Category Archives: Online marketing events

TechTarget Content Strategy Workshop

Bill Crowley, VP, Group Publisher, Data Center Media, TechTarget, ran this lively discussion on producing good online content for IT professionals.

Get your head around the prospect

The Heath brothers call it the curse of knowledge. Whatever way you frame it, there is always a problem when an expert tries to communicate to a novice… empathy towards the uninitiated is hard to maintain.  This is particularly true of documents produced for IT prospects: the audience may not understand how your company’s solutions relate to their problem.

You need to remember that it’s about the problem – not about you! So work on really discovering what is the problem – not just going overboard describing all your bells and whistles. As most sales guys will tell you, the hardest task is finding people with the problem and the budget. Remember that most prospects have pain points – understand these and put forward a solution.

Create ‘change the game’ content

If you are developing content for the awareness or interest stage, you need to explain why you are different. While this is not great froma direct response perspective, it can really help you develop a niche and stand out.

Headlines sell the story

Think of where your target is in the buying cycle and frame your headline accordingly. The categories:

  • Awareness
  • Interest/tech explanation
  • Solution/product information

Remember that people are more afraid of failure than they are craving success – play on this. Show how your product reduces risk (could this mean a move away from the often-overused ROI arguments?).

Like a good journalist, make sure there is some action in the headline. Breathe life into it.

Measurement, tracking and nurturing

Check out what is the most popular content for the month. See what is working – both in terms of headlines and content. This information is available on TechTarget sites. However, make sure you don’t judge all content equally – product/solution assets: these have a much lower volume, however given their position in the buying cycle, generally attract higher quality traffic.

Finally, remember that if you do have content for the different stages in the buying cycle, you can leverage this: if someone takes an awareness stage asset, run a nurturing program and use a solution stage asset to make further contact.

BTW, if you want more information, check out the presentations from the TechTarget Online ROI Summit in San Francisco.

Marketing to Enterprise Java Developers

Ouch. I’m sure most of the Java developers I know would cringe at the headline to this post. Inflammatory or not, I think this is the crux of trying to entice this clever, often commerce-averse brood. There is often a huge cultural chasm between heads of marketing departments (who, let’s face it, as marketing operations guys we’re always trying to impress) and your average enterprise Java developer (who is often tasked with evaluating different vendors).

This was definitely my takeaway from a recent session on this topic at the TechTarget Online ROI Summit. Peter Varhol, Editor in Chief, TheServerSide.com and Brian McGovern, Publisher, Application Development Media, TechTarget led the discussion, however there was also significant input from Eugene Ciurana, Director of Systems Infrastructure for Leapfrog Enterprises.

TheServerSide.com statistics

TheServerSide is one of the top resources for Java developers. They have recently conducted a survey of their user base which throws up some interesting stats on the state of enterprise Java development.

How much experience do they have?
70% have more than 5 years,
22% have between 3-5 years.

Where do they fit in within the organizational structure?
50% are part of central IT organization.

In what kinds of companies can they be found?
No surprise that most work in the technology and finance industries. 75% can be found in SMEs.

What are they working on?
75% are building mission-critical applications,
80% work on web applications,
only 8% are currently working in mobile.

Pains of Java development

From here on, the discussion moved in a qualitative direction.

Some issues around architecture/frameworks:

  • Too many to evaluate – there is a problem keeping up with all the new technologies
  • Open source projects will be considered but are of varying continuity (eg. a problem to know whether the framework will be supported long-term)
  • What framework do you choose?
  • Performance and scalability – how well does it scale?
  • Developers dislike vendor lock-in – they like to have the idea that they do have choice if something goes wrong (one advantage of open source)

Day to day issues

Some big problems Java developers face:

  • Can’t find/fix a bug (especially damaging if the bug is in the framework)
  • Build breaks kill hours of development time, and are compounded if outsourcing means teams are split across geos/time zones

Why should we care about these? Read on…

Enterprise software site requirements

Developers are looking for features that solve problems, and take away their pain points. Addressing these when positioning products is key. State the benefits upfront, eg. ‘fix bugs 50% faster’.

In order to reduce potential risk, developers are also looking to get their hands on evaluation copies of software – this is the best way you can sell to this audience (from an anecdotal point of view, I know we see campaigns run better if we offer demos/evals). The takeaway here:’try before you buy’ is essential, and this needs to be the full version – no ‘crippleware’ (eg. with print/save disabled).

The Open Source Challenge

Developers look first for open source as these generally have the latest and most innovative technology. However questions around open source relate to the quality of the support and the longevity of the product. Having said that, it is felt that support is generally better on open source platforms as there is often a large developer community base ready to answer questions and address bug fixes.

Enterprise software websites should borrow from the best of the open source model: engage the development community and offer strong online support options – a forum needs to be visible. Also, ensure experts are out in front of the customer. As much information as possible should be public so answers can be found quickly on Google.

