B2B marketing blog file reveals 17 useful ideas.

When it became difficult to force another piece of paper into my deskside file drawer I realized it was time to clean out some of the files it contained.

One, labeled B2B Marketing Ideas, was many inches thick, so I decided to start there. Sorting through the file, I discovered a number of pieces of B2B marketing content full of valuable advice. Here’s what I re-discovered:

Strategies for a Great Headline
In a 2010 issue of Target Market Magazine, Robert Lerose provided what he calls “Six timeless formulas for envelope and landing page teasers.” These strategies might stimulate ideas for some interesting email subject lines, too.

  1. Use a news element.
  2. Use a provocative question or outrageous statement
  3. Arouse emotions
  4. Present a problem/solution
  5. Leverage specifics
  6. Share a big idea

10 Critical Steps for Hooking Decision-Makers Online
Another item in the drawer was notes I took at a live presentation from a representative at QuinStreet. I don’t have all 10 Critical Steps listed in my notes, but here are the ones I put stars next to that I think are worth sharing:

  1. Test creative and messaging concepts using less expensive Internet channels such as email before using those ideas in more expensive channels such as direct mail marketing.
  2. Make sure that the verbiage in banners, pay-per-click ads and landing pages relates to where a prospect is now, or what the prospect may be using now, not to what is being sold.
  3. Never put anything in your messaging that will cause a reader/viewer/prospect to pause. (This is one reason I like to minimize the use of questions in copy.)
  4. Add an 800# on the response confirmation page to make it easy for hot leads to call immediately.

Five Keys to the Executive Suite
Notes from another live event I attended do not contain the name of the company or speaker. So, many apologies to whoever it was and thank you for these excellent B2B marketing ideas.

  1. In your B2B marketing messages to execs, never try to achieve more than one objective at a time. For every additional objective, performance drops to half. Therefore, use only one call to action in the marketing effort. (Actually, this is true of every B2B marketing target, not just executives.)
  2. When marketing to executives, make sure to use names. To middle managers and other targets, marketing to titles only often can work, but with top execs names are essential.
  3. Emotion works as long as the message is believable.
  4. Personal offers (that benefit the individual) work better than business-related offers.
  5. The value of the offer you make to an executive must match the commitment the B2B marketing is asking them to make. That is, if the marketing is trying to get appointments for sales, then the offer gift better be a big deal.
  6. Longer letters actually produce a better response, as they are perceived to have more value. Tested at IBM, a 4-page letter actually outperformed a 2-page letter.

The last point relates to something I learned very early in my B2B marketing career. It is that every prospect may respond because of a different “benefit” provided by the product or service being sold. Marketing messages that include ALL of the potential benefits will reach more of the target market and generate greater response.

One practice helps achieve the three “Rs” in B2B marketing.

I woke up this morning thinking about the “three Rs”. Many of my readers may remember them: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic. I was thinking how strange it is that a term related to education should be so grammatically incorrect. But hey, even education has to have its jingles if it wants to sell the product.

Then, later, I saw Ardath Albee’s post “Bullocks to B2B Marketing Buzzword: Relevance” and realized there are “Rs” in B2B marketing, too. And they really are words that start with R. Ardath mentions “relevance.” But there’s also “relationships,” “reputation” and the ever-popular “return on investment.”

Like children’s names are subject to fads — so is B2B marketing-speak.

But once these terms are defined, we discover that these concepts are not new. Just like the three Rs are still at the heart of a solid education, the foundation of what it takes to attract, interest, and convert B2B buyers is no different now than it was in 1975 or even 1875. Only the methods of communication have changed.

Ardath nicely defines “relevance”. “The secret to relevance in B2B marketing is to learn what your intended audience is interested in and applying what your solutions enable in relation to that interest — using words that resonate.”

