Why anyone can use video in B2B marketing & why they should.

With all the things we do to make B2B marketing interesting, attention-getting and memorable, it’s a fact that there’s nothing like video. Video personalizes and humanizes communication in a way that words and even still pictures cannot do. It adds a human touch to marketing messaging that can be beat only by a face-to-face meeting. I’m not diminishing words and pictures, but, living in a world raised on television and movies, we’ve all been trained to respond to moving and talking pictures.

The arrival of YouTube in 2005 has made it remarkably easy for anyone to put video on the Internet, even a small B2B business like mine. In fact, I did just that in 2012 when my SEO resource, SharpNet Solutions, recommended that I could boost my Website’s SEO performance by adding video. Which it did.

I was so pleased with the result and with the company I chose to do the work that I recommended to the San Diego Direct Marketing Association (SDDMA) that they invite Greg McKinney, Founder and President of Webstorytellers, to be a speaker at one of their luncheon events. So, on Tuesday, I joined my fellow SDDMA members to hear what he had to say. Here are some of the highlights:

Why use video — the stats.*
If B2B marketers are not yet convinced about using video, these powerful stats may convince them. These numbers are based on reality today and don’t even include the projections on the huge future of video:

  • The average user’s visit to a text-and-image-based Website lasts only 43 seconds. For a Website with video, the average lasts 5 minutes and 50 seconds.
  • Customers who watch videos of products or services are 85% more likely to make a purchase.
  • 75% of executives surveyed say they watch work-related videos on business-related Websites at least weekly. More than half watch work-related videos on YouTube at least weekly.
  • 65% of senior executives have visited a vendor’s Website after watching a video.
  • It’s estimated that 75% of U.S. smartphone users watch online video on their smartphones and 26% of them do so every day. 50% of tablet users watch online video content.

Ways to use video.
There are many ways to use video. The best approach is to have multiple videos that cover all these options. Length should depend on the location and purpose of the video. Like all marketing issues, length should be tested for each product and market.

  • Testimonials and Customer Stories: One of my clients took advantage of a customer summit to record video success stories told by their customers. These were then edited into quick video testimonials for use on their Website. They also turned the full stories into case studies, which were put into a very popular content text-based offer.
  • Meet the CEO/President/Owner/Employee, etc.: There are few faster or more effective ways to personalize a B2B company to its prospects than showing an exec or employee talking about the company, its mission, its commitment, or the benefits it offers to customers and clients. Greg recommends that these recordings NOT be scripted.
  • Product Sales: One of my B2B ecommerce clients is adding video descriptions to products on their Website. They’ve made a huge impact on the company’s SEO and product sales.
  • Present the USP: B2B marketers can present their unique selling proposition (USP) in a quick video statement that adds life to the words.
  • Promote the Offer on Landing Pages: Videos produce better conversion from search engine ad or banner landing pages.
  • Enhance Page Content: A video can be put on every page of the site to support or enrich the content of that page with testimonials, product details, etc.
  • Video on Emails: Just like a video can enhance a Website, Web page or a landing page, it can do wonders for generating readership and response to prospect or customer emails.

What to pay for video.
The answer, of course, is, “It depends.” Companies can produce their own videos in-house for very little. But no company wants to project an amateur image. Using a professional video firm can significantly enhance the quality and results. Some resources are willing to do a simple animated video with voice over (like the one I had done) for around $1000. Using interviews, announcers, animation and more might cost an average of $5000 and up.

Video can be a cost-effective investment in better SEO, a more compelling Website and landing pages that convert. If I can do it, anyone can.

*The sources for the stats are available on request.

Making B2B marketing landing pages something to CRO about.

The content in an online session I recently attended made me very happy. The session was about maximizing and tracking online conversions. These efforts are now referred to as CRO — for Conversion Rate Optimization.

What made me happy was that the session confirmed that the landing page best practices I know are still valid based on current and extensive testing.

Many of my B2B marketing clients have a prospect universe that is too small to run statistically valid testing. So I continue to recommend that these B2B marketers follow the tested learnings of others, as that is their best way to maximize conversions.

Here are the landing page best practices that were confirmed in this session, plus a few I learned during a session at the recent Direct Marketing Association‘s annual conference:

  • Having only one “call to action” on a landing page creates a 240% higher conversion rate.
  • Having the landing page take more than 5 seconds to load drops conversion by 47%.
  • Visitors have a 3-second attention span. Redirects on a landing page create a 37% higher abandon rate.
  • Forms must take way less than 45 seconds to fill out.
  • Every added field on a landing page form loses 6% more registrations.
  • Using the same images on the email and the landing page raises conversion by 20%.
  • Having the landing headline match the PPC ad headline is a must; otherwise, the B2B marketing effort looks like a come-on and not a legitimate offer.
  • The word “Click here” continues to substantially outperform the word “Submit” on the landing page action button.
  • Simplifying the messaging and the presentation lifts conversions. Copy and design should direct the prospect to what they are to do and not distract them with too much on the page.

