Assorted B2B marketing tips, I know they’ll help.

The December 14 blog post from Seth Godin, marketing guru supreme, was full of good advice in “Assorted tips, hope they help.” Unfortunately, none of the tips are about marketing. My first thought was, only Seth Godin could get away with this and still attract millions of readers.

I have lots of good advice to give out, too. But I don’t have the luxury of millions of readers. Those who land here to get B2B marketing advice might not like being told how to eat better. Here, it’s just marketing advice.

You may not be eating better, or making better medical decisions, or remembering to backup your hard drive, but following my advice should help you get a pat on the back (and maybe a raise) for generating more qualified leads (and sales) for your company.

Here goes:

  1. In your designs (online or off) never reverse body copy out of a dark or busy background. Doing that is like saying, “We have cool designers who don’t care if you read a word of our message.”
  2. “Keep it simple, stupid” especially applies to marketing communications. Even highly educated C-level executives want to get their information in plain language without having to work at it.
  3. Just because someone is the president of a big company doesn’t mean they don’t like t-shirts with funny sayings on them. People are people.
  4. Always build your marketing budget based on what you’re willing to pay on a cost-per-lead and cost-per-sale basis.
  5. Put your free educational content offer and how to get it right up front in ALL your outbound lead generation communications.
  6. Forget the word “we” forever. Never use it again in B2B lead generation marketing. Prospects don’t care about you at that stage of the buy cycle. They care only about what you can do for them now.
  7. Stop being boring. Make your marketing messages upbeat to reflect the genuine excitement you feel about the services and solutions your company offers.
  8. Studies have proven that the more you promise about what your service or solution can deliver, the higher the level of satisfaction felt by your buyers. Don’t lie — but don’t hold back either.
  9. Schedule conversations with different sales people often. Sales people talk to prospects and customers and can help you make sure your marketing messages resonate in the real world.
  10. In B2B lead generation and nurturing, never waste the cost of any marketing by not including a strong, clear and compelling call to action. You can brand and generate leads at the same time.

These are not new, but they’re all worth remembering. And I have more where those came from.

B2B marketing lead generation dilemma: do it now or do it right.

One of my colleagues in the agency world was recently working with a B2B client who had requested help generating leads using targeted database marketing.

My colleague began to build a proposed outbound B2B marketing program for the client, which included testing various channels, audiences and offers to let the market determine which combination could provide the most cost-effective and qualified responses.

Midway through writing the proposal, the client shared the fact that he was under gun from the C-suite to produce X amount of incremental sales within six months or his marketing budget would be reallocated. That was disappointing to hear but not unexpected.

It’s one of a B2B marketing director’s biggest dilemmas — balancing the best practice of letting the market determine which are the best marketing approaches against demands from sales and C-level execs for instant performance.

Effective B2B direct marketing best practices require A/B split testing to determine which media, which content or other offers, and which approaches are the most effective ways to generate leads. Building a solid marketing database, measuring responses and conversions (or potential conversions) takes time. This avenue does produce leads and, in the long run, delivers the knowledge needed to maximize response rates and lower cost-per-lead and cost-per-sale.

There’s hardly much time to test a full scope of channels and offers when the bottom-line results need to show up in six months or less. When faced with this dilemma, here are the two options open to a B2B CMO:

  1. Launch a quick lead generation program following industry best practices. B2B marketers with no track record of launching their own programs into their own market should follow the best practices determined by other marketers until they are able to discover their own metrics. One option is to tap the expertise of an agency or consultant with a long track record of solid lead generation. This lets the B2B company rely on the testing results the agency or consultant has accumulated over the years. The other option is to read the books and blogs of trusted, experienced B2B marketers to learn, then use, the practices they recommend.
  2. Conduct two programs at the same time. Run a test program in parallel with a lead generation program. That is, run a best practices campaign, then a small test of email, mailing lists and/or lead generation offers.

The problem with the first choice is that this approach provides no learning. If the program is successful, the marketer has no way of knowing which element, or combination of elements, created the success. If the program is a failure the marketer won’t know what to throw out and what to keep in the next campaign.

Despite the pressure from above, B2B marketers should fight strongly to conduct A/B split testing, even in smaller amounts, while trying to generate leads in the short run. It’s the only way to turn the average response rates available now into spectacular ones in the future.

Matching B2B marketing channels to buyer preferences.

With so much information appearing daily on the Internet, it becomes impossible to know which information to trust and which is just random opinion.

That’s why I was so happy when a colleague sent me a copy of a study from Epsilon Targeting, “The Formula for Success: Preference and Trust.” A division of Epsilon, a provider of consulting, marketing data, and marketing technology, they compiled responses from 2,226 U.S. and 2,574 Canadian age 18+ consumers to an online survey in August of 2011. Their statistical significance of the results is calculated at a 95% confidence level. This is their third study on the topic of marketing channel choices.

