'Caller ID' for Your Website New technologies let you target prospects with an engaged-marketing response--just beware privacy laws.

By John Arnold

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you think you need online forms to collect contact information from your website visitors, think again. Some website analytics technologies enable you to attach phone numbers, e-mail addresses and other company information to anonymous visitor information like IP addresses, log files and exchanges of JavaScript code. Combine that with behavioral information such as page views, repeat visits and keyword analysis, and website visitor identification becomes a powerful tool for engaging prospects and customers during the buying cycle.

Collecting company information from everyone who shows enough interest to browse around your website is obviously a useful strategy, but as you dig for more insight into visitors identities, the potential to make people uncomfortable about their privacy increases.

The company that claims the trademark on "caller ID for your website" is Netfactor, and CEO Chris Jeffers knows how to walk the line between yielding good customer service and showing a healthy respect for privacy. Despite the potential for crossing boundaries and creepy interactions, I found myself involved in several customer-pleasing scenarios which also had profit potential during a recent test drive of Netfactor's VisitorTrack technology.

It's worth noting that website visitor identification technology is more valuable to business-to-business companies than business-to-consumer companies because the technology bases the identity of website visitors on network information. Network information is tied to a company, not an individual, so individual contact information is suggested by automatically matching the network information to internal and external databases of key decision-makers or contacts with whom a prior relationship and database profile exists.

The result is that sometimes you know exactly who visited your website, but most of the time the data provides only a highly qualified occasion to connect with someone inside a particular company. Either scenario presents an opportunity to strike while the iron is hot by engaging with visitors in a variety of more targeted ways than traditional analytics allow.

The first step is to prioritize follow-up activities based on visitor actions that demonstrate heightened levels of interest. Examples include multiple page views, multiple visits over a short period, visits from the same company in multiple geographies and downloads of white papers or brochures.

The VisitorTrack version I tested allows you to set up e-mail alerts for a variety of behaviors. Each time a visitor completes a goal, such as visiting five web pages or more, you can receive an e-mail with the words "hot lead" in the subject line that contains all the known contact information for that visitor. Leads can also be downloaded to CRM applications such as SalesForce for lead management and tracking by a sales department.

Once leads are identified as having above-average interest, you call, send e-mails, send postal mail, or just continue tracking and use the company information to analyze your conversion metrics more intelligently based on industry, company size or sales cycle analysis.

If you decide to proactively reach out, carefully consider what you will say and how you will say it. Follow-up is only appreciated when the nature of your engagement matches the nature of your relationship. Getting too personal too soon is unwelcome no matter how you obtain contact information. Here are some acceptable, engaged-marketing possibilities for reaching out to prospects.

  • Scenerio: A new prospect visits your website and spends significant time browsing around.

    Engaged-marketing response: You call the company to introduce yourself and ask for the decision-maker with no mention of the website visits. If they ask whether you're a mind-reader, humbly admit that your company prides itself in identifying good prospects and serving them promptly.
  • Scenerio: A known prospect that has been out of touch for months suddenly visits 10 web pages.

    Engaged-marketing response: You call and offer to bring the key decision-makers up to speed on new product developments and ask if they would like copies of your latest white paper.
  • Scenerio: Your website visitor identification shows a drastic increase in visits from medium-sized health-care companies, which are searching for your products using keywords.

    Engaged-marketing response: This requires some research. For example, if you discover that new legislation is going to require medium-sized health-care companies to use a product you manufacture, you should begin focusing your marketing and outbound calls on medium-sized health-care companies.
  • Scenerio: A prospect browses a category of clearance products discounted 40 percent but doesn't buy.

    Engaged-marketing response: You send a gift certificate for 50 percent off that product category for new customers only.
  • Scenerio: A current customer spends significant time browsing through customer support pages.

    Engaged-marketing response: You call the company to check in, to answer any questions about the products they currently own and to see if they would like to hear about new upgrade options.

Following up with total strangers requires more prudence than following up with familiar prospects or repeat customers. It's a good idea to consult with an attorney to familiarize yourself with CAN-SPAM and other privacy laws to make sure your follow-up tactics stay compliant. The service agreement of your website visitor identification service provider will likely have additional restrictions. Reputable providers do not allow spamming, selling information to third parties or using their services to try to obtain personal financial information.

When deciding which engaged-marketing tactics to employ, it's important to remember that behavior, preferences and past purchase history are better determinants of purchase intent than even the most personal contact information. To make sure your company values privacy over profit, adopt the golden customer rule: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.

John Arnold

Marketing consultant and author

John Arnold is a marketing strategist and author offering practical marketing tips and advice to B2B companies. Connect with him at JohnArnold.com. 

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