B2B marketing basics for filling the sales pipeline.

This morning I wrote copy to help promote the upcoming November event for the San Diego Direct Marketing Association. The presenter is a video blogger and social media evangelist for Sony Electronics, Sukhjit Ghan. At the event she will tell the story of a social media campaign for Sony that’s being recognized on The Next Web as the most successful social media campaign in history.

The B2C campaign involves the launch of a new Sony tablet and how the effort got customers talking about the tablet and going into retail outlets to see it. It also generated 10,000 contest entries. Marketing success stories always make great presentations and learning opportunities.

But what if the marketer is B2B and the company sells prototyping software to manufacturers of technology products? What if it sells outsourced IT services to a limited geographic area or technology solutions designed just for hospitals?

These marketers don’t have millions of potential buyers. Their marketing universes are as little as 2,000 to 20,000 prospects, which can be easily identified by industry, employee size, location and annual sales figures.

Social media may have some value to these companies in certain situations such as conferences and other industry settings. Unlike Sony, however, social media can’t be used to reliably and consistently fill their sales pipelines with qualified leads.

B2B email marketing is perfect for nurturing leads through the buying cycle until they are ready to buy. Despite its lower cost, however, it’s fairly dismal at generating fresh leads. Search has great value, but there’s no control over how many prospects might reach out looking for a solution at a particular time. Direct mail marketing, on the other hand, is still cost effective, even for B2B marketers with a small budget and small prospect universe.

Here are the basic numbers that support it. These numbers are very conservative and are based on averages using a small-quantity prospect universe. As the quantity grows, the results and the ROI both grow. This campaign uses a #10 business envelope containing a letter and a flat, branded gift item that makes the package slightly lumpy so it stands out in the mail and gets opened. Responders go to a PURL to download educational content being offered.

At first glance, these numbers may seem high. But what if the company doing the marketing sells a product or service that produces $20,000 in gross revenue per sale? That means three sales would generate $60,000. What if it’s $100,000 per sale? What if the value of a new customer generates $500,000 to $1,000,000 over its lifetime?

In that perspective, the costs are very much in line. Of course, to meet these projections requires that the campaigns follow best practices, use a quality mailing list, etc. There are direct mail strategies that can generate greater response rates of 2% to 5% or more. These strategies raise the campaign costs, but also raise the number of leads generated and the conversions at the same time.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, there are a number of respected technology and other B2B firms using direct mail marketing regularly and successfully. It provides B2B marketers with one of today’s most reliably effective strategies for generating qualified leads and filling the sales pipeline.

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