Here’s how B2B marketers can make sure they are able to do this:

Set up interviews with every sales person in the company who has direct contact with prospects and customers to learn what prospects are telling them. Also interview customers. Hear what problems are being experienced by the customer or prospective customer. Learn their objections, the terminology they use, and how they may be trying to solve the problems now.

This is one  practice that people use to build the “personas” that are popular in B2B marketing today. It is the knowledge that helps ensure B2B marketers do what Ardath advises. That is, using the language that resonates with the prospect while focusing on solving THEIR problems, not on the product being sold. This is what builds relationships, supports the company’s reputation and can result in a better return on investment, too.

Any marketer that doesn’t talk to sales and/or customers is only guessing on how to make sure their B2B marketing communications are relevant and have the most impact.

Bad B2B marketing practice keeps showing its ugly head.

Catching up on my favorite B2B blog sites recently I came across this sage advice from Christopher Ryan of Great B2B Marketing, “B2B Marketing: Do This, Don’t Do That.”

He includes three “dos” and three “don’ts” that are so basic, it’s impossible to believe any of today’s B2B marketers should need his reminders. Yet, they do. I advise everyone to take a quick review of what he has to say. They are important recaps for B2B marketers who know these rules and essential B2B marketing basics for those who do not.

But the one I saw that spurred me to write this post is a “don’t” that I have had to deal with my entire 25+ years in B2B marketing.

“Stop changing your message/positioning every five minutes.”

To that, I’ll add: “Stop changing your package, your theme, your style.”

This practice goes back to the most basic rule in B2B marketing, or any marketing for that matter — marketers (and all those to whom they report) need to see the world from the point of view of the prospect/customer, not their own world.

B2B marketers must push back when they have these thoughts or hear them from others in their company:

  • “We’ve been doing this for too long. I’m tired of it, so our customers must be tired of it, too.” B2B marketers and the other folks in the company see what is being done every day. Customers and prospects do not. In fact, B2B marketers are lucky if their customers and prospects remember their positioning or their message from one appearance to the next.
  • “I showed it to my (wife, son, daughter, golfing buddy, dentist, pet sitter) and (he, she, it) didn’t like it.” Unless the wife, son, daughter, golfing buddy, dentist or pet sitter are qualified prospects for the product or service being sold, AND a B2B marketing professional, marketers should make sure this statement can’t change anything.

As Christopher says in one of his other excellent points, don’t change it unless it’s not working.

Three dumb — and costly — B2B marketing mistakes.

A few days ago in the mail, I received a white padded envelope addressed to my business. It contained a single-page B2B marketing 8 1/2″ x 11″ letter and an 8GB jump drive.

It’s a great B2B direct mail package. Using a padded envelope makes it a “dimensional” or “lumpy” mailing package, which pretty much guarantees it will get opened. It also contains a something-for-nothing gift, which everyone loves.

On the label of the mailing package is my company name and address, and under that it reads “Attn: Susan Fantle.” Definitely personalized, with my name, which is also a best practice. Plus, it wasn’t cheap to send. The first class postage came in at $1.10. That doesn’t include the cost of the envelope, the production or the jump drive.

The B2B company sending the package kept their name subtle and understated by having a small line at the top of the label that read: Symantec, and their address.

The package uses best practices all around, so I was impressed. The B2B marketing letter inside the envelope, which was not personalized, opened with:

“Congratulations! I’m delighted to let you know that you are one of the first respondents to our recent offer. That means you are the lucky winner of the enclosed free gift!”

My response to the opening line was “Yikes!” I have no clue what offer I had responded to that made me a winner. Then the letter goes on to say:

“Symantec Website Security Solutions is the choice for leaders in online security.”

That’s very nice of them to say, but I’m not a leader in online security and never have been. I’m a B2B marketer. I do subscribe to a few online technology publications to try to keep up with the industry a bit. But, in order to subscribe, those publications make me fill out an extensive form that would reveal instantly I am not a technology buyer. Anyone renting those lists could easily have selected IT titles only and not wasted $1.10 in postage and more sending me the package and the free drive.

