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.
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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. Salesforce.com, 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 salesforce.com 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, bothsidesofthetable.com 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.

The 3 most important rules in B2B marketing copy.

Being recognized by Gartner on one of their Magic Quadrants is the dream of most technology firms today. However, if a B2B marketer sees his or her favorite marketing copy phrase on the “Richards’ Quadrant,” they should run and hide.

In “A War of Enlightenment Against Marketing Jargon,” Hunter Richards, Accounting Market Analyst and blogger for Software Advice, has put a few meaningless and overused marketing phrases on a Gartner-like quadrant that clearly categorizes the jargon many B2B marketers are inclined to use.

Regardless of the education-level of one’s audience, effective marketing communication requires the use of clear, common words that everyone easily understands. As Richards’ chart demonstrates, big words, lingo, jargon or complex phrasing represses meaning.

The key to good written communication (in marketing and even in business emails or letters) is to always speak to the lowest common denominator. If there is any chance that a message might be read by someone at a prospect company who does not know what TOC is, then it’s safer to spell the words out the first time the phrase appears in the copy. That also goes for ROI, SFA, CRM, ERP and dozens of other B2B acronyms. Reading B2B marketing messages should be easy, not hard work.

B2B marketers should not write much differently than they would speak if sitting across the desk from a prospect.

Here are some rough ideas on how complex phrasing that diminishes communication could be replaced with plain, basic English:

Don’t Say: Optimize workflow.
Say:  Get more done faster.

Don’t Say: Enable productive people and processes.
Say: Give your teams the tools to do more with less effort.

Don’t Say:  Enhance insight and decision making.
Say: Get the information you need to make profitable decisions.

As a B2B copywriter, I’ve never gone as far as to use the word optimize (unless it was part of a client’s tag line). But observers may see a random “seamless” or “robust” in some of my copy in the past. That’s why Richards’ chart is so valuable. We all need to keep reminding ourselves that our job as B2B marketers is to get the message across, not to show off.

Remember, the three most important rules in B2B marketing copy are: communicate, communicate, communicate.

One little B2B marketing copy secret I learned in sales.

B2B marketing best practices are being hammered into B2B marketers’ heads from blogs like this one, Webinars, videos, live presentations and more. The mantra is the same and it’s the path that’s been proven successful by B2B marketers time and time again:

Offer educational content to attract qualified prospects, then use further content and product information, case studies and more to nurture those prospects through the buy cycle until they are sales-ready.

It’s the perfect formula for large-ticket B2B products and services that have a long buy cycle. But what if the product or service being sold isn’t a big-ticket item that has a long sales cycle? Or what if a prospect being nurtured has moved into the evaluation stage of the buy cycle?

Then it’s time for B2B marketing messages to start “selling.”

That’s when many marketers make this little mistake in their messaging — to talk about the product, then state that a company representative will be calling. That is not a good tactic. Once a prospect is told that someone will call, that prospect no longer has any need to initiate a call to sales.

Sales people know that, when a prospect calls the company, the sales person has a big edge in the conversation.

So B2B marketers need to support sales by using messaging that encourages prospects to call, and not mention that a sales person will call, even if they are planning to do so.

One great B2B marketing reminder and one new trend.

Great Reminder
This isn’t a new B2B marketing thought. It’s an important piece of B2B marketing knowledge — and I saw it expressed perfectly today.

The San Diego Software Industry Council sent me an invite to a Saturday-morning workshop focused on discovering how customers think and incorporating that knowledge into customer-focused Web-based applications. It sounds like a great event. What I loved was the opening sentence of the invite:

“You are NOT the customer. And if you think that you can rely just on your gut feel to really know your customers’ needs, think twice.”

YES, YES YES. We B2B marketers must always remember that every campaign we build, every word we write, every design we create, and every channel we choose must directly relate to what our customers tell us are their pains and their preferences — NOT be based on our personal preferences.

New Trend
Lauren Cannon reports about a new element being added to B2B product buying decisions. In her “3 Trends Shaping B2B Marketing” post for INC Magazine she includes this eye-opening information:

Valkre founder Jerry Alderman agrees that the next evolution in B2B marketing involves businesses attempting to understand how the services they’re offering truly impact the bottom line of their customers. Valkre has created a new metric, called the differential value proportion or “DVP”, which measures the amount of increased profit that a customer can bring in by doing business with one company versus another.”

This trend takes B2B marketing right down into the trenches, where winning new business becomes even more of a numbers game. ROI has been an essential ingredient in marketing communications. Now B2B marketers, product managers, and sales must calculate the numbers that can be used to translate product benefits into bottom-line numbers. It’s ROI on steroids.

