My 5 favorite B2B marketing numbers.

Everyone, except perhaps the creative folks in advertising agencies, knows that marketing is a numbers game. Numbers such as click-thrus, cost-per-lead, cost-per-sale and ROI dominate the landscape of marketing numbersdiscussions.

I like numbers. They measure the real market success (or failure) of B2B marketing campaigns, they support the argument for following best marketing practices, and they give marketers real insight into the cost and potential value of various marketing approaches.

So, it makes sense to share my 5 favorite numbers to help other marketers experience the confidence and the joy that numbers bring to the strategic process. I didn’t devise these numbers. But after years of knowing them, I cannot honestly remember whose testing and research discovered them in the first place. They are:

  1. The value of following up with leads immediately: 88% of people are happy to hear from the B2B vendor within 24 hours of downloading informational content. Waiting 96 hours drops that percentage to the 40s.
  2. The reason nurturing leads is critical in maximizing sales: 45% of new leads generated will buy from someone in the industry category within 12 months.
  3. One big argument for integrated outbound marketing: Qualified B2B direct mail lists consistently provide 60% more records, business profiles and demographics than email marketing lists.
  4. Making sure the results of marketing tests are statistically valid: When testing one list or channel against another, the results of the test can be considered minimally statistically valid only if the response to each individual test cell is 85 responses or higher.
  5. Where to focus efforts in B2B marketing campaigns: Out of 100%, the elements that affect the outcome of a B2B marketing campaign carry the following weights List/Media/Data = 40%, Offer = 30%, Design = 15% and Copy = 15%.

Marketers building strategies and plans for the remainder of the year and beyond should let the numbers be their guide.

3 things B2B marketers can learn from retailers.

It has been said that for a retail business to be successful, it must focus on three things: location, location, and location. B2B marketers also have three important areas of focus to achieve success: target, target, and target.

Key people in a networked crowd.Reaching the most qualified companies and titles is still the most important element in every outbound B2B marketing campaign. The best way to identify that target is to build a profile of best customers and apply that profile against the marketing lists (email or mail) selected for outbound campaigns.

Best customers are those who meet most of the following criteria:

  1. Lifetime Value: Generated the greatest revenue.
  2. Number of Products and Services Purchased: Purchased the most products and the most profitable products.
  3. Loyalty: Remained customers the longest.
  4. Service Effort: Do not require excessive levels of service or support.

Once the above customers are identified, the next step is to profile them by the following identifiable demographics, which can be applied to available mail and some email marketing lists:

  • Industry
  • Size by number of employees and/or annual sales
  • Number of locations
  • Title of decision-maker or main contact
  • SIC (Standard Industrial Code) Current systems in place (if applicable to the product being sold)

If marketers do not have that kind of detail on their customers, firms such as Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) can append that data to the customer file for a fee.

Using a profile to define what markets, companies, titles and other criteria to pursue should result in attracting more qualified leads that might close faster and ultimately be more profitable customers. It’s an important step in building strategic B2B marketing plans.

One caveat, however: Marketers should remember that their profile of best customers could be a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” That is, the profile may show only those industries, titles, company sizes and other criteria that they have targeted in the past. It may or may not reflect the universe of opportunities.

If the marketing of a wheelchair lift has always been directed at schools, the profile will show a certain size or type of school as its best customer. In this case, marketing has no way of knowing if office building developers would not be a better “best customer,” since that market is not in the database from which the profile is built.

So, profiling a company’s best customers is a smart practice. But do it knowing that current best customers may or may not reflect the possible best customers.

Three Questions All B2B Marketing Should Answer in Eight Seconds or Less

B2B marketers who are interested in how to improve the performance of their email lead generation and nurturing will find no dearth of posts, white papers, studies, and reports on the subject. Many are excellent and informative.

But this morning Alex Madison and Lisa Harmon, posting for Media Post’s Email Insider, pared the insight and best practices down to three simple steps: “Three Questions Your Email Should Answer In Eight Seconds Or Less.”

Hand and buttons Yes/NoTheir focus is on emailing subscribers, but their advice applies to all B2B email marketing.

  1. What is this email about?
  2. Why should the prospect, customer, subscriber care about it?
  3. What should they do about it?

The post then goes on to give examples of each of these important points in different types of email marketing messages.

Madison and Harmon state that “subscribers spend just eight seconds on most messages before clicking through or navigating away.” That’s why it’s so critical that prospects and customers quickly understand what is being offered and what they can do to get it.

What Madison and Harmon have presented, however, goes way beyond email marketing. It’s advice that should be applied universally to B2B marketing messages in all channels — direct mail marketing, banners and search engine advertising, print advertising, and yes, even social media.