It’s smart for B2B marketers with a large enough prospect universe to test various landing page approaches and designs for themselves. But following the above rules consistently shows the highest CRO. So, testing or not, I suggest that these are the best CRO practices to follow.

Converting B2B marketing click-throughs in 50 milliseconds

Tim Ash, in the latest version of Target Marketing magazine, makes a dramatic point about how critical it is to make sure a landing page follows all the right practices to maximize conversions.

In his article “After the Click“, Tim lays out specific must-dos for landing page productivity. He says, “Getting people to click on your email link or banner offer is irrelevant if they don’t see what they expected to see, can’t find what they came for or are just plain turned off by your landing page.”

As the CEO at SiteTuners and author of Landing Page Optimization, Tim knows his stuff. He reports on research estimating that marketers have only 50 milliseconds to capture a person’s attention. Tim reports, “Recent findings in neuroscience are giving marketers insights into how the brain reacts to new information, what it likes and what it rejects. For example, the brain is frustrated by:

  • Tasks that take too long to resolve;
  • Clutter; and
  • Messages that distract or don’t apply.”

I’ve often written about the importance of keeping messages simple so B2B buyers can “react” to offers without ever having to stop and think. Tim refers it as “first impressions.” That’s why I thought it might be time to repeat the highlights of my “5 Biggest B2B Marketing Design Mistakes” to help B2B marketers creating landing pages make the right visual impression:

  1. Never reverse body copy out of a dark background (headlines are OK, but not body copy).
  2. Keep lines of text short from left to right to maximize readability (no more than 70 characters per line).
  3. Never treat copy as purely a design element.
  4. Use pictures whenever possible.
  5. Don’t hide your call to action.

Tim adds to these instructions on other ways to keep the design uncluttered. He adds:

  1. Keep your colors pleasing and neutral.
  2. Use standard fonts large enough to read without straining.
  3. Make text easy to scan.

The other point Tim makes is one I have also advised clients to remember for years — to have a single call to action. Those who click through will stop and get confused if the landing page gives them choices. Remember, B2B marketers don’t want prospects to have to think. They want prospects to react.

Tim clearly states that the landing page is not an “afterthought.” It’s the biggest part of a B2B marketing campaign that must convert click-throughs into follow-throughs.

How intuitive is B2B direct marketing?

Merriam-Webster defines intuitive as “directly apprehended.” I think most would agree that, if direct marketing is intuitive, then most people can naturally know how to do it and do it right based on their own experiences.

If direct marketing is intuitive, it would mean that an executive could make a marketing decision based on his or her own experiences and attitudes. “Because I don’t read marketing materials that come to my desk at the office, direct mail marketing is not worth doing.”

If direct marketing is intuitive, a product manager would make sure that the marketing messages sent out to generate leads would talk about the many features of the product being sold. That’s because anyone wanting those features will surely read the message and want to learn more about the product right away.

If direct marketing is intuitive, a B2B marketer who monitors Twitter, Facebook, industry blogs and his company’s SEO ranking would conclude that it’s the only way today’s buyers want to get their information.

The fact is, B2B direct marketing is almost totally counter-intuitive. This has been proven thousands of times by marketers conducting true A/B split testing of marketing channels, offers and messaging.

For example, which of the following offers would work best?

  • Buy one get one free
  • Two for the price of one
  • 50% off

Every one of these offers is exactly the same, so intuition would tell marketers that neither one would work better than the other. In real life, “Buy one get one free” typically outperforms the other two by a significant margin every time it’s tested.

Recently the wonderful Which Test Won service reported on this subject line test that was sent out with an email to a double, opt-in house file.

A. [First Name] Test, track, increase your profit – start today!
B. [First Name] Start tracking and optimizing your business today!

These subject lines say practically the same thing, so is this even worth testing? It turns out that 67% who took a guess on the winning line picked line A. Yet line B was not only the best performing subject line, but it generated an 88% lift in open rate.

It’s very clear that using one’s intuition to make any B2B marketing decision is not a reliable way to achieve marketing success. Smart marketers test, they don’t guess. It’s the only way to go.

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?

