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.

Bad thoughts that block B2B marketing success.

Blogs are mostly written from the experience of the individual blogger. This post is no exception — it came to mind when I heard a prospective client repeat one of the following statements, which I had already heard dozens of times. It occurred to me then that it might be time to share this list of bad thoughts so that other B2B marketers might see the possible error of their ways.

“Our target is IT. They won’t respond to direct mail marketing. They do everything online.”
Tell that to SAP, Citrix, VeriSign, Novell, Sage, Epicor, Cisco Systems, Adobe, PeopleSoft, Avaya, Proxima, McAfee, Corel, Broderbund, BEA, Symantec and hundreds of others. All of these companies have used — and continue to use — direct mail marketing to reach their target markets, including IT, because it cost-effectively generates leads and sales.

“I’m reaching everyone I need to reach with email.”
Frankly, that’s impossible. The very best B2B email lists available today are lists of subscribers to specific industry publications. These lists usually require their subscribers to fill out a profile form to get and renew their subscriptions. With lists like this these, marketers know that they are getting full opt-in. These lists also allow marketers to select titles and other profile details on their prospects. Comparing email lists to direct mail lists in the same category, however, consistently reveals that email lists average only 30% of the target universe available from direct mail lists. B2B marketing only using email is, therefore, missing two-thirds of available prospects. With the delivery loss from spam filters, the missing number is likely to be even larger.

“Social media is the only way to go today.”
Yikes! Social media has great value as an extension of any lead generation and nurturing effort. It is also a powerful support for positioning a company as a trusted thought leader. But no single channel can ever deliver all the elements necessary for an effective B2B marketing program.

“We tried that and it didn’t work.”
Regardless of what the “it” refers to, my response is, “Give me the details. Tell me the target, the Web site, the response device, the list, the sample size, the copy, the offer, the design, the tracking, and the measurement used.” Once I hear the answers, I’m likely to find not just one, but dozens of bad marketing practices used in the campaign.

Not every channel works or is a smart approach for every business. But trying an approach once, without following best practices, should never be a reason for a marketer to eliminate that channel from a strategic integrated B2B marketing campaign.

The best tool a B2B marketer can have when building a strategy and seeking success is this — an open mind.

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.

If B2B marketers do nothing else, they should follow these 9 rules.

The Sales Lead Management Association recently invited its members to vote for the 50 Most Influential Sales Lead Management Professionals. Jim Journalist with microphoneObermayer, host and author on the Association’s blog, has been conducting a series of interviews, each featuring one of the “winners.”

As a member of the Association and subscriber to its blog, I have been reading and learning from each interview. Recent interviewee Joe Lethert of Perfomark gave two answers that were so on-target for B2B marketing best practices that I feel they are worth sharing.

In the area of lead generation, when asked, “Which 4 basic skills or process steps do you recommend,” he answered . . .

  1. “Start with a great database – it will reduce your costs by as much as 50%. If you don’t have one, build it.
  2. Shoot for depth in your profiles. People buy from us not for what they know about us, but for what we know about them.
  3. Build a comprehensive nurturing program based on delivering only relevant data, at the right time in the buying process, in the prospects’ preferred media, and all based on the prospects’ profile data.
  4. Measure everything. Testing and refining should grow your ROI by 10%+ per year even if you’re already an industry leader.”

In the area of lead nurturing, when asked, “If someone wants to nurture sales inquiries, what process would you recommend?” he answered . . .

  1. “Become a trusted source of reliable data. Most buyers will not want to engage with sales until they have done their due diligence.
  2. All content must be relative to the prospect’s needs, which should be specifically defined in your database.
  3. All interaction should be appropriate to the stage in the buying cycle for that individual prospect.
  4. Measure the effectiveness of timing, message, offer and media for each type of prospect.
  5. Do not buy into the perfect process. Keep continually improving it.”

This isn’t new advice. I and other B2B marketing bloggers have shared this information many times in many forms. But his advice is so direct, so concise and so well-said that I would advise B2B marketers to print it out and use it as a daily reminder to focus on these processes, which have proven to make lead generation and nurturing efforts successful and profitable.

How B2B marketers can help prevent lost sales.

