Breaking Through With Information

Cyveillance has a “Web Ticker” on its site that offers a real-time web-page count. When I checked it earlier this month, it was at 2.28 billion pages that is the number of unique pages publicly available on the Internet. Cyveillance says approximately 7.3 million pages are added to the Internet each day, which means it will double by early next year. That ought to put the information glut into perspective.

You have to ask the question, what is all this stuff? And, more important, how useful is it?

What I’m noticing is that information is proliferating at such an accelerated rate that it is downright difficult for any B2B web marketer to offer information that anyone will ask for anymore. Name any industry, any line of business, any subject, and chances are you’ll find some relatively in-depth information about it on the web for free. This could be one of the reasons that the paid web information service, as a business model, is almost nonexistent while information portals and e-newsletters are flourishing.

Nevertheless, one of the basic tenets of direct marketing is to make an offer and, preferably, one of highly perceived value to encourage someone to respond. In the lead generation world, the offer is traditionally information.

The more that information is focused on the respondent’s specific needs and the higher the perceived value of the offer, the more prospects will want it and the harder they will work to get it. In other words, put something out there that prospects really want, and they will pay you in “marketing currency” by answering numerous qualifying questions. Make it easy to get, as in an online download, and it is all the more tantalizing.

Making Information Valuable

The first way to break through with information is to really know your audience and create something compelling that is targeted to them. For example, my company is a direct marketing and e-marketing agency, and our audience is B2B marketing managers, directors, and VPs. We publish a variety of information that appeals very directly to them and offer it on our web site. This audience can download a free chapter of one of my books, or they can download a white paper on how to make better use of seminars in the Internet age. A recent email campaign promoting the above-mentioned white paper generated a 10 percent response. Before prospects can download, however, they must complete a web response form that asks qualifying questions.

Importantly, the information these prospects are asking for is objective and useful, not a sales pitch. It is valuable whether or not they choose to work with our agency. By giving away information that is perceived as valuable and that is truly objective, the agency is positioned as a thought leader and prospects are grateful to receive it.

A free online seminar is another way to give away valuable information to the right people. Online seminars are an interactive, easy way to reach a target audience that can see and hear the information from the convenience of the office. Again, if the online seminar is objective, all the better. And if the seminar is well targeted, prospects will answer several qualifying questions in order to attend.

Online newsletters are a leading example of Internet information proliferation, but they can be a powerful marketing tool. People who subscribe to e-newsletters want to read the information, so the audience is already receptive. If the newsletter includes objective, useful information, the audience will keep reading it. Just as important, offering an e-newsletter is a sure way to build an email list with little effort. In effect, this means you are building your own opt-in list, and in this era of antispam legislation, that is a smart thing to do.

The ultimate in marketing-driven information sharing, however, is a full-fledged informational web site. In many cases, such web sites become entire communities. One of the best examples of this is Sales.com launched by Siebel Systems, a worldwide leader in sales automation software. Siebel partnered with Sun Microsystems, Dun & Bradstreet, and Miller Heiman to add content and value to Sales.com.

Available first only to Siebel Systems customers, Sales.com was opened to all by the end of the first quarter of 1999. In December 1999, Siebel announced that it was spinning off Sales.com as an independent company, having secured $27 million in private financing. According to Siebel, Sales.com has become “one of the Internet’s most successful and fastest-growing application service providers.”

Not bad for a site that started out as one company’s way to reach a target audience with high value information, huh?

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