But that’s not the only thing that made me say “yikes.” The enclosed jump drive was BLANK! The B2B marketer behind this effort missed a huge opportunity to include a video, a brochure, a case study or any number of strong communications that would have expanded the sales message. Most marketing specialty firms that provide branded jump drives will record messages on them for their buyers. So that would have been pretty easy to do.

Symantec is a respected company, with fine products. But whoever managed this B2B direct mail missed three basic best practices: properly target, remind people of what they did online to gain the marketer’s interest, and make full use of the power of the free gift.

It’s possible that this campaign may get into the hands of enough qualified prospects to generate enough business to pay for the cost of the campaign. But I believe that every marketing effort should attempt to maximize that response. That means doing everything right.

How to spend your B2B marketing summer.

Are B2B buyers making buying decisions in the summer? Surveying my network of B2B marketers and vendors the answer is generally no, with the possible exception of industries that have deadlines tied to government regulations.

Some B2B marketers may have different experiences, but summer has always been a historically slow time due to vacation absences. In that light, should marketers reduce their efforts in the summer because response rates to B2B lead acquisition and nurturing offers will tend to be a lot lower? Or should efforts increase in the summer because it takes more effort to generate more demand?

It’s been proven that companies that increase their marketing efforts during economic downturns recover faster and gain a larger share of the market when the economy does recover. With that in mind, here are the issues B2B marketers should consider in relation to marketing during the summer months.

  1. Increased summer efforts are likely to boost visibility and response rates in the fall. For B2B marketers needing to produce a steady flow of leads, marketing more in the summer may be a necessity.
  2. For B2B marketers with long buy cycles, less effort in the summer could result in producing a few months of poor sales months down the road.
  3. Increasing spending to generate a constant flow of leads and sales through slow summer months will result in a higher cost per lead and cost per sale. It’s important for B2B marketers to do the math and make sure those increases are acceptable.
  4. Added buyer incentives during summer months may help increase summer sales.
  5. Increased summer efforts are likely to boost visibility and response rates in the fall.
  6. If other B2B marketers are doing less, those doing more should get better visibility and attention.

With the 2012 summer more than half over, B2B marketers may not be able to take any action one way or the other this year. However, this is the time for B2B marketers to determine if they are experiencing seasonal slow-downs and be ready to respond appropriately for the summer of 2013.

Great B2B marketing ideas you may have missed.

The rising number of visitors to this blog is not only good for my ego, but also indicates that more and more B2B marketers out there are interested in knowing about and following B2B marketing best practices.

It occurred to me, that with many readers taking the day off to celebrate the great day of our nation’s independence, it might be time to remember this blog’s great history. It seems a perfect time to expose some of the more popular earlier posts to new visitors who may have missed them.

So below are links to five of my earlier posts that remain the most popular on this site. Note that getting “B2B marketing ideas” does seem to be a theme.

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

  • One over-the-top creative idea that was a big hit
  • Ideas for writing more powerful B2B marketing email subject lines
  • Report on the goals driving IT decision-makers and how they affect B2B marketing copy

Two simple B2B marketing ideas I wish I’d thought of.

  • Making it easy and inviting for prospects to access and share business/product information
  • Adding a powerful Web page that boosts communication and SEO

Five B2B marketing ideas you can implement (almost) instantly.

  • Boost content downloads
  • Increase landing page performance
  • Lighten the burden of creating nurturing content
  • Get a longer life out of email and direct mail content offers
  • Get better results by using the word FREE in subject lines and emails

The two biggest B2B marketing campaign essentials.

  • Targeting
  • Tracking

Bad thoughts that block B2B marketing success.

  • I’m reaching everyone I need to reach with email
  • Social media is the only way to go today
  • We tried that and it didn’t work

I wish all marketers out there a happy and safe Independence Day observance full of fun and festivities, and many years of successful B2B marketing using today’s best practices.

