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.

Rock-Bottom Trade Show Tactics: Event Marketing on the Very Cheap

When a client — whose company develops vertical business software — asked me to help with the booth messaging for an upcoming trade show I was stumped.

Although I had done a ton of work over the years helping clients generate booth attendance for trade shows, I had little experience writing booth signage. So I turned to colleague Ruth Stevens and her book  Trade Show and Event Marketing: Plan, Promote and Profit. What a life-saver. After reading it I learned that the trade show booth should be treated like any marketing piece and, like a headline, the booth visitor should know what that company offers instantly from seeing the sign. Since then I’ve noticed how often trade show exhibitors don’t make their product or service clear in their signage.

In today’s down economy, several clients and associates have been bemoaning how they cannot justify the cost all of the trade shows where they should be exhibiting. So, once again, I turned to Ruth for guidance. Here’s the insight she shared:

“If you are a start-up, or you’ve burned through your marketing budget for the year, or you’re simply a cheapskate, there are still plenty of ways you can take advantage of a trade show. When you consider that a trade show offers a concentrated opportunity to interact with many potential buyers over a few days, you’ll recognize the need to be there, budget or no budget.

  • Register as an attendee and use the trade show as a networking opportunity. You can do plenty of business by wandering around.
  • If you’re really cheap, buy only an exhibit hall ticket. Make appointments with your current customers and prowl around the hall together.
  • Apply for a speaking opportunity on the trade show program, which will get you into the trade show for free.
  • Host an off-site breakfast. The cheapest — and possibly most productive — meal of the day. The event will give you concentrated face time and the chance to pitch your wares.
  • Crash parties. Ask your friends and colleagues what parties or business events they’ve heard about. Stop by those booths in advance and wrangle an invitation. As long as you’re polite and not a competitor, you’ll stand a good chance of making useful new contacts — and conserving your meal budget.
  • Treat your attendance at the show as a full-blown marketing campaign. Review all the possible target audiences — attendees, exhibitors, and speakers. Set up appointments in advance, qualify prospects as you meet them around the show, nurture leads on your return to the office, and track and report on business closed. This campaign has to demonstrate an ROI like any other.”


Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention for B2B companies through her company eMarketing Strategy, and is the author of  Trade Show and Event Marketing: Plan, Promote and Profit.  She can be reached at ruth@ruthstevens.com.


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.

To make big B2B marketing strides in 2010 – go lateral.

Since September of 2008 every one of us in B2B marketing, or frankly, in every area of business, has been pressured to cut costs, do more with less, and generate and convert enough new customers to remain profitable and grow.

These days, however, companies are running out of ways to cut costs and have reached the bare bones of personnel. So what’s next? I suggest an exercise in lateral marketing.

Originally coined by Edward de Bono in his 1967 book “New Think: The Use of Lateral Thinking in the Generation of New Ideas,” lateral thinking takes planning and strategy beyond the realm of problem-solving and into new ways of looking at things.

Lateral ThinkingWhat is lateral marketing? It’s simply applying lateral thinking to the marketing arena. It’s the exercise that has marketers looking at their business and seeing if they can discover a new product name, a new approach, a new positioning that will open up a fresh universe of prospects and buyers, or an innovative way to reach existing markets.

Most marketers think in a linear fashion. Ask a linear marketer to promote property management software for real estate agents, and that marketer will (hopefully) follow best practices. In most cases, that approach will be successful. It would include:

  • Offering free valuable content to generate leads using email or direct mail.
  • Running ads in publications read by realtors, and posting ads on sites visited by realtors.
  • Researching keywords and enhancing site SEO so that realtors find the software site when searching for related solutions.
  • Putting up a booth at a trade show or conference attended by realtors.
  • Establishing the real estate software company as a real estate agent’s thought leader by starting a blog and actively sharing valuable ideas via social media.

Lateral marketers, on the other hand, look at challenges in less obvious ways. They try to see the product and market with fresh eyes. They brainstorm with the company’s staff and other associates. They bring in outsiders with no preconceived understanding of that particular product or market. They look at the marketing of products or services completely outside of the client’s industry and category to see what could be borrowed or adapted. In the case of the property management software, this might include the following:

  • Thinking about all the other products and services that realtors use, such as appraisers, lenders, and CPAs, then asking those providers to become trading partners, i.e., “You mention my product to your customers and I’ll mention your services to mine.” If the real estate software company sells nationally and the providers sell locally, partnerships could be established in multiple cities.
  • Creating an online contest that invites real estate agents to take a self-quiz to find out whether they could make more money by adding property management to the services they provide. All those who took the self-quiz would be entered into a drawing to receive a valuable prize. This self-quiz would generate a list of email addresses of real estate agents who have shown interest in property management and therefore should be considered prospective buyers.
  • Spinning off the product with a new name that would appeal to real estate investors who might want to save money by managing their own properties. This move would open up a whole new market of prospects.

