Identifying companies who visit websites – Big Brother or common sense?

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Custwin do a lot of work with clients who want to know which companies are visiting their websites, what they typed, and what pages they looked at, and for how long.  We’ve been doing this for several years, think it’s going to become more in demand from companies (who come to realise there’s more to life than just what Google Analytics can tell them), and in our view, it should be of fundamental importance to any company that sells business to business.

But the concept scares some people, while practically offending others.  A common comment we hear is “blimey, that’s a big ‘big brother’ spying on website visitors like that isn’t it?”, usually followed by words to the effect of “I don’t think I’d like it if my company could be identified as having visited various websites”.

Well guess what people …. it’s an essential tool that any business should have in their armoury.  There are two types of visitors to any company website:

  • Those who make contact.
  • Those who don’t make contact.

If website A has 1,000 visitors to it in a given month and 50 of those visitors interact in some way, then that’s a 5% success rate.  The rest will be made up of visitors including the following:

1.    Visitors who found the website for some reason but would never become business anyway.

2.    Search engine robots.

3.    Competitors.

4.    People trying to sell you something.

5.    People who would have considered what you offer but the website didn’t quite ‘do it’ for them, or they’re not yet ready to make contact.

Taking point 5 above, suppose website A had the ability to identify the names of companies that have visited the website, and end up with a list of, say, 100 companies that have visited, but haven’t made contact.  That’s double the number of people who had made contact during the month.   The owners of website A now have a choice:

1.    Do nothing with that information.

2.    Analyse the visitor paths of those identified as being visitors from particular companies, and take action accordingly.

‘Taking action’ can be either of the following:

1.    Realising that companies are exiting from the website (because some factors aren’t strong enough) gives the opportunity to strengthen the website and therefore increase the potential for future visiting companies to make contact.

2.    Make contact with people in those visiting companies (not always easy, depending on size of companies and the subject of the website), seeing if something can be salvaged from their visit.

If choosing to contact companies who have been identified as having visited your website then it may be a challenge to get through to the right person, and even then, the conversion rate won’t be huge, but some people will respond to that proactivity and even if they originally thought your website was lacking in some way, a dialogue could convert to business.  You will, of course, get some people who are freaked out that you know they visited your website but you may have lost them as a potential client in the first place so what is there to lose by making contact?

Above all else, just to know which companies have been visiting your website should really be of interest because it could mean potential business has been lost for some reason.  By knowing who those visiting companies were, and how they interacted with your website, can tell you a lot, which provides fuel for further action (usually involving making refinements to the website).

So, in answer to the question about whether identifying companies visiting websites is ‘Big Brother’, the answer is that yes, it may appear to be ‘Big Brother’ but it’s becoming more common practice, has huge benefits, and those who don’t pick up on such information will, over time, become at a disadvantage compared to those who fully understand how potential clients interact with their websites and are making ongoing refinements to increase the chances of conversion from visitors to enquirers.

Can game apps help build relationships?

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Yesterday was an interesting day because it raised questions in my mind about whether game apps (e.g. for the iPhone) have value in building relationships.  Here’s what happened …

I downloaded a game called Paper Glider from iTunes. It was the number one game in the ‘free’ (read: cheapskate) listings so I thought I’d give it a go.  The detail of the game isn’t important but what happens when a high score is gained is that there’s the opportunity to tweet.  To be honest, I thought I was tweeting my high score (it was late and I didn’t read it properly) but the tweet actually just came out like this:

It didn’t mention the high score at all.  But what followed over the next day was a series of tweets back from people who had read the tweet and downloaded the game for themselves.  A bit of banter followed about who had the highest score (me, of course – that’s the problem with being a perfectionist!), and I thought “hang on, there may be something in this”.

There’s been dialogue with a few people I know via Twitter.  Each of us have downloaded the game (and are playing) and so there’s a bit of common ground there.  When we meet in person that small ‘bond’ will still be there, as a non-business discussion point at least.  Whether or not that has any real value, I’d suggest that it does add a tiny bit of linkage between people.  Of course, people have been doing similar via the various games on Facebook for some time – building synergies with people they know, and I’m sure that has at least some value on a personal level, and because people buy people, perhaps there’s also a bit of transition to business as well.   Just perhaps, playing a few games can make business people appear a bit more warm/human, which can have positive knock-on effects.

In all this there were missed opportunities.  The iPhone app allows just one type of message to be broadcast (as per the screenshot above).  It would make a lot more sense if it had a choice of messages that could be broadcast via Twitter.  For example, I would never actually say “I’m completely addicted to the great iPhone game Paper Glider” and instead would more sedately say something like “I’ve been playing the iPhone game, Paper Glider – quite addictive”.   I also, when I do get a new high score, would like the option to tweet that out so that those who are interested pick up on it and things get more competitive.    Such functionality tweaks in the app also mean that the app provider gets more publicity (people trying to outdo each other).

The note of caution here though is in being careful of how you’re portrayed via Twitter.  If a series of high score updates came out from @custwin several times in a day then it’d send out a message that I have nothing better to do.  I certainly don’t have time to sit around playing iPhone games during the day so if choosing to tweet such things out, it’d be in the evening, which creates less ‘noise’ for people to read during the day.

Are there any views out there on whether games scores/updates (as apps, in Facebook etc.) either are, or aren’t useful in building relationships, even if in a very small way?