Policies that put B2B marketing and sales on the same page.

Recently I saw Christopher Ryan’s post on Great B2B Marketing, “B2B Lead Management — 6 Best Practices.” As an advocate of best practices it caught my eye since it presents a valuable list well worth reviewing.

His number-one point, “Follow up every inbound inquiry within 48 hours — preferably 24 hours,” reminded me of two very contrasting client experiences I think are worth sharing.

 

Story #1
Back when it was still a relatively new marketing channel, a software developer ran their first email lead generation campaign. The email I was asked to write simply promoted their virtual collaboration software, which was also a relatively new concept at the time. The campaign generated more leads than could be responded to in 48 hours. So the Director of Marketing and his assistant stopped doing their jobs, took to the phones and pitched in so all the leads could be contacted quickly.

Story #2
Tasked with generating leads for a B2B technology service company, their marketing consultant asked me write an informational guide they could offer to a list of targeted companies via direct mail. The guide was to be fulfilled individually and not by a download. The direct mail letter making the offer generated an excellent response. However, the company’s sales manager took it upon himself to decide that none of the guides would be fulfilled until the companies requesting them could be “qualified.”

I’d be hard pressed to come up with two more opposite scenarios — and I look to top management for the reason. I think it’s up to them to set policies that make sure marketing and sales are on the same page. Here are two ways they can do that:

  1. Marketing success should never be based solely on the number of leads. It must ultimately include the closed deals produced by those leads.
  2. Sales people should be judged on how they follow up with leads as well as close them.

The final goal of everyone in B2B marketing and sales should be the same — making sales.

Mini-quiz on how to avoid a B2B marketing iceberg.

It’s a sad piece of history we are remembering this week with the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912. When there are public tragedies, there’s an immediate call for who or what to blame. In the case of the Titanic, however, there was only one cause — human hubris, the “overestimation of one’s own competence or capabilities.”

Hubris is a dangerous state of mind in any walk of life. B2B marketing is no exception. Hubris in marketing is not likely to cause the death of 1514 souls, but it can cost the job of a CEO, CMO, marketing VP, director or manager, product manager, or other player. In the case of a private B2B company, even the owner is hurt, as poor marketing decisions can reduce market share and the bottom line.

I’ve formulated this simple 10-question mini-quiz to help B2B marketers determine whether they may be suffering from the kind of hubris that would mean a bad outcome of their marketing, and possibly their future. Any “yes” answers are a sign that there may be an iceberg in their path.

1. We do not track cost per lead and cost per sale on every campaign.

2. We don’t believe in testing — we know what our customers want.

3. I personally like what we’re doing, so it must be good.

4. I personally don’t like what we’re doing, so it must be bad.

5. Our competition is doing it, so we need to do it, too.

6. As long as my boss likes what we’re doing, my job is safe.

7. We don’t need a strong offer — the product will sell itself.

8. The message makes sense to me, so our customers will understand it.

9. Nobody reads long copy anymore.

10. Direct mail is dead. Everything we need to do can be done online.

11. Everyone’s talking about social media, so we should dedicate a lot of resources to it.

Learning smart B2B marketing from an industry event invite.

It may seem strange for me write about a B2B marketing event I haven’t yet attended. But the invite was so informative, I have to share. The upcoming event is sponsored by the San Diego Software Industry Council (SDSIC) and features Reid Carr, CEO of Red Door Interactive, and Harley Orion, CEO of Orion Creative Group.

The title, “Top Five Ways to Maximize Your Marketing Dollar,” really caught my eye because it’s a concept I’ve supported in my own marketing for many years — track every penny that’s spent directly to leads and sales.

With social media being so hot today, it can often distract B2B marketers from the full scope of elements that must be part of every B2B marketing strategy. What I love about this invite from the SDSIC is that it’s a perfect reminder of how important it is to make sure an online B2B marketing strategy covers all the bases — not just social media.

