B2B marketing that uncovers hot leads & builds involvement.

LinkedIn may have flaws and spam problems at times, but the ability it gives us to meet and share ideas with colleagues all over the world is wonderful.

One of my new LinkedIn acquaintances, Tracy Johnson, President of Spotted Dog Promotions, recently sent me an article he wrote about “Contests and your Marketing Strategy.”

What he has to say fits right into a tactic that I strongly believe is necessary in today’s B2B marketing. That is the importance of getting attention and standing apart from the competition by getting prospects “involved.”

Contest WinnerTracy’s presentation talks mostly about using contests to get attention in social media and for branding. He makes a strong case. But since my focus and expertise is in outbound B2B marketing and direct response marketing, I see contests also as an inviting way to generate a response.

Content is the primary device used in B2B marketing these days. It’s smart and it works. But just reading white papers, guides, blogs and attending Webinars — even watching videos — can get pretty tedious after a while. Contests add excitement and interest to making contact with a prospective new customer. They even allow B2B marketers to add a bit of fun and personality to their communications.

There’s no reason to think B2B buyers won’t take the time to participate in contests. They are humans, after all, who love to measure or test their expertise. The prizes can be related to the product or service being sold — or be simple gifts that could be tied to a benefit-related theme.

As Tracy explains in his article, contests are also great devices for gathering valuable sales data:

“You can increase sales and learn more about your customers, their perceptions and behaviors, along with their intent to purchase products in your industry category via embedded surveys in your contest entry form. These surveys can identify prospects, generate hot leads or provide insight into your audience. One of our affiliates in the travel industry recently attracted over 20,000 leads to a contest, 97% of whom answered three multiple-choice questions that identified their interests in travel. This is a valuable list of qualified leads that turns into new revenue.”

Even though he uses a B2C example here, B2B marketers can easily imagine how a short survey can be used to find out if a prospect has a need for their product or service.

I’ll bet that many B2B marketers would never think of doing a contest. The reason being that contests don’t appear to be serious and might reflect poorly on the company. I disagree. If the contest is well planned and ties into the company’s brand and product focus, it’s a fresh and effective way to draw attention to its solutions and to get its prospects involved.

Discovering the true power of personal B2B marketing videos.

Video seems to be popping up all over the place in my B2B marketing world these days.

First (as you can see from last week’s blog on “Why anyone can use video in B2B marketing & why they should“) I was told by my SEO provider that I needed to put a video on my Website, which I have done now.

Video Salesman 2Then, just days ago, I got a personal video with a message from a client that was just for me. He had used a service called Eyejot to record it. Being the first personal video email I’d ever gotten, I have to say I got pretty excited about it. So much so that I told a colleague what a great tool I thought it was for sales people to communicate with prospects and customers.

His response was, “I think it’s tacky.”

Not sure that a survey of one produces reliable B2B market data, so I posed the question on the B2B Video Marketing Group I belong to on LinkedIn. “Do you think that sending a personal message via video in business emails is great or do you think it’s tacky?”

What a wonderful education I got. Here are a few of the great responses:

Daniel Dorfman of Covideo Systems shared a terrific video that supports the importance of visuals and tone in effective communication:

“Susan, I work in the video email and marketing industry, and I agree with what most people have said thus far and have found that it is all about the context in which you use the technology. It will never replace email communication but it can give you that personal touch that you might be looking for. Video as a communication medium also takes out any chance of your message getting misunderstood. Here is a great video on ‘why email starts fights‘.”

Hugh Macfarlane, another group member, made a quick video to demonstrate how a sales person might use a video for a personal communication. I agreed with Caroline Leslie’s response:

“Great video, Hugh! An excellent example of not being naff, tacky or inappropriate and making it about them, not you. A useful strategy for cutting through to a qualified prospect. In a marketing (vs sales) context, the challenge is to make videos which are still about them (i.e., carefully segmenting your audience) while leveraging your database for one-to-many communication.”

Daniel agreed with what I take as a good response to my question and good advice:

“Great point Caroline. I use video daily throughout my communications and I have learned that when you directly communicate to a prospect or client it is best to keep the videos one-to-one or one-to-few. This allows you to really personalize and tailor the videos toward your audience and give them a direct call of action that really hits home. It’s amazing the response you get when the first thing the client or prospect hears is their own name.”

That was my response exactly. It’s good food for thought for any B2B marketer.

Outbound calling works in B2B marketing and I can prove it.

