By Howard Sewell
Competition in the content syndication marketplace is becoming so fierce that, as a demand generation vehicle, white paper syndication is in danger of becoming a commodity, a program that advertisers evaluate on price alone. “If I can buy a lead from this vendor for $40,” the argument goes, “why would I pay another vendor $50?”
As any student of economics will tell you, when a product becomes commoditized, prices (and margins) fall. In response, syndication vendors are pulling out the stops to layer value-added services onto their programs and better differentiate themselves from their competitors. For example, some companies will offer to call leads for you, scoring and qualifying those prospects so (presumably) you’re not just dumping raw inquiries onto your sales force.
In this category of value-added services comes a new offering from NetLine, the company whose Lead Source program syndicates white papers and other advertiser content via www.Tradepub.com and a network of more than 4000 B2B websites.
NetLine’s new Second Touch service is, in essence, an automated lead nurturing program that delivers follow-up emails, at client-defined intervals, to prospects who download advertiser content from the Lead Source network. Superficially, the service might seem redundant to advertisers who have Eloqua, Market2Lead, Vtrenz, or another lead nurturing platform already in place, but for those who don’t, or perhaps for those who would rather not take the time to set up a separate offer track for white paper downloads, the service is a convenient, and potentially powerful, tool.
NetLine provides a simple email template that includes the advertiser’s logo, four call to action buttons (linking to offers that the client defines), and editable “contact me” or “price quote” buttons (to drive requests for immediate contact). When a prospect clicks one of the buttons, he or she is taken to a prepopulated registration form, and when that form is submitted, NetLine generates a real-time email alert to a selected client contact.
Second Touch is available from NetLine as an add-on for qualifying lead generation programs. The company says that the pricing is designed to make it feasible for a client to add Second Touch to all their offers, and includes an initial setup cost with a nominal charge for each additional offer.
NetLine claims that the service helps to identify and engage with hot prospects, shortens the selling cycle by generating quote requests and other immediate opportunities, drives prospects to relevant areas on the advertiser website, and stimulates further interest in additional products and services.
What I found particularly compelling about the email template that NetLine provides is that they recommend the first callto action button be a link to the very same content the prospect just downloaded. This seemed counterintuitive at first (why would I offer something the prospect just downloaded?), but upon further review it makes sense:
* Some prospects may complete the registration process but, due to technical issues or just plain distraction, fail to download, save, or print the content.
* Others may download the content but then put it aside and forget about it. Sending a link to the same content serves as a convenient reminder (especially for those, like me, who use their email inbox as a “to do” list).
* Sending a link to the same content offers a convenient way for the prospect to share the information with colleagues and peers (thereby increasing downloads).
Designing any kind of follow-up or lead nurturing strategy almost always involves the question “OK, what do I send them NOW?” In an inspired move, NetLine is saying that your follow-up communication doesn’t always have to be about another offer, more content, contacting a sales rep, or a “next step” in the selling process. Just possibly the best immediate follow-up is a courtesy message that simply serves to ensure the prospect was able to download the paper, and providing a convenient way to download the information again if needed. Brilliant.
My Assessment: Second Touch may not be for everyone, but it’s a convenient, effective way of ensuring prompt, effective follow-up to leads generated from content syndication.
About the Author: Howard J. Sewell is president of Connect Direct Inc. (CDI), a full-service agency specializing in demand generation for high-technology companies. Named one of the “Top 100 Agencies” for 2007 by BtoB Magazine, CDI maintains offices in Silicon Valley and Seattle. Howard also writes a blog, Direct Connections, on demand generation best practices. Full disclosure: Connect Direct is an authorized agency partner of NetLine.