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A sure recipe for B2B marketing success.

It’s 4:00, time to start thinking about what to fix for dinner. I have a closetful of recipe books to assure me that, if I follow them faithfully, I can create dishes that do what they are supposed to do — taste delicious and satisfy those at my dining table. Unlike gourmet cooks or professional chefs, I don’t have time to experiment Mamamiawith recipes and risk failure.

B2B marketing is a lot like cooking. Most B2B marketers don’t have the time, the budget or a large enough universe of prospects to test new marketing ideas.

Testing is, of course, the most essential element in direct marketing — that is, marketing that’s designed to generate a response.

Offline marketers can test such things as offers, packages, mailing lists or print media. However, the typical B2B prospect universe is small, often under 10,000 companies. This small universe makes it difficult to get the response quantities large enough for statistically valid response rates.

Online testing is much easier to do. As Bob Frady of DM Central nicely explains in “Why Aren’t You Testing?” it’s critical and easier in today’s digital marketing to test such things as subject lines, landing pages, SEM ad messages and more.

Big companies with large budgets can test fresh, new marketing approaches for the opportunity to achieve breakthrough results. That’s where marketing innovation comes from. Most B2B marketers, however, are not big. They don’t have huge budgets or the time to test everything they do.

What should they do? Follow the recipe. All B2B marketers have to do is to learn what’s working by reading case studies, white papers, industry surveys, even blogs like this one. Best practices are based on measured results from marketing approaches that have been tested by the big guys and proven to work time and time again.

Following B2B marketing best practices is the most assured and least risky path to success. After all, people care only how the food tastes, not whether it was cooked by following a recipe.

Email lead generation — perception vs. reality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Is your B2B marketing barking up all the right trees?

Each night at bedtime, I work on a crossword puzzle. I’m not great at it, but crossword puzzles are a good way for me to take a mental break from the day before sleeping. One of my biggest problems when solving puzzles is not thinking Crosswordabout all the possible answers that a clue could be about. A clue like “Barker’s common phrase” for a 3-letter answer made me try to think of what a circus barker might say or what a manager would call out to his crew or what order an officer might yell to his soldiers. Yet I was stumped. The answer, of course, was “arf” from the one “barker” I hadn’t thought of.

The other day, when conversing with a new client, I realized that marketing can be a bit like crossword puzzles. Here’s what the client, a provider of business training materials, shared with me:

The company was successfully marketing to trainers and HR titles in corporations.

Then, recently, an independent trainer discovered them and not only made a purchase but also recommended the product to her colleagues who also made purchases.

Now this company is marketing to both corporations and independent trainers and has, in essence, significantly increased the size of its prospect universe.

SEO, social media, and other Internet exposure revealed a previously undiscovered group of prospects the company can now pursue with outbound marketing. Companies can just wait for other prospect groups to find them or take some action to find their own undiscovered markets. Here are a few ideas for marketers:

  • Bring in a marketing consultant who can look at your product with fresh eyes and without any of the blinders of old habits.
  • Scour your customer base for the one or two rare examples of a company that does not fit your typical profile.
  • Look for ways your product or service could be renamed or repositioned to appeal to an entirely different group of customers.
  • Gather your team together and hold brainstorming sessions without limits.

Imagine your product is a crossword puzzle clue and see if you can find any new trees for barking up new business.

Want more qualified B2B leads? Say “show me the money.”

In the short post last week “Some people are better than others,” Seth Godin talked about the value of certain prospective customers over others. He makes a great argument, for instance, that book buyers are more likely to be good prospects for buying a Kindle, not because they read more but because the have “bought” books. What makes these prospects better is the commitment of money to a particular interest.

His example is a consumer one. But his point applies in B2B marketing just as well. Prospects willing to “pay money” or “invest time” to learn something are better than those who just opt in or register to gain free information. Here are three examples of prospects who show the money.

Subscribers: Prospects who fall into this category are far easier to find as there a number of rental lists available based on buying behavior. A list of subscribers paying to receive an industry publication, for example, is far more valuable than names rented from a controlled circulation publication that is free to readers offline or online.

