Why can’t website visitors just view your best content?

Last week’s “Is your website wewe-ing?” blog post discussed part 1 of my observations from browsing through a number of business software vendor websites. This post looks at the second of the inside-out common practices observed.

As I was browsing through these 20 websites looking for information, access to the detailed or interesting content was gated most of the time. Almost every time I wanted to look at product datasheets, demos, whitepapers and other worthwhile content, I had to first disclose my full set of contact information to see the vendor’s marketing material. This is incredulous – these vendors provide mostly marginal, self-centered information on their web pages and make it difficult for their website visitors see the information they came to get in the first place. It’s not the crown jewels or their trade secrets – it’s just marketing materials for goodness sake.

But it gets worse – the links to these materials are somewhat deceptive; usually stating something like “download this whitepaper now”, or “view the datasheet for more details”, or “view the product demo” or something like that. I didn’t see a “registration required” qualification on the originating links. Some websites even had flashy graphics or animations promising something, but leading directly to a registration page to collect your full contact information.

Some vendors take absurdity to new levels with this practice. The worst examples require you to create a full profile with over 25 data fields to become a supposed member of some privileged inner circle group before you see their information. Wow, what a privilege to see their marketing materials. Another absurd example is after I completed the obligatory registration information with my mickey@mouse.com contact information to access something, I had to reenter all the information again 3 minutes later to download something else. And they think someone is going to buy eCommerce solutions from them when their website can’t remember a simple registration from one minute to the next?

What about existing customers for one of these vendors – would they have to register to download something? I didn’t see anything to indicate otherwise. Sure they could call their account manager or Support to send it to them, but that’s just unnecessary and unproductive for multiple people.

This is a dumb practice IMO. Think about the website visitors and why they came to a website. WIIFM (what’s in it for me) – there’s nothing in this practice that’s good for website visitors. Why give them the impression that they're dealing with an impersonal company that makes things difficult for their customers? We all know why marketers do this – to add the contact information to their database so they can email marketing stuff and add to their marketing statistics for management reporting.

There are many good tools available to track downloads and the use of downloaded materials that don’t require registration. Inserting links to videos or other additional materials in the downloaded material can track usage. There are better ways to fulfill marketing statistics and better track material usage without annoying or chasing your website visitors away. There are more welcoming ways to get potential buyers to sign up for permission marketing.

There are various anecdotal reports that up to 95% of website visitors abandon websites or enter bogus information when confronted with a registration form. MarketingSherpa’s 2009 Business Technology Marketing Benchmark Guide, indicates that after reading whitepapers, engineers typically visit the vendor’s website (70%), contact the vendor (45%) or pass the white paper to a peer (37%). Seems to me it’s possible to get more downloads and more subsequent qualified traffic by not requiring registration.

Maybe there’s a better way to handle this and rethink this registration practice that website visitors, customers and buyers loathe. What do you think about this?

Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2009 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC. http://marketing.infocat.com

Is your website wewe-ing?

Working on a project this past week that had me browsing through a number of business software vendor websites looking for information; I noticed two common practices that indicate the top 10 business software vendors are still inside-out oriented with their communications. I’ll discuss one of these practices in this post and the other in next week’s post.

As I was reading through a bunch of web pages looking for information, it struck me how often the information presented was from the vendor’s perspective. The websites were full of “we do…”, “we can…”, “we have…”, “we are…”, “our product…”, “our staff…”, “our technology…”, “we provide…”, “Companyname has…”, “Companyname is…”, etc. – you get the picture – it’s all about the vendor. I wasn’t specifically looking at their content writing style, but it was rather noticeable after a few sites and several pages.

Not wanting to be judgmental without supporting evidence, I remembered reading about Roy Williams asking "Are you wewe-ing all over yourself?”. So then I found this WeWe Monitor from FutureNow that analyzes whether a website or other content, speaks about the customer or themselves. Next step was to enter the information for the software vendors’ websites I’d been looking at, to see how they ranked.

The average Self Focus Rate for 10 major business software vendors is approximately 88% - i.e. they speak about themselves 8 times more often than they speak about their customers or buyers on their websites. How do these vendors think that comes across for customers and prospective buyers? It’s all about them, not about their customers or buyers. The best Self Focus Rate in this group was just 82%. One well-known major software vendor scored 96% which means they speak about themselves 22 times more often than they speak about their customers or buyers, and that wasn’t the worst score. So the impression I got while reading through these websites that they were self-centered and inside-out, seems substantiated.