For a long time, I’ve been requesting a guest post from Leeann Raymond, Director of Operations & Sales at Business to Business Marketing (B2B), but she’s been way too busy to fit it into her schedule. So I finally got wise and asked if I could just interview her. She agreed and now I’m pleased to share with everyone something I’ve been wanting to illustrate in this blog for years — that outbound calling campaigns (done professionally) are powerful and productive in B2B marketing.

I started the interview by mentioning to Leeann how I regularly see posts on LinkedIn or on blogs that calling, especially cold calling, is dead (along with direct mail, email and everything else marketers did before social media).

She then related a story of a sales call she had made to a CEO to sell her company’s outbound calling services. When she got him on the phone, he said, “I don’t want to do it because calling doesn’t work.” Her response made for rather a “duh” moment when she replied, “I just called you and you’re the CEO of your company. If our outbound calling services didn’t work, we wouldn’t be able to stay in business.”

I then immediately asked, “Does it always work?” She responded, “In 12 years, I can count on one hand programs that didn’t work. In each case the problem was primarily oversaturated markets.”

So here are two of the 12 years of case studies she shared. She asked me not to name the actual companies because we’re including specific data from their campaigns.

Case Study #1 involved making calls to physician practices and medical testing centers on the part of a leading provider of healthcare technologies. During the process of the campaign, the client sent regular call reports with input on leads so the direction of the calling message could be shifted as necessary.

Engagement: 90 days

Goals: Determine if there was enough demand to support a sales force focusing on a non-hospital market for their products, and also to generate incremental sales.

Calling List: Provided by the client


  • Conducted 675 hours of calling in 3 months, making a total of 9112 calls
  • Reached 2047 individuals, with 22% of reached prospects resulting in conversations
  • Generated 161 sales-accepted leads, i.e. leads that were validated by the sales team as workable, with 7% of the conversations resulting in qualified leads
  • Created a pipeline of over $5.5 million in sales in the 90 days, based on a typical sale of $150,000
  • Total campaign cost: $29,722
  • Total cost per qualified lead: $134; sales qualified leads were defined as having the name of decision maker, a company with a stated need, budget, and time-frame to purchase

Case Study #2 was for a company selling a cost-saving financial technology tool marketed to CFOs or VPs of Finance at companies with $1 billion or more in revenue. The B2B prospects were at companies where one would think it would be difficult, if not impossible, to reach a decision maker by phone. These included Nike North America, Sony Music Entertainment, Verizon, Dell Computer, Southwest Airlines, Motorola, Whole Foods and the list goes on.

Engagement: 12-month program

Goal: Set up five to 10 appointments per month for individual sales people, including managing the sales person’s calendar, sending out Outlook® meeting invites, getting confirmations and updating the sales person’s calendar. These additional steps were all necessary, as sales people were on the road non-stop traveling to appointments.

Calling List: Obtained by Business to Business Marketing to match the client’s selected criteria.


  • Made 29,078 calls
  • Calls resulted in 332 appointments — meeting and often exceeding the monthly goal
  • Made 914 presentations, of which 17% turned into appointments
  • Client did not share actual sales data; however, they tracked results and, in over a year of working with them, the client reported that a total of only 17 appointments were not qualified

Leeann says that, even when callers are reached and are not immediately productive, the call can still be used to gather important information such as the name of the decision maker. She recalled one prospect that was spending $100,000 a quarter to send out a fancy mailer and getting nothing. B2B Marketing suggested that the company let B2B call in advance of the next mailing to find out why. The calls revealed that 50% of data was wrong. The company had been wasting half of their budget.

She said, “We generate 70% of our business from cold-calling.”

There’s virtually no limit to the options available in this channel:

  • List building or list clean-up
  • Lead generation
  • Appointment setting
  • Event attendance confirmations — advanced calling has proven to increase attendance by 20% to 30%
  • Research
  • Nurturing
  • Following up leads from trade shows — post-event follow-up
  • Qualifying SEO leads, customer touch
  • Upselling and cross-selling
  • Marketing new offerings
  • Just keeping in touch with customers

I can hear some readers responding to this blog with, “We don’t have the money or time to make thousands of calls to get the results we want.” But that’s not the point of these examples. The point is, B2B decision makers can still be reached via phone and it’s still well worth the effort to include calling in the marketing and sales process.

About Business to Business Marketing: Business to Business Marketing has been conducting outbound calling for complex business-to-business offerings since 1999. Their second division MedContacts specializes in outbound calling for companies selling products to the healthcare market.

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.

B2B marketing and sales is still about people.

Paul Mosenson, President of NuSpark Marketing, is a very handy colleague to have. As a content aficionado, he frequently forwards valuable B2B marketing info that I might miss seeing otherwise.

