Use December to assess B2B marketing practices for 2013.

December is traditionally a slow month in which to conduct B2B marketing, with the possible exception of outbound calling. When B2B buyers are in the holiday spirit they are typically more likely to take calls. But since December isn’t great for marketing, it’s the perfect month to assess B2B marketing plans and practices for 2013.

For 2013, MarketingProfs is predicting the continued rise of content marketing. Another Marketing is predicting a greater return to offline channels and the increased value of mobile. In fact, all of the predictions for 2013 support the continued importance of integrated marketing. That is, being everywhere a B2B prospect or customer might be and not putting all of one’s B2B marketing eggs in one basket.

So now is the time for B2B marketers to assess how well they are following best practices — then to update their marketing plans for 2013. Here are three areas that might be worth assessing:

  1. Analyze if the targeting being used is missing any huge potential for growth and sales in 2013. Here are a few tips on how to do this: “Is your B2B marketing barking up all the right trees?
  2. Evaluate how well the Website supports the online brand and generates involvement on the part of the visitor by reviewing “Is anything missing from your online B2B brand?
  3. Evaluate overall B2B marketing messaging to make sure it’s consistent from channel to channel. Then check it for best practices in “B2B marketing’s 10 most common copy mistakes.”

B2B marketing is a process of reaching the right people with the right messaging and using the tools and tactics that have been proven to generate leads and convert them into a qualified pipeline. B2B marketers can use December to make sure 2013 doesn’t miss one opportunity to generate leads, support growth and make a big impact on the bottom line.

B2B marketing “Advice from the Top.

This year’s Business Marketing Association’s (BMA) early June conference in Chicago was a big coup for the Colorado BMA Chapter. It was at this event that they proudly released their new collaborative book on B2B marketing Advice from the Top: The Expert Guide to B2B Marketing.

The Colorado organization’s Executive Director, Marilee Yorchak, describes this book as “a compilation of real-life case studies from 24 B2B marketing experts. It’s like having your own consultant right there with you.”

It was my pleasure to join with my colleague Dave Ariss of Ariss Marketing Group to co-author Chapter 23, which reports on the success (and insight) gained from a combination direct mail and email test campaign we created and managed for a technology publisher.

These success stories cover all the critical B2B marketing topics:

  • Strategy
  • Content Development
  • Implementation
  • Success Measurement

So what do the folks at the top have to say? This book is jam-packed with useful advice. It includes such valuable info as: how to make sure your research is accurate and actionable; a step-by-step guide to creating effective marketing plans; how to tell a compelling company story; how to get sales and marketing to support each other’s efforts — and a lot more.

If you’re serious about marketing success, having a copy of Advice from the Top within arm’s reach is a must.

It’s available directly from the Colorado BMA at BMA Top Advice or from Amazon.

Non-stop tips and insights for the muddled B2B marketing mind.

Congrats and thanks to Denny Hatch, marketing guru, commentator and author, on the recent release of his wonderful book “Career Changing Takeaways!” As the book’s subtitle elaborates, it’s a collection of “Quotations, Rules, Aphorisms, Pithy Tips, Quips, Sage Advice, Secrets, Dictums and Truisms in 99 Categories of Marketing, Business and Life.”

These mighty statements from recognized leaders and experts can instantly clear a confused mind on topics such as Brands and Branding, Communications, Creativity, Data Management, Decision Making, eMarketing, Job Searches, Website design and so much more.

Because Denny’s background is in direct marketing, there’s tons of good guidance for those of us in B2B marketing.

It ranges from the fun . . .

“I have always believed that writing advertisements is the second most profitable form of writing. The first, of course, is ransom notes.” Philip Dusenberry

To the insightful . . .

“What’s your brand? If you can’t answer that question about your own brand in two or three words, your brand’s in trouble.” Al Reis

To the live-or-die guidance . . .

“If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.” Jack Welch

It’s a great read, a great guide and a nice break to take when one’s marketing or decision-making mind is muddled. What better refresher than to read a few guiding thoughts from the pros?

Tips for winning the B2B company or product “name game.”

