4 (and only 4) times to involve sales in marketing.

On the phone the other day a client (who shall remain nameless) said he would be asking sales what they want marketing to do for them. After recovering from the immediate and serious threat to my self-control, I gently cautioned my client against this dreadful tactic.

 

That’s because sales will always answer that question with “We want highly qualified leads that are ready to buy.” If your B2B sales group ever responded differently than this, then I’d like to move into the netherworld in which you live. Under most circumstances, the LAST thing you ever want to do is ask sales how to market.

 

However, there are four areas in which the insight of sales is invaluable, because . . .

  1. Sales actually talks to customers and is therefore a vital resource to helping you understand the pains, hot buttons and objections that your marketing messages must address.
  2. Sales must help marketing build a profile of your best prospects by industry, title, decision-maker, influencer, company size, etc. This information is what marketing uses to choose the best channels and marketing techniques for reaching qualified prospects.
  3. Sales is critical in establishing your system of lead scoring (A, B, C, D leads) so marketing can know where leads are in the buying cycle, how they should be nurtured, and when they are ready to be turned over to sales.
  4. Sales must assist in tracking by providing marketing with the outcome of the leads it has turned over to them — closed or lost.

Of course, sales must be kept in the loop on what marketing is doing, but beyond that and the above, smart marketers keep sales a safe distance away.

Knowledge of human behavior is a marketer’s best asset.

Today a colleague forwarded an excellent article by Kaila Colbin — “Understanding Human Behavior,” published online on MediaPost. It discusses human behavior and states that, when dealing with people, the important question to ask is, “What will people do if given a certain stimulus?”

  

The example that comes to mind is that, if you raise taxes on a product or service, the first thing people will do is stop buying it. But then, moving my mind into the realm of marketing (where it dwells most of the time), I know that this question is also at the heart of successful direct marketing. For instance:

  • What will prospects do if you offer them a free white paper discussing best practices relating to a business process that affects their job?

Answer: They will request the white paper and you’ll gain a qualified lead — whether they want to find out how to improve their processes OR if they think they are doing everything right and just want to confirm it. This approach is likely to ensure marketing success when generating leads.

 

Why is this? It offers an immediate reward and carries no effort or obligation.

  • What will prospects do if you invite them to a Webinar to learn more about your product and how it can solve their operational problems?

Answer: They will sign up to attend only if they are already actively evaluating solutions to solve this problem; otherwise, they will ignore your message. Your response will be small.

 

Why is this? The offer does not deliver an immediate reward and requires a commitment of time (which, these days, is a precious thing).

Both of the above offers have value — just at different stages of the buying cycle. The key to making the right offer at the right time requires knowledge of human nature and the reward vs. the effort.

Keeping social media in its rightful place.

As with anything that is fresh, new and holds so much promise, social media discussions are everywhere. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media are the focus of topics on Webinars, at seminars, in articles, and at conferences. Heck, social media is being discussed on social media.

 

And rightly so, as social media provides fresh opportunities for word-of-mouth branding and engagement with prospective customers.

 

Seen from your company’s bottom line, however, social media should probably command no more than 10% to 15% of your overall marketing budget. That is because marketing offering free information, Webinar invites, product demos, operational assessments, and other campaign tactics — delivered via email, direct mail, and online and offline ads rather than social media — directly yields trackable leads and sales, and will continue to do so.

 

Supported by a strong buzz in targeted social media and other public relations outlets, those marketing campaigns will now perform even better.

Your marketing needs a GPS.

The phrase I hear too often from clients is, “Can you do it for me sooner?”

 

Yikes! Writers, designers, agencies, printers, list managers, lettershops — we all hear this from clients and prospective clients so many times it’s practically de rigueur on the part of today’s marketers. But every time it happens my reaction is the same — “Doesn’t anybody plan anything any more?”

 

The first and most essential step in successful marketing is just that — planning. Your GPS recalculates when a detour or a wrong turn sends you off your route. Well, just like your GPS, marketing plans can be adjusted and adapted as market conditions change. But if you don’t have a guide to where you want your company and marketing to be in the short and long term and how you plan to get there, then you might as well just sit in the driveway.

 

If you’re saying you don’t have time to plan, it’s like saying, “I don’t have time to do it right.”

 

My direct marketing bible (“Successful Direct Marketing Methods” Seventh Edition by Bob Stone and Ron Jacobs) outlines the ingredients and steps necessary for creating this plan. I highly recommend you read this book available from Amazon, paying close attention to Chapter 2 on Business, Strategic and Direct Marketing Planning.

 

Included in that chapter are the ingredients needed for a business strategy, marketing strategy and creative strategy. It’s not a complicated process, but putting together a plan forces you to think through all the elements that are essential to reaching your marketing and business goals. Then you can be sure that every campaign you create will support the strategic goals of your business. Like a GPS, it will guide you successfully to your destination.

5 Big B2B Lead Generation Marketing Blunders

Working over the years — with hundreds of companies on thousands of B2B marketing campaigns — I continue to see marketers making these five big B2B lead generation blunders:

 

  1. Selling your product and not your offer (white paper, Webinar, etc.)
  2. Not including a strong, clear, prominent call to action
  3. Not getting to the point of the communication and the offer fast enough
  4. Using design elements that force prospects to work to read the message
  5. Giving prospects no clear reason to respond immediately

You thought business decision-makers were busy before. In these times of layoffs and reduced staff it’s a miracle your prospect has one free second to read your marketing. The easier you make it for them to get your message, the better your marketing will perform.

Is your marketing doomed?