These disappointing results got me wondering who has better ratings in this category. So I ran a list of 10 smaller business software vendors’ websites through the WeWe Monitor. The average Self Focus Rate for these vendors is approximately 78% - a better average score, but a mixed bag. 3 of the 10 vendors had 100% Self Focus Rate (they only speak about themselves), one had an excellent 33% and another had 52%.

"If you're trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think." – David Ogilvy

Although I’m not entirely surprised by these results, it’s disappointing that after all these years, the majority of business software vendors are still talking about themselves rather than relating to their customers and buyers. I wonder how much this exacerbates their current sales, customer retention and revenue problems?

While the authors of the WeWe Monitor state that “a score between 60% – 70% seems to have the most natural tone”, I think that’s way too high. IMO a score of 33% would be a good customer oriented tone – which means speaking about customers and buyers twice as much as yourself.

How do your website and marketing materials score on the WeWe Monitor?

Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2009 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC. http://marketing.infocat.com

Is your company a Branded House or House of Brands?

If you don’t know the answer off the top of your head, that’s a problem. If you’re in a B2B or Information Technology company and gave either one as your answer, that could be a problem too.

Most branding practice and academic study originated in the B2C world and most examples and case studies of brand portfolio strategies are about B2C companies. The academic classifications of the most common branding architectures are:

  • Branded House – uses one master brand name across all products which are usually assigned descriptive or identity sub-brand names. In this model the products or sub-brands have a tight connection to the provider.
  • House of Brands – each product line is a stand-alone brand that is specifically positioned in a particular market segment independent of other brands in the company. The brands have no intentional connection to the provider.
Looking at these models from a B2B and Information Technology industry perspective, it’s tough to find examples of companies that exclusively use one or the other. Microsoft is an example of a Branded House with Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Word, etc. But they also have stand-alone brands such as Xbox, Zune and Bing, although there is a known provider connection. Oracle seems to be a House of Brands example where they have retained independent brand identities such as PeopleSoft, Siebel, JD Edwards, Hyperion, Oracle, etc. But these brands all have a known connection to Oracle as the provider.

B2B companies are fundamentally different from B2C companies in just about every aspect of their operations, customers and markets. Many technology companies operate in both B2B and B2C worlds. While B2C buyers couldn’t care less that P&G is the company behind Crest, Pringles or Tide, B2B and information technology buyers care a great deal about who is the provider company for a product they buy. This gives rise to a 3rd branding architecture as the prevalent model for B2B and IT companies:
  • Hybrid or Asymmetrical – uses elements of both the Branded House and House of Brands models in a defined architecture for a company’s specific circumstances.
What B2B and IT companies typically use, and what their customers expect, is a known and trusted umbrella brand. Adobe is a good example of a Hybrid model with stand-alone brands such as Acrobat, Photoshop, Flash, etc. all prefixed with the overarching Adobe brand. The hybrid or asymmetrical architecture doesn’t mean that you haphazardly do whatever you like for branding. It means that you use elements of both in a properly structured, well-defined and internally published brand architecture specific to your company and market situation.

"Brand is the 'f' word of marketing. People swear by it, no one quite understands its significance and everybody would like to think they do it more often than they do" - Mark di Soma, Audacity Group

A major concern with the Branded House and Hybrid umbrella brand architectures is that when something goes wrong in one product line or sub-brand, it could impact other products, sub-brands, markets and customers whether related or not, in the house or umbrella brand. In the Hybrid architecture, introducing a new umbrella brand across previously independent brands originating from organic development or acquisitions, is a huge and long-term undertaking, but it’s what B2B and IT customers and the marketplace want and expect.

Back to the title of this post – it’s a good question, but the underlying more important fundamental questions to take away are:
  • Do you have a Brand Portfolio Strategy? Or in different terminology, do you have a Brand Architecture?
  • If so, what is it and does everyone in your company understand and follow it?
  • If not, when are you going to develop it?
Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2009 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC. http://marketing.infocat.com

Are you Branding or Positioning?