Welcome my guest Steven Moody, who has some excellent advice to share on company and product naming.
As I explored starting and building a company, I became acutely aware of the opportunities around choosing a name for it. I noticed five different ways to go about it:

  1. Name + type of business (“Smith’s Accounting”)
  2. The product strategy (“Clothing World”)
  3. Unused brand (“Salesforce”)
  4. A completely new word (“Digg”)
  5. Unique Selling Proposition (USP) (“Fast Web Analytics”)

Looking at these options, #1 seems to be very common with small business owners; for many, putting their name “up in lights” is a bigger motivation than creating a thriving business. The question, though, is, “So what – who are you?”

The product strategy is more common with retailers: create a name that aligns you with a tribe, while emphasizing your size. If you build a Skirt Land, the thinking goes, every consumer of skirts will want to visit. This can apply to B2B companies, too, with names like Netgear, a provider of networking hardware.

The unused brand strategy is also a good one., for example, suggests a lot about the B2B company before you see their website. Are they for sales forces? Do they augment or even replace your sales force? Either of these assumptions is consistent with their brand, so they do well.

The downside to the unused brand strategy is the cost of online real estate. While was probably a fairly inexpensive domain, today, getting a word like this will require significantly more money, due to the speculation around domain names and the commonly accepted wisdom to target a properly spelled, short domain.

In response to the unused brand strategy, many web 2.0 companies began purposely misspelling words or creating new words. Flickr and Digg, for example, created value in a bargain location. This is also great if the new word reflects your tribe: Flickr evokes pictures, Digg evokes “digging” through the Web, and “digging” things you like. Although trendy, these names suffer if they don’t have the right sound.

What if your business is more than just a website? Arguably, the best naming strategy is to emphasize a unique selling proposition (#5).

This USP approach to naming has some immediate benefits. First, it requires less branding because the name evokes your brand. Second, it may be possible to register the domain name without paying thousands of dollars. Although many think a long name can hurt you, proves this strategy can work. Finally, your business name will be scalable and sellable – Smith’s Accounting will be more difficult to sell if Smith isn’t continuing with the company.

Bottom line: When brainstorming company or product names, it’s important to consider the greatest value to your customer and ensure the name is relevant to this value. If your greatest value is in your personal service, your name could be sufficient. If your value is something else, figure out what that is and weave it into your name in such a way that it creates a story. If your primary marketing will be online, finding a new word may be an effective method, as the cost to purchase the name will be lower, but don’t rule out longer names if your audience is other businesses.

Susan’s comment:
From a marketing standpoint, the right name can make a big difference. The name + type, product strategy or USP approach can all simplify B2B marketing messages because the product or company name communicates a lot all by itself.

Steven Moody is the founder of a Citizenship Application service, and writes regularly on his Marketing Technology blog.

How B2B marketers can be winners at the game of tag.

What was the best part of playing tag as a youngster? Not being “it,” of course.

Well, here we are conducting B2B marketing for our companies and we want to be “it.” That’s because being “it” means having a competitive edge, the most well-known brand, the biggest market share, and generating the most revenue.

Last week’s blog on “Two ways to use your B2B customer database as a valuable targeting tool” was built from expertise I gathered at a recent San Diego Software Industry Council event. It presented “Market Strategies for Software Companies” by Robert Hale, President of Robert Hale & Associates.

Fortunately, learning about targeting wasn’t the only productive insight I gathered from that presentation. The rest was about creating the tagline that properly supports the B2B marketing and branding we do for our companies.

His advice was easy to understand but, for many companies, a huge effort to do right. It consisted of these three simple rules for creating useful taglines:

  1. Differentiate your company from your competition
  2. Make it easy to understand
  3. Make it true.

Why are taglines important? Hale goes on to explain that taglines are the lead into a company’s messaging and its positioning. They provide prospects with a snapshot of how the company is different from its competition. They introduce the company’s USP or “unique selling proposition.” If a B2B company does not have this differentiating USP, then it has other problems besides creating a strong tag.

As I said earlier, coming up with a tagline that effectively meets the above three rules is a big effort. For example, below is what some of today’s well-known B2B companies currently show as a tagline on their Web sites. Do these company tags meet the criteria? Here’s my take:

Dell: “The Power to Do More”
HP: “Let’s Do Amazing”
Actually these are strong statements. But if the prospect doesn’t already know of the HP and Dell brands (if the prospect is under the age of 2), the statements are meaningless. For B2B marketers not having this kind of brand exposure, these tags would be very weak.

