B2B marketing efforts that deliver big payoffs.

B2B marketers get hammered daily with so many pieces of advice that it’s hard to know what to do next.

Just this morning I got an article from LinkedIn Today — “4 Blogging Tips to Double Your Site Traffic” — that endorses the power of videos and blogging. Written by Louise Julig for SocialMediaExaminer.com, it tells of how a video and a huge commitment to their blog and its content generated these remarkable results for Block Imaging International Inc.

“Sales volume has increased significantly enough since September that the company — which had been in a slump — hired 13 employees, including 3 additional salespeople.” But best of all, that single post with the video generated a $70K order.

This is a perfect example in which new technologies and new inbound channels deliver bottom-line results. But it took a huge commitment in time and effort by the players at Block Imaging to make it happen.

On the outbound side of the fence, I recently had a client send an email to its house list and experience a significantly higher-than-average response. This email did not offer free informational content, but was designed to generate calls and emails directly to sales.

The client is a company selling technology and services to CIOs in a very small, very vertical market. Most of the time, they send every B2B email marketing effort to their entire list of CIOs. However, in this particular effort, they put much time and energy into refining their targeting.

The product and service being offered related to a compliance issue faced by their market. With this email, they took the time and effort to select the specific state in which each company resided. Then they personalized each message with verbiage that read something like:

If you’re looking for ways to meet this (compliance issue)
look no further.

ABC Company has already helped [XX] companies
in [Name of State] achieve this functionality . . .

The client built 24 versions of the email, for prospects in 24 states, each in HTML and text. Within days they had gotten 25 responses — with many asking for more information. Again, this was not an offer for informational content but a “deep buy cycle” offer.

Both the inbound and outbound campaigns put in the extra time and effort necessary to use best practices. If B2B marketers reading this post get only one message, it’s that making a commitment and putting in the effort to follow best practices — whether inbound or outbound marketing — has a big payoff.

B2B marketing blog file reveals 17 useful ideas.

When it became difficult to force another piece of paper into my deskside file drawer I realized it was time to clean out some of the files it contained.

One, labeled B2B Marketing Ideas, was many inches thick, so I decided to start there. Sorting through the file, I discovered a number of pieces of B2B marketing content full of valuable advice. Here’s what I re-discovered:

Strategies for a Great Headline
In a 2010 issue of Target Market Magazine, Robert Lerose provided what he calls “Six timeless formulas for envelope and landing page teasers.” These strategies might stimulate ideas for some interesting email subject lines, too.

  1. Use a news element.
  2. Use a provocative question or outrageous statement
  3. Arouse emotions
  4. Present a problem/solution
  5. Leverage specifics
  6. Share a big idea

10 Critical Steps for Hooking Decision-Makers Online
Another item in the drawer was notes I took at a live presentation from a representative at QuinStreet. I don’t have all 10 Critical Steps listed in my notes, but here are the ones I put stars next to that I think are worth sharing:

  1. Test creative and messaging concepts using less expensive Internet channels such as email before using those ideas in more expensive channels such as direct mail marketing.
  2. Make sure that the verbiage in banners, pay-per-click ads and landing pages relates to where a prospect is now, or what the prospect may be using now, not to what is being sold.
  3. Never put anything in your messaging that will cause a reader/viewer/prospect to pause. (This is one reason I like to minimize the use of questions in copy.)
  4. Add an 800# on the response confirmation page to make it easy for hot leads to call immediately.

Five Keys to the Executive Suite
Notes from another live event I attended do not contain the name of the company or speaker. So, many apologies to whoever it was and thank you for these excellent B2B marketing ideas.

  1. In your B2B marketing messages to execs, never try to achieve more than one objective at a time. For every additional objective, performance drops to half. Therefore, use only one call to action in the marketing effort. (Actually, this is true of every B2B marketing target, not just executives.)
  2. When marketing to executives, make sure to use names. To middle managers and other targets, marketing to titles only often can work, but with top execs names are essential.
  3. Emotion works as long as the message is believable.
  4. Personal offers (that benefit the individual) work better than business-related offers.
  5. The value of the offer you make to an executive must match the commitment the B2B marketing is asking them to make. That is, if the marketing is trying to get appointments for sales, then the offer gift better be a big deal.
  6. Longer letters actually produce a better response, as they are perceived to have more value. Tested at IBM, a 4-page letter actually outperformed a 2-page letter.

The last point relates to something I learned very early in my B2B marketing career. It is that every prospect may respond because of a different “benefit” provided by the product or service being sold. Marketing messages that include ALL of the potential benefits will reach more of the target market and generate greater response.

Three dumb — and costly — B2B marketing mistakes.

