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Why B2B marketers must read this book on lead generation.

The title of David Scott’s new book “The New Rules of Lead Generation: Proven Strategies to Maximize Marketing ROI” is a bit misleading. It doesn’t just cover the new rules of lead generation marketing that involve LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. It covers all the channels and all the practices necessary to achieve successful B2B marketing lead generation.

As the CEO and founder of Marketfish, David Scott knows his stuff. When he tookScott Book marketing courses at the Wharton School, all he learned about was brand marketing. Thrown into a B2B marketing position when the CMO left the $3.5 billion publicly traded software company where he worked, he had to learn fast. Over the years he has discovered the value of data, testing and measurement for all channels. He now shares his knowledge and experience in this comprehensive lead generation marketing handbook.

B2B marketers must read and share this book if they:

  • Have been so focused on entering social media — or any other single media or tactic — that other necessary lead generation channels have been neglected.
  • Want a comprehensive refresher course on B2B marketing best practices to ensure that nothing valuable has been missed.
  • Have beginners on their team who need to learn what effective lead generation is all about.
  • Need to better understand the importance of data, brand, B2B marketing math and all the other elements that turn million-dollar companies into multi-billion-dollar companies.
  • Are worried that they’re missing one of the seven most successful lead-generation approaches that companies are using today.
  • Have budget limitations and want to focus lead gen dollars on tactics that can maximize the return.
  • Want a handy list of how-tos on any aspect of lead generation marketing.

Highly readable and very informative, this book doesn’t miss a beat. I recommend it for every member of every B2B marketing team — beginner or expert — wanting to maximize the success and the ROI of their company’s lead generation.

B2B marketing: How B2B marketers can maximize open rates.

My colleague, James Pennington of Anderson Direct Marketing, a full-service direct marketing agency, was recently helping a B2B marketing client build their marketing strategy for a new product. In the process, he related this story, which some readers may not find amusing. Yet it’s true.

“I was attending a social media presentation in which the speaker spent time bashing traditional direct mail marketing by stating the fact that 44% of direct mail was not opened and got tossed directly into the trash. After hearing this statement, I raised my hand and asked, ‘Does that mean that 56% of it does get opened? That seems pretty terrific to me. What’s the open rate on email?’ The presenter answered 10% and there was some serious buzz kill in the room.”

In the B2B marketing world, direct mail marketing is still the most effective channel for generating leads and it is still cost-effective for companies selling higher priced products with long buy cycles.

Although it has a valuable place in integrated marketing, email marketing typically cannot produce the lead generation, open rates and response rates of direct mail.

Here are a few of those stats:

  • Prospecting emails to fresh lists typically get open rates of 9%-15% and click-through rates (CTRs) of 2.8%-3.2%. Marketo views open rates of 16%-20% as top performers. The average CTR per Marketo is 2.1%-5% with 5.1%-10% viewed as top performers.
  • A newsletter to a B2B house list is getting open rates of 18%-22% and CTRs of 3%-11%. This is consistent with MarketingSherpa‘s 2010 Email Marketing Benchmark Report in which 1,500 survey respondents reported an average open rate of 23% for B2B newsletters and an 11% CTR.
  • Follow-up emails to webinar or event attendees get an open rate of 31% and CTR of 55%.

B2B marketers looking to maximize open rates and fill their pipeline with qualified leads might want to include the still very powerful and productive direct mail marketing channel.

Converting B2B marketing click-throughs in 50 milliseconds

Tim Ash, in the latest version of Target Marketing magazine, makes a dramatic point about how critical it is to make sure a landing page follows all the right practices to maximize conversions.

In his article “After the Click“, Tim lays out specific must-dos for landing page productivity. He says, “Getting people to click on your email link or banner offer is irrelevant if they don’t see what they expected to see, can’t find what they came for or are just plain turned off by your landing page.”

As the CEO at SiteTuners and author of Landing Page Optimization, Tim knows his stuff. He reports on research estimating that marketers have only 50 milliseconds to capture a person’s attention. Tim reports, “Recent findings in neuroscience are giving marketers insights into how the brain reacts to new information, what it likes and what it rejects. For example, the brain is frustrated by:

  • Tasks that take too long to resolve;
  • Clutter; and
  • Messages that distract or don’t apply.”

I’ve often written about the importance of keeping messages simple so B2B buyers can “react” to offers without ever having to stop and think. Tim refers it as “first impressions.” That’s why I thought it might be time to repeat the highlights of my “5 Biggest B2B Marketing Design Mistakes” to help B2B marketers creating landing pages make the right visual impression:

  1. Never reverse body copy out of a dark background (headlines are OK, but not body copy).
  2. Keep lines of text short from left to right to maximize readability (no more than 70 characters per line).
  3. Never treat copy as purely a design element.
  4. Use pictures whenever possible.
  5. Don’t hide your call to action.

Tim adds to these instructions on other ways to keep the design uncluttered. He adds:

  1. Keep your colors pleasing and neutral.
  2. Use standard fonts large enough to read without straining.
  3. Make text easy to scan.

The other point Tim makes is one I have also advised clients to remember for years — to have a single call to action. Those who click through will stop and get confused if the landing page gives them choices. Remember, B2B marketers don’t want prospects to have to think. They want prospects to react.

Tim clearly states that the landing page is not an “afterthought.” It’s the biggest part of a B2B marketing campaign that must convert click-throughs into follow-throughs.

B2B interactive social media marketer shocked.

When I checked out the top stories at B2B Marketing Zone I was a bit dismayed. Every story highlighted at the top was about social media. Yes, it’s the hot topic, but on a site that features dozens of B2B blog posts, surely there would be some variety.