Remember that potential customers will be looking for validation before purchase: references are gold.

At this point, the marketers in the room asked what kind of vendor content works well? These are some of the answers that came back:

  • Source code can be interesting (as well as useful)
  • Webcasts generally take too much time and are often avoided
  • The same goes for other video – unless it’s interviews with interesting people, but all video should be short (eg. create something for the 5 minute downtime when a developer is waiting for code to compile)
    Big documents work well: explain the product in detail and how exactly it will help a developer

How do developers learn about new technologies? The omnipresent Google came up here. Choice quote: ‘I want to talk to the guy that wrote this’.

All in all, I found this session one of the most revealing on the subject of creating appealing content for the developer crowd. I’ve found myself wincing on occasion whilst writing this with the frequent mention of ‘developers’, as if they are a homogenous group. In today’s complex workplace, that is probably a vast oversimplification. However, having said that I did come away with the feeling that this group of eventual end users have demands at the evaluation stage that we as marketers often fail to meet. At the end of the session, it was asked whether the developers present could give any good examples of enterprise level software websites they could recommend. Perhaps Sun? What about Oracle?

They drew a blank.

Matching content to your market, target and prospect buying stage

This session focussing on online content at the TechTarget Online ROI Summit was presented by Bill Crowley, VP, Group Publisher, Data Center Media, TechTarget.

The core of this presentation: most technical buyers information needs change over the buying process. What is the buying process? The old AID(A) model is useful as a starting point here. To recap:

  • Awareness: when buyers needs to figure out what the industry is and how it relates to them
  • Interest: really getting into details about how the product/service can help you
  • Decision: finally… evaluating different vendors to decide on the most suitable
  • (Action:) making the sale

The last point is in parentheses as it is not so important for this discussion as there is generally little marketing collateral involved at this stage.

The point Bill makes is that most marketers don’t produce content for the different stages of the buying cycle. The few marketers that do concentrate on this stand to make considerable gains. According to their research on which documents are most popular, those that do speak to a given segment in the buying cycle tend to perform the best.

So, given that you probably have limited resources and can’t produce documentation across all stages of the buying cycle, where should you focus your efforts? This largely depends on externalities: what is the market, and where do you fit in? There’s a large difference between new and old markets. In a mature market, you have a sophisticated audience. You can heavily segment this audience and offer very focused content. An emerging market needs more general, informative content.

In terms of content, Bill gives some examples of content that has worked well. For the mature wireless access market: ‘802.11n: Preparing for your Enterprise Wireless Deployment’ (generated 257 leads). For the emerging virtualization and networking market: ‘Virtual Networking Concepts’ (with a clickthrough rate of more than 1%).

OK, if this all sounds great, where should you start? As with many areas of marketing, a good a place as any is with competitive analysis. Look on the TechTarget site for the most popular content in the area you are considering.

All the slides from this presentation

ROMO: a new era needs new marketing metrics

I was fortunate enough to attend the TechTarget Online ROI summit in San Francisco recently. I can definitely recommend this event as one of the best places to meet like-minded individuals if you happen to work in tech marketing.

ROMO: your flexible friend
In the opening presentation, TechTarget’s Marilou Barsam, SVP of Client Consulting and Corporate Marketing highlighted what she sees as the big changes in online marketing to IT professionals. She brought up the interesting point that the metrics we use to measure campaigns do have a significant impact on the way we plan, execute and decide whether or not we see our campaigns as successful.

We are now developing campaigns more as interactive spaces rather than just simple point-and-click download documents. Throw social media into the mix and you have much more immersive experiences for the audience. For a given topic (say SOA integration), you may have video demos, blog posts, white papers and standard web pages. All work well to generate awareness and promote engagement, but cannot easily be measured using old school direct response techniques. You need metrics that measure engagement and awareness. This is the move away from ROI (return on investment) towards ROMO (return on marketing objectives). This metric is more fluid and can be adapted to the situation.

As far as I can tell, Marilou is advocating a move towards the metrics used by the media industry: average time on site, returning visitor ratio (and what those visitors who visit regularly do) and average page views per visit. Video and audio content introduce their own demands: rather than just clicks, you need to know the length of time people spend on these media. This makes particular sense for campaigns that are driving either awareness or interest. The one drawback I see in moving to this more flexible ROMO framework is how to compare different campaigns. If you aren’t using consistent metrics site-wide, then how can you gauge relative success?

Marketing is oh so passe, dahling
Somewhat related to ROMO is the move in marketing content towards media models. The argument here is that the straightforward logic (that underpins so many marketing campaigns targeting IT professionals) is becoming increasingly irrelevant. The campaigns that win out are the ones that include both logic and emotion. In this context, drama and humor have a strong part to play.