Recently he sent me a copy of a report from 2009 loaded with interesting insight into the behavior of business buyers. The 202 pages in the document are part of “The Buyershere Project” put together by Gord Hotchkiss of Mediative (formerly Enquiro).

As he explains, the Project started with wanting to know how business product and service buyers make their buying decisions. He began the research by just talking to over 100 B2B buyers and asking them how they buy within their organization. Then he added insight gathered from a panel he moderated at the SES San Jose that included representatives from Google, Covario, Business.com, Demandbase and Marketo.

Here are highlights of a few items the report covered that I found most interesting:

At their core, buying decisions are not rational. Regardless of the RFPs, RFQs and vendor approval processes in place to make sure that buying decisions are purely rational, the fact is that, after all the information is gathered, decision makers and influencers make gut decisions. I think this is why personal “relationships” are one of the most important elements in the decision.

  • 50% of B2B budgets go to purchase common items that we buy frequently and repeatedly
  • 46% of these repeat purchases are made from a single preferred vendor
  • The opinion of an existing vendor was the most in?uential factor in business purchases

 “99% of B2B buying is about covering your butt.” Buyers typically reduce risk based on these channels:

  • Personal experience with existing vendors
  • Word of mouth from co-workers and peers
  • Credibility and position of the vendor (Remember when buyers thought, “You can never be fired for buying IBM”?)
  • Online research
  • Price

After price/value, the second reason B2B buyers bought was the sales rep. This was true for influencers as well as decision makers.

Winning sales seems to be nearly as much about smart, likeable sales people as it is about the product being offered. It tells me that, maybe, B2B marketers should bring sales into the picture earlier.

As I reported in an earlier blog post, “How B2B marketers can help prevent lost sales,” Kathy Tito of Call Center Services, Inc. explained, “I have seen instances of companies that allow sales leads to become stale by not transitioning them to sales quickly enough to develop interest on the next level. If you have to err on one side or the other, keep in mind that the ‘premature’ hand-off can be managed to have little to no downside. If the lead is not ready, they can always be cycled back into nurture mode.”

A few early B2B marketing ideas from Santa.

Children writing lists to Santa aren’t the only ones making wishes this year. We B2B marketers are making many wishes for our marketing to be more effective, less costly, and less work. These are the same old wishes, but, in this volatile economy, the gifts are needed more than ever.

So I went searching for a few B2B marketing Santas that may have left a gift in a blog or magazine article here and there. Here’s what I unwrapped.

Be more effective

Deliver Magazine from the US Postal Service was celebrating its 40th issue with a recap of its greatest moments. One clip included this very sage advice from the “permission marketing” guru Seth Godin. He said, “Happy customers are a company’s worst enemy because they’re unlikely to push you to stay ahead of the competition. Talk with those who are dissatisfied with everything on the market.” Taking this approach is the best way to help B2B companies find out how to improve their products and the effectiveness of their marketing.

Save money

Doing more with less has always been important. These days it’s a survival necessity. Although there is danger in spending too little, the worst danger is not knowing how much you should be spending. Thank Santa for a recent post on the Inbound Sales Network. Their “How Much Should you Spend on Lead Generation?” takes B2B marketers through six calculations marketers can use to set the right spending limit for their organization.

Step 1: Set the Target
Say your company has the goal to do $1,000,000 in new sales during the next year. If you currently have a 10% growth rate in current accounts, this leaves $900,000 needed in new revenue generated in the next fiscal year.

Step 2: Pipeline Size
New Revenue Target / Closing Ratio

Step 3: Average Deal Size
Total Revenue / Number of Deals

Step 4: Total Number of New Opportunities Needed
Pipeline Size / Average Deal Size

Step 5: Lead to Opportunity Conversion Ratio
Number of Opportunities Won / Total Number of Opportunities

Step 6: Cost per Sales Qualified Lead
(Expected Revenue – Delivery Costs – Sales Costs – Acceptable Profit Margin) / Total Number of Leads Needed

Read their article to get all the details. This process helps ensure that every dollar spent on lead generation is justified based on the company’s sales goals. It’s the only way to go.

Lighten the workload

Follow the advice of Rachel Foster in the October 2011 Issue of Chief Content Officer (COO) Magazine. She suggests “Reimagining the Tried-and-True White Paper” by turning it into an interactive video. She says, “Unlike traditional videos, designed to play from start to finish, video white papers makes it easy to jump from section to section and focus in on high-interest topics.” Video white papers allow B2B marketers to track how long a viewer watched and what they watched. If some sections appear to be more popular than others, marketers can leverage that insight into a new piece of potentially effective content.