A few days ago in the mail, I received a white padded envelope addressed to my business. It contained a single-page B2B marketing 8 1/2″ x 11″ letter and an 8GB jump drive.

It’s a great B2B direct mail package. Using a padded envelope makes it a “dimensional” or “lumpy” mailing package, which pretty much guarantees it will get opened. It also contains a something-for-nothing gift, which everyone loves.

On the label of the mailing package is my company name and address, and under that it reads “Attn: Susan Fantle.” Definitely personalized, with my name, which is also a best practice. Plus, it wasn’t cheap to send. The first class postage came in at $1.10. That doesn’t include the cost of the envelope, the production or the jump drive.

The B2B company sending the package kept their name subtle and understated by having a small line at the top of the label that read: Symantec, and their address.

The package uses best practices all around, so I was impressed. The B2B marketing letter inside the envelope, which was not personalized, opened with:

“Congratulations! I’m delighted to let you know that you are one of the first respondents to our recent offer. That means you are the lucky winner of the enclosed free gift!”

My response to the opening line was “Yikes!” I have no clue what offer I had responded to that made me a winner. Then the letter goes on to say:

“Symantec Website Security Solutions is the choice for leaders in online security.”

That’s very nice of them to say, but I’m not a leader in online security and never have been. I’m a B2B marketer. I do subscribe to a few online technology publications to try to keep up with the industry a bit. But, in order to subscribe, those publications make me fill out an extensive form that would reveal instantly I am not a technology buyer. Anyone renting those lists could easily have selected IT titles only and not wasted $1.10 in postage and more sending me the package and the free drive.

But that’s not the only thing that made me say “yikes.” The enclosed jump drive was BLANK! The B2B marketer behind this effort missed a huge opportunity to include a video, a brochure, a case study or any number of strong communications that would have expanded the sales message. Most marketing specialty firms that provide branded jump drives will record messages on them for their buyers. So that would have been pretty easy to do.

Symantec is a respected company, with fine products. But whoever managed this B2B direct mail missed three basic best practices: properly target, remind people of what they did online to gain the marketer’s interest, and make full use of the power of the free gift.

It’s possible that this campaign may get into the hands of enough qualified prospects to generate enough business to pay for the cost of the campaign. But I believe that every marketing effort should attempt to maximize that response. That means doing everything right.

B2B marketers: Let your market be your guide.

How do we B2B marketers make sure that the channel, offer and messaging choices we make have the best chance of producing the response we desire?

Let the results of this recent test conducted by one of the marketing agencies I serve be your guide:

THE CLIENT: The client sells advertising services to small businesses in markets across the country.

THE GOAL: Their goal was to enhance loyalty and help ensure renewal of their customers’ annual advertising contracts.

THE TACTIC: The client mailed, emailed and also provided an online version of a survey their customers were invited to complete.

THE OFFER: In exchange for completing the survey, the customer would have a chance to win a coffee card from a well-known national coffee retailer and get the results of the survey.

Now I ask, “How much does the dollar amount on the coffee card need to be to generate the best response?” Would it be $5, $10 or $20?

The agency’s client was sure that a higher dollar amount would produce a big increase in response. The agency’s experience was that the lower amount worked just fine. So a test was set up between the $5, the $10 and the $20.

The $5 offer achieved a 3.6% response. The $10 offer achieved a 3.6% response and the $20 did only a little better with a 4% response rate.

When this campaign is rolled out into future markets, the client will offer a $5 coffee card and know that they are almost maximizing response at a significantly lower cost.

The lesson is, don’t assume that what you would do is what your market would do.

Without testing offers (whether they be educational content, discounts, X-month free trials) there’s no way for those of us in B2B marketing to really know how to maximize results while minimizing costs. As the title says, when making B2B marketing decisions, “Let your market be your guide.”

One B2B social media expert who’s got it wrong.

I’m not a social marketing expert. I don’t pretend to be. My expertise and knowledge are in the outbound arena. I’ve written many times that I still believe in outbound marketing because I see it working cost-effectively for all my B2B clients. They use it to reliably fill their pipeline.

Yes, inbound marketing is cheaper. Yes, it works. But users of it cannot control the volume or the timing of the inbound inquiries it receives. Outbound marketers using proven B2B direct marketing practices can.

Here’s the reason for my rant. Perusing B2B Marketing Zone, I saw the reposting of the blog by Dragan Mestrovic on his inBlurbs site “How to save 62 percent of your budget with inbound marketing.”

He knows inbound marketing. His advice and the statistics he presents are all perfectly valid.

This rant concerns what he says about outbound marketing because, on that subject, he’s way off base.