It’s true that one’s own beliefs are built from personal experiences. When it comes to sales, these are mine:

  • I spent eight years selling radio advertising. It was my responsibility to find the lead, pitch the lead, close the lead, handle the client and then sell it again. It was not a complex sale, so there was no marketing department involved, no support sales team, no automated nurturing, no scoring, and no free content offers.
  • As a direct marketing consultant and copywriter, my experience with the sales departments at a few of my client companies has been that sales doesn’t want anything to do with a lead until the lead is ready to buy. I know this is not universal, but it’s the situation I have experienced.

Marketing vs. SalesOn one hand, I think sales should do it all. On the other, I think they are too lazy to do anything except close sales. Obviously, when it comes to sales, I’m a bit confused.

That’s why it was so enlightening for me to read the insightful post and thread “Are Marketers Becoming Enablers?” passed along to me by a colleague.

The discussion began between Trish Bertuzzi, founder of The Bridge Group, and Linda Duchin of PowerSteering Software after attending Silverpop’s B2B University in Boston.

They point out that, if marketing takes too much responsibility in the sales nurturing process — and if sales doesn’t have access to the leads until they are sales ready — bad things can happen. Here are just three of them:

  1. More aggressive competition may move a prospect ahead in the sales process and win the sale while you are still simply nurturing a prospect .
  2. Sales could get lazy and feel they are no longer required to conduct any outbound prospecting.
  3. Sales might have time to make more calls, but no access to leads because marketing has not yet deemed them ‘sales ready.’

Not only were their concerns very revealing, but they were followed by comments that shared what I see as very valuable advice. Here are just two things I learned:

Kathy Tito, of Call Center Services, Inc., very nicely removes the fear of going too far in the other direction when she states, “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.”

Dan McDade of PointClear proposes filling the gap between marketing and sales by adding a layer in between that qualifies, nurtures, and reheats leads to make sure they are being handled by the right area. Many of my clients have in-house tele-sales teams that do just that. Automated nurturing campaigns are great, but, without some human interaction, leads that have progressed further in the buying cycle could be missed.

I propose that marketers consider using the more advanced lead scoring methodology proposed by Bill Herr of Unica and written about by Russell Kern of The Kern Organization for Target Marketing Magazine in “Time to Re-Think BANT.” As you know, BANT (budget, authority, need and timeframe) is the traditional lead scoring method. Bill Herr suggests one that is much more revealing of the lead’s qualification and readiness. He recommends this APNRP approach:

Does the prospect company’s size, annual revenue, number of employees, and industry fit the targeted market?

Do the title and job function of the individuals making the evaluation, recommendation or purchase decision match the customer profile?

Has the target expressed any interest in — or taken any action toward — learning how to solve the problem the selling company’s product can solve?

Has the lead expressed any interest in learning more about the product or service being sold?

Has the lead answered the question of how they want to be contacted in the future?

‘Sales-ready’ is NOT ‘purchase-ready.’ The BANT questions are the ones that should be asked by sales, not marketing; however, this scoring approach helps ensure that leads are passed along to sales before it’s too late.

Thanks to Trish and Linda for bringing up this critical issue, helping us think more about how marketing can help prevent lost sales.

Smart B2B marketing calls to action for 2012.

This morning, reviewing dozens of marketing blogs, I was overwhelmed with post after post about social media. I became worried that marketers were forgetting the channels that got us where we are today.

That’s why I was delighted to see Bill Gadless of B2B Web Strategy pass along advice from Jim Logan in “Try adding a call to action to the end of your white papers.”

Business buyers who are purchasing products and services do not want to be “sold” by high-pressure messages. That’s why social media is working. It’s also why today’s most consistently effective lead generation messaging identifies a challenge that prospects may be facing and offers a free white paper, checklist, guide, case study or other content that allows them to learn about ways to meet their challenge. But as soft as this approach may appear, once a lead is generated, every additional contact made should be followed by a new offer and a new call to action.

The suggestion in Bill’s blog is that the call to action could involve inviting leads to pass the content along to an associate or colleague, asking them to register for a newsletter or other subscription or inviting the reader to contact the business for a discussion.

These are all good suggestions. But to apply these calls to action randomly is not a good strategy. The fact is, there are specific stages in the buying cycle of a complex sale and the call to action or offer made should match the prospect’s place in the cycle.

Offers by Stage Chart 3As covered in Russell Kern’s guide “Direct Marketing’s Five Biggest Hurdles (And How to Get Over Them),” there are four stages in the buying cycle: Interest, Consideration, Evaluation, and Purchase.