B2B marketing basics for filling the sales pipeline.

This morning I wrote copy to help promote the upcoming November event for the San Diego Direct Marketing Association. The presenter is a video blogger and social media evangelist for Sony Electronics, Sukhjit Ghan. At the event she will tell the story of a social media campaign for Sony that’s being recognized on The Next Web as the most successful social media campaign in history.

The B2C campaign involves the launch of a new Sony tablet and how the effort got customers talking about the tablet and going into retail outlets to see it. It also generated 10,000 contest entries. Marketing success stories always make great presentations and learning opportunities.

But what if the marketer is B2B and the company sells prototyping software to manufacturers of technology products? What if it sells outsourced IT services to a limited geographic area or technology solutions designed just for hospitals?

These marketers don’t have millions of potential buyers. Their marketing universes are as little as 2,000 to 20,000 prospects, which can be easily identified by industry, employee size, location and annual sales figures.

Social media may have some value to these companies in certain situations such as conferences and other industry settings. Unlike Sony, however, social media can’t be used to reliably and consistently fill their sales pipelines with qualified leads.

B2B email marketing is perfect for nurturing leads through the buying cycle until they are ready to buy. Despite its lower cost, however, it’s fairly dismal at generating fresh leads. Search has great value, but there’s no control over how many prospects might reach out looking for a solution at a particular time. Direct mail marketing, on the other hand, is still cost effective, even for B2B marketers with a small budget and small prospect universe.

Here are the basic numbers that support it. These numbers are very conservative and are based on averages using a small-quantity prospect universe. As the quantity grows, the results and the ROI both grow. This campaign uses a #10 business envelope containing a letter and a flat, branded gift item that makes the package slightly lumpy so it stands out in the mail and gets opened. Responders go to a PURL to download educational content being offered.

At first glance, these numbers may seem high. But what if the company doing the marketing sells a product or service that produces $20,000 in gross revenue per sale? That means three sales would generate $60,000. What if it’s $100,000 per sale? What if the value of a new customer generates $500,000 to $1,000,000 over its lifetime?

In that perspective, the costs are very much in line. Of course, to meet these projections requires that the campaigns follow best practices, use a quality mailing list, etc. There are direct mail strategies that can generate greater response rates of 2% to 5% or more. These strategies raise the campaign costs, but also raise the number of leads generated and the conversions at the same time.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, there are a number of respected technology and other B2B firms using direct mail marketing regularly and successfully. It provides B2B marketers with one of today’s most reliably effective strategies for generating qualified leads and filling the sales pipeline.

5 ways B2B companies can make millions from referrals.

How could I not attend the recent San Diego Direct Marketing Association (SDDMA) event entitled “How to make over a million dollars in referral business?”

Referrals are almost like free money. It may take some time, effort and even some travel to close the sale, but the marketing cost is zero. That makes the return on the marketing investment a whopper.

The SDDMA luncheon speaker, Suzanne Weinstein of InSync Consulting, helps leaders and others resolve conflict and achieve greater levels of effectiveness and satisfaction. For her one-person business, she has actually made a million dollars from referrals. For a B2B company selling high-ticket products with a long buy cycle, referrals can easily add up to multiple millions.

Much of what Suzanne related in her talk has to do with what to do when sitting face to face with customers. In my B2B business, like many today, I don’t have the opportunity to meet clients face to face, and communication is either by phone or email. However, she did share a few tips for encouraging referrals that don’t require being in the room with the customer. To her suggestions I have added a few of my own for a short list of what B2B marketing and sales can do to encourage more of this “free money.”

1. Create a “member-get-a-member” marketing campaign. Conduct a marketing campaign that invites customers to make one or more referrals to their peers. If the referred party becomes a new customer, the referring customer receives a reward of some kind. This reward can be a gift, a free service, a discount or any other time-saving or money-saving extra. Some referral campaigns also offer a reward or welcome gift to the new customer as well.

2. Make it easy for customers to share information with their colleagues. It’s important for B2B marketers to include an “invite your colleagues” button on Webinar and event invitations and a “share with colleagues” link when sending out product information.

3. Be a resource for customers outside of direct product support. Those in B2B marketing and sales can better cement their relationships with customers by being a willing resource of information. This can include being ready with recommendations of other vendors that could solve other challenges for the customer as well as forwarding any pertinent news or other information about the customer’s company or their industry.

4. Ask for referrals. There’s no reason to beat around the bush. If B2B marketers or sales people have a good relationship with customers and vendors, there is no harm in asking.