Outbound marketing communication is one-way.
Initially, it is. A B2B marketer sends a message that reaches out to a targeted group. That message, however, is designed to generate a response. The minute there is a response, the communication instantly becomes two-way.

Outbound marketers’ customers are sought out.
Of course they are. But the customers being reached are not random. By accessing targeted databases of opt-in customers, members of groups, trade show attendees, carefully compiled databases and more, the B2B marketing firm is reaching out to those companies and individuals who match the profile of their customers.

Outbound direct marketing has been around for so many years that the level of database sophistication is staggering. Unlike what Mestrovic proposes — that marketers fill out a persona sheet to build a customer profile — an outbound B2B marketer uses data companies such as Acxiom, Accudata or one of many others to build a statistically sound customer CHAID or regression model. That model is then matched against rental lists to find prospects that match the customer profile. There’s no guesswork involved.

Outbound marketers provide little or no added value.
Do inbound marketers think they invented content? It’s been around as long as direct marketing has been around. It used to be called an “offer.” That’s how outbound marketers get a response — by offering educational information. The very subject of the content is designed to generate qualified leads. B2B marketers test various offers against each other to let the response from the market tell them which is the best.

Outbound marketers rarely seek to educate or entertain.
See above about education. Entertainment can be part of any marketing message — outbound or inbound. But it needs to be used carefully, as a poor use of “cleverness” or “humor” in marketing can backfire and negatively affect the brand.

Mestrovic says that outbound marketing is losing its efficacy. But in the real world, B2B companies calculate what they are willing to pay to get a qualified lead and, once they do, they’ll find that outbound marketing is still a bargain and that, unlike inbound marketing, it can predictably generate those leads.

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 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.”

5 B2B marketing ideas you can implement (almost) instantly.

I’ve been delinquent in keeping up with my favorite blogs and staying up to date on today’s latest B2B marketing practices. Today I tried to catch up. All of the advice was very good — excellent, in fact — but it was also painful advice. That’s because, without exception, every post concerned big-picture B2B marketing strategies, the kind that require revising existing processes or implementing new ones. They are changes that need to be made, but could take months to implement.
Most of the B2B marketing teams I know are happy to just get a product launched or complete programs to drive booth traffic at their next industry event. Making any necessary but complex changes to marketing processes has the word “later” stamped all over it.

With this in mind, I’ve been on the lookout for ideas on small, but quick improvements that B2B marketers can make to at least feel like they’re moving the success of their programs up a notch. Here are the first five I’ve found.

  1. Boost content downloads: I read advice from Jonathan Kantor of The White Paper Company. He recommends that marketers provide site visitors with a free sample of part of a white paper before asking them to register to get the rest. Once engaged, they are more likely to register.
  2. Increase landing page performance: From the Pardot Marketing Automation‘s white paper on “Best Practices to Successful Landing Pages” I pulled out this little gem. They say that the most effective landing pages are those that reflect the look and feel of your Website, but do not allow for navigation to your actual homepage. Prospects can easily get distracted and click away from your landing page, losing the chance for you to get them to do what you were inviting them to do in the first place. They say, and I agree, that it is more appropriate to place links to the company site on the “thank you page” they see after registering.
  3. Lighten the burden of creating nurturing content: Reading the terrific Hubspot eBook “100 Inbound Marketing Content Ideas” spurred an idea. I remember that, when a colleague finds an interesting piece of content, they send me a link to it. There’s no reason why one of the elements in a nurturing campaign couldn’t do the same thing. B2B marketers can find valuable information that others have created (not competitors, of course) and forward a brief description and a link to the content in a nurturing email. It looks less like “self promotion” than sending one’s own materials and the content has already been created.
  4. Get a longer life out of email and direct mail content offers: Personalized URLs (or PURLS) have been around for a long time. It’s true they’ve lost the attention they once generated. Yet, a paper from Easypurl, Inc. does promote one benefit that I believe still has much value — that PURLs have a longer life than promotional URLs. Consciously, we know that using our name in a URL is not really personal, yet something with our name on it still makes a connection that other URLs do not. The Easypurl paper says that PURLs “have a long response tail.” For this reason, I think they still have value.
  5. Get better results by using the word FREE in subject lines and emails: A collection of articles on email marketing from Email Labs (now part of Lyris) that I saved supports a point that past testing by some of my clients has proven to be true. It says, “Perhaps the most common misconception in email marketing is that you should ‘never use the word free.’ By itself, the word free will not cause any of the major spam or content filters to reject your email. (Though it is possible that some corporations or user-driven spam filters might be set to delete emails containing the word “free”) So why then would you risk using free when there is a chance, albeit small, your email might be filtered? Quite simply, better results. In our experience across various clients, when used correctly, the word free can provide a powerful boost to your results.”

 

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.”