SeminarTrade Shows: In good times, companies freely pay to send employees to trade shows for learning. In this slowed economy, not as many businesses are participating in or attending industry trade shows because of the cost. Those who do send attendees are seriously in the market for solutions.

Live Seminars: B2B marketers have long known that offering targeted content generates qualified leads of individuals who have an interest in a subject related to their product or service. Offering a live seminar, however, requires an investment of time on the part of the attendee. Time is money after all. This approach will significantly reduce response over an online Webinar, but those attending should be far more qualified.

Prospects who are actively researching and evaluating something are closer to making a buying decision. Attracting this type of lead should not be a substitute for filling the pipeline, but businesses that want qualified leads who could close faster, should look for the money.

Being a B2B marketing clod leads to a better bottom line.

A friend on Facebook recently posted this wonderful quote by Charles McCabe:

“Any clod can have the facts, but having opinions is an art.”

If we’re talking about religion or politics, I’m all for opinions. I have a few of my own. But if we’re talking about direct marketing, I’d rather be the clod CB022164with the facts.

Direct marketing (an approach that should be commanding the majority of B2B marketing budgets) is not an art. It is a discipline built on tested and proven tactics that, if followed properly, will increase the effectiveness and measurability of all marketing efforts — including email, Web sites, SEM, direct mail, content syndication, and telemarketing.

Believe it or not, I still come across marketing directors who do not understand what direct marketing is all about. Wikipedia gives a pretty accurate description; however, my standard explanation is as follows:

Advertising is designed to change attitude.

Direct Marketing is designed to change behavior. Getting people to respond to an offer, to call, to click through, to register — it’s all behavior-based marketing.

You creative folks out there are welcome to design breakthrough ads, branding messages, memorable imaging, and award-winning campaigns. The ONLY focus of direct marketers should be to use the techniques that have been proven to put more revenue on the bottom line.

I’m not saying that direct marketing can’t support the brand. But if the marketing approach puts the brand before the strategy, it’s not direct marketing, and it won’t maximize performance.

That’s why I’d rather be the clod. Because, in direct marketing, “having the facts” is everything.

Boost B2B lead gen. performance by resurrecting the dead.

Mark Twain’s response when learning that his obituary had been published in the New York Journal is the now-famous quote “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” According to The Phrase Finder, “Mistaken publications of obituaries aren’t as rare as you might expect.” So it is for direct mail marketing.

Conducting a search on Google using the phrase “direct mail is dead” turns up 2,970,000 hits. Of course, not all of the articles agree that direct mail is dead, but many of them clearly make this claim.

Thank heaven for Hallie Mummert, editor in chief of Target Marketing. Her Editor’s Note in the September 2009 issue says exactly what I’ve wanted to say for a long time. Not only does she share details on the current and projected use of direct mail, but she puts a little reality into the discussion by recalling that “Television did not kill radio. Direct mail did not kill newspapers. TiVo did not kill television ads. Paid search did not kill e-mail. And e-mail will not kill direct mail. New marketing avenues might fragment marketing budgets, but so far only regulation and obsolete technology like the Federal Communications Commission’s Do Not Fax law and the fax machine itself have had the power to essentially shut down a medium.”

Why should we B2B marketers care about a medium largely perceived as a consumer marketing channel? Because direct mail works very well in the B2B world for many reasons. Here are just a few:

  1. The best e-mail lists reach only 20% to 30% of the business marketplace. With direct mail you can reach more than 90%.
  2. Direct mail lists allow you to target your prospects more accurately by industry, business size and title.
  3. Not only do direct mail lists provide more data, but the data is often more accurate. For instance, lists of subscribers to specific vertical publications are more accurate and up-to-date.
  4. Known B2B marketers still use direct mail in their marketing mix because it is a cost-effective lead generation tool. In fact, the Who’s Mailing What service, compiled by Inside Direct Mail, shows thousands of B2B marketers using the mail. Here is a small sampling of names you might recognize: SAP, Citrix, VeriSign, Novell, Sage, Epicor, Cisco Systems, Adobe, PeopleSoft, Avaya, Proxima, McAfee, Corel, Broderbund, BEA, Symantec and hundreds of others.
  5. With everyone thinking the medium is dead and not using the channel, your message will truly stand out.
  6. Because the monetary value of each new B2B customer is typically in the five- to six-figure range, the initial cost necessary to generate that lead is well worth it.

