Top 5 Ways to Keep Your B2B Web Lead Data Clean

Ardath Albee wrote that you can lift revenues 70% by cleaning up dirty prospect data. I don’t think we need much more of an incentive than that to start keeping our data clean.

CRM systems do many things extremely well. Deduplication of lead/prospect data, however, does not often seem to be one of them. The following are my four favorite things you can do to keep your CRM clean (at least in terms of the leads that come in from your site):

1. Automatic deduplication at the web form level — the same person filling out the form multiple times only creates one lead/prospect (but you still capture the activity).

2. Data validation at the form level — at the minimum, ensure that email addresses are in a valid format ([email protected], etc.). Even better is setting up your form to ping the domain in real-time and ensure that it has an actual mail exchange record. The latter method prevents people from entering things like [email protected] (which would pass the first test). At my company we take this one step further and actually do not accept free/ISP email addresses. We do not want our sales reps following up with Yahoo! or Gmail addresses.

If the visitor’s email address fails validation, be sure to provide a soft error (see below) message as soon as they tab off of the field as opposed to having them click the submit button, only to be surprised by a glaring error notification. 

(soft error example)

3. Limiting choices via drop downs instead of free-form text — this makes fields like industry, job title, etc. much more usable later as you will not get permutations of the same title (e.g. VP, Vice President, etc.). This also makes things easier for the visitor as he or she can typically fill the form out faster than with free text fields. 

Predefined Field Values = Better Data

Predefined Field Values = Better Data

4. Keep bots away with built in spam prevention. If left unchecked, bots can quickly fill a company’s database with gibberish. Many companies (including Google) do this via captchas (an additional field where you enter a string of text or a number to prove that you are indeed a human). I prefer to instead use a hidden spam trap that humans never need to see or deal with. Captchas, while effective in term of spam prevention, can frustrate visitors and drive down your conversion rate.

So how do you do all of this?

Each of the techniques above can be accomplished with either some custom programming or via a marketing automation solution. Either way, the technology is out there and it will make your life easier and your data cleaner.

B2B Marketing Lessons from the King

Are you a Big Mac or a Whopper?

McDonald’s has long been lauded for its scientific approach to determining optimal real estate for new store locations. For a time Burger King engaged in an arms race of sorts, competing with the better-financed Golden Arches for the best new opening possibilities. Burger King later shifted strategy and started to simply wait for McDonald’s to open new stores first. The King would then quickly follow suit, constructing a new store within a few blocks. This tactic negated many of the real estate analysis advantages that McDonald’s once enjoyed and shifted the battle to product and customer experience.

Take a look around the next time you go to a BK. You’ll probably see a McDonald’s just down the street.


So how does this apply to you as a B2B marketer?

If you are not the top dog in your market, mimicking BK’s strategy may be a good approach when determining where to spend your marketing dollars. A good technique is to take your savviest (though not necessarily your biggest) competitor, and watch very carefully how and where they are spending their marketing dollars. Let them make their marketing investments, ad places, and trade show bookings. They will no doubt be spending some of their dollars evaluating which media are effective. See what sticks and copy their approach. Are they focusing on certain keywords for SEO/SEM, sponsoring certain sites or newsletters, or attending key trade show? That is like market research that you are getting for free.

Be sure to set up Google Alerts for your competitor’s company and product names (I’ll write more on using Google Alerts in a future post) to get a head’s up when they post on sites, issue press releases, add to their blog, etc.

It is not a hard and fast rule, but chances are if the savviest (until you take that title away) marketer in your space is consistently putting dollars into something, it is worth being there as well.

B2B Marketing Strategy from "The King"

B2B Marketing Strategy from "The King"

Google Is a Harsh Mistress

SEM is immediate and SEO is gradual right? That’s what I used to think. I’ve been spending the last month really optimizing our site for a specific keyword, expecting the return on the time investment to pay off 6-12 months down the road. I was quite surprised to see today that we were in fact listed on Google’s first page — an improvement from page three just a month or so ago.

Sure enough, four hours later, we were on page two. It was fun while it lasted. 

It is amazing how easy it is to become oddly obsessed with Google’s results for your industry keyword(s). When you launch your corporate site, you are happy to rank anywhere. Then you aim for the first page. Then you shoot to be in the first five results. When will I start getting some sleep?

The experience described above does tell me that we are on the right track though. I have been using a few very good SEO resources that I would recommend:

SEOmoz Blog

The SEOmozBlog posts meaningful SEO tips every few days. It is quite widely read and the comments after each post can be insightful as well. I also follow them on Twitter @SEOmoz

HubSpot Blog

The HubSpot Blog provides great thought leadership for SMB marketing. HubSpot demystifies SEO and social media for smaller companies. I follow HubSpot on Twitter @HubSpot

Google Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools is vital for anyone serious about mainting good SEO practices on his or her site. You can see which, if any of your pages, have duplicate content and which Google has trouble indexing. Combining this with 301 redirects and custom 404 pages really helps change the way visitors and search engines see your website.

For Marketers with Short Attention Spans

I need to make some SEO improvements… finalize ad placements for late 2009… write a blog entry… look, a bright shiny object. Where was I?

I feel like a lot of marketers are like me: they wear a lot of hats and have a lot on their plates. As such, I am eternally looking for ways to stay organized and have tried quite a few recently. Here’s a quick rundown of four tools I considered and the ultimate winner:

Our corporate CRM ( 

I really just need a glorified to-do list, perhaps with simple milestones and reminders. The CRM can easily handle this but it adds quite a bit of complexity to that process as well — definitely overkill for what I needed. 

