coast hired us to develop a lead generation direct marketing campaign to generate qualified leads for its sales force.

Primarily using their in-house list, augmented with highly targeted outside IT industry lists, we mailed 100,000 surveys directing the recipient to a pURL (personalized URL). For completing the survey they received either an gift certificate or White Paper (a simple A/B split). The target recipient had the option to either complete the mailed survey or logon to their pURL and complete it online.

We also emailed 30,000 surveys with the exact same messages and split. No recipient received both the direct mail and the email.

The result: The postal mail pulled 3.1% (3,100 leads); the email pulled less than .25% (75 leads). As predicted, the responses requesting the white paper were better qualified leads, but the Amazon Gift Certificate offer generated more leads.

An interesting side note: of the 3,100 responses from the postal mail, 800 sent in the paper survey in the supplied reply envelope rather than filled out the survey online, even though they still had to give us their email address to receive their free gift. We assumed, because the audience was very IT oriented, that all of the responses would come in via online. Giving them multiple ways to respond significantly lifted response.

Because of the lower campaign costs, many say email campaigns are more cost-effective, but we have not been able to prove it yet, as the final determination in the effectiveness of the campaign is cost-per-sale. So, I recommend to my clients to test email lists if we are able to find appropriate selects for them, but test in small quantities.

Email is cheaper and faster. But direct mail has advantages that make a difference on the bottom line:

  • Recipients can open the mail at their convenience and spend time with it. Emails, however, are part of a long list of other emails that are critical to that day’s tasks and that day’s business. So marketing emails get less attention.
  • Direct mail allows marketers to tell the whole story. It provides room to satisfy even the most cogent arguments and includes all the graphics that help tell the story.
  • Multiple pieces can make a huge difference as well. With email, prospects are looking at a monitor, but with direct mail they can see, feel, touch, and sometimes even smell the letter, brochure, lift note, or post card. There is just plain more emotion and interaction with direct mail.

I’m not against using email, but I recommend that my client tests them both to let the market tell them which will work best their company. That said, try combining direct mail with email in a campaign — done properly, this can greatly increase your response rates.

About the Author: David Ariss provides direct marketing services for B-to-B, B-to-C, nonprofit and political candidates through his company, Ariss Marketing Group based in Denver, Colorado.

6 tips for B2B landing pages that land business.

In the history of the human race, information has never been so readily available. There’s hardly a subject in the world that isn’t discussed and accessible online — from the genealogy of Goofy to what Brad Pitt orders when he goes out to dinner.

If one is looking for a business solution — software, consulting services, ink cartridges, training materials or thousands of other products and services — it is easy to find, right from the desktop. Then there’s a ton of advice for those businesses selling those products and services — to which I am very happy to contribute.

With this plethora of advice and ease of getting it, I am baffled when I see emails, landing pages, websites and other marketing tools that do not follow best practices.

A landing page has the attention of a prospect for so little time, it’s important that everything works. So what set of tips should be followed? Those that have come out of multivariate A/B split testing in the real marketplace. For those not familiar with multivariate testing, the subject is nicely covered by Mona Elesseily in “Getting Multivariate Landing Page Testing Straight!” on Search Engine Land.

Companies should do their own testing with their own message to their own market. But lacking the time, budget or willingness to test, the next best thing is to implement the findings of those who have tested.

Here’s what the marketers who have tested landing pages have found:

  1. Message Presentation: Assume the prospect will not read the copy but give the page a once-over. So the core of the message must be communicated through headlines and subheads.
  2. Visuals: Include a photo or two if possible. Photos of people make a company seem personal and approachable. Use captions with pictures. Captions are a great way to emphasize an important point, and they actually get read.
  3. Focus: Focus the message and the call to action on responding to the offer being made. Any navigation options that take prospects away from getting them to accept the offer on the page will diminish response. If you want to provide more info, such as testimonials or product details, turn the landing page into a microsite and put that information on secondary tabbed or pop-up pages. But don’t send prospects away from the offer.
  4. Flow: Look at your page and make sure the headline and message flow easily from one point to another. Companies like actually measure how the eye moves through a message. If a message does not follow the natural flow, that too will diminish response.
  5. Offer Placement: Make sure the offer and call to action are the first things seen when the email is opened. Then they can be repeated several more places on the page.
  6. Response Form: Put the response form and fields on the landing page. Every additional time prospects are asked to click-thru to another page will reduce response.