I suspect we’ll see this trend play out in the next few years. Company websites will start to borrow more from online media sites – both in terms of the type of content on offer and how that content is presented. For instance over the last few years we have seen a proliferation in video footage, blogs, podcasts – just for starters, all these tools need to be more fully integrated into corporate websites.

Search Engine Strategies San Jose 2008 Sessions

Google engineers talking openly about the latest challenges in indexing web content. Search marketers getting their heads around building promotions on Twitter.  Lunch networking sessions exploring obscure tips and tricks. This year’s San Jose SES had it all, with a glow-in-the-dark Google Dance to boot.

Although SES hosts events around the globe, the San Jose event has traditionally attracted considerable attention due to its proximity to the campuses of the major search engines. This year was no exception, with a notable presence from Google, Yahoo and to a lesser extent, Microsoft.

Certain trends jumped out at this year’s event, permeating many of the panel presentations.

Universal (blended) search

Over the last year, all the major engines have rolled out different variations of universal search: mixing up the search result pages (SERPs) with video, news, blogs and other content. While each engine has a slightly different approach, the overall affect on search engine optimization (SEO) strategies is the same: you need to concentrate on optimizing more than just web pages. You need to think about creating and optimizing multimedia content, news and other forms of web content.
Relevant sessions:
Universal Search: representatives from each of the engines talk their developments in this space
Semantic search: a distant cousin of universal search, semantic search has similar implications for SEO practitioners

News optimization

The distinction between PR professionals and search engine marketing (SEM) experts is forever blurring. More and more journalists are using news search engines to source and build stories. Companies can take steps to ensure they have maximum visibility in this space. On your own site, there is work you can do to ensure your PR content (often a good source of fresh content) is as optimized for search as possible.
Relevant sessions:
Optimizing for news search: PR professionals and providers of online news wires discuss making the most of your releases

Conversion optimization

In the paid search space, average pay-per-click (PPC) is increasing as more marketers take to this medium. Therefore it’s increasingly necessary to increase efficiency of campaigns, drive up ROI and outperform the competition. Focussing on the traffic delivered by search can really help in this respect. For instance, making your landing pages more attractive to your target audience and improving a registration form can really make a significant difference to campaign performance.
Relevant sessions:
Pay per conversation: creating real engagement with your audience
Storyteller marketing: weaving a story around your information
Post-click marketing: tips for landing page optimization, including segmentation

Social media optimization

Social media is becoming an integral part of our online culture. SEM professionals should be aware of what this means for the way we find information online. Whereas the traditional search engines still remain important, sites like Myspace, Facebook and Twitter have become credible sources of information. In addition, more and more companies are incorporating social media networks into their own sites, which presents its own unique challenges for search.
Relevant sessions:
Facebook, feeds and micro-blogging: the impact of new online technologies on search

I haven’t included mobile search in this list of trends, although there were numerous sessions on this topic. To me this seems less of a trend – more of an entrenched part of the search landscape.

View all sessions from SES San Jose 2008

Post-Click Marketing: Converting Search Engine Traffic

There were many sessions at SES San Jose 2008 on getting more value from SEM traffic and improving the usability of SEM landing pages. Although not so well attended (being the last day of the conference), this session did contain many useful tips and tricks for landing page optimization.

Moderator:
Anna Maria Virzi, Executive Editor, ClickZ

Speakers:
Carrie Hill, Search Engine Watch Expert & Certified Search Engine Marketing & Promotion Account Manager, Blizzard Internet Marketing
Laura Wilson, Senior Manager of Audience Development, New England Journal of Medicine
Scott Brinker, President & Chief Technology Officer, ion interactive
Tom Leung, Senior Business Product Manager, Google

Carrie:

In the eCommerce space, buyers will place emphasis on words that relate to their query. These should be considered trigger words throughout the landing page experience.

Beyond the keyword, make sure the Ad Text is backed up in the copy eg. if you mention ‘free shipping’ in the ad, this should definitely be highlighted on the first page the visitor sees. The ultimate goal is to let the user design their own experience (could we call this Landing Page 2.0 development?)

Laura:

You can often use the landing page as a medium to upsell. You can offer something free upfront, but on the landing page provide an additional link to premium resources.

Make sure you test everything, including any registration process. What you consider intuitive often doesn’t work out, or may not be the ideal path.

Scott:

A key to getting better conversions is creating more landing pages. The more focussed these become, the better will be the results.