3M: “Innovative Technology for a Changing World”
SAP: “Delivering IT-Powered Business Innovation”
Both of these tags follow the rules very nicely, with “Innovation” being the differentiator.

Intuit: “Small Business. Rejoice”
As a small business person, this tagline gives me confidence and makes me interested. But it doesn’t tell me what kind of product they offer. This approach comes from the freedom companies enjoy in creating taglines once they have a well-known brand.

Office Depot: “Taking Care of Business”
I like this one best as it tells me what they do and the use of the word “care” gives the company personality and focus.

Silverpop: “Engagement Marketing Solutions”
Eloqua: “The Power to Succeed”
Above are two competitors. Silverpop expresses exactly what they do. Eloqua promises a benefit but does not tell me what they do. For a company without a strong brand, telling the prospect what they do makes more sense to me. The Eloqua tag promises a nice benefit, but that benefit could be applied to hundreds, if not thousands, of companies. There is no differentiator there.

Barnum and Bailey, of course, would never think of switching from “The Greatest Show on Earth.” In business, however, taglines can change over time based on changing market demand and changing technologies. As the lead or introduction into a company Web site, a solution brief, brochure, email, or any other B2B marketing communication, I believe that a tagline that follows Hale’s rules is essential.

Other branding experts, such as, add more guidelines for tagline creation, such as

  • Is it memorable?
  • Is it easy to say?
  • Does it allow your prospects to recall your name?
  • Does it communicate your brand essence or position?
  • Will it help your business achieve its mission?

Hale’s advice, however, keeps a complicated task simple and covers the essence of what B2B marketers need to remember when creating a tag that represents the company effectively to its prospective market.

In B2B marketing, it’s a no-compromise world.

When visiting the BizSugar community of blog articles for small business, the title of a post from Susan Oakes of M4BMarketing caught my eye. It was “How to Confuse Your Customers in One Easy Step.” Her focus is branding and she delivers a solid argument for making sure a company’s brand looks the same wherever it appears — Web site, newsletter, business card, trade show, blog, etc.

She describes her reaction when looking at a particular company that has not demonstrated this consistency. “It did make me a little wary about the quality of their work and which one represented the real tone of the business. Sure this is not a rational thought but rather an emotional reaction. My initial response was if they did not care enough about their own brand why would they care about mine if I used their services.”

The fact is that few B2B businesses are lucky enough to be the “only” provider of a particular product or service. A company’s product may have a feature that is unique, but that advantage still does not guarantee that everyone needing that type of solution will buy from them.

I am reminded of this fact every time I conduct an initial interview with a new client. One of my interview questions, of course, is, “Who is your competition?”

I am often surprised by the answers I get.

There are direct competitors, of course. But then there are the dozens of other peripheral businesses that have a related solution that can often win the customer.

That’s why it’s so important for B2B marketers to follow best marketing practices in everything they do — whether it involves their brand, lead generation, or nurturing efforts.

When B2B marketers compromise campaign practices (media, list, content offer, messaging, design, frequency, etc.) based on what the boss wants, the sales department wants, or the product manager wants, the result is fewer leads and fewer sales.

That’s how it is in this crowded, competitive B2B world.

B2B Marketers — Don’t Go Out Without Your Makeup.

It was 1995 when Newsweek had Bruce Willis on its cover in a t-shirt and jeans with a headline that read “Have We Become a Nation of Slobs?” We dressed pretty casually back then, but these days it’s a miracle if folks aren’t going to work in their pajamas on casual Fridays.

It’s a bit different in B2B marketing, especially for companies selling larger ticket items. When a B2B marketer shows the company’s “face” to prospects, that company needs to be wearing all the proper clothing and makeup.

This sounds like I’m talking about branding, but the brand is only one element of what prospective customers see when they are ready to make contact. Here are the other two critical foundations that must be in place before ANY other marketing is undertaken:

1.  Build a Web site that, in addition to supporting the brand, is a strong sales tool.

Here are the basic items that must be included:

  • Strong story that quickly and clearly communicates what the company offers, who the product is meant for and the main benefits the product(s) delivers
  • Opportunities for visitors to interact with the site, such as white paper downloads (both free and those requiring registration), a strong opt-in invitation, possibly an ROI calculator, videos and other similar interactive devices.
  • Multiple contact options, including a “Please contact me” form, phone number, email address and, yes, even a fax.
  • Navigation that lets visitors quickly and easily find the information they need.