For those who test landing pages, the marketplace has spoken. There’s no reason not to maximize click-thrus by following the practices they have found to work best.

Why It’s Not E-mail Versus Twitter.

Bill McClosky wrote a thoughtful article for ClickZ on the prospect of Twitter replacing e-mail in E-Mail Versus Twitter. He says that “the debate was kicked Fightoff on a blog post by Bob Frady, a marketer most recently at Live Nation.”

Well, my first reaction as a B2B marketing copywriter is how can one possibly tell any kind of a beneficial product story in 140 characters?

But then I realized that people’s learning, researching, shopping, and buying habits are not universal. For instance, there was never a true conflict between catalogs and retail stores. The fact is, some people prefer shopping from catalogs while others prefer shopping at stores.

People are people. Some may get introduced to a new product idea on Twitter. Later they may look for content about it online. Next they may register and download a white paper. Then they may get e-mails from the company making the product telling them more about it and inviting them to see a demo or attend a Webcast. And so it goes.

This is just one scenario, of course, but there are no absolutes in how each person likes to get his or her information at each stage of the buying process. An understanding of human nature makes it clear that it’s not probable for one contact option to win out over all others.

Like Bob Frady, I am not a personal fan of Twitter. But as I reported in an earlier post, Getting over our own marketing bias, looking at things from our own point of view is a common marketing problem. Good marketers find ways to get over it.

So it’s not e-mail versus Twitter. Twitter is just another channel to add to one’s integrated marketing and PR programs. That’s all there is to it.

In B2B marketing — it’s not outbound vs. inbound.

Getting educated on marketing best practices is a lot easier than it used to be. Now, we don’t have to spend a minute driving to a local marketing event or flying CSL083to a national conference to hear the experts. Almost daily we can tune in to informative Webinars right from the office. In a single hour, we can get up to speed on any one of hundreds of critical marketing issues.

This brings me to a very inviting offer I received recently from MarketingProfs. It invited me to download a Kit of info from HubSpot entitled “Marketing in a Downturn.” It included the following:

  1. Video: Marketing in a Recession (1 hour)
  2. Video: How to Generate Leads on a Budget Using Inbound Marketing (1 hour)
  3. Video: How to Demonstrate the Value of Social Media to Your Boss (1 hour)
  4. Video: Marketing Detox: How to Get Off Google AdWords PPC Crack (1 hour)
  5. e-Book: Getting Found Online – Learn how to get found online in the search engines, blogosphere, and social media sites (10 pages)

Item two, “How to Generate Leads on a Budget Using Inbound Marketing,” contained terrific guidance on blogging that I found to be very valuable. I listened intently for the full hour.

However, I made it through only the first few minutes of the “Marketing in a Recession” presentation. Not because it didn’t have good content in it, but because, early on, Mike Volpe, the presenter, made a statement implying that the response rates to “outbound channels” are diminishing.

In his section on “Rethinking Marketing” he made the argument that outbound marketing channels are losing their effectiveness and are being replaced by inbound marketing channels. Here are the channels he included:

Outbound Marketing
Trade shows
Direct mail
Email blasts
Print ads

Inbound Marketing
Social Media
Free tools/trials
Public RelationsÂ

Because of the rising costs of most of these outbound channels, fewer businesses are using them. But most of these channels are still cost-effectively generating qualified leads for larger ticket B2B products and services. I can’t speak for TV/Radio, and it’s true that email lead generation response rates have fallen, but these channels are still a productive part of an integrated B2B marketing program.

  • Trade shows may have smaller attendance, but those who do attend represent a highly targeted market in search of solutions.
  • In direct mail and telemarketing there are lists available that provide significant selections on each record, so targeting by title, employee size, company size and many other criteria are available. They allow companies to match prospect lists to an exact profile of their best customers.
  • Print ads have never been as directly productive as other channels. However, vertical industry publications are a perfect place to help build name recognition that supports the brand just like social media and public relations.

Inbound marketing is an important part of today’s marketing mix, but for businesses who still want to spend X dollars and know that the money they spend will generate Y qualified prospects, outbound is still the only way to go.

And by the way, Mike, you used MarketingProfs’ outbound marketing to generate downloads for your Kit, so I guess you haven’t given up on outbound channels, either.