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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Testing your ideas (2)

Yesterday, I received a solid reminder of the costs and challenges of surveying and testing marketing ideas, especially when you engage in intrusive communications. The question, always, is whether the intrusion's reward is worthy of its cost.

The question is whether our special advertising-supported editorial feature concept, the backbone of our existing print business, could be adapted effectively to leads generated from this blog in the new Design and Construction Report (

You can see the original posting explaining the concept here.

Out of 1,419 survey invitations, 15 answered the question, but disturbingly, six people reported my email as "spam" -- the highest number of spam complaints I've received for a single mailing since I began using Constant Contact about two years ago. (The spam complaints may have resulted in part because I inadvertently selected one of my employees as "sending" the email, and the recipients may not have known her. (She got a surprise on waking up to find dozens of 'bounces' in her email box!)

However, while nine people responded by saying they would welcome publicity only without any cost at all to their organization (hardly of value for our business), three said "yes" to the question of whether they would be willing to pay for the service with a "satisfaction guaranteed or there is no cost" fee, and three said they don't know whether publicity would be of value to them.

Later in the day, Chase observed in an email to me:

"Three leads where people would pay a fee is promising.

"The real question is to determine if the people responding are the real decision makers or not.

"I suspect we would see an average of five per cent close rate from the blog leads. I have no problem working these and as more issues are published the close rate will increase."
The results, obviously biased with responses from people who have a relatively close connection with our business, suggest there is some interest in the concept, but we don't have overwhelming or obvious demand. In other words, I certainly have not hit a home run.

And, to get the answers, I pushed myself into the face of busy people who don't really need nor want the intrusion.

But it isn't a dead loss either. As Chase points out, if we can achieve a five per cent close rate in the early going (that is one in 20), without being a pest or spending too much sales energy on weak leads, we have a viable market -- because this blog and its high Google rankings generates upwards of 20 to 30 inquiries a week. With our average revenue per feature, this indicates a market potential of upwards of $100,000.

In marketing, sometimes we need to push out a little to see what is happening, and sometimes we need to be a little in the face of our current or potential clients. This is certainly not the "Permission Marketing" advocated by Seth Godin, but I think a totally passive approach with no assertion or invitation/call to action is asking for silence when you try out new things.

As well, I appreciate that our business idea probably requires the effective intervention and co-ordination of intelligent sales representatives. The editorial publicity/special advertising feature concept is reasonably simple, but may not lend itself to the "check the box, 'I'll take it'" attitude.

Nevertheless, I'll be respectful and careful before rushing to generate another survey. I need to respect that far too many people resented the intrusion.

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