Simple Project Management Tool (Basecamp by 37Signals): 

This is getting a lot closer but it still feels like a bit of overkill for what I need and doesn’t show up quite right on a mobile device. I do absolutely love Basecamp for group projects though and am an avid user. The folks at 37Signals improve the platform pretty rapidly and make great choices to keep it from being bloated with features that 80% of us do not really need. The have put together an excellent book that explains their product management philosophy and it is a great read for anyone building anything (but particularly a SaaS product). 

To Do List Manager (

I had previously taken a look at the above-mentioned 37Signals’ Tadalist, which was great because of its simplicity and also its pricetag (can’t beat free!). It also looks great on an iPhone. Then I found Todoist, which seems to strike the right balance between simple (and free) and robust. It allows for very easy organization of to-do items, prioritization, sub-items. They have widgets and plug-ins for OS X, iGoogle, Firefox, and Gmail and a pro version allows for proactive notifications of deadlines via basically every medium you could imagine. Todoist also boasts an API allowing you to make your own apps that pull and push data. If they come out with an iphone app (they have a mobile site but it is a bit lacking currently), they will be perfect for me. Again, it’s free and definitely worth a look if you are looking for something to replace the post-it notes on your monitor. 


To Do List Manager

Todoist: To Do List Manager

Twittering your way to B2B success

In his B2B lead generation blog, Brian Carroll recently posed the question “Can a social media like Twitter boost your lead generation results?” He answers that question with a definitive “yes.” 

If you are a B2B company and you are not already on Twitter, I would definitely dive in. Your customers are already there. 

Within the first few days of using Twitter we were doing all of the following:

Crowdsourcing ideas for product enhancements by working with our users

Providing tips and how-to examples on our product

Sharing industry news or relevant blog posts, even those of a competitor

Finding competitive intelligence

Conducting ad-hoc surveys/focus groups on a range of topics

Announcing new releases, blog posts, and more via a corporate account

I would recommend taking taking a look at TweetDeck, a very cool Twitter monitoring application, made with Adobe Air (itself a very nice application framework).  Set up a permanent search for your company or product name and you will be surprised at what comes in. 



 People are already talking about you so why not join the conversation.

Do You Site Search?

The percentage of internet users who search on a typical day has been steadily rising for the past few years (from 30% in 2004 to 49% in 2008). Why?

“One likely reason is that users can now expect to find a high-performing, site-specific search engine on just about every content-rich website that is worth its salt. With a growing mass of web content from blogs, news sites, image and video archives, personal websites, and more, internet users have an option to turn not only to the major search engines, but also to search engines on individual sites, as vehicles to reach the information they are looking for.”

- Pew Internet & American Life Project (via Rick Short)

I have been a longtime advocate of adding a search box to your site, but reports like the above continue to prove that search is becoming a normal, and expected, part of the web surfing experience.

Email Subscribers Aren’t Educated on Managing Emails

Chad White at Email Insider reports on a panel from this past week’s Email Insider Summit in which mothers and college students were grilled on their email habits. Though it was geared toward B2C emails, the results are likely the same for many busy B2B users who are flooded with emails from a white paper or newsletter they requested years ago.

Feedback showed that people have trouble deciding when to delete, unsubscribe or mark an email as spam. It was also expressed that readers make little distinction between unsolicited emails and emails they signed up for, treating them all the same once they grew tired of the content. 

Earlier this year, the Email Experience Council decided to launch a Consumer Education Roundtable with the goal of creating a consumer website that would educate email users on how to get the most out of their email experience. This site will help consumers take back control of their inbox and teach them the appropriate way to manage to email communications, aiming to solve some of the concerns expressed at the summit. 

New Lead Nurturing Study from Aberdeen Group

Aberdeen Group recently released Lead Nurturing: The Secret To Successful Lead Generation, and they are offering a free download of the report until January 30, 2009.

The report includes:

  • Basics of lead nurturing
  • Analysis of how lead nurturing is linked to top-performing businesses
  • A guide to best practices, including a case study
  • Tips on developing content

This piece is worth the read, whether you are looking to improve your use of a marketing automation solution or just starting to investigate the benefits. If you don’t have time to read the full report, Demand Gen Report has put together an excellent summary of the key findings.

B2B Has a Moment in the Sun

 I thought all B-to-B Marketers might enjoy this recent piece Jonathan Salem Baskin wrote for BtoB Magazine. Baskin reflects on the fact that in this time of economic downturn, B-to-C marketers are coming to terms with the fact that flashy branding campaigns can’t always equal sales - sometimes you have to get back to basics.

“B-to-c marketers are going to start thinking and acting like b-to-b folks,” says Baskin. “You are better positioned, better prepared and better armed to weather the downturn than your b-to-c brethren.”

Google Ad Planner Available to Everyone

In June, Google launched Google Ad Planner to a small group by invitation only. This week, they have made it available to anyone with a Google account - in other words, all of you Adwords users out there! The release included a slew of new features to help with online advertising efforts.

Using Ad Planner, you can enter demographics and sites associated with your target audience, and the tool will return information about sites that your audience is likely to visit. The new release allows you to segment geographically and find sites using keywords, making it much easier to narrow your audience.

Ad Planner has also added advanced filters for sorting and organizing your site results, charts that make it easy to visualize your media buying plan and international demographic information.