Many prospects who are directed to Web site landing pages — whether in response to SEM ads, emails, direct mail or other communications — may still choose to visit the company’s Web site before accepting an offer. So the Web site must “sell.”

2.  Make sure inbound callers can easily reach a human being.

There are still prospects out there who prefer to pick up the phone and call a company for information. Providing an easy option for them to call and speak with a sales person or operator (who can direct the call) ensures that companies don’t miss easy opportunities for personal interaction with their prospects.

Without the proper makeup, B2B marketing efforts — regardless of the channel — cannot be as effective as they should be.

3 Great B2B Marketing Ideas I Read in (OMG) Print Media.

Yes, there is still print media out there, and it still has value for those of us that don’t yet own an iPad and like to sit on a lawn chair and read industry pubs. Here’s what I learned just this past weekend.

1. Over the top’ creative approaches can generate appointments with decision-makers. The July issue of the U.S. Postal Service’s publication Deliver® featured a story on Chris Newman. As the award-winning senior art director at Euro RSCG Chicago, Chris emphatically shows why B2B marketing doesn’t have to be dull.

He uses ‘over the top’ creative dimensional mailers that get decision makers to interact with the marketing and say yes to a face-to-face appointment with sales. As Chris observes, there’s something “powerful about being able to hold something in your hand and explore it on your own . . . it’s definitely a ‘real’ experience, as opposed to a virtual experience.” How does this work?

Here are two of his great (and productive) creations:

On behalf of Sprint, Euro RSCG sent decision-makers a Tackle Box, described as a “solution toolbox” with the clever teaser “Don’t let this one get away.” The box contained typical fishing paraphernalia plus a brochure promoting Sprint’s work grade communications and a business card from a Sprint Sales representative. Mailing to 500 decision-makers, this campaign generated a huge 5% response.

Looking for a “high-impact” way to promote Sprint’s Wireline Convergence Wireless Integration system, Chris and his team created a B2B direct mailer that included a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly, plus a gift card for high-quality steaks. The marketing message was “Not since PB&J has integration been so seamless.” Exceeding the marketing goal by over 300%, Sprint reported that their national account managers loved the concept so much that when they were scheduled to go to the appointments, they were actually bringing loaves of bread to go with the peanut butter and jelly.”

When the value of making a sale is high enough, these approaches are well worth the extra cost and effort. They produce interaction — and response — and make a strong brand impression at the same time.

To read the complete article, entitled “Alpha Mail,” just download a copy of this issue of Deliver.

2. Adding drama to subject lines and headlines produces better results. An article by Robert Lerose in the latest issue of Target Marketing Magazine effectively covers six ‘timeless’ “Strategies for a Great Headline.” When looking at his list, I realized how rarely I see the power of these six approaches used in B2B marketing.

Subject lines, headlines, and the title of the offer content, however, must be powerful enough to draw the prospect into the marketing message. How would these proven headline approaches affect B2B marketing?

Here are a few examples:

Acceptable Subject Line: Seamlessly integrate timesheets w/ invoicing
Dramatic Subject Line: Cut 50% off data entry time and costs

Acceptable Headline: Reduce on-the-job accidents with new innovative training tool.
Dramatic Headline: Build a lifetime of safe behavior in 20 minutes of fun.

Acceptable White Paper Title: How to Move or Expand Your Company’s Network Infrastructure.
Dramatic White Paper Title: IT Manager’s Survival Guide: 5 essential steps to a flawless installation, expansion or move of your company’s network infrastructure.

Robert’s other approaches to making headlines dramatic are all worth reading and considering. But remember, in this day of B2B marketing message overload, the headline can make or break the effectiveness of marketing.

3. Today’s technology buyers still want more savings and efficiency. The June 29 issue of Information Week has some good news, B2B marketers. Chris Murphy’s subhead in his “Return to Growth” article says “The belt tightening isn’t over, but companies are spending more of their IT dollars to drive revenue and gain customers.”

