This post was originally published as a conference roundup on the website of Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA).

This year’s Data Content conference kicked off with a boot camp on marketing for subscription data services.  Let’s face it, while there’s been a lot of innovation in data-driven products, the industry information is not known for its marketing prowess.   Yet, as presenters Minal Bopaiah and Russell Perkins pointed out, there are best practices in marketing that quantitatively can make a big difference, particularly in e-commerce and lead generation.   (E-commerce has more potential at lower price points below $1500 but for straightforward offerings with a clear value proposition it’s even worked at prices up to $6000).

The Bootcamp focused on what works during different phases of digital marketing — discovery, engagement and retention.   In the discussion on discovery, I was surprised to hear that only 23% of subscription sites are optimized for SEO – particularly since there are so many resources available on that topic.  One good point mentioned is the long tail benefit that comes from letting search engines index partial listings from a paid database.  You don’t have to give away the farm for free but you should make sure enough of your content is open to the search engines to make sure it’s sufficiently indexed.  Yet, only the minority of data publishers do so.

In terms of paid search engine marketing (SEM), publishers should understand that one main goal of SEM is to augment efforts of SEO – not necessarily to achieve direct conversions for e-commerce transactions of data products.  Here are some other tips shared during the session:

  • Twitter:   volume and frequency matter since tweets have a <90 day lifespan (though sometimes I wonder if they have a 90 second lifespan).  Don’t automate tweets; add value and have something original to say.
  • Email:   Establish frequency caps and watch them carefully — segment lists to not overwhelm users with email.  It’s all about targeting.  Avoid the global opt-out trap—users can unsubscribe user from ALL of your content.   Be careful and have policies around this, e.g. make opt-outs are for a very specific offering.   Many publishers have preference centers where users can dial down the frequency of emails.
  • Public Relations is an often overlooked channel and publishers  have great fodder for PR with the statistics they have on hand.
  • Mobile marketing:  the potential varies widely by vertical industry — don’t generalize and assume that overall mobile usage applies to the penetration of mobile in your specific market.

From all channels, make sure your landing pages are targeted and very relevant.  Here’s an example shared in the Marketing Bootcamp:

Marketing Bootcamp

The discussion on engagement focused on four desired outcomes:  soft lead (registration for content), hard lead (expressed interest in product), free or paid trial, and paid subscriptions.

During trials most publishers limit the data available, exports, functionality etc.   A trial prefaced by a walk through demo with a sales rep can be much more powerful if appropriate (based on price and product complexity) .  Even with free trial always ask for a credit card upfront.

On the subject of retention, there was a great line from Russell:   “UX is much more than nice colors and graphics.  It drives revenue.”   He also pointed out that to reduce charge backs, make sure the service paid for by users is the one put on the credit card invoice.  Product recognition lowers charge backs.

Hopefully these tips have wet your appetite to revisit your marketing operations.   Marketing innovation in B2B has historically lagged behind B2C.   But the tools on the market now, particularly in marketing automation and conversion optimization, make it easier for B2B marketers to spend more time conceiving innovative programs and less time on manual processes.

If you’re hungry for more, check out, a premium membership service for paid content executives, as well as InfoCommerce Group’s daily blog, Subscription Site Central.

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