Readers may question why I would report on a consumer survey when the focus of this blog is B2B marketing. But I feel that the results of this survey translate very nicely into the B2B world, because business decision-makers are also consumers and naturally bring their personal preferences into the workplace.

Direct mail is the trust and attention-getting winner:

  • 26% of U.S. consumers and 30% of Canadians said direct mail is more trustworthy than email.
  • 50% of U.S. consumers and 48% of Canadians said they pay more attention to postal mail than email.
  • 60% of U.S. consumers and 64% of Canadians said they enjoy checking the mailbox for postal mail, highlighting an emotional connection.
  • 30% of U.S. consumers said they’re receiving more mail that interests them compared to a year ago, and just 50% (down from 63% in 2010) said more information is sent to them in the mail — indicating marketers are improving targeting efforts.
  • The perception that reading email is faster declined among U.S. email account holders to 45% in 2011 (from 47% in 2010), suggesting clogged inboxes are draining time.

Email still has many advantages:

  • 42% of U.S. respondents like that they can choose to receive or not receive email.
  • 41% like the fact that they can decide whether to print out the information or not.
  • 34% of U.S. consumers (up from 21% in 2010) like the ability to be green and save on the use of paper.
  • 23% like the easy ability to forward information (a very valuable tool in B2B marketing).

From the above portion of the study’s results, it’s clear that both direct mail and email still have a place in B2B marketing. It supports my long-held position that direct mail is still the best outbound marketing channel for generating leads, and email is still the best for nurturing those leads through the buy cycle.

B2B Marketing needs the ducks and the bird dogs.

I’m sending out great thanks to Michael Rockefeller, Inside Sales Business Development Pro at SOI. The thanks are for the wonderful Chinese quote he found that describes my opinion of inbound marketing perfectly. It says, “Man must wait with his mouth open for a very long time before a roast duck will fly in.”

This quote was part of a terrific LinkedIn discussion on the B2B Lead Roundtable group started by Jeff Harsh, Performance Manager at Concept Services. Jeff asked, “At what time of the day are decision-makers most receptive to a cold call?”

This conversation generated non-stop input that has gone well beyond just answering Jeff’s question. It’s gotten into a full discussion about cold calling being dead, what to say on a sales call to make it more effective, how inbound marketing is replacing cold calling, and more.

The discussion, like many on LinkedIn and throughout the net, is a perfect example of the old saying, “When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” That is, every one of us in marketing sees the world through our own specialty or focus.

My background is in direct marketing. I’m still a strong believer in direct mail marketing for B2B lead generation. That’s because my experiences continue to confirm that it works, as does marketing by phone.

One of the other participants, Laura Jones of the Midland Group, has a different perspective. She says, “If cold calling is becoming harder and harder to generate leads for your company, think about why and ask yourself if a shift to a new paradigm — inbound marketing — is a better direction.” She is obviously deeply into the value of inbound marketing.

This discussion is a flashback to one of my early blog posts in 2009: “Getting over our own marketing bias.” I often need a reminder of what I have said and this LinkedIn discussion was perfect for that.

Inbound, outbound, social, mobile, online, offline, and even cold calling all have value in today’s B2B environment.

When Michael quotes Brian Tracey, saying, “The future belongs to the learners, not the knowers,” I say, “There’s no reason why we can’t all be knowers AND learners.”

What’s missing from your B2B marketing strategy?

Not long ago every invitation I received to every Webinar and marketing event focused on social media. Now the hot topic seems to be mobile marketing. These are just two new channels that expand the options in the world of integrated B2B marketing. They have become part of the fundamentals that successful B2B businesses must implement.

The sad part is that many B2B marketers haven’t yet incorporated some of the basics that have been — and continue to be — necessary for a successful marketing outcome.

Bob Apollo, writing a guest post for My Venture Pad, alerted me to the “B2B Marketing Manifesto” created by Velocity Partners in the UK.

He points out what we all know — B2B buyers have more options than ever before for finding solutions to their business challenges. Because of that, it’s more essential than ever to follow these fundamentals outlined by Velocity Partners.

  • Content Marketing: converting your insight into campaigns that change people’s minds
  • Analytics: measuring everything that moves in your marketing (and the stuff that doesn’t)
  • A/B Testing: backing your hunches with real-life data — and responding accordingly
  • Lead Nurturing: cultivating your prospects until they are ready to take the next step in their buying journey with you
  • Search: getting found using the terms your prospects use when they go looking for answers
  • Community: hanging out (and contributing) in the places where your prospects go for trusted advice

Although many of today’s B2B marketers are using content, it’s surprising how many are not and are simply just trying to sell product. These days, only companies with no competition can afford to do that. In regards to analytics, online click-thrus may be counted, but how many B2B marketers are tracking the lead and lead source all the way to a sale? How many are tracking cost-per-lead and cost-per-sale, both critical marketing measurement tools.

