Archive for September, 2009

Are great websites industry-specific or universal?

I was thinking about what makes a great website the other day, and decided to expand my thinking beyond my own perspective and experience, by turning to the WebAward Internet Standards Assessment criteria, available here. This organization has developed a straightforward list of 7 criteria, as follows:

  • Design
  • Ease of Use
  • Content
  • Copywriting
  • Innovation
  • Use of Technology
  • Interactivity
  • Each year they score various websites against each of these criteria, and then give out a series of awards by industry and also one award to the best website from any industry.

    I was particularly interested in their ranking of technology websites. For example, I read with interest that computer hardware sites outscore the average of all industries. As a group, they tend to score highest in content, copywriting and ease of use and tend to score lowest in innovation and technology. I suspect that anyone who has visited a computer hardware site recently would agree with these scores.

    The question I was left with, though, was whether it makes sense to score these firms against an average of all industries, which included, for instance, religious organizations, educational groups, industry associations, etc. It seems like a low bar to clear to say that an industry group beat the average, when the averages are made up of such a hodge-podge of commercial and non-commercial entities. It also seems to sell a firm short simply to say that it beat the other firms assigned to its industry classification, as that says nothing about what capabilities were available to them during the period of evaluation.

    Maybe it would make more sense to score them against one of the two standards below:

  • A narrower group of firms that more closely relate to their business. For example, for the computer hardware firm, maybe they could be scored against firms in the computer hardware, computer software, computer retailer, information services, interactive services, electronics, and technology segments.
  • A hypothetical standard that takes into account the current state of web technology and trends in social media and other forms of interactivity, and so includes a measure of what they could be doing, and not just what other firms are already doing.
  • I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.


    Lead scoring on steroids not for everyone

    I have known about the importance of lead scoring for a long time. For those who don’t understand why lead scoring is important, it largely has to do with the irregular flow of leads. Many sales leads result from marketing campaigns that tend to produce a surge in lead flow right around the time of the campaign. If that surge of leads is passed through to sales without any scoring, sales won’t be able to quickly and easily determine which leads are their highest priority, and they will likely waste a lot of time calling leads that aren’t yet ready to buy, and while they do so, the leads that were ready to buy might be going cold because the sales follow-up was slower than they wanted. So, we score leads as they come in to help sales know which are most likely to buy, and marketing know which need further nurturing before they should be passed to sales. In an ideal world, where there are always enough resources to follow up on every lead timely, I suppose this wouldn’t be necessary, but none of us are living in that ideal world these days, so it really is necessary.

    I read a Marketo white paper the other day that took lead scoring to a whole new level. The white paper is called Are They Hot or Not? A Step-by-Step Guide to Aligning Sales and Marketing by Implementing Lead Scoring, and is available here. Marketo’s suggestion is that we should not only be scoring our leads, but also scoring the prospect company, by aggregating scores for all leads across the company, and scoring each product we hope to sell them, by aggregating scores for all leads across the company by product. These are both very logical extensions of the concept, and so I can see why Marketo would be advocating for them. If these two additional scores could be implemented cheaply and easily, as Marketo says they can, I suppose they might help some highly skillful sales reps or marketing campaign managers to further refine their action plans.

    I’m not convinced that all companies could realize that value, however. For instance, how valuable would those additional scores be to companies that sell only a few products? Or to companies that sell to small businesses where there is really only one buyer? Or to companies where lead flow is more limited, and so you might not get many leads from the same company or about the same product in a given period? My intuition tells me that Marketo’s solution might not be valuable for these companies at all. But nobody should trust my intuition, I don’t. Before considering a solution like this, all companies should put together a business case for the solution that drives to the question, how many more sales would we get, at what cost, if we had this solution in place? If there are sufficient incremental sales or cost savings to justify the investment, then go for it. I’m sure we would all enjoy hearing about your successes.


    Outsourcing demand generation & lead qualification

    I recently read an IDC study from earlier this year that said that 70% of firms surveyed are experiencing longer sales cycles, and 50% of them are experiencing lower lead conversion rates. Taken together, this data drove IDC to the conclusion that firms will need to invest more in lead generation in 2009, to close the sales gap created by the longer sales cycles and lower lead conversion rates. IDC added “in many cases, outsourcing demand generation and lead qualification is the best path to success,” because “most organizations today do not practice this kind of rigor across internal groups and therefore may well find outsourcing a path to delivering higher-quality results.”

    I’m intrigued by these conclusions, having never worked for a company that outsourced either demand generation or lead qualification. I was always under the impression that my employers kept those functions in-house in order to ensure higher-quality results. But the IDC study seems to imply that results would have been better had we outsourced. I’m not sure if anyone is following this blog whose firm has outsourced its demand generation/lead qualification functions, but if so, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

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    TV advertising taking a turn for the better lately

    I don’t normally feel the need to comment on the consumer marketing I see on TV, but it occurred to me the other day that we are currently seeing some of the most fun, positive, helpful brand advertising that I’ve seen in a long time. The Target “Frugalista” ad series is a perfect example. The message of these ads is that cheap is now fabulous, and you can revel in your cheapness without shame in the current economy. As a viewer, I am enjoying watching the series unfold, trying to guess ahead of time what they’ll position as fabulous cheapness in the next ad. I haven’t eagerly anticipated a TV ad in a long, long time. Assuming that others are reacting as I am, I’m thinking Target has hit a home run with this campaign.