Cookies: Every Online Marketer’s Guilty Pleasure

Every online marketer should understand cookies. No, I’m not talking about the kind that come out of the oven warm and gooey and go great with milk. I’m talking about the web cookie, also known as a browser cookie or HTTP cookie.

WHAT IS A COOKIE?

A cookie is a piece of text stored on a user’s computer by their web browser. A cookie can be used for authentication, storing site preferences, shopping cart contents, the identifier for a server-based session, or anything else that can be accomplished through storing text data.

WHAT DO COOKIES HAVE TO DO WITH ONLINE MARKETING?

Good question – while cookies are mainly used in the world of web development and programming, they can be an extremely powerful tool for an online marketer. As an online marketer we mainly have two jobs: generate leads and qualify leads so that sales can follow-up on the “hot” leads first while allowing marketing to nurture the not-so-hot leads further. Cookies can’t help with generating leads, but they certainly can help with qualifying leads by helping to streamline the process of gathering more information on your prospects.

DO YOU HAVE AN EXAMPLE OF HOW COOKIES CAN BE USED IN ONLINE MARKETING?

Absolutely. Let me walk you through a recent example…

At the company I work at we do a lot of online webinars through either GoToMeeting or WebEx. As you probably know, when you create a webinar in either of these services they automatically create a registration page for you that is hosted on their servers. Typically, you will just promote the registration page that is hosted on either gotomeeting.com or webex.com, and call it a day. This is actually a HUGE mistake. Here’s why…

By sending all your traffic to GoToMeeting or WebEx, you miss a PRIME opportunity to drop a cookie on your prospects computer. You should be creating a registration form on YOUR website that when a user registers, it drops a cookie. Why is it important to drop a cookie? Because as soon as you can collect a user’s information (through the registration page) and drop a cookie on their computer, you will be able to track things like when a prospects comes back to your website, what pages on your website a prospect viewed, how many pages on your website a prospect viewed, etc. This type of information is hugely important for qualifying a prospect.

THAT IS IT? WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO WITH COOKIES?

Here is another example of a creative way to use cookies to qualify prospects… Above I talked about how we now have everyone register for webinars through our own website in order to drop a cookie on their machine. We decided to take this idea one step further. When a prospect registers for a webinar, we now send them to a short survey that is positioned in a way that asks for what they would like to learn on the webinar. The key to this survey is that it appears to be anonymous to the prospect, but in reality we are able to match up the prospects survey responses and map it back to their lead information in Salesforce.

This short survey typically asks two questions that are optional:

  1. What would you like to learn from the webinar?
  2. What specific questions would you like to see addressed on the webinar?

We then will put 3-4 additional questions that are required and help us qualify the lead. Here are a couple of examples, but not the questions that we ask:

  1. How many employees are at your organization?
  2. Do you have budget for [enter your product/service]?
  3. What other products/services are you currently evaluating?
  4. Etc.

Our last webinar had over 350 people register, and using this method we were able to capture ALL the lead qualifying information we needed on 71.2% of the registrants. This allowed our sales team to immediately follow-up on the leads that were PERFECT fits for our product and had budgeted projects. Also, by knowing exactly what the prospected wanted to learn and what questions they had we were able to arm our sales team with valuable information that allowed them to tailor their conversations and address the prospect’s concerns/pain-points.

DO YOU USE A PRODUCT/SERVICE TO ACCOMPLISH THIS?

Yes we do. We currently use HubSpot with Salesforce integration. All the lead capture and webinar registration pages on our website are HubSpot web forms. As soon as someone lands on our website, HubSpot will drop a cookie. This cookie will then collect information while that person is browsing our website. As soon the visitor completes a HubSpot web form, we then become aware of that person’s identity and all their contact information is synced up to Salesforce where the sales team can then get access to it. Through HubSpot, the sales team is also aware of which pages the visitor has viewed, how many pages they have viewed, and when the visitor returns to the website.

Was this post clear? I’d love to get your feedback…