 B2B marketers should not abandon linear marketing, but to make big strides in 2010 and beyond, they should try going lateral.

In B2B marketing — data is the new creative.

Direct marketing has never been considered fashionable or sexy. Those using advertising or focusing on branding turn their nose up at a discipline that is more tactical than creative. But then the economy slows and everyone wants to track the results of their marketing spend. So direct marketing is now back in favor.

DataThe heart and soul of effective direct marketing, of course, is and has always been data. So I was happy, yet surprised, to read an article I discovered through a link on CMO.com a day or so ago.

The article was by Michael Mancini on Nielsenwire entitled “B2B Discovers Market Segmentation.” This article reported the availability of comprehensive databases that “give marketers access to accurate and current data within a consistent framework on 13 million business establishments –critical information such as a company’s total headcount and industry classification. By appending these data to its business customer file, a company can create a robust business segmentation approach to guide prospecting, sales territory mapping, advertising and target marketing.”

It’s great advice. My surprise was that this practice was presented as new. He could be right that some B2B marketers are just discovering it. But many have been appending data from files such as these for decades to build a profile of their best customers and then going back to the database and selecting “look-alikes” to target their marketing.

Multiple sources such as D&B, InfoUSA and many others offer data that can be appended to lists to build a productive marketing model. Some data suppliers, of course, are better than others. AccuData taps multiple sources to provide businesses with the ability to append data to their customer list to build a profile. In addition to finding “look-alikes” on the outside database, marketers can bump their profile against their existing pipeline to identify those leads that are the best match.

It’s excellent advice, so I thank Michael for the reminder. Regardless of whether this capability is new or not, it’s a powerful tactic for moving the success of B2B marketing up to the next level of success. When the results come in, marketers will see why good direct marketing is always fashionable.

Boost B2B sales with an “in your face” approach.

I love Webinars. It’s so convenient for me to sit at my desk and get educated. And if the presentation isn’t applicable to DBU037my business, I can just log out and move on. I love LinkedIn, as well. It’s remarkable to be able to share ideas, get advice and network with other business people who might be anywhere in the world.

Then yesterday I attended the San Diego Direct Marketing Association breakfast and had a serious flashback. Had I actually forgotten the value and rich dynamics of learning and sharing ideas with others face-to-face?

I guess I’m not the only one who has forgotten the value of getting information live. John Hollon writing for Workforce Management tells the sad story about how conference and seminar attendance has fallen in his post entitled “2009 Conference Update: It’s Ugly, and Getting Uglier.” In this down economy, no one likes to incur the cost or time of travel to attend seminars and conferences.

Yet, connecting with people face-to-face makes so much more impact than connecting with people online. Not to say that I don’t have many online connections that are very valuable and rewarding. But there’s nothing like a real live connection.

I have several technology clients who recently attended conferences that were very targeted to their product lines. They found that, although the attendance was down, the attendees were far more serious shoppers. This is probably because the attendees were from companies that needed solutions and guidance badly enough to be able to justify the expense.

So if you’re looking for a “channel” that could be a strong resource for business, attend a conference and gain the advantages of being there live.

Is planning the key to success in a slow economy?

It was my pleasure to provide a few hours of volunteer time for the annual Make-A-Wish Tuna Challenge in San Diego last Sunday. This big fishing Tuna Challengetournament included prizes, a silent auction with hundreds of gifts, a high-priced live auction, a raffle, a captain’s dinner, a Sunday meal of fresh cooked fish, and fun for all who attended. The grand raffle prize was a $65,000 Defiance 220 NT fishing boat.

I do not yet know how much money was raised this past weekend, but in 2008 the event contributed $310,000 to the San Diego Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The incredible volunteers who put this fundraiser together every year will start working on next year’s event immediately. That’s how much planning and effort goes into this huge, well-coordinated weekend.

What works for a charity event works in the B2B marketing world as well. A comprehensive short- and long-term marketing plan delivers many valuable advantages:

  • Ensures that everything that marketing does fully supports business strategy and goals
  • Controls costs by preventing spur-of-the-moment spending
  • Adds efficiency and focus to marketing efforts
  • Prevents the mistakes and cost overruns of rushed projects
  • Sets goals and metrics that contribute to better marketing intelligence

In the B2B world, budgets and jobs have been cut, and those remaining in the marketing department are so overworked they don’t have a moment to take on another task. The idea of spending any time planning may seem impossible, yet these are the times when planning is even more critical. And like the Tuna Challenge, the big payoff at the end will be worth it.