I know most of you can’t attend this live event. But even the list of what is to be covered is a great reminder of the areas that should never be left out of any online B2B marketing strategy. It reads:

  • Know your customer: How to mine your existing data, and do additional research to fully understand the needs of your target customer, how to reach him or her online, and how to position your offering for the greatest impact.
  • Define goals: Goals are more than just measurements of success or failure; setting goals helps to clarify your tactics. Knowing where you’re going helps determine the most successful and cost-effective way to get there. We’ll talk about not just the importance of setting goals (the obvious), but literally how to create goals that will streamline execution and generate results.
  • Get your website right: Before spending money to drive traffic to your site, make sure it’s ready.  Driving traffic to a dysfunctional, off-brand or otherwise under-performing website may not create the desired ROI. We’ll discuss both simple and comprehensive ways to improve your web presence, through user experience design, analytics and testing – not just so it “looks prettier” but so that it effectively communicates and converts.
  • Identify good traffic building strategies: Most people are familiar with numerous ways to generate online traffic. But we’ll give you a rare look into how interactive agencies evaluate potential strategies for each unique client, and make these big decisions using data, not opinion.
  •  Retain your customers: How to build and maintain effective retention tools, such as CRM (customer relationship management), customer lifecycle research and monitoring, social CRM tools, and email marketing, among others.

 

True B2B marketing success depends on what you don’t see.

As a B2B marketing copywriting specialist, my readers might think I’d lay it on thick about the importance of the copy and design in B2B marketing messages — emails, content, direct mail, landing pages, product brochures and more.

Copy and design are both important elements in B2B marketing. They’re physical parts that B2B marketers can share with CMOs, CIOs, product managers, sales and others. They are marketing elements that can be revised, enhanced, and can make marketers feel as though they’ve made a difference in the outcome of their B2B marketing programs.

Copy and design, however, are not the most important elements in the success of B2B marketing — data is.

I’ve written about this before, but, all too often, I come in contact with clients and prospects that spend a large percentage of their time and money on copy and design and virtually nothing on data. Most have bought and use Salesforce.com, CRM programs, marketing automation programs and more. But how much time are they spending on the data that is contained in those programs?

  • Has it been updated and verified?
  • Has it been enhanced with information from data providers?
  • Has it been profiled?

Getting the right message to the right person ALWAYS enhances response rates — more than rewriting the same #$%^%# paragraph five times. The more B2B marketers know about their buyers and prospects, the more effective all their marketing will be.

Once a company has invested in marketing automation, sending emails appears to be virtually free. It’s actually quite costly when considering a company’s reputation. When B2B marketers send off-target messages to their prospect base, it appears as though they don’t know what they’re doing.

Here are three tactics B2B marketers can take with their in-house customer and prospect data that are more important than anything else they do. These steps may be costly, but each is an essential investment in the success of all future marketing and sales efforts:

  1. Update and Verify Data: Hire a temp or a telemarketing firm (I personally like Business to Business Marketing) to place a call to every one of your prospect companies to verify names, titles, functional titles, mailing addresses, and other information that helps target communications with each one.
  2. Enhance Data: Data sources are available (D&B, infoUSA, ReachForce) that can append information to data such as annual sales, years in business, number of employees, headquarters vs. branches and more. There are also sources for less common information such as number of computers, software presence (Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, Apple), building square footage, etc. While this data may not be perfect, it can help B2B marketers better target their marketing and sales efforts.
  3. Profile Buyers: B2B marketers can take their customer base and build a profile of size, SIC code, annual sales, etc. and rank them. This ranking profile can be used to identify marketing lists that will more likely contain qualified prospects. If the B2B company’s target universe is small, this is not cost effective. But for those with larger prospect pools it’s a valuable tool.

Data may not be as creative and touchable as copy and design, but unless it’s clear, up to date and accurate, the greatest copy and design will not generate results.