8 Questions To Ask About a Database Before Advertising

Recently a prospective vendor asked how big a client’s database was, to decide whether to advertise with us. “What other metrics do they want?” I asked.  None, I was told.

None?  Really?

Anyone can build a big database–really big–filled with garbage names, inactive records, known bad addresses, lists culled from questionable sources. However, I highly doubt that a database filled with those lists is going to get any client worthwhile introductions or engagement.  Or any follow up advertising from that vendor.

I have shared many posts on building a successful database, such as What is YOUR Database STRATEGY?Spring Cleaning Your …. Data, and 5 Low-Cost Ideas to Improve Email Response Rates. Now.

For advertisers evaluating a database, I think there are better questions a prospect can ask to gauge whether a database is healthy and a viable fit for them.  Some of them include (in no particular order):

  • How many active users (prospects/customers) have you added to your database in the last year?
  • How many people in my specific target area do you have on your database? Can you show me any demographic profiles?
  • What percentage of your database has demographics?
  • How are you building brand engagement?
  • What is the average open rate on your emails/enewsletters/etc?
  • If you own multiple, similar brands I want to advertise with, what is the overlap on their distribution?
  • If considering hosting a webinar, what is the average attendee vs. sign up ratio?  How long does the average attendee participate in the webinar?
  • How do you actively try to re-engage older customers on your database?

Every database will have strengths and shortfalls. I tell my clients that we should promote our positive points upfront.  By providing snippets of data, it may eliminate questions that emphasize weaknesses. Obviously, the success an advertiser sees in their marketing programs will truly show them the effectiveness of our database and their investment.

The journey continues. Cindy

What’s in Your Mix?

How do you mix up your marketing efforts? Are you using all the tools available to you to maximize response rates and improve your cost per return? For all the elements that are components of controlled  (free) brands today, we need to market smarter to keep our customer engaged: magazines, webinars, research downloads, pay-per-lead collateral, newsletters.

People are still bombarding their email lists with non-targeted efforts. Doing that on a continual basis is going to tire those customers out.

Here are a number of things you can try to incorporate into upcoming marketing plans: (you do HAVE a marketing plan, don’t you? If not, read the basics now).

  1. Change up your email efforts! New creative, new copy, etc.
  2. How are you using your social media lists and platforms?
  3. For magazines, have you tried a tip cover? (cardboard stock covers to get people to renew/subscribe/engage). After dropping them, I have been finding success with them the past couple years. A future post will discuss some options for these covers.
  4. House ads, both in print and online format.
  5. Direct mail—too expensive for many b2b brands today, maybe you can partner an offer with an advertiser. Or send to their prospect list for some new names.

With so many self-built members on various social media portals, we should target them with focused messages. And test the timing/frequency/wording of our efforts.

How can you shake up your next efforts? Your customers might just respond to a new format, new time, new place for your offer.

The journey continues.

C

White Papers & Lead Generation-Part 2

Promoting white paper downloads helps media companies offer targeted leads to advertisers, increase their web traffic, and improve their own database. The first part of this 2-part blog post discussed what white papers are, how they are used, and why they are so popular today.

In doing research for that post, I visited many media web sites. I saw a huge disparity in the amount and types of data that firms are collecting for a free white paper download. Brands are asking a range of collecting no data (why? unless you are just looking for distribution quantity, but no ability to follow up) to asking for complete contact information and detailed demographic questions.

What information you require for download will depend on 1—what will help you identify an existing customer or capture a new one 2—what information you need to give back to an advertiser and 3—what demographics you deem imperative to capture for your database, for improved marketing.

One of the quickest registration starters is to ask for just an email address on screen 1.

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CRN email only at 3.46.02 PM

If a customer is in your system, then the link where a customer completes contact information can be pre-populated. (ie. their name, company already typed in the boxes). If it is a new customer, then that person completes the contact information form. Below are the page 2 links for the previous screens:
FP contact demos 2016-05-23 at 3.57.29 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice that above they are collecting some demographic information with the registration questions.  The form still looks short, since the demo questions have drop down options.

CRN addr 2016-05-23 at 3.46.24 PM

The quicker the process for your customer, the higher the chance they may visit your site again when they have an informational need.

Other questions to consider as you set up your forms:

What other information do you need to capture on the reg form, to make the lead usable for both you and the advertiser? This CFO form is very simple.

