As originally written by Andrew Stanten for CIO.com.
As a company, how you market is essential to success. You can have the best solution or product out there, but if you fail to effectively position and promote it — and guide your prospects to “yes” — you are destined to struggle to win new business.
Your prospects often do a lot of research before making a decision. Make one bad impression, one misstep in your digital marketing efforts, and it could cost big bucks in the long run. Here are four of the worst practices I’ve seen in the world of marketing — and the best practices that should replace them.
1. Forgetting the funnel.
I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten from companies I’ve never heard of, offering me an appointment to discuss a service I’ve never even considered. It’s about as close as an email can get to an awkward cocktail party conversation. Company: “You’re that customer who knows all about us, has a problem my software solves and is ready to buy, right?” Me: “Who are you?” Look — the cold sell is never a good bet. A better approach is to meet your customers where they are, using what we marketers call the “Conversion Funnel.” At the top of the funnel, prospects are looking for content to help them understand the problem on a surface level (Think: “What is big data and how do I leverage it?”) Once they have built some trust with your company, you might offer a white paper presenting a general solution — with a subtle plug for your services. And, finally, for your hot prospects at the bottom of the funnel, you’ll want to serve up a persuasive case study and a clear call to action. Bottom line: the buyer’s journey follows a natural course. There are no shortcuts, and there are no detours. The best you can do is stay visible, stay relevant and nurture your prospects every step of the way.
2. Never getting past the gatekeeper.
I once worked with a tech exec who was insistent that the best way to get to busy institutional decision makers was with an oversized direct mail postcard. Now, don’t get me wrong, direct mail can be effective for the right audience under the right circumstances. But, realistically, if you were to do a mailer, about how many do you think would actually make it onto your prospects’ desks? I agreed to send the mailer, but only if I could run a simultaneous, job-title-targeted LinkedIn campaign to hit our prospects’ inboxes directly. Responses from the postcard? Zero. Qualified leads via LinkedIn? Sixteen. Moral of the story: don’t be afraid to test new technologies to reach your audience. Out-of-the-box digital marketing can only further support your brand.
3. Using shady email practices.
Another time, I was talking to someone at a networking event who was asking me about blasting an email out using a list of 7,000 names that had been collecting dust. I told him that rather than risk, at best, a staggering number of bounces, and at worst, being flagged as a spammer, he should run the list through a third-party email validation service. He took my advice and, at $0.01 an email address, it cost him just $70.00 to realize that 5,000 contacts were no longer valid. Once his list was clean, he sent out the email and saw a 40 percent open rate. It’s considered best practices to clean your email marketing list with each send, making it easy to opt out, auto-retire dead email addresses, etc. But it’s also important to do a qualitative scrub at least every few months to confirm you aren’t emailing competitors or other non-prospects. Use your email service provider or another third-party tool, or — gasp! — do it manually if you have to. Anything to ensure you aren’t wasting resources contacting the wrong people. Finally, I beg you: give your recipients an easy out with a clear and easy unsubscribe option. There is nothing worse than having to bend over backwards just to let someone know you don’t want to hear from them.
4. Not optimizing for mobile.
It pains me to even have to list this, but believe it or not, this is still an issue. I recently did a Google search on my iPhone, leading me to the website of a company selling network infrastructure. I clicked on the link and waited for the site to load. And waited. In 10 seconds flat, a bad impression had been born. And I’m not the only one — 60 percent of users won’t recommend companies with poor mobile site experiences. When your top prospects and key decision makers include busy executives, your site’s ability to adapt to the device that’s accessing it is essential. There is no excuse for not having a fully responsive site that offers optimized mobile browsing, rapid load time and intuitive interactivity. If your prospects struggle to read the landing page about your latest innovations, chances are they won’t see them as so cutting-edge. Take a look at your website analytics. Compare load times and bounce rates for desktop versus mobile. Do everything you can to ensure that, no matter the device, your website is representing your business the way it should. Most companies spend years designing the technologies that fuel their innovations. But, remember, R&D isn’t confined to the workroom. By investing time and resources into your marketing program, you can showcase your company’s ingenuity, industry leadership and ability to meet customer needs long before the point of purchase.