Saturday, November 12, 2011

List Building 2.0: Polls For Prospecting

By now most people know that Web 2.0 is simply the evolution of the Internet into an environment of interactivity, reader participation, and usability. Web 2.0 opens up the dialog between user and website or blog. This connection can help generate traffic and a viral buzz.

But from a search engine marketing (SEM) standpoint, the benefits are clear and measurable: More traffic and frequent interactivity (or posts) equal better organic (free) rankings in search engine results. Getting good organic rankings is a powerful way to find qualified prospective customers.

So what online tactic encourages Web 2.0 principles as well as helps with search engine results page rank, visibility and listing building efforts? Targeted online acquisition polls.

Online acquisition polls can help you collect names and e-mail addresses, gauge general market (or subscriber) sentiment, and generate sales via a redirect to a promotional page. They also allow for interactivity, where a user can sound off about a hot topic. I've been including polls in my online marketing strategy for nearly a decade now, and have rarely been disappointed with the results. Some websites, like, allow members to set up free or low-cost surveys and polls.

However, they may not allow you to include a name-collection component or a redirect to a promotional offer. If that's the case, either ask your Webmaster to build you a proprietary poll platform or use a poll script. (You'll find examples at,,,, and Here are eight ways to help make your online poll a success:

1. Make it engaging.Your poll question should engage the reader, encourage participation, pique interest, and tie into a current event. And be sure to have a "comments" field where people can make additional remarks. Sample topics: politics, the economy, health, consumer breakthroughs, the stock market, foreign affairs. Sites that highlight the most talked-about (and searched) topics on the Web include,, and

2. Be relevant.Your poll question should also be related to your product, free e-zine topic, or free bonus report topic. This will greatly improve your conversion rate (the number of people who actually participate in your poll) and your up-sell rate. Let's say your free offer is a sign-up for an investment e-zine and your up-sell is a redirect landing page promotion for a paid investment newsletter. In that case, your poll question should be market related, something like "Where is gold headed in 2012?"

3. Offer an incentive.After people take your poll, tell them that to thank them for their participation you're automatically signing them up for your free e-zine or e-alerts... which they can opt out of at any time. To reduce the number of bogus e-mail addresses you get, offer a free "must-read" e-report too. And assuming it's your policy not to sell or rent e-mail names to third parties (and it should be), indicate that next to the sign-up button. This will reassure people that it's safe to give you their e-mail address.

4. Tag the responses.Having your poll question somehow tie into your product line makes the names you collect extremely qualified for future offers. Each name should be "tagged" by your database folks according to the answer they gave. Segmenting the names into such categories will make it easier for you to send targeted offers to them later. Let's say your product line includes an investment e-zine on equities. In that case, your poll question might ask people which investment product they think has the best returns: money market, gold, equities, or options. Those who answer "equities" will be prime candidates for a promotion for the e-zine.

5. Use the results for new initiatives.In addition to collecting names, online polls will help you gauge general market opinion - and could help you come up with new products. Keeping with our above example, you would flag all of the responses that come in. Then, if an overwhelming number of responders indicate an interest in an investment product you don't have - maybe one on gold - you should consider developing one. Because you now have an instant market of people to sell that product to.

6. Strengthen your new relationships.You need to reinforce the connection between the poll people just participated in and your e-zine or e-alerts. So make sure each name that comes in gets an immediate "thank you" (for taking the poll). Then send an automatically generated e-mail with the link for the downloadable free e-report you promised. Consider sending a series of "bonding" e-mails to them too - to help them get to know who you are, what you do, and how it will benefit them. This will help improve their lifetime customer value.

7. Gratify participants with the results.Don't just leave poll participants hanging. Make sure you tell them that the results will be published in your free e-zine or on your website (to encourage them to check it regularly). This will help increase readership and website traffic.

8. Publish the best reader comments.On your poll landing page, mention that some user feedback may be published (anonymously) in your e-zine or on your website. Pick the very best, most powerful responses to use. Republishing user feedback is fundamental to the Web 2.0 concept. And it has been extremely successful for social networking communities and blogs.

Marketers have used polls internally (on their own company website) for years. But now more than ever, with its cost effectiveness and efficiency, polls should be used to collect leads and interact with prospects. Polls aren't just for finding leads, either. They are also great for measuring market sentiment - which, in turn, can be insight that impacts your customer retention and service efforts.

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