Once a lead is generated, it is effective to use e-mail for nurturing. But for profitable, productive lead generation, it may be time to resurrect the dead.

Addition on January 29, 2010

More stories about the importance and value of B2B direct mail appear daily. Here’s a link to the Multichannel Marketing for B2B Marketers blog and their article Direct Mail: The Comeback Kid. Read it now and learn how “Per Annum, a small firm specializing in corporate gifts, eliminated its annual direct mailing last year, and suffered a 25% drop in orders.”

B2B marketing that motivates business buyers to buy

Geoffrey James on BNET writes about the “The 7 “Emotional Hooks” for B2B Selling.” It’s a great reminder that human nature plays a role in all decisions. He asks if he missed any in his article. The answer is actually “yes.” His list of emotions that influence buying decisions is not quite complete.

Hero EnvelopeFor instance, as a B2B copywriter, I often use the “hero” approach (which always works by the way). There’s nothing more emotional than wanting to be the hero. I first used it for FirsTel, an early US WEST company (now Qwest), back when people wore ties to the office. It’s an emotional approach that even works on IT Executives.

So where did I learn that the underlying motivation for all decisions is emotional, even B2B decisions? By reading Successful Direct Marketing Methods, originally by Bob Stone, now by Ron Jacobs.

In it are listed all the emotional drivers for a decision. They fall into two categories: 1) the desire to gain and 2) the desire to avoid loss. Here is what is listed in the book:

The Desire to Gain
To make money
To save time
To avoid effort
To achieve comfort
To have health
To be popular
To experience pleasure
To be clean
To be praised
To be in style
To gratify curiosity
To satisfy an appetite
To have beautiful possessions
To attract romantic partners
To be an individual
To emulate others
To take advantage of opportunities

The Desire to Avoid Loss
To avoid criticism
To keep possessions
To avoid physical pain
To avoid loss of reputation
To avoid loss of money
To avoid trouble

Because this is such an important topic to B2B marketers, you’ll see more about it here in the future. But I’m glad others like Geoffrey are spreading the word.

Great B2B marketing demands you do your prospects’ thinking for them.

It has been said, “Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in his shoes.” In my world of B2B direct marketing, this phrase evolves into: “Before you market to someone, step into his shoes.”

It’s always been essential to present the benefits of your product or service in addition to the features it provides. But in today’s “glad to still have a job” environment you need to realize what life is really like for your target customers now.

 

Picture this:

  • Over-the-top busy — stressed to the limit
  • Under pressure to reduce costs and be more productive
  • Challenged to accomplish more with fewer resources

 Marketing messages that tell this prospect about a product that “requires no special training” (or any other feature) is no longer enough. That’s because you are asking your prospect to stop and think about what a product requiring “no special training” will do for him or her.

Who’s got time to think? The job of your marketing must be to do their thinking for them.

 

  • TELL them how much faster workers can be doing what they were hired to do.
  • TELL them how much sooner the company can be cutting costs.
  • TELL them how you can free workers conducting training to focus on more direct revenue-generating tasks.
  • TELL them there will be no gaps in new employees being productive.
  • TELL them how your easy-to-use product can reduce the risk of costly errors.

When you spell out the benefits for your prospects, they don’t have to stop and do the mental gymnastics necessary to turn your product features into benefits. Your message gets communicated instantly, you get more marketing response, and you make more sales.

 

If you’re still unclear on the differences between a feature and a benefit, contact The Copy Works and find out.