CFO simple reg 2016-05-23 at 4.08.43 PM

This one includes phone numbers, which I saw required on very few forms.  I wonder if they tested the form to see if that requirement impacted download rates.

CFO detail reg

Do you need a mailing address now? Or can a sales person ask for that data later, once the lead is captured?  That might improve response rates.

For existing customers, are there some demographics missing from their profile? Can you ask for one piece of it when they make a download?

Can you test the questions asked on reg forms? Testing often shows there is a balance of the amount of information collected and the value of the “free” download.

I think that you are limited in your form creation by your front end and back end systems, time to create and manage them, and your imagination.  This process is changing dramatically, driven by both user whims and advertiser demands. The fluctuations may decrease with in a year, but right now I think it’s a bit of the Wild West.  Testing, tracking, changing, test again.

The journey continues.

C

White Papers & Lead Generation—Evolving Daily. Part 1

White papers are reports usually offered as free downloads. The content is a focused topic  that pertains to the creator’s business and that the downloader wants to learn more about. In return for the free white papers, people supply the hosting company with contact information, possibly some demographics.

White papers are a valuable part of the revenue steam and help with brand building, lead generation, and database building.  Many media companies have “white paper” sections on their websites.

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Manufacturers or service providers post white papers on their websites as well.

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However, they often want them posted on media company sites to be introduced to potential customers. By virtue of media companies’ heavy content, many have regular website traffic of people visiting them.

When posted on the media company’s site, the white paper leads are passed to the advertisers.  Vendors are finding these lead generation programs worthwhile, since these are pre-screened prospects. They can try to convert to future sales. Sometimes leads are downloaded directly to the advertiser websites, which can be a missed opportunity for the media company to build its database.

There are 3 main kinds of white papers, with hybrids as well. To keep it simple, I use the “advertiser” to represent the firm posting the white paper and “media company” to refer to the company selling the services and hosting the white paper.

  1. The advertiser writes its own white paper to put on a media company’s website.
  2. The media company does proprietary research with the advertiser to create and execute the white paper.
  3. The media company creates a white paper with its own internally generate content to help build its own client base.

I will ignore the 4th type , which is straight forward sales material. This is NOT a white paper and should be called what it is.

Perusing many websites recently shows that data collection for online white papers is like the Wild West—no protocol, no rules, firms collecting data points from nothing to way more information than people are willing to give for a free download.

Part 2 of this post will include a sampling of the wide range of data collection forms, with pros and cons for each.

The journey continues.

C

What is YOUR Database STRATEGY?

In a publishing or information services company, every department has data. A lot of it. In different formats. With a range of collected demographics. And wants to store and use it in a variety of ways.

Typical departments can include:

  • Audience development (for the magazines and e-newsletter lists)
  • Events
  • Membership
  • Events
  • Research
  • List Services

Each of these departments has a different view of the database, but those individual views may not be what is best for the entire company database.  If there is no central communication, I envision the blindfolded people around the elephant: each with a completely different view of the animal but no one grasping how complex the animal is.

When reviewing options for how to best house your customer information, it is critical to have someone looking at the STRATEGY of how you want to capture customer data, maintain it, use it in the future. You need that over-arching view as you consider technology options for what is best for the entire organization.

This is not an easy task today. Online customers drive how much information they will offer about themselves to interact with your sites, your offers, your products. And as I have said in previous posts, this can be at odds with the information that advertisers are demanding. Without a strategy, it can be cumbersome and frustrating for internal staff AND customers, who are continually asked for unnecessary data about themselves and sent offers they have no interest in.

There are some database management systems that have incredible front ends for data capture, but the back end of the system is not as nuanced as many business-2-business firms require today. There are some systems that can store and massage your data, but the front end for data capture is severely old-fashioned.

I have been involved in several recent database reviews. I am not sure there is ONE firm that best provides the superior front AND back end services for today’s multi-faceted information services companies. The online interactions and interests of both advertisers and customers are changing so rapidly, it is hard to keep up technology-wise. But, you can combine the services of more than one firm to reach your goals.

Be sure to involve an experienced database manager at the front end of your development process. She can help decipher the needs of the various departments, ask targeted questions to potential database firms, and help determine which systems might work best for your company today to market smarter and maximize revenue. And tomorrow.

The journey continues.

C

Spring Cleaning Your …. Data

Spring, is a time when many people clean out their cabinets, basements, spice drawers, closets. It is a time of reflection, for letting go of some of the past while planning for the rest of the year.