As you can see, Mr. Kern’s examples — taken straight from his guide — involve matching the correct content offer to the prospect’s stage in the buying cycle. This approach is critical to enhancing the relationship with prospects and moving them forward to a purchase. Making mismatched call-to-action offers leads to email opt-outs.

There’s one thing that social media cannot do well and that is to “predictably” fill the sales pipeline and then — in a controlled manner — nurture leads until they are ready to be handed off to sales. Adding a call to action to every contact is a proven and effective marketing nurturing approach and businesses selling complex products can rarely succeed without it.

NOTE: This post was originally published in 2010. But it’s very popular and is just as relevant in 2012.


A B2B marketing message angle that could close sales.

In an earlier post, I talked about what motivates business buyers to buy. I listed the typical human wants and needs that drive all decisions, including those in the B2B world.

The problem is, whether I’m writing copy for collaboration software or safety gear or outsourced IT or leadership training, the benefits I present are all in the same categories. Here are the top 10 marketing motivators in the B2B world:

1. To make money
2. To save money
3. To save time
4. To avoid effort
5.  To be praised
6. To be in style
7. To emulate others
8. To take advantage of  opportunities
9. To avoid criticism
10. To avoid loss

I get excited about the products and services I’m asked to help market, but underneath it all, I’m making similar buying arguments for every one of them.

Then yesterday I was reminded of new angle on an old benefit. It came from Christine Durkin of MockVideo when she commented on a LinkedIn discussion asking “Is there a silver bullet answer to shortening the technology B2B sales cycle?”

Her comment was “One of the main reasons a B2B sale is lost is that the prospect isn’t truly aware of the cost of doing nothing.”

Her comment gave me a fresh marketing message angle.

Rather than inviting late buy-cycle prospects to attend a Webinar or download another white paper, my clients can give them a bottom-line incentive to make a decision. Providing a calculator or quantitative numbers on what it’s costing a prospect to NOT make a decision tells a powerful story that could close a sale.

How to boost B2B content downloads.

Like most marketers these days, I have opted into sites that provide regular access to articles, white papers, reports, surveys and Webcasts that, hopefully, will make me better at my job.

Many of these are marketing sites (Target Marketing, MarketingProfs, Marketing Sherpa, Ziff Davis eSeminars, DM News, BtoB, eMarketer and more). Then, because most of the clients I serve are technology companies, I try to keep up with that world as well (Information Week, Web Buyers Guide, IThound, CIO and IDG Connect, to name a few).

With all these emails swirling into my inbox every day, I’m exposed to invites to review hundreds of pieces of content every day — and so are your prospects. Will they take the time to read your marketing intro or abstract and download your content? Only if the headline catches their eye and their imagination.

To be effective, content headlines need to instantly communicate what the piece contains. If your headlines read more like these real-life examples, then you may be diminishing interest in what you have to offer:

  • “Unified Communications and Process Automation Combine to Maximize ROI”
  • “Managed data centre operating IT infrastructures successfully using innovative services”
  • “Cover Your Assets with Desktop Managed Services”
  • “Transforming Data Into Relevance and ROI”
  • “How Virtualization Changes IT Costs”
  • “Don’t let CRM push you over the edge: how to build your business case”

I’m sure the people who wrote these felt that they represented the content very nicely. And they may have. But these headlines are mushy. They provide no intrigue, no big promise, no revelations, no specifics. For example, “How Virtualization Changes IT Costs” doesn’t tell me if the change is positive or negative. Heck, for all I know “Virtualization” could be really expensive. Something like “5 Ways Virtualization Cuts IT Costs” is a clear, strong and instantly understood title.

As I stated in an earlier post — “Great B2B marketing demands you do your prospects’ thinking for them”— you don’t want your prospects to have to think, you want them to react to your message, or in this case, your content title.

Strong titles should instantly communicate a clear picture of what the content contains, as these examples do:

  • “Enterprise VoIP PBX: What to Know Before You Buy”
  • “4 Things Your Anti-Virus Should Do, but Doesn’t”
  • “20 Questions for Smart Business Decisions”
  • “How to Defend Your Network Against New Hacker Tactics”
  • “Top 5 IT Budget Killers: What You Need to Know”

With just a few active words, your content can move past sounding like another ho-hum white paper and become information your prospective customer sees as a “must read.” So I recommend you pay as much attention to your title as you do your content. It will make a difference.