Weaving in Web Marketing

Recent newspaper closings may be the most notable consequence of the recent shift toward digital media — a move that’s only hastened by the economic downturn. While readers and journalists may wax nostalgic, marketers are wasting no tears — putting more of their budgets into cheaper, measurable online tactics. More than 90 percent of marketers said they would increase or maintain their spend on e-mail advertising, according to a poll published in April by eMetrics. Seventy-five percent or more respondents also reported they would increase or maintain spending in each of these areas: online advertising, keyword search campaigns, social media and video advertising.

It seems to be working. According to Internet Retailer magazine, e-mail marketing programs are holding their own during the recession. The publication reported the results of its e-mail marketing survey in its May 2009 edition, noting consistent or increased conversion rates compared to last year.

Along with the increased digital spend comes an increased need for digital intelligence. More than 60 percent of marketers in the eMetrics poll said they would maintain spending on analytics; more than a quarter said they would increase it.

So what does this have to do with telecom agents? Aside from taking a cue on refining their own marketing mix, they can help their small and midsize customers maximize their online lead-generation programs while also selling them Internet access, hosted e-mail, Web hosting and other datacom fare.

One possible vendor is Net-Results, which offers a Web marketing automation platform specifically targeted at SMBs.

Mike Ward, president of Net-Results, said the solution enables Web sites to do what a good salesperson does — listen, customize messaging to the prospects’ needs and report back to the boss on the best leads. The Web routinely is used as a lead-generator but, said Ward, it’s the “worst salesperson.” “All you are doing is hoping. Nowhere else do you leave sales to hope,” he said.

An integrated SaaS solution, Net-Results identifies Web site visitors, tracks individual visitor activity, deploys automatic e-mail campaigns and generates new sales leads.

Key to this is identifying the individual and their activity. In a business-to-business environment, this is fairly easy because you can tag someone based on IP address to a specific company. In the business-to-consumer world, you need to go one step further and have them fill out a form — from then on, all previous and future activity is associated with that person.

Reporting on this activity also is key. Since analytics generally are presented in aggregate, they are no help to marketers with specific prospects. Net-Results is able to deliver the individual information, so marketers know who to e-mail or call and which offers to present. And, if an e-mail is sent, the activity recorded is not only what was clicked on in the e-mail, but what was looked at on the Web site. Future communications can take into account both things, filtering by multiple preferences to get the offer just right.

Ward said all this is well and good, but for the SMBs, it also has to have the right price tag. Net-Results charges a monthly fee based on the number of page views a Web site receives. So, for example, a Web site with 2,500 to 50,000 views would cost $250 per month. And there are no add-on or hidden costs, he said.

Partners can earn residuals of 15 percent to 25 percent for the life of the customer, provided the partner stays active. An active partner is one that sells four accounts during a 12 month period. In addition, partners can earn a 5 percent override on any sales partners they recruit. They do not have to manage the agents they recruit. There is a referral agent option that pays a one-time bounty equivalent to 50 percent of the first month’s revenue as well.

Ward said companies that are selling Web hosting are prime candidates, but any agents or VARs looking at a diversification or add-on option might benefit. The key difference here is that the target decision maker is in the sales department, instead of or in addition to the IT department, so it offers another way for a partner to get inside a company with its technology offers.

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