Remember that you are attracting lots of different kinds of people. Use meaningful segmentation to find out more about the audience. Scott shows examples where the landing page is purely navigational – with only 2-3 big links that segment the audience towards relevant content. He outlines a number of reasons why 2 clicks are better than 1:

  • Easy engagement – 5 secs on ad and 5 secs on first page
  • Self-identification – easy for people to categorize themselves
  • More focussed content when they drill down (signalling helps create a rich experience)
  • Market research – find out which segments are most popular

Tom:

Following on with the theme of let your users decide what is the optimum content, Tom recommends turning your website into a living lab (what he calls the democratization of web design). He goes so far as to say “the only opinions that matter are the opinions of people who visit your site”.

Another common theme is to concentrate on microconversions – ie. specifying and testing goals at every stage along a process (eg. shopping cart). Whenever you implement a new feature, make sure you don’t hurt your site (eg. the length of a registration form could negatively impact conversion rates).

There are a few basics you should consider upfront. Think whether you are building trust – does the site look legitimate? Also, is it intelligible in a few seconds? Is it simple to go through the conversion process? 

Questions:

Scott: when it comes to implementation, work in a sandbox first – run a small A/B test and then show the reports. Roll out across the organization in this manner.

Tom: don’t run a test shorter than 2 weeks (to eliminate weekly traffic trends) and ideally wait for at least 100 conversions through each channel (if you are segmenting the audience).

Creating a Cohesive Search Strategy Across Multiple Business Units

If you have ever grappled with trying to create SEM strategies for companies with more than one business unit or how to sell in the value of SEM to upper management, then this session was for you!

David Roth did a particularly good job of explaining how he created the current SEM strategy for Yahoo (to be clear, these are campaigns to increase Yahoo’s visibility through search – he is a marketer working for Yahoo, not a representative of the engine technology).

Introduction by:
Amanda Watlington, Owner, Searching for Profit

Speakers:
Eduardo Llach, Chief Marketing Officer & Co-founder, SearchRev
David Roth, Director of Search Marketing, Yahoo!

David:

The challenge is to do a few things well across a large scope. You really have to pick your battles.
Yahoo is a particularly complex case : every form of advertising – CPM Media, transactional, lead generation, B2B campaigns, B2C campaigns.

The only way to compare campaigns is to look at the lifetime value of the customer.

One big takeaway is to work out the money you are not making from doing SEO – the opportunity cost. David shows the spreadsheet he uses to formulate this. He works out what are the rankings they are currently not getting. Using data from paid search and other tools, he works out how much traffic this translates to, and finally using conversion data, works out the lifetime value of these customers. The numbers will not be exact, however you should try and ensure that they are somewhat realistic.

For the SEO stratgy, the message for projects of this size is to not fix what’s out there. David focusses on the new stuff being built. This works well in a world of limited resources, and over time all assets are optimized.

David offers the mantra: “if you can’t quantify it, it doesn’t exist”. With this strong emphasis on metrics, Yahoo reforecast every month to ensure campaigns are on target. This is a considerable task with workflow to manage the process across marketing, sales and finance.

Measuring success
Use a marketing scorecard to compare different campaigns.
Create an SEO dashboard that is available to upper management.
Ensure there is a strong relationship between marketing and finance (in Yahoo’s case, the Markops finance team) to create LTV figures and keep on top of budget management.

Eduardo:

Perform the optimization across the frontend (traffic, or the data you would find in Google Adwords interface) and backend (site, the data you would find in your web analytics).
Successful traffic optimization involves finding the difference between geo (or metro) targetting, network and creative. Eduardo advocates the use of optimization algorithms to figure this out across large data sets.
For site conversions, track microconversion points (ie. look at each click along the path). By optimizing for lifetime value, it has been possible to increase campaign performance by 20% for same traffic level.
For ad creative, don’t just look at CTR, also consider conversion rate. The CTR could be low yet the messaging could still produce quality traffic.

Questions:

David: when considering brand terms think of canabalization and lift (what do you gain by adding these?)
Eduardo: on the thorny question of market attribution (which marketing channel gets the credit for the sale when many channels have been involved?) – Eduardo recommends thinking of search as closing the loop – in particular look for SEO traffic uplift from offline activities to help build a case for this.
David: take people out to lunch, even your competitors
Eduardo: concentrate on the top terms

Semantic Search: How Will It Change Our Lives

I didn’t get to cover this one, but Lisa Barone for Bruce Clay, Inc. did a great job:

http://www.bruceclay.com/blog/archives/2008/08/semantic_search.html

What is semantic search? A way of finding meaning in those 2-3 words you type in the search bar. Search for ‘Definitely, Maybe’, you get music-related results  for Oasis. Search for ‘Marriott San Francisco’ and you get a hotel listing with a map. You’ve probably seen a lot of this in place already. The idea is to move away from ‘blue line’ listings (ie. the standard link and snippet the search engines normally display).

How will it work?
Well, publishers have to do some work to tag and categorize content. Microformats and Yahoo’s SearchMonkey are evolving tools in this space. Check out Hakia and Powerset for examples of other players.