5. Give referrals to get referrals. As a vendor, sales people and marketers at B2B companies should know the value of the products and services of their customers and vendors. With the availability of today’s virtual networks, providing customers with referrals should be easier than ever. B2B marketers and sales people should make every effort to do this. The favor is often returned.

Effective B2B marketing requires budget AND brains.

Everyone needs a break from the daily stack of work. That’s why I took a moment to read a communication from the LinkedIn B2B Lead Generation & Content Marketing group entitled “20 Quotes To Inspire Your Marketing.”

Put together by Michael Brenner, Sr. Director, Global Marketing at SAP, many of them amused and inspired me. My favorites on his list are these:

 “What really decides consumers to buy or not to buy is the content of your advertising, not its form.” David Ogilvy

 “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” Seth Godin

 “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.” David Packard

 However, I found one quote to be a bit of an insult to B2B marketers:

 “If you have more money than brains you should focus on outbound marketing. If you have more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing.” Guy Kawasaki, author of Engage and founder of Alltop

 I was insulted because I spend much of my days writing messaging for outbound B2B marketing, including email and direct mail. Every one of my clients has first-hand experience with outbound marketing directly generating business. If done right — that means following best practices — outbound marketing consistently generates business at an acceptable cost-per-lead and cost-per-sale.

If outbound marketing is a “brainless” task, as Kawasaki implies, then marketing automation providers would have failed long ago. Instead, these companies are booming. The fact is, SAP has been a frequent and successful practitioner of outbound B2B direct mail marketing.

If a B2B marketing company has a large sales staff and needs to drive thousands of leads per month, social and inbound marketing cannot consistently drive the number of leads required.

Also, inbound marketing often generates leads that are further down the buy cycle. Engaging with those prospects late in the process puts the seller at a disadvantage. Competitive companies who reached out to that prospective buyer earlier in the process have been nurturing and building a relationship with them. When it comes to making a buying decision, the competitor has the advantage.

Outbound marketing can reach prospective buyers early in the process when they are just realizing they have a pain to solve but before they take action to search for a solution to that pain.

So, to add to Michael’s list of inspiring B2B marketing quotes, here is this old-timer: “The early bird gets the worm.”

Four B2B best practices for late buy-cycle marketing

Virtually all of today’s B2B marketing advice involves the benchmarks, best practices and how-tos for demand generation, nurturing, social media and content. These four topics are all vital parts of the process of making a B2B sale.

But there comes a point when B2B marketers have to directly sell the features and benefits of their product or service. This is when a qualified buyer is nearing the end of the buy cycle and is evaluating his or her purchase options.

This is when the content and the offers aren’t designed to woo or nurture but must “sell.” This stage has its own best practices and how-tos that B2B marketers need to know.

Knowing I was going to cover this topic today, I did searches to see what others are saying about it. Strangely enough, I could find little coverage on the topic. Most of the results ended up talking about the same general practices one would use in the earlier stages of the prospect relationship.

Because of this, I pulled from my own experiences and those of my colleagues to provide these four best practices for B2B late-stage marketing:

1. Focus: Collateral materials, Web sites and outbound marketing messages should still focus on the product benefits, but directly support every one with a feature or group of features.

2. Tone: Research (I learned this at a seminar years ago) shows that the greater the promise, the greater the level of satisfaction on the part of buyers. The rule: don’t lie, but feel free to maximize the promise of what a product or service can deliver.

3. Content: We all know that the B2B environment has changed. Once buyers feel the pain of a business challenge, they initiate their own research, look deeper into solutions and look longer before being willing to talk to sales — hence the lengthening of buy cycles. Therefore, it’s critical that B2B Web sites and outbound marketing materials contain product content that is far more in-depth than brochures or product briefs. Content should include self-selected Web site tools and information such as ROI calculators, detailed demos, third-party product comparisons, total cost of ownership (TOC) numbers, implementation time-frames, etc. It’s also in the late buy cycle that prospective buyers care most about your current customers. Videos of customers telling their own stories make for strong late buy-cycle content.

4. Incentives: Make a deep buy-cycle offer tied to a deadline. This is necessary to create urgency and overcome buyer inertia. Offers can include such things as discounts; added services, support or training; an upgrade at the same price; extra free months on a subscription purchase; extra seats; etc. Many companies prefer not to discount their products, as that approach can diminish the perceived value of the product. Offering added services, extended contracts and other non-product discounts are strong incentives.

Demand generation, lead nurturing and late buy-cycle marketing/sales efforts are all equally important in this customer-controlled marketing world. B2B marketers must create messaging and content to do them all.