In one of my own marketing campaigns recently I offered a free review and analysis of any single marketing effort (email, direct mail letter, product brochure, Web site home page, SEM ad, banner, etc.) to evaluate how well the messaging followed best practices.

 

Those who responded clearly fell into two distinct groups:

 

  1. Marketers who were genuinely looking to improve the performance of their marketing
  2. Marketers wanting confirmation that they are smart, wonderful and perfect

Frankly, if anyone in Group #2 had sent me a marketing piece that actually followed best practices in every way, I would have told them that they were smart, wonderful and perfect. But I didn’t see any of those.

 

What I mostly saw were efforts that followed some best practices but missed a few tactics or elements that would probably improve performance.

 

Since I gave the review and analysis by phone the reactions were easy to gauge. Group #1 was grateful and glad to have tips on how to improve what they were doing. Group #2 reactions ranged from dead silence to statements about why they had to get off the phone quickly.

 

I was not “selling” my writing or consulting services, but just giving free advice and demonstrating the value I can bring to them if they are interested. So the cold reactions I got from the Group #2 folks were not to avoid a sales pitch. It was clear that I was telling them something they did not want to hear, in spite of the fact that it would help their marketing programs perform better.

 

So the moral of this story is — if you care more about what people think about you and your abilities than how your marketing actually performs for your organization, your marketing is doomed.

Geckos, attorneys and satisfied customers.

On my very first project as a direct marketing copywriter I ran up against a little barrier — company attorneys. The client was GEFCO (Government Employees Financial Corporation), known these days by their cute green gecko as GEICO.

 

The direct mail letter I wrote was for selling CDs (I don’t want to date myself, but they were paying 14% at the time) and it opened with the line “pay yourself first.” GEFCO’s attorney took one look at the copy and said “you can’t do that.” I’ve never figured out why you can’t pay yourself first, but it got me started on cringing every time a client said their attorney had to look over the marketing copy I had written.

 

These days I’m a bit more sympathetic. With endless news stories about greedy business people and the threat of lawsuits, companies have become very cautious about everything they do. This fear can seep into marketing decisions and, often, companies are terrified of over-promising what their product or service can do.

 

Marketing shouldn’t lie about what a product can do, but research shows that the greater a prospect’s expectations, the greater their level of satisfaction.

 

What does that mean to marketers? That you shouldn’t underplay the strengths of your product or service. Don’t lie. But be sure to create a strong image of how much better the prospect’s life will be once they are using your product or service.

 

You’ll sell more and get more satisfied customers in the process.

Not a creative bone in your body? That’s good news.

In today’s world, being creative is considered a very desirable trait. Writing clever jingles, funny ads, copy that makes readers smile, eye-catching banners or memorable tag lines is a talent possessed by only the best of the best. If you’re looking for work at BBDO, Ogilvy & Mather, Young & Rubicam, DDB or any one of the world’s top advertising agencies, you need to be creative.

 

But if you’re doing B2B marketing and you don’t have a creative bone in your body — no problema.

 

That’s because B2B marketing is about communication, not entertainment. Effectively communicating the benefits of what you offer is your goal. Just like a sales person sitting across the desk from a prospective customer, your marketing communication needs to be targeted, consistent, honest, enthusiastic and confident. But it doesn’t have to be creative.

Great B2B marketing demands you do your prospects’ thinking for them.

It has been said, “Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in his shoes.” In my world of B2B direct marketing, this phrase evolves into: “Before you market to someone, step into his shoes.”

It’s always been essential to present the benefits of your product or service in addition to the features it provides. But in today’s “glad to still have a job” environment you need to realize what life is really like for your target customers now.

 

Picture this:

  • Over-the-top busy — stressed to the limit
  • Under pressure to reduce costs and be more productive
  • Challenged to accomplish more with fewer resources

 Marketing messages that tell this prospect about a product that “requires no special training” (or any other feature) is no longer enough. That’s because you are asking your prospect to stop and think about what a product requiring “no special training” will do for him or her.

Who’s got time to think? The job of your marketing must be to do their thinking for them.

 

  • TELL them how much faster workers can be doing what they were hired to do.
  • TELL them how much sooner the company can be cutting costs.
  • TELL them how you can free workers conducting training to focus on more direct revenue-generating tasks.
  • TELL them there will be no gaps in new employees being productive.
  • TELL them how your easy-to-use product can reduce the risk of costly errors.

When you spell out the benefits for your prospects, they don’t have to stop and do the mental gymnastics necessary to turn your product features into benefits. Your message gets communicated instantly, you get more marketing response, and you make more sales.

 

If you’re still unclear on the differences between a feature and a benefit, contact The Copy Works and find out.

A new endangered species — marketing best practices.

What’s the best thing about being an independent direct marketing consultant and copywriter? Every day my brain gets refreshed and I’m forced to address the Susan's Photo Facing Leftchallenges of a new client and a new market. No two days are ever alike. In the morning it’s writing lead generation emails to Fortune 1000 companies selling enterprise-wide, mission-critical software. In the afternoon it’s marketing flow meters to engineers and municipalities for monitoring the flow of water and waste water.

 

But regardless of the product and market, with each new client, I continue to see easy-to-fix gaps in their marketing. There’s really no logical reason to not follow best practices in every B2B marketing effort. Have a marketing professional review your Web site, online and offline marketing messages, product brochures, and other marketing programs to identify what you are doing right and what you are not. It’s a low-cost, fast way to learn methods to quickly and easily move the success of your B2B lead generation and sales marketing efforts up to the next level.