Fun with B2B marketing

Ninety-percent of the B2B marketing copy I write is serious stuff. It addresses a business prospect’s biggest pains and challenges, then offers content or a product solution that shows the path to meeting those challenges and ending that pain.

Hopefully, my messages have energy and enthusiasm, are fun and are easy to read. But the subjects and the purpose are all very serious. In my world, it’s hard to imagine that the fun things B2C marketers do to engage consumers translate very well into the B2B marketing world.

Then I received an invite from Information Week to participate in the Great IT Security Challenge. It came from United Business Media’s TechWeb. It’s designed to test “your knowledge of IT security and lets you compete against peers in the IT market for visibility, community opportunities and a chance to win a contest prize.”

The contest is composed of possible IT security terms and a multiple choice of three possible definitions. It’s filled with a number of red herrings. The term Nimda, for instance, is simply admin spelled backwards.

The contest’s purpose, of course, is to incent the IT market to return to the UBM site every day. Not only are the trivia questions a lot of fun, but the system keeps track of points. I did pretty well for not being an IT person. Yet, when I got a question wrong, I still got 10 points just for trying.

This contest is classic social media. But, in this case, since it’s designed to drive daily traffic to the UBM TechWeb site, it’s also B2B direct marketing. The purpose of direct marketing is to change behavior. That’s what this contest does: it affects behavior.

Here is how they pick a winner:

“The specific point system is defined within the gaming interface. But in a general sense, you are rewarded for the following types of activities: returning to the game daily; answering the daily quiz; answering the daily quiz correctly; downloading content from our family of websites; and so on. The person with the most points at the end of the game wins. We have a tie-breaker system developed in the event two people have the same point totals.”

UBM even has fun describing what a participant could win:

“Fame. Peer recognition. Professional stature like you’ve never before experienced. A whole new set of online friends. And a white-hot, superthin, superlight notebook computer (we can’t say the name of it for reasons we don’t fully understand, but we think you’ll be impressed).”

What does a game like this reveal? That even the prospective buyers of IT products and services can be engaged in something fun. This information technology publisher positions itself as a resource for IT information and gets its market to interact with it on a daily basis.

I’ve always cautioned clients to be careful about using humor in B2B marketing. When someone is considering a technology solution costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, using humor incorrectly can backfire. This Great IT Security Challenge has opened my eyes to many opportunities for B2B marketers to engage their prospects and make B2B marketing fun.

Four ways to keep your B2B marketing Web site from turning away customers.

Recently, the eMarketer Daily Newsletter offered a powerful white paper, “Don’t Let Your Website Turn Away Customers,” written by iPerceptions, a Web analytics company.

I love the title. It made me act, just like the strong title of any white paper should.

This informative paper focuses on consumer Web site and ecommerce. But much of its content is solid advice for B2B marketers as well. In fact, the introduction alone lists some powerful questions B2B marketers should ask about their sites, then do something about if any of the answers are “no.”

Here are the first four questions this paper asks, revised for B2B marketers:

  1. Can prospects find the information they want?
  2. Do visitors enjoy the experience of interacting with your site?
  3. What can you do to bring prospects back more often?
  4. What are the main “pain points” your site visitors experience?

Several of my B2B clients have taken on the complete redo of their sites recently and the above points form the basis for their redesign strategies.

Here is how these questions are being answered in the new sites:

1. Can prospects find the information they want? It’s important to make it easy for prospect groups or individuals to go directly to the information that fits their needs and their pains. This requires navigation labeled by title, industry, industry issues, or pain points.

For example:
Title Navigation
Accounts Payable
Accounts Receivable
Inventory Management

Industry Navigation

Industry Issue Navigation
Patient Care
Meaningful Use

Pain Points
Time to Market
Cost Management

When the visitor clicks on the category that matches their interests, the page that appears should address the issues specific to that grouping and the benefits the product or service delivers in that area.

2. Do visitors enjoy the experience of interacting with your site?Make sure visitors can easily find what they want and easily navigate back to where they were. It amazes me how many sites I visit that have dead-end pages, with little or no navigation back to where I started. All major navigation should be accessible from every page, including getting back to the home page.

3. What can you do to bring prospects back more often? B2B marketers can build traffic by creating and populating a knowledge center or library of educational content that serves all the industries, influencers and decision-makers. If a company markets B2B technology, the library should contain easy-to-access papers, videos, podcasts, product brochures, data sheets, ROI calculators and more — content that satisfies the CIO, department heads whose staff would use the product, the users, the CFO, and maybe even the CEO.