B2B marketers should watch their words.

In “The History Boys,” one of my favorite movies, author Alan Bennett has his English teacher character state, “I didn’t want to turn out boys who would claim in later life to have a deep love of literature or who would talk in their middle age of the lure of language and their love of words.”

Yet, that’s how I am. I love words. Used well, words not only communicate information but express the emotion behind the information.

In B2B marketing communication, the design of Web sites, emails, brochures, ads, and letters do contribute to how a company is seen and recognized. But it’s the words and the copy messaging that cause prospects to act on what a B2B marketer is offering.

That’s why B2B marketers should care about the words they use and, unfortunately, many do not understand how important those words can be.

They may think that using big words makes their company appear to have a higher intelligence and sophistication. They write based on the knowledge that a powerful vocabulary connotes success. Actually, in B2B marketing, it’s just the opposite. Big words and long sentences reduce the effectiveness of human-to-human communication.

Using simple language and avoiding bigger, more complex wording and long complex sentences maximizes the readability of B2B marketing messages. For example, here are introductory paragraphs from two B2B Web sites that do not communicate in a direct and clear manner (sites shall remain unnamed to protect the guilty).

“Our extensive business and subject-matter expertise and technical acumen enables us to identify and apply best practices to resolve issues and optimize opportunities. We consult and collaborate with our clients to deliver products and solutions that are highly specialized, practical, realistic and feasible.”

“. . .  aims to provide marketing services to targeted business environments in Indonesia, Asia, and the west Pacific region. This plan seeks to generate a significant increase in company sales and profits from the delivery of retainer consulting, project consulting, market research and industrial analysis, feasibility studies, and strategic analysis and reporting services, compared to the preceding year. “

Fortunately, B2B marketers don’t have to wonder about the readability of their Web sites or other marketing communications.

JuicyStudio provides an excellent lesson on readability measurement and actually shows that even the Wall Street Journal is written for the reading level of a high school junior. B2B marketers can use this site to enter their URL and get their site scored immediately for readability. I discovered that my Web site (The Copy Works) is readable by someone with a 7.7 grade education.

The Juicy Studio page even shares how to calculate the Gunning-Fog Index of B2B marketing copy (or any writing) to determine a rough measure of how many years of schooling it would take someone to understand the content. In addition, in the spelling feature of Microsoft Word, B2B marketers can select an option to see the Flesch-Kincaid grade level readability measurement along with the spelling.

The lesson here is for B2B marketers to not make their prospects and customers work to get their message. They should use visuals to show their image and success. Let the words stay simple so readers can get the message without effort — and then act on it.

4 Tactics for Getting B2B Marketing Programs Approved and Implemented Faster.

I love my clients. But sometimes I am frustrated by how long it takes from the beginning of the creation of a marketing program to its final implementation. Programs that should take a few weeks often take months.

This is especially a problem in the fall because, although September and October are traditionally terrific months for B2B marketing efforts, November and December are full of breaks and holidays that typically reduce results.

For email campaigns, many B2B marketers are using marketing automation solutions such as Marketo, Silverpop, Eloqua and many others to quickly re-engage prospects after they have responded to some marketing effort. But those technologies are useless if approvals on the copy, the design, the content offer, the data selection or any other element of the program take months.

Surprisingly, this is not a topic that seems to be widely covered in marketing blogs and discussions. Perhaps this is because few people have the answers for how to shorten the time from marketing program inception to distribution. So I tossed the question out to my friend and colleague James Pennington, a VP at Anderson Direct Marketing.

He responded by saying that it’s an interesting problem. “B2B marketers put all this technology in place to control which messages and content offers go to which prospects based on their place in the buy-cycle. Yet if companies don’t streamline marketing decision-making, nothing gets implemented.”

Then I asked if he knows of any solutions marketers can put in place to overcome this problem. Here are his four great suggestions:

1. When a marketing department distributes marketing messages and content offers for review by stakeholders, those stakeholders should be given limits on what they are being asked to do.

If the product is technology and the product manager or IT executive needs to review it, their instruction should be that they can approve or disapprove the technical elements only and are not being asked to make comments on the colors or the call to action or the headline.

This goes for the customer service manager, the sales manager or any other executive whose department has some stake in the results of the marketing program.

By limiting the area of input that is being requested, marketing can reduce the delays in the reviews and approvals.

2. Reviewers can be sent the messaging in a text format only, with the areas that they are to review highlighted in a different color. Then the review request can say something like — “Alex, can you please review the items highlighted in red for accuracy?” The reviews will go more quickly without unwanted input on all the other areas of the marketing message.