In the article, Chris compares the results of the “InformationWeek Analytics 2010 Global CIO Survey” with last year’s survey, providing the following insight that should guide our current messages for selling to this target:

Here is what 333 IT executives said about their “Innovation Plans for 2010.”

48% — Make business processes more efficient.
36% — Introduce new IT-led products and services for customers.
32% — Lower IT costs and business costs.
28% — Create a new business model and revenue stream for the company.

Looking at these results, I see “making business processes more efficient” to be strongly tied into “lowering IT costs and business costs.” So cost-cutting should probably remain a part of B2B marketing messages along with the growth that can come from new product introductions.

Why some B2B companies look lazy or careless.

Being a wordsmith, I am especially attracted to creative uses of words (puns, for example), books about proper grammar and punctuation (Eats Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss is a favorite), histories of language, and more. That’s why you’ll find me recording and watching every Monday-night Jay Leno Tonight Show.

Tired businessmanMonday is the night that includes the weekly feature “Headlines.” It shows endless examples, sent in by viewers, of amusing, but unplanned, language and spelling errors in newspapers, advertising, menus, and other printed materials.

On the Tonight Show, these errors are humorous. On a B2B Web site or in professional marketing materials, they are not funny at all. Spelling errors, punctuation errors, verb-usage errors, and others make the company being marketed look lazy or careless.

Who would want to do business with a company like that?

Professional B2B marketers who care about the image their company projects will make sure that every word that goes out from their company gets proofed before the material is posted or distributed.

If companies have an internal resource who is good at proofreading and has the time, that’s great. If not, proofreading how-tos and resources are everywhere online. For example, Virginia Tech and Purdue offer quick online guides to better proofreading. You can search and find dozens of professional services such as The Proofreaders. Marketers can ask for referrals to proofreaders. A colleague referred a freelance proofreader to me who reviews and corrects everything I write before it goes to my clients.

Proofreading is a very important step in the marketing process. Companies who care about their brand, their positioning, and their image will make sure all their company communications use proper grammar and correct spelling. They are as important as the message itself.

Advice to most B2B marketers: “Don’t sweat the big stuff”

Among the several dozen opt-in emails I got today was a warning from iMedia Connection. The email was an intro to a blog post by Adam Kleinberg, CEO of Traction, titled “5 Marketing Megatrends You Can’t Ignore.”

It’s true — I did not ignore his post. The implied warning is that marketers, Globeincluding B2B marketers, must adapt to these overpowering market trends.

Actually, the post is an insightful, worldview of marketing — and it’s not wrong. Kleinberg talks convincingly of the opportunities available to those who are able to leverage these trends into their brand and their marketing practices. Here is his list:

  • Megatrend 1: Mass collaboration is powering the new economy
  • Megatrend 2: Constant connectivity in an on-demand world
  • Megatrend 3: Globalization, making the world a smaller place
  • Megatrend 4: Pervasive distrust in big corporations
  • Megatrend 5: A global sense of urgency to fix the problems of a modern world

“These,” he says, are a “tsunami of change transforming society.”

However, if these trends are big enough to affect all marketers, then why did a fairly recent Sysomos study show that 75% of all Twitter traffic is generated by 5% of users? Why did a Forrester Research growth forecast for 2009 predict that online sales would make up only 7% of overall retail revenue, compared with 6% in 2008?

Marketers who are not using Twitter may be missing some of the population but not a majority of their market by a long shot. The share of Internet retailing is growing, but it’s still a small percentage of retail sales. There may be “pervasive distrust in big corporations,” but big corporations make up less than 2% of the companies in the United States. As of 2004, the U.S. Census Bureau found that out of the 25 million firms in the United States, only 5,104,331 have paid employees. Of those, 4,980,165 (98%) have fewer than 100 employees and 4,453,810 (87%) have fewer than 20.

So the trends are big. People and business buyers may be changing how they communicate, how they research information, how they collaborate, what public goals and causes they support, and more. But people haven’t changed.

B2B marketers and companies big enough to have the time, the personnel and the budget to take advantage of these trends should go for it. The remaining 98% of B2B marketers should know that these trends haven’t changed the market enough that they need to sweat it.