Two interesting observations I’ve found over the years during discussions with B2B companies about Branding and Positioning:

  1. There always seems to be some confusion about what constitutes Branding versus Positioning
  2. Too many seem to want to start with Branding or do a Branding exercise.
A Brand is a visual, emotional or cultural identity in the minds of your buyers. Branding is the promotion of this identity in the market to place the visual, emotional or cultural association of your brand in your target buyers’ minds. However, Branding actually comes from Positioning, which must be developed before you even consider doing Branding.

According to Al Ries and Jack Trout in their seminal book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, “Positioning starts with a product. A piece of merchandise, a service, a company, an institution, or even a person. Perhaps yourself. But positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is, you position the product in the mind [and context] of the prospect.”

Both deal with placing something in your buyers’ minds. The key distinction is that Branding is an identity whereas Positioning is the promise of the value you create for your customers.

Here’s an often cited example to illustrate the difference – Volvo set out many years ago to build the safest vehicles on the road – that was an intentional position they wanted to claim in the automobile market. Volvo did not set out to brand the name, they focused on delivering on their positioning promise and proved it was real, not just some marketing eyewash. Today when someone mentions “safe vehicle” they think “Volvo”, or vice versa. The positioning, and delivering on the promise of value created the brand – not the other way round. That’s where the confusion arises, people look at companies like Volvo today and see a brand, but don’t realize how the brand identity actually evolved from the original positioning.

Branding takes many years, lots of money and consistent delivery on your positioning. When people think about great brands, it’s mostly consumer products like Coke, Nike, Starbucks, etc. I would argue that very few B2B companies qualify as great brands when you don’t confuse brute-force name recognition with branding.

“Nowadays, branding is often what you do when you cannot differentiate. So much of current marketing communications is shouting but with nothing special to say.” – Steve Johnson, Pragmatic Marketing

Most B2B marketers don’t have the resources, time or wherewithal to do a thorough job of branding. Successful B2B companies have great positioning and focus on delivering the promise of that positioning. Positioning is where you should start and spend your time as a successful B2B marketer. Branding will come from good positioning and delivering on your promise.

Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2009 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC. http://marketing.infocat.com

Why you should know your Net Promoter Score

Continuing the discussion about Customer Loyalty; a common question is how to measure customer loyalty. Measuring customer loyalty should provide:

  • An objective and consistent measurement
  • A measurement that is easy to understand and provides a common goal across business areas
  • A means to interpret results for improving customer loyalty
  • A means to benchmark your performance with your industry and competitors.
Based on previous experience, the Net Promoter Score® (NPS) is a good approach for measuring customer loyalty. NPS was originally introduced by Fred Reichheld in his 2003 Harvard Business Review article "The One Number You Need to Grow" and his book “The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth”. It was subsequently developed by Reichheld, Bain & Company, and Satmetrix who hold the registered trade marks for Net Promoter, NPS, and Net Promoter Score.

Determining your Net Promoter Score is relatively straightforward:
  • Ask your customers one question – “How likely is it that you would recommend [company name] to a friend or colleague?”
  • Customers respond with a 0-10 point rating with 10 being extremely likely to recommend
  • You then create 3 categories of customer loyalty based on the scores:
    • Promoters (score 9-10) are loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and refer others
    • Passives (score 7-8) are satisfied but unenthusiastic and will consider competitive offerings
    • Detractors (score 0-6) are unhappy and/or feel no loyalty to your company.
  • The NPS is calculated as the % of Promoters minus the % Detractors.
The logic behind the NPS calculation is that Promoters will keep buying and referring others to fuel your growth while Detractors can damage your reputation and impede growth through negative word-of-mouth.

A NPS of 50% or higher is considered good. Companies with great customer loyalty have a NPS in the 70-80% range. However, research shows that most companies are floundering along with NPS in the 5-10% range.

When you do the customer survey, don’t just ask the one NPS question. Formulate at least 6 additional supporting questions that will help you analyze where to focus your attention for improving your customer loyalty and NPS. Don’t go overboard and ask too many questions – we all dislike taking surveys with endless questions.

NPS is not perfect and has been subjected to some criticism. However, it is a popular approach that is favored by many CEOs because it provides a straightforward single measure that can be compared with other companies and industry averages. Just as important – it is one metric in which all functional areas of your business can have a stake and influence.

More details on NPS are available on the Net Promoter website.

Do you use NPS? If so, how has it worked for you? Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2009 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC. http://marketing.infocat.com