Business buyers are busy. They don’t want to be wooed or romanced. They want information and they want it fast. By following Madison and Harmon’s advice, B2B marketers can improve the performance of ALL their marketing efforts.

Ancient secrets for getting B2B email opened and read

Is there a polite way to say that I love being proven right? Is it a “neener, neener” moment?

Yesterday, MarketingSherpa posted the results of research presented at their Email Summit by Bob Johnson, VP and Principal Analyst at IDG Connect. This research addressed “What Motivates Buyers to Receive and Engage with Vendor Email?” (Access to this MarketingSherpa article will close on Ancient Secrets2/20/10.)

What Johnson reported, which I was so pleased to read, is that the elements that make buyers pay attention to opt-in emails are the same ones that have made buyers pay attention to direct marketing messages for decades — possibly centuries.

They are . . .

  • LIST — Influences results by 200%
    How targeted is the list of people who are receiving the message?
  • OFFER — Influences results by 100%
    What information is being offered, what action, what opportunity?
  • CREATIVE — Influences results by 50%
    How clearly does the email communicate the message and the call to action and resonate with the individual reader?

(Other direct marketers may put different percentages on these items, but the relationship between them will remain the same.)

So what did the IDG Connect research reveal?

  • LIST – Obviously, a B2B marketer can’t find any better list than one made up of prospects that have opted-in. Every recipient has raised a hand and asked for information related to the product or service being offered. So that element is as good as it can be.
  • OFFER – The offer is as important as it ever was. MarketingSherpa reports that “Underwhelming offers are the biggest weakness of most emails, according to buyers.” This insight tells B2B marketers exactly what area of their emails they can enhance if they hope to improve their open and response rates.
  • CREATIVE – The survey shows two creative elements that can make an impact on email response. One is recognizing the sender. “Buyers cited ‘known sender’ as the most important factor in determining whether or not they open an email.” The second is personalization — not just with the name but also with title and area of interest. Directing the message to individuals is why direct marketing is also called target marketing.

Another “revelation” is that “Buyers want to do a good job for the organization they work for, but they’re also looking out for number one.” That point is no surprise to those of us in B2B direct marketing who know that ALL decisions are emotional. The more the message is focused on what the product or service can do for that individual in his or her workday (while benefiting the company), the better it will perform.

So I send out a thank you to my readers for letting me have this moment of glory and proving once again that marketing channels may change — but people do not.

One note on social media
This IDG Connect study researched the opinions of both buyers and marketers, finding interesting differences between their views. In fact, marketers gave far more importance to social media as a “favored method for receiving product/services information.” Buyers were shown to favor that channel by only 12%.

My “duh” moment on the vital need for both inbound AND outbound B2B marketing.

A colleague of mine who is a commission salesperson flew back East yesterday after an invitation from a prospective customer to make a presentation to his company. The prospect has a problem that my colleague’s company can solve.

DuhThis invitation didn’t follow a referral. There wasn’t a formal request for proposal (RFP). The prospect didn’t find my colleague’s company through social media. It wasn’t a B2B lead generated by SEO, SEM or a banner. In fact, it wasn’t even a lead generated by B2B email marketing, direct mail marketing, a trade show booth visit or an ad.

It was generated by a cold call that my colleague made to the company.

I’m not pooh-poohing the value of any of the above marketing channels. But this cold call — that led to an in-person presentation — was my “duh” moment on the difference between inbound and outbound B2B lead generation.

Companies have problems. There are so many aspects in the operation of a successful business, or even in a given department of that business, that the most painful problems are addressed first. Inbound marketing benefits when a company is pursuing a solution for its most painful problem. It is then that prospects actively research solutions on the Web, follow experts on social media, visit Web sites, read paid search ads, ask colleagues for referrals and send out RFPs.

But those companies that have problems they’ve pushed to the back burner because of more urgent ones are not actively pursuing a solution. Then, voila , an email or direct mail letter appears. Some are likely to think “here’s a white paper addressing that other problem we have. I think I’ll ask for it and see what it says.”

The company making the white paper offer will have then generated a lead that can be nurtured until that company says “this pain is big enough that we have to fix it now.” Low and behold, the company that sent the outbound marketing is already engaging with that prospect and has a huge edge.

In fact, the company my colleague is seeing was not seeking a solution. But his call alerted them to a smart way to solve a problem they knew they had. When a solution appeared, they jumped on it.

In rare occasions, perhaps, a B2B marketer knows about the pain a particular company is suffering from at that moment. Most of us in B2B marketing won’t. That’s why we have to reach out via outbound marketing AND make sure we’re reachable when the time is right.

All channels are vital. Cold calling works, too.