I think we should do this at work too. Take some time to spring clean the data in your database.   While you may regularly look at the segments that bring you the best ROI or your most active customers, I bet you have many other contacts in your database—hidden names, useless names, forgotten names.

If your database cost is based on size, that is a great reason to get rid of old, unusable names. Even if it is not,  random blocks of names can add clutter and confusion as you examine what is in your database. And it can skew perceptions to how big, how usable, and how targeted your customers/prospects lists are.

Separate your data in 3 groups, just like when you clean out your closet. Here is a sample idea of how you can group your data:

The Keep Pile

  • Customers active within the last 2-3 years.
  • Recent prospect lists added to your database.
  • That email opt out list, as much as you might want to get rid of it.
  • Contacts that target any new products you plan to create this year.

The Giveaway (or clean up) Pile

  • Recent (within 2 years) contacts with missing demographics. This can be appended.
  • Contacts missing email or mailing address, or phone numbers. This can be added from outside sources.

Destroy Pile

  • 3+ year names with bad mailing or email addresses.
  • Segments of your file that you no longer serve.
  • Outdated purchased lists that you no longer have permission to use.
  • Duplicate records or data that cannot be merged.

The keep and purge pile definitions will vary based on your targets, your universe, and most importantly, your future needs. But this a simple start to really LOOKING at what is in your database.

Who knows? You may find lists you can re-engage through this process. Remember, it is cheaper to convert old customers into current ones than it is to replace them. It’s like finding that clothing treasure that you find in the back of your closet. Update it, re-purpose it, and it is usable again for very little cost.

The journey continues.

C

5 Ideas to Help you Provide Better Advertiser Leads Now

Niche Marketing. Target marketing.  Today, these long-used marketing terms are mingling with the word narrowcasting, which traditionally was known as the way that TV and radio media disseminate information to a select audience.  Narrowcasting correlates well with how advertisers are increasingly asking media companies to provide extremely focused lists to target with their marketing efforts or for specific leads sent directly to them.

My last post shared my prediction that narrowcasting will continue to become more important in 2016.  Since that post, it seems the demand for these services is growing even quicker than I thought. Last week I saw yet another press release about a larger b2b publisher offering targeted information services to their clients.

Even if you don’t have a budget to create and maintain this type of personalized marketing services today, there are some things you can do now to better serve the increased advertiser requests for detailed customer information. If they haven’t asked for it yet, they will soon.

  1. Keep your current customer and prospect database clean.  The more up-to-date it is, the more likely that your marketing efforts and leads you can provide will have accurate information. Capture demographic data from your website visitors in a non-invasive way. If you don’t have a breadth of customer knowledge, now is the time to start asking for information about them.  What you collect will vary by industry, and what advertisers are requesting.
  2. Provide ongoing, quality web content. Be the go-to website that keeps your customers coming back. The increased site visits give you additional opportunities to learn more about your repeat visitors. 
  3. Mine your data! What emerging areas of interest are on your website? Is there is a specific topic where people are increasingly accessing information? And is this an opportunity for a new focused product or a new segment of advertisers you can target?
  4. Give salespeople the tools they need to prep before they meet with an advertiser. Effective sales people today need to know who your most active customers are, what they respond to, and various ways you can slice up your customer list for more targeted offers. 
  5. Educate the advertiser on the buying process for your industry.  In my last post I mentioned how advertisers seem to all ask for leads of a very small, high level demographic group.  If you can demonstrate to your advertisers that a different or wider group is involved in the selection/buying process, that gives you a deeper pool of names to target. This broader audience will also help to avoid list fatigue.

Focusing on any or all of these item will teach you more about your customer, which will give yo opportunities to provide them with valuable information they can use in their business or personal life, which will help you to give advertisers those sought-after leads–at a premium–which will hopefully improve your bottom line.

The journey continues. C

A Marketer’s 2016 Top Prediction

As an audience marketer, my #1 marketing prediction for what is HOT in 2016 remains what was my #1 2015 prediction, with a few twists. In January 2015 that was:

Lead generation. Advertisers continue to request more detailed demographics about their leads. These leads are lucrative, IF marketing companies have the information being demanded—employee size, sales volume, titles, business types, etc.