4. What are the main pain points your site visitors experience? We B2B marketers are very grateful for Google Analytics and the many other site analysis solutions today. These analytics quickly reveal visitor pains. If visitors are abandoning the site from a page that they should not logically abandon, that is a clear indication that there’s a problem on that page.

If prospects are leaving the site quickly after arriving, it’s a sign that the home page is not informative and has not drawn prospects in and/or that the navigation is not clear.

Everyone who visits a B2B Web site looking for a product or service comes from a different perspective, has different goals and is at a different stage in the buying cycle. Great B2B Web sites make it easy for all prospects visiting a site to find what they need quickly; provides inviting ways for the prospect to interact with the site, the company and the information; and, most importantly, to make contact.

If built well, Web sites can be a powerful a source of qualified leads for a business. So, as iPerceptions says clearly, “Don’t Let Your Website Turn Away Customers.”

The dollars and sense of inbound vs. outbound marketing.

The economic downturn over the past few years has driven many talented yet unemployed people to start their own businesses. These folks take their years of experience and offer it to other businesses through their own specialty consulting or service firm — a firm that they must then market.

Just such an individual contacted me last week. He wanted to generate leads and business via outbound email marketing; however, after learning that he has a few clients, a relatively short buy cycle and a very limited budget, I recommended that he use inbound marketing and supplement it with personal outbound phone calls to his highly targeted B2B market.

Email marketing is relatively low cost when a company has built a pipeline of leads and handles its own email distribution via marketing automation. But for outbound marketing (that is going to a targeted B2B list) the costs add up fast.

Quality outbound email marketing lists (those that are made of real subscribers to an online publication and are therefore fully opt-in and have been profiled) cost from $400-$700 per thousand. Most of these top-quality lists require a 5000-name minimum, which raises the list cost to $2000 to $3500. Marketing professionals, including me, recommend testing more than one list at a time. Testing allows marketers to learn which list performs best and gives them the insight to improve the success of each subsequent marketing effort. Testing just two lists brings the cost up to $4000-$7000. If a marketer wants to maximize the success of the program, the message should be written and designed by professionals, which adds to the cost as well.

As a result of these higher upfront costs, many marketers avoid the outbound direct mail channel. Yet it is still one of the most powerful channels for B2B lead generation if done according to best practices. That means that, for lead generation, the mailing quantity must be large enough to deliver a response rate that is statistically valid so the results are repeatable on future mailings. In the B2B world this could be a minimum of 10,000 prospects at a typical cost of $1 each and up. For companies selling high-end enterprise systems, this approach is affordable and productive. But not for small start-ups.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is very affordable for the small and start-up business. Good-quality Web site SEO can be obtained for as little as $250 per month. Pay-per-click ads — depending on the market, keywords, etc. — can range from as little as $250 to $1000 per month or more. The same general costs apply to content syndication. Social media costs little in dollars but can cost much in time for a one-person business if done properly. There are many other elements in a comprehensive inbound marketing program, but, for small start-ups, it’s a cost-effective option.

In addition, however, I recommended that this new business owner not wait exclusively for inbound efforts to make his phone ring. I advised him to identify companies that meet his very targeted profile and pick up the phone and call them or send them individual letters.

As I’ve said many times before, no single marketing approach can stand on its own, B2B marketers. That’s why dollars and sense enter into our marketing decisions.

The B2B marketing “wow” that counts is the one on the bottom line.

I admit I read Seth Godin’s blog regularly. It’s like visiting a lama high in the Himalayas for a bit of wisdom. He doesn’t share details on how to market better. He provides an insightful high-level view of our marketing environment, attitudes and trends that I find very refreshing.

wow_star_hsIn a recent post on the Internet’s having spawned “Drive by culture and the endless search for wow,” he presents the reality of today’s Internet users and discusses the “insanity of putting traffic above trying to change the way (a few) people think.”

Unlike Mr. Godin, my focus is not high level, but down in the daily trenches of finding ways for B2B marketers to improve the performance of their marketing efforts. So I interpret his great perception through my how-to eyes with a piece of advice that I learned early in my career. That is . . .

Target. Target. Target.

For B2B marketers using banners, search engine marketing (SEM) ads, email and even a Web site to generate leads, this means that the headlines and copy must focus 100% on the concerns, needs, and pains of the company’s most qualified prospects.

Sales people have limited time and can focus only on companies they are likely to sell. That would be prospects from companies in the right industry, with the right number of employees, who have decision-making or influencing power and the problem the marketer’s product or service can solve.

For B2B marketers to generate any other kind of click-thru is a waste of time and money.  That’s because the only B2B marketing “wow” that counts is the one on the bottom line.