10 Rules for Gathering Visitor Information

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By now, most business marketers know that the majority of hits to their Web sites are not coming from casual cruisers of the Web. Visitors find your company's site through a search engine or by direct response link from one of your marketing efforts.

And yet, many marketers, particularly business-to-business marketers, do not take advantage of appropriate profiling methods and questions to develop powerful prospect databases for future e-nurturing.

Too many sites ask for name and address only, avoiding these all-important profile questions. Without answers to these questions, how can you possibly credit the right communications source when it comes time to prove the return on investment for your marketing programs? Just as important, how can you customize future marketing programs to prospect preferences? Without a foundation to capture, nurture and market to prospects, Internet marketers also spend too much time and money trying to qualify sales responders.

While I still recommend you provide both phone and Web response options to meet the needs of your prospects, there are some basic rules I encourage you to master for your Web responses. Here are the top 10:

· Create a dedicated, value-added micro-site or landing page customized for each major marketing campaign. This page is separate from your company's Web site home page.

· Ask the same profile questions on your "contact us" page that you use in other reply vehicles. While you may edit these questions for brevity or present them in a different format (i.e., drop-down boxes), the answers are still required no matter the marketing tool.

· Make sure to add the question, "Where did you originally hear about us?" Give them choices to check: print advertisement, Web banner ad, search engine, direct mail, trade show and so on.

· Ask how they would like to be contacted ... electronically? By fax? By mail?

· Explicitly ask for permission to stay in contact via e-mail in the future. This is well known now as opt-in, and should be accompanied by opt-out instructions.

· Make it easy to inquire. Make your forms easy to use and fill out. Use drop-down menus and pre-populated response mechanisms.

· When you drive responses to your landing page to capture data, tie in campaign visuals and copy. Design and copy must motivate prospects to continue to register. Reinforcing your offer is one way to motivate.

· On your registration form, use scripting that indicates which fields are mandatory and that tells prospects, after they "submit," which information field they missed or entered incorrectly. Allow prospects to link back to your home page once registration is complete.

· Be sure to say thank you once the form is properly submitted, and tell prospects what will happen next.

· Send an instant e-mail confirmation to responders to let them know their request, when they make one, has been received. This confirmation process should be a standard part of your customer service, should reiterate the information requested, and explain when they will be contacted or when to expect their order.

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