Now is the time to be planning for 2012. When marketers are putting together their plan for the next year, they should build it around these six key essentials.

Help your B2B marketing prospects get the message.

My colleague and white paper writer extraordinaire Jonathan Kantor, the White Paper Pundit, is now sending out a newsletter called “Short Attention Span Marketing Tips.” His September issue makes it very clear why he picked the name. I suggest that all B2B marketers take note. He explains,

“In today’s ‘sound-bite’ world, it’s getting harder to pay attention:

  • We don’t read articles — we scan headlines and sub-heads.We prefer short SMS text messages to email.
  • Social media platform Twitter is based on messages of 140 characters or less.
  • The ‘3-second rule’ — the amount of time a web surfer will spend on a page — is a key factor in website design.
  • Television news — the industry that invented the sound-bite — has succeeded in reducing a complex news story to a few seconds.”

He’s right and this reiterates why it’s so important to follow these B2B marketing copywriting and design rules:

  1. Make your message scannable. Put the heart of the message in the headline, the subheads, bullet points and the call to action. If the reader is grabbed, then and only then will he or she read the body copy.
  2. Make your headlines strong benefit statements or promises of a benefit. That is, don’t make them information such as “Sarbanes-Oxley Compliant” but deliver a benefit such as “Stay compliant with Sarbanes-Oxley — effortlessly.”
  3. Make your headlines and subheads action statements. Write using words like Save, Get, Win, Start, Learn, Discover and dozens of other words that get your readers involved with your message.
  4. Keep emails under 250 words and keep lead generation letters to one page. I’ve worked with a client who had many lawyers involved in the marketing process and insisted that every possible caveat be included in every message. This approach diminishes the effectiveness of every marketing communication.

Think bullets. Think short paragraphs. Think reader benefits. B2B marketing must be inviting and informative even when it isn’t read word for word.

Jonathan Kantor is the principal and founder of The Appum Group, “The White Paper Company.”

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.”

B2B marketing “Advice from the Top.

This year’s Business Marketing Association’s (BMA) early June conference in Chicago was a big coup for the Colorado BMA Chapter. It was at this event that they proudly released their new collaborative book on B2B marketing Advice from the Top: The Expert Guide to B2B Marketing.

The Colorado organization’s Executive Director, Marilee Yorchak, describes this book as “a compilation of real-life case studies from 24 B2B marketing experts. It’s like having your own consultant right there with you.”

It was my pleasure to join with my colleague Dave Ariss of Ariss Marketing Group to co-author Chapter 23, which reports on the success (and insight) gained from a combination direct mail and email test campaign we created and managed for a technology publisher.

These success stories cover all the critical B2B marketing topics:

  • Strategy
  • Content Development
  • Implementation
  • Success Measurement

So what do the folks at the top have to say? This book is jam-packed with useful advice. It includes such valuable info as: how to make sure your research is accurate and actionable; a step-by-step guide to creating effective marketing plans; how to tell a compelling company story; how to get sales and marketing to support each other’s efforts — and a lot more.

If you’re serious about marketing success, having a copy of Advice from the Top within arm’s reach is a must.

It’s available directly from the Colorado BMA at BMA Top Advice or from Amazon.

Non-stop tips and insights for the muddled B2B marketing mind.

Congrats and thanks to Denny Hatch, marketing guru, commentator and author, on the recent release of his wonderful book “Career Changing Takeaways!” As the book’s subtitle elaborates, it’s a collection of “Quotations, Rules, Aphorisms, Pithy Tips, Quips, Sage Advice, Secrets, Dictums and Truisms in 99 Categories of Marketing, Business and Life.”

These mighty statements from recognized leaders and experts can instantly clear a confused mind on topics such as Brands and Branding, Communications, Creativity, Data Management, Decision Making, eMarketing, Job Searches, Website design and so much more.

Because Denny’s background is in direct marketing, there’s tons of good guidance for those of us in B2B marketing.

It ranges from the fun . . .

“I have always believed that writing advertisements is the second most profitable form of writing. The first, of course, is ransom notes.” Philip Dusenberry

To the insightful . . .

“What’s your brand? If you can’t answer that question about your own brand in two or three words, your brand’s in trouble.” Al Reis

To the live-or-die guidance . . .

“If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.” Jack Welch

It’s a great read, a great guide and a nice break to take when one’s marketing or decision-making mind is muddled. What better refresher than to read a few guiding thoughts from the pros?

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.