The demand from advertisers to reach a very specific audience will continue to increase in 2016. They want us to pre-qualify leads before we send pass them along. Sample: we want 1000 leads of people in the C-suite (CEO, CIO, President) in $100 million+ companies. This is a typical request—but it seems like EVERYONE wants to each this group. Note– this group does NOT make all the purchase decisions! They may sign off on a contact, but it is the upper management who often vets and recommends vendors. Another topic for another day, since I could write reams about this subject.

The ongoing question is –how do we continue to capture and then fulfill these types of requests? Advertisers today often ask for targeted leads with email addresses and phone numbers. To continue to provide clean, active prospects, we need to first provide valuable web content that encourages prospects to give us their contact information. This can be an article on our website, a white paper, a free sample, a video, a webinar, a live event, a research summary, the list goes on.

We need to harness the power of our customers and our database.  At the front end we need targeted marketing efforts that promote these “carrots” to the correct audience. We then need to ensure we capture and turn around the contact information on a timely basis.

A lot to ask for, with today’s budgets and tight timelines, as well as customers becoming more reluctant to share personal information.  My next post will be some practical, inexpensive ways you can improve your target marketing efforts TODAY.

The journey continues.

C

2016 Marketing Plan Flip

For magazine publishers, media companies, information services companies—whichever moniker you go by–2015 has been a challenging year for magazine audience development. Response rates have dropped, and there is more demand for data about subscribers that they do not want to share.

It’s time for 2016 budgeting and planning for many companies. I think we should consider flipping many of the marketing plans upside down, act differently to improve results in 2016.

Here are some ideas I have that you can incorporate in your 2016 marketing efforts:

  • Keep testing on larger email efforts.The incremental response differences add up—and you will learn more about your customers. There are many posts with testing ideas on my blog including this one.
  • Review where telemarketing falls on your plan. Test it earlier, especially for subscribers without email addresses on file. Can you do some dual-pub efforts in one call?
  • Use all available internal lists for your marketing efforts. Recently, I had positive results calling an internal list that had previously only been used for email efforts.
  • Do list exchanges with partner companies or consider list trades with competitors.
  • When setting up trade show exchanges, include sending out emails to the attendee list or the host company’s house list. This can net some brand new names for your database.
  • Does your web site include ads and pop ups offering free subscriptions?
  • If someone signs up for a quote or membership on your site, the welcome link/email can include an offer to subscribe.
  • Can you test any direct mail, even an inexpensive tip-cover?

Today’s brands are multi faceted, including other components such as magazines, enewsletters, events, website membership and downloads, and research. Oftentimes, the audience development budget is still subscriber-focused (especially if the magazine is BPA or AAM audited and/or has periodicals mailing privileges).

If that holds true for your brand,  it’s imperative that 1—magazine subscribers help support the entire brand and 2—“owners” of all the brand elements work together to help find invested, active users.   Make sure your audience development guru know all the segments you are trying to reach.

The journey continues.

C

5 Low-Cost Ideas to Improve Email Response Rates. Now.

How do we increase email response rates? Today it seems every client wants to email faster, bigger, more impatiently to improve dropping response rates. The same or overlapping segments on a database repeatedly receive messages, while other segments are ignored.

We have all worked with marketers who believe the theory that if you continually market to absolutely everyone over and over you will eventually hit your goals. The opposite will happen. You will frustrate your key customers, resulting in increased opt outs, lower click throughs and responses, and ignored offers.

Here are 5 practical, low cost ideas I have had success with in the last year in the never-ending quest to improve marketing results:

  1. What are you testing? list, message, offer? The more you test, the better you know how your customers respond. A list of testing ideas can be found in this previous post.
  2. Tweak the list(s) you are using. If you often market to the same list, when was the last time you reviewed your selection criteria? Review and hone it now.
  3. How can you cross promote? If someone responds to an email, what is included in your “thank you” message, assuming you have one?   Can you offer a similar product on that message?
  4. Do you have older or inactive customers on your database? Implement an email series to try to re-engage them with a complimentary or low-cost offer.
  5. Append missing demographics. If you regularly segment based on a specific demographic like employee size, append that data to a portion of your database missing that demographic. You will increase the size of your list selection, giving you a larger pool include in you marketing efforts. If you regularly Nth your file, having that larger pool can mean names are selected less frequently, resulting in lower list fatigue.

If you can incorporate ONE of these ideas into a marketing email in the next month, I am confident you will see an improvement in your results–assuming you are already offering the correct product to the right audience. And you may look at your efforts with a different view in the future.

The journey continues.

C