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An Interview with Howard Sewell, Demand Gen expert

Sridhar Ramanathan

By sridhar ramanathan
Posted on March 2011 in Market Strategy

Howard is a long time partner of mine who I’ve come to trust and rely upon for demand generation campaign strategies and tactics. He writes on B2B Demand Generation for his blog, The Point. Here’s an interview with Howard on questions that were top of my mind and also on the minds of many high tech Marketing VP’s. Let us know your reactions to Howard’s thoughts.

Given declining email open rates, what are tips and techniques to getting open rates back up in to healthy two digits?

If clients are struggling with poor open rates, more often than not it has less to do with the usual suspects – creative, subject lines and spam triggers – and more to do with issues of content and the relationship the company has with the people they’re emailing.

Fact is, email is no longer a viable lead acquisition tool – so forget trying to make rented email lists perform like they did 5 or 10 years ago; it’s not going to happen. However, as a tool for lead nurturing or customer marketing, email can still be extremely effective, and in those scenarios, we see double-digit open rates consistently, provided marketers do two things:

1. Respect their list, by taking a responsible approach to opt-in, opt-out, and email frequency; and

2. Deliver consistent information of value that’s personalized, targeted, and relevant to the recipient.

Fail on either count – i.e. bombard your database with “one size fits all” emails that are strictly promotional—and no amount of creative tweaking or email deliverability testing will help.

If you’re targeting IT management what offers really are working today versus the old model of whitepapers and webinars?

For all the talk of rich media, we’re finding that offers such as videos and podcasts, even if they’re very short, still don’t perform as well as the old standbys – downloadable, printable content like white papers, analyst reports, buying guides, solution briefs, etc. They may be old-fashioned, but they appeal in part I think because the reader knows that, having responded, he/she can consume the content at his/her convenience. Rich media is simply more work, iPods or no.

eBooks are the flavor of the day when it comes to offer content, but when you pull back the covers, they’re really longer, well-packaged white papers. Still, the word “eBook” seems to communicate perceived value for some reason, so if clients are willing to invest the time and resources in developing ebooks, they can perform quite well.

Webinars are still as popular as ever, though – critically – these days they’re much more effective for lead nurturing versus lead generation. As a first step for a new prospect, Webinars may be setting the proverbial bar too high, but as a next step for a prospect that’s already familiar with your company, Webinars can be a valuable tool for moving people along the sales cycle. Plus they’re easily re-purposed in hosted form for Web content or content syndication.

How should tech firms be combining email marketing with outbound telesales or teleprospecting?

Per my comment above, I don’t really consider email to be a viable lead acquisition tool any longer, so I’m hesitant to suggest any role as a complement to outbound telemarketing, except that on a one-to-one level, following up a phone call with a well-crafted email will never hurt, especially when (if you believe industry statistics) fewer and fewer people are responding to voicemail.

Where email marketing and telesales/telemarketing DO work well in concert is in the context of lead nurturing. With today’s marketing automation platforms, companies can trigger automated emails based on prospect behavior, lead score or demographics, and couple those emails with automated alerts to the relevant sales rep.

What else should VPs or Directors of Marketing consider when architecting an online marketing campaign to drive high quality leads (not just quantity)?

The quality of leads has much less to do with the marketing vehicle – email, search, direct mail, whatever – and much more to do with the offer itself. For example, if your offer is a high-level, educational white paper, you’ll likely generate leads that comprise a broad range of interest, from tire-kickers to buyers. However, if you orient your offer content to prospects later in the selling cycle, for example: a buying guide or customer case study – you may generate fewer leads, but those leads will almost certainly be more “sales ready.”

Thank you, Howard, for your terrific insights here! Howard can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).