What’s the Best Way To Connect e-Marketing and Data Gathered in Online Forms – A Rebuttal
In a recent “Ask the Expert” column on www.btobonline.com, John Wechsler, president of FormSpring, asks this question: “What is the best way to connect e-mail marketing and data gathered in online forms?,” and then answers it by stating, “Your online form data should go directly to your email service provider (ESP).”
No, no, no John! I disagree 1000%!
I think if John and I had a voice-to-voice conversation, we’d agree that putting opt-in forms on multiple pages of your website is a great idea. As he says, “The standalone ‘sign up for our newsletter’ box is going the way of the pony express.”
But where that sign-up form data goes next is critically important for the long-term success of a company’s e-marketing strategy. Automatically downloading it into your email service provider only gives you half the metrics you need to run your business. Instead, what you should do with that real-time hot lead is download it automatically into your customer database and tie it to an autoresponder. So the opt-in workflow actually looks like this:
- Prospect opts-in to one or more of your website forms
- Prospect receives an instant “thank-you for signing up” email or is redirected to a thank-you landing page (with upsell opportunities…squeeze that urgent interest to the max!)
- Form data automatically imports into your customer contact management software system, including any qualifying questions asked and a hidden code that identifies which form generated this lead
- The import automatically triggers a real-time alert for a sales rep to follow-up and populates dynamic group membership for future e-marketing campaigns
John’s recommendation gets you halfway there because, he’s right: You don’t want your opt-in form to send you an email with this contact information. Website opt-ins and contact-us requests are typically hot leads that need to be followed up now. Some stats show even waiting 45 minutes is too late. An email notification that sits in someone’s inbox until they have time to process it is a recipe for failure! In fact, the more successful you are at driving traffic to your website, the more failure you’ll have. This method is not sustainable. In fact, it’s a big red flag. So far, John and I do agree that automatic import of a hot lead is mandatory. We just don’t agree on where the lead should be imported.
Don’t Punish Yourself for Success
Let’s say, over the course of a year, your company plans a monthly email newsletter, sponsors five white-paper downloads on your website and holds six educational webinars. If the prospect opts-in for each one of these opportunities (a very hot prospect!), his email address will be duplicated 12 times on lists hosted by your ESP. While you’ll be able to track how well open rates and click-throughs perform for each individual e-newsletter or webinar, for example, you won’t be able to get a 360-degree view of what a particular prospect’s interests are. And like opt-in data being emailed to your inbox, the more opt-ins you have, the more out of control managing all this response data becomes.
Now look what happens when your web form data is imported into your customer contact management software system. Each time a web form is imported, tracking codes are added to your database. When the sales rep goes to follow up, all the contact’s history is in one place for review. The sales rep can see that this is one hot prospect and even which webinars, for example, are more important than others (from the combined campaign scores for each campaign.)
“One World View” Customer Contact Management Software System
Additionally, marketing can mine this data to deliver even more relevant messages without having to include everyone on a campaign distribution list. For example, she could write a query that says, “Give me everyone who clicked on the May newsletter link on Product X AND attended webinar 2 and 3 AND downloaded the white paper on Product X.” Given enough programming resources, she could probably do this John’s way, too, but why go to all that trouble to string campaigns together and take pieces and parts of what you need, when you can go to a “one world view” database and write a single, easy query? It’s sustainable. It doesn’t punish you for being too successful or make you think twice about adding another e-marketing campaign to the mix when it makes sense for the business.
So, yes, John, I agree that “Data collected in online forms is the best way to target customers and prospects with the most relevant information.” I just believe that managing that data is infinitely easier to do when it all dumps into your customer database than into your ESP.