Monday, August 30, 2004

Your Chance to Give Biz Advice

Got the following email question from long-time reader David, who is heading up marketing at a tech start-up:
I had a question about online marketing, perhaps you or your friends could chime in.

As you know, the only way to scale marketing and hit very ambitious revenue numbers is online marketing since there are only so many events you can attend, direct mailers to send, etc. To really bring in new prospects and build a big pipeline any company must leverage the web. Most big F500 have just begun to put more than 25-30% of their marketing budget into online strategy and this will probably grow in the future if they have sufficient ROI metrics to support.

What would you recommend to really take advantage of the internet and really bring in 500-1000 qualified "hot" leads a month? I am aware of SEO, online newsletters, weblinars, e-mail marketing but what other efforts can be made to really launch a successful web marketing campaign?
My first response would be: it depends on the product and the customer. If I remember correctly, your product is hardware sold to businesses rather than consumers (?), which is different if you were selling, say, software, in which case my answer would be different.

In my experience, for non-software sales to businesses, the web isn't really the main lead generator, it's the pull-through for your "real" lead generation activity. In other words, your leads go to the web to follow-up on something they heard about from your sales force, read in a magazine, or saw at a trade show. If they like what they see on your web site, the site then pulls them in as an active lead. I think this is especially true for business products as few engineers/purchasing agents today do their primary research and decision making based on web browsing (again, if you were in the software business, I think a web sales approach is much more doable and there are successful models for this).

In my three years at a hardware start-up during the peak of the tech boom, the "pure internet leads" were college students and garage tinkerers, not useful leads. That being said, you still have to have a web strategy to support your other sales activities, and that means putting useful information not only on your product, but also on your segment and industry, as well as making it easy to navigate and having it reflect your company.

My personal opinion is that you still need "people on the ground" to generate quality leads, so would recommend a rep/disty strategy, giving big percentages to these guys to generate leads, with the web acting as a support function, rather than a primary lead generator.

However, my scope in this area is limited, so I would welcome other comments or insights in the comment section.

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