Marketing in hard times calls for thinking “inside” the box.

Many marketing information sources would have you believe that successful marketing in tough times requires innovation and thinking outside the box.


Frankly, the tools you need for B2B marketing success right now have been inside that box for a long time. You just need to rummage through it and drag them out. What needs to be hauled out right now?


Here are five proven but often forgotten truths from “inside” the box you should put into play right now:


  • Focus your marketing dollars on existing customers: Business can be generated from existing customers at one-fifth the cost of acquiring a new ones. These days, focusing a larger portion of marketing dollars on upselling and cross-selling customers is far more productive for generating revenue and ROI.


  • Pay attention to the leads you generate: 45% of new leads generated will buy from someone in your industry category within 12 months. Nurturing leads through the buying cycle by continuing to offer them educational materials and other free offers will measurably boosts sales.


  • Market to everyone involved in the decision: There are, on average, 9.8 people involved in making a business technology purchase decision. Although the number of people may change, there are decision-makers and influencers in every B2B decision. Marketing to all of them will boost response and increase the number of leads generated. For more on this subject, download the white paper “Reaching Purchase Influencers.”


  • Follow up on every lead quickly: 88% of people are happy to hear from a vendor after download within 24 hours. Waiting 96 hours drops that number by half.


  • Shift dollars from brand advertising to direct marketing: Be true to your brand image in the process, but, to maximize marketing effectiveness, make sure all your marketing contains these four essentials:


1. Accurately targeted list or channel

2. Offer chosen to match your target’s position in the buying cycle (more about this in future posts)

3. Strong reason to accept the offer

4. Clear call to action


In this challenging economy, you’re allowed to crawl back inside the box. Just make sure you use what you find there.

Is your B2B marketing approach right for this down economy?: Take this 2-minute quiz and find out.

Reading a number of excellent articles in the April 09 issue of Target Marketing magazine got me thinking about how much I love direct marketing. Unlike advertising that is designed to change a person’s attitude, direct marketing is designed to make a person do something: call a phone number, visit a location, accept an invitation, register for a trade show or event, request a free white paper or other offer, or best of all, buy a product or service.


So why do I love it? Because when my clients are doing direct marketing, and doing it right, the writing and consulting that I provide shows up as a positive on their bottom line in figures that tell them their cost-per-lead, cost-per-sale and return on investment. In this economy, being able to link every penny of your marketing investment to leads and sales is the only way to go.


If this is your goal, then I ask, “Are you really doing direct marketing, and are you doing it right?” Here’s a quick 7-question self-quiz that will help you find out:


  1. Are you using the lists and online and offline media that target the industries, titles, and company sizes that are the best prospects for your product or service?
  2. Are you offering complimentary educational materials that will be of value to your target titles so that, if they ask for your offer, you know they are likely to be qualified buyers?
  3. If you are conducting lead generation, does your message sell your offer, not your product?
  4. If you are selling your product, are you giving prospects a reason to respond now and not later?
  5. Are you accurately tracking responses — whether they are phone calls, landing page visits, faxes or reply cards that are mailed back?
  6. Do you track those responders all the way through the buying cycle?
  7. Do you test subject lines, offers, and other marketing elements to measure which approach is the most productive and cost-effective?

There are many more proven techniques in successful B2B direct marketing, but these are the basics. They represent the smartest marketing you can do for your company in this economy.

Where will your company be when the economy recovers?

Most companies these days are cutting costs and it’s pretty tough to choose the right place to make those cuts. Depending on what’s necessary for your operation, your options may be very limited. So marketing is likely to be one of the areas you scrutinize.



Because of that, I feel obligated to share with you the one proven truth I tell my clients whenever we experience an economic slow down. It’s something you should keep in mind when making your decisions.



“Companies that continue to market during a down economy

recover faster and come out of the downturn with

a larger market share than those who don’t.”



Here’s an abstract for an iMedia Connection article by Mike Simon that appeared in the May 8, 2009 issue of MultiBrief from MultiView that supports my point nicely:


“On the most basic level, recessions are perfect times for marketing overall — particularly because they’re an ideal time for capturing market share. While your competition is slashing its marketing budget, you can take the opportunity to snap up the customers that your competition ignores. The strategy will be particularly rewarding once the economy bounces back, and your brand equity is suddenly head-and-shoulders above the competition’s.”