3. Circulating the campaign materials individually and waiting for responses often gives stakeholders too much time to analyze and over-think what they are reviewing. A good alternative is to get the stakeholders together in a meeting by phone or in person to conduct the review at one time and get feedback and sign off quickly.

4. Lastly, he recommends taking the marketing material to the ultimate decision-maker first for feedback and approval. When material is distributed to others, reviewers can be asked for accuracy checks for feedback on other elements pertinent to the reviewer’s department. Saying that the CEO (or whoever) has already approved it helps reduce the over-analysis that is typical when reviewing marketing materials.

These suggestions may not be simple to implement, but they seem well worth the effort and will pay off in generating more leads, quickly moving those leads to being sales-ready and eliminating lost sales by doing too little, too late.

Inbound and Outbound B2B Marketers Have the Same Challenge

As usual, I started my day reviewing various opt-in emails and visiting favorite blog sites.

Inbound and outbound B2B marketers may fight over which method is best, but elements in two of the communications I read today reminded me of the big challenge common to both — and that is “control.”

First I read Steven Woods’ excellent Digital Body Language post on “Who and What Do We Trust?” In it he talks about how today’s access to information is changing the way businesses build trust with prospective customers. He says, “With the changing dynamic of how the conversation happens, there is also a changing dynamic of how trust is developed.”

Then I received an email invite from BtoB Online to attend their Sept. 30th Webinar “Beyond Content Management: 4 Ways to Engage Your Visitors and Achieve Online Marketing Success.” The opening of the invitation states, “Marketers need to be able to take control of their site visitors’ online experience in order to increase conversion.”

Although these two communications are focused on different areas of the B2B marketing and sales process, they both address the issue of “control.” Prospective business buyers do what they want, when then want and how they want. It’s a marketer’s job to do everything possible to influence those actions.

Inbound B2B marketers conduct SEO, are active in social media, conduct AdWords campaigns, post content on targeted informational Websites and more. Outbound B2B marketers send out content or sales offers through direct mail, email, and telemarketing. These two groups fight and debate, but both approaches are essential for success in today’s B2B marketing worlds and both groups have the same challenge of attempting to “control” the actions of their target B2B market.

Every B2B prospect and situation is different, but there are human traits and circumstances that B2B marketers can leverage to help take more control over their prospects’ actions.

B2B marketers must know that today’s prospect has limited support resources and is over the top with work. Every marketing decision, practice and communication should be based on seeing the prospect in that light, as follows:

  1. Keep communications short and to the point.
  2. Make it clear, quick and easy for prospects to act on what is being offered.
  3. Speak to prospects in the first person and communicate the benefits they will gain from acting on the offer.
  4. Be sure to offer information that has real value to your target market. Check out Ardath Albee’s Marketing Interactions Blog on “When Thought Leadership Isn’t” for insight on how marketers can help make their company a prospect’s trusted resource.
  5. Communicate differently to different titles. Goals and problems vary from title to title. Communications should be versioned to address those differences.
  6. Communicate and make contact often enough so that the company being marketed is top-of-mind as the prospect moves through every step of the buying cycle.
  7. Give the prospect a clear ‘next action’ in every communication.

From tweets to AdWords to landing pages to email invitations to Website pages and content libraries, the marketer’s ultimate goal is to control the prospect’s actions as much as possible. Control comes from understanding human nature and using the practices that leverage that understanding.

What B2B marketers can learn from TV ads.

There are actually a few people out there who do not have a single television set in their home. I have a lot of admiration for these people. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. I do my part as a viewer of American television.

These days, with the advent of personal video recorders (PVRs), a growing number of TV viewers like me are fast forwarding through the commercials in the shows we’ve taped. But, once in a while, I do catch a live broadcast and get a bit caught up on what Madison Avenue has been up to.

I am actually very critical of 90% of the ads I see on television, but last night I saw a truly great ad.

The live-action story portrays a father leaning into the passenger side window of an automobile. He is giving last-minute good-driving reminders to his daughter who is in the driver’s seat. The daughter is a small child. In spite of not being tall enough to see out the window, she seems anxious to get the conversation over with so she can get going. After assuring her father that she will follow his instructions, he hands her the car keys. At that point, of course, the camera moves again to the daughter and you see that she’s a teenager of driving age. It’s then you learn that the car is a Subaru.

What does this beautifully done ad communicate? It says that fathers always see their daughters as little girls and that Subaru is a car fathers can trust to be safe enough for their daughters.

It’s what advertising should be, and it illustrates a good lesson for B2B marketers. That is, it illustrates the most important factor in B2B marketing programs, strategies and messaging:

Always see the environment and the product being sold through the customer’s eyes. It’s the only point of view that makes it possible to truly connect with them.

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.

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.