Why it’s OK to be anti-social media.

A colleague just forwarded me an excellent blog post entitled “Anti-Social Media Marketing” that I wish I had written. Despite its title, the blogger — Ian G. Heller of Real Results Marketing — does not pooh-pooh the use of social media. On the contrary, he says, “Without a doubt, there are massive marketing benefits available to marketers who can figure out how to harness the attention and preferences of audiences using social media tools.”

What he questions is the obsession for social media and the conviction that social media is the only way to go in this “inbound-driven” marketing environment.

Here is the most compelling part of his argument: “Social media, however, cannot yet substitute entirely for other, more traditional forms of marketing. Recently, I was on an ‘expert panel’ at a marketing event and the audience was breathlessly excited about social media. At one point, all of us panelists were asked to comment on the value of this new channel and, when it was my turn, I stated that, while I thought social media would someday provide enormous marketing value, I was concerned that people were focusing too much effort and attention on it. I said that, in my view, there was probably no huge “first mover advantage” in figuring out how to market successfully via social media and that it was important to continue to utilize email, direct mail, direct sales, telesales, advertising and other channels for now.”

Read his post for the full story, and you’ll be amused as I was at the reaction in the room when he made this statement.

To illustrate the point that some social media is being overhyped, I point to the recent Sysomos study “An In-Depth Look Inside the Twitter World.” This study shows that, although Twitter usage is going up, 5% of Twitter users account for 75% of all activity.

The reality is that social media is still in a stage of discovery and development and has yet to be proven a reliable source for business leads.

A marketer’s first job, after all, is to generate qualified leads that can lead directly to sales. That is, to build a pipeline of companies and contacts that can be nurtured and turned directly into sales and revenue. Until social media can directly generate those leads I would follow Ian Heller’s advice.

Email lead generation — perception vs. reality.

It’s my pleasure to introduce David Ariss, President of Ariss Marketing Group, a small, “boutique” direct marketing firm in Denver, Colorado who has agreed to share his insight with you today. Susan Fantle, B2BMarketingSmarts

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As this recession lingers on, more and more of our B2B and B2C clients are asking about using email in lieu of direct mail campaigns to generate leads and sales. The cost of email marketing is less and the results are learned quickly, so the perception is that email has great advantages over direct mail.

When this request is made, no matter the size of their company or their market, this is the story I tell:

EmailA large national B2B publishing company on the East Coast hired us to develop a lead generation direct marketing campaign to generate qualified leads for its sales force.

Primarily using their in-house list, augmented with highly targeted outside IT industry lists, we mailed 100,000 surveys directing the recipient to a pURL (personalized URL). For completing the survey they received either an Amazon.com gift certificate or White Paper (a simple A/B split). The target recipient had the option to either complete the mailed survey or logon to their pURL and complete it online.

We also emailed 30,000 surveys with the exact same messages and split. No recipient received both the direct mail and the email.

The result: The postal mail pulled 3.1% (3,100 leads); the email pulled less than .25% (75 leads). As predicted, the responses requesting the white paper were better qualified leads, but the Amazon Gift Certificate offer generated more leads.

An interesting side note: of the 3,100 responses from the postal mail, 800 sent in the paper survey in the supplied reply envelope rather than filled out the survey online, even though they still had to give us their email address to receive their free gift. We assumed, because the audience was very IT oriented, that all of the responses would come in via online. Giving them multiple ways to respond significantly lifted response.

Because of the lower campaign costs, many say email campaigns are more cost-effective, but we have not been able to prove it yet, as the final determination in the effectiveness of the campaign is cost-per-sale. So, I recommend to my clients to test email lists if we are able to find appropriate selects for them, but test in small quantities.

Email is cheaper and faster. But direct mail has advantages that make a difference on the bottom line:

  • Recipients can open the mail at their convenience and spend time with it. Emails, however, are part of a long list of other emails that are critical to that day’s tasks and that day’s business. So marketing emails get less attention.
  • Direct mail allows marketers to tell the whole story. It provides room to satisfy even the most cogent arguments and includes all the graphics that help tell the story.
  • Multiple pieces can make a huge difference as well. With email, prospects are looking at a monitor, but with direct mail they can see, feel, touch, and sometimes even smell the letter, brochure, lift note, or post card. There is just plain more emotion and interaction with direct mail.

I’m not against using email, but I recommend that my client tests them both to let the market tell them which will work best their company. That said, try combining direct mail with email in a campaign — done properly, this can greatly increase your response rates.

About the Author: David Ariss provides direct marketing services for B-to-B, B-to-C, nonprofit and political candidates through his company, Ariss Marketing Group based in Denver, Colorado.