Hoover's landing page hooks subscribers

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Hoover's has learned that sometimes the best way to fish is to spice up the bait.

By adding a little more of its premium business content to the lure for free, the publication says it's catching more leads and subscribers than ever via the Internet.

Prior to an encouraging test in August, visitors to www.hoovers.com who searched for a specific company and clicked to learn of competitors were shown only a generic example of what kind of information sat beyond the subscription wall. For instance, if they searched for Dell and clicked on the competitors button, the results would have been for an industry other than electronics.

But a recent campaign offering competitor information specific to the company searched has led to a 25 percent increase in site registration, while traffic to the subscriptions options page from this section of the site has climbed 33 percent, according to Hoover's Inc., Austin, TX.

Chris Warwick, vice president of acquisition marketing at Hoover's, didn't divulge specific sales figures. But she said the aforementioned results aided in an immediate lift in subscriptions.

The campaign's positive showing has led Hoover's to add more relevant content on landing pages across the site. Ms. Warwick said that the more the visitors interact with the site's offering and buying process, the more likely they are to become paid members.

"What we have found is that [even if visitors don't purchase a subscription online], sending people from the competitor page to the subscriptions options page is a good thing," she said. "Once they go through the Web form, it is a very valuable lead for our sales team. These leads close at a higher rate than other lead sources."

Making the right calls

For registrants at hoovers.com who don't buy the monthly ($69.95) or annual ($599) individual subscription for limited access, a multichannel program kicks in almost instantly. During normal business hours, a personal sales call is placed to them within five minutes from Hoover's third-party telemarketing firm.

The telephone rep qualifies the sales lead in terms of company contact information and whether the decision maker or would-be user of the service is represented accurately on the form. The Hoover's sales team follows up the call to speak in detail with the registrant about the advantages of subscribing to various packages.

"In addition to qualifying the [online] leads, we also use telesales to qualify upfront before we engage the prospects in an offline marketing activity," Ms. Warwick said. "That is extremely valuable to us. It helps us find or prequalify prospects before we spend a lot of time and money on direct mail, in one example."

Multichannel DM

Hoover's recently began testing a newsletter campaign with a drop to 100,000 professionals in sales, market research, finance, human resources, procurement and technology for small to midsize companies (5,000 to 10,000 employees). The list was mined from parent firm D&B's database and didn't necessarily include recipients with known hoovers.com activity.

The mailing was divided into four test files. One group received the newsletter, an e-mail message in support, a sales call and a follow-up e-mail. Another group received the newsletter and two e-mails. Some saw just the mail along with a sales call, and a final group simply got the newsletter.

Ms. Warwick characterized Hoover's direct mail leads and sales results of the recent past as "satisfactory." But with the latest effort entailing multiple points of contact, she said that the early results suggested a 125 percent improvement in leads generated.

"One of the things we are looking at now is taking a more multichannel approach to direct marketing," she said. "We're saying direct mail is an important [marketing] piece, but let's not do it in a standalone fashion. Let's combine it with some of the other marketing channels we have access to in order to really optimize the contact we have with the prospect."

The five-page mail piece echoed the competitor landing page strategy in providing more free content found in the subscription service. The newsletter was accompanied by a form letter explaining that the 16-year-old firm offers free or premium information on 18 million companies.

"Instead of a hard-sell approach, we created a newsletter chock-full of business information," Ms. Warwick said. "For instance, there were white paper snippets that we thought would be extremely valuable to our prospect base."

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