Moving on to other B2B sites, I visited Webbiquity to discover Tom Pick’s amusing report of the “Top 10 Tweets About Today’s Twitter Outage.” One, of course, said, “Worst part about #Twitter being down is you can’t tweet about it.”

This observation brings me back to one of the earliest blog posts I wrote, advising B2B marketers on “Getting over our own marketing bias.” It was 2009 and I was bemoaning the fact that every blog I had reviewed that day addressed social media. Well, it’s 2012 now and nothing has changed.

I’m pretty sure that what is being talked about, and what draws attention, does not reflect what’s being done in the real world of B2B marketing. Yet a colleague of mine and his team were making a client presentation recently on a proposed direct mail marketing program. One of the team members was a new hire fresh out of a position in interactive marketing. She was shocked to learn that direct mail is the B2B client’s primary channel and how well it’s working for them.

Since nothing has changed, perhaps it is time to repeat some of the advice I gave in 2009 to marketers who think that social media — or any one channel, for that matter — is the above all and end all of B2B marketing. So I advise that, before B2B companies make any decision about which channels to use in their marketing efforts, they take these four steps:

  1. Talk to colleagues and peers who use various media in their marketing; learn about how they are used and their results.
  2. Look at published facts and figures on how the channel has been performing for other B2B companies.
  3. Determine if a particular channel has been used successfully in markets similar to yours.
  4. Test it before you dismiss it.

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.”

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.

Where B2B marketing still grabs attention in today’s communication overload.

A short business trip last week put me back in front of a copy of USA Today that had been left on my hotel doorstep. The “Money” section featured an excellent article by John Swartz about the high cost of today’s communications overload that is reducing productivity and increasing business employee errors.

It reports, “People are drowning in a deluge of data. Corporate users received about 110 messages a day in 2010, says market researcher Radicati Group. There are 110 million tweets a day, Twitter says. Researcher Basex has pegged business productivity losses due to the ‘cost of unnecessary interruptions’ at $650 billion back in 2007.”

The article mentions Brad McCarty as an example. “As an Editor of tech blog The Next Web, he routinely has 10 online conversations at once: Skype, Twitter, Google™, instant messaging, e-mail, chat and texting.”

As the USA Today article clearly shows, getting seen in that environment is pretty difficult. Even if a B2B company’s tweet, Facebook listing or Web site is seen, how many seconds of the prospect’s time is spent on it?

Being in the business of contributing to that overload and wanting to reach prospects in these environments, I realized that getting the attention of today’s business decision-makers and influencers is a far greater challenge than it’s ever been before.

For me, with my earlier marketing years spent doing direct mail, meeting that challenge is easy. That’s because there is one time of day that these B2B prospects take their eyes away from their computer screens and their mobile devices and stop for a moment. It’s when they sort their mail.

That’s the moment B2B marketers can capture attention in a prospect’s crowded day.

Many of today’s B2B marketers have avoided or abandoned the direct mail channel for two reasons: cost and the assumption that, since everyone does everything online, they can’t be reached effectively offline.

However, B2B marketers continue to use direct mail in their marketing mix because they know that it is not only effective, it is cost-effective. The additional cost involved — with paper, envelopes, printing, and postage — is well worth it.

It pays off in its ability to better target B2B leads based on industry, title, company size and other demographics that are typically available in mailing lists but not in email lists. Better targeting generates respondents who are more qualified as well.

Also, messages are read in a momentary calm in the chaotic sea of information, when people take time out of their day to sort their mail.

When correctly used (right lists and offer) direct mail is still a proven B2B communication tool. It’s not as sexy right now as social media, but it is a steady and consistent performer and an important channel for successful B2B marketers.

B2B marketers: Have you earned your cred?

Reading the January 31 print issue of Information Week I was struck by the clear message of Bob Evans’s column on “Top 10 CIO Priorities and Issues for 2011.” In it he states, “CIOs who haven’t earned C-suite cred and autonomy by virtue of their visions and achievements will be gone by the time winter turns to spring.”

Since I live in the world of B2B marketing, I thought that this same statement could possibly apply to some CMOs or marketing VPs or whatever title is given to the individual behind a company’s marketing vision.

Unfortunately, most of the B2B marketers I know don’t seem to have time to be visionaries. Even with marketing automation they are up to their necks in the day-to-day management of making sure stuff gets done — “stuff” being the creation of content, emails, direct mail, social media initiatives, trade show preparation, you name it.

At a lot of companies, just getting the “stuff” done may be enough to keep one’s job. But if a B2B marketer truly wants to earn C-suite cred that results in greater respect, a raise, a promotion or a better position, what can he or she do?

Imagine this:

A B2B marketing VP makes a presentation to his company’s executives (including the CFO). What he presents is the proposed marketing plan for the upcoming 12 months. The plan includes this:

Online channels: Possibly including email, Web site, SEM advertising, content syndication, social media and/or SEO efforts

Offline channels: Might cover direct mail, telemarketing, trade shows, and/or industry magazine advertising

Projected costs: Costs by channel

Projected results from each channel: Total leads generated and total leads closed

Metrics: Figures on projected cost-per-lead and cost-per-sale

Revenue Generated: Estimates of products sold and revenue generated from those sales in year one and over the lifetime of each new customer

I can hear the response from readers that this is a dream scenario that could never happen. Au contraire. It takes a huge amount of planning, commitment and follow-through to make it happen, but it’s all possible. The secret is a commitment to proper testing and the accurate measurement and tracking of EVERYTHING.

Testing can conducted in direct mail, email, SEM ads, magazine ads, and telemarketing. B2B marketers can test prospect lists, content offers, messaging and designs can be tested to determine which produce the biggest and most cost-effective results. Then, each time that winning combination is used again, the results are predictable (barring any dramatic market or economic changes).

Leads generated from SEO and Web site visits, through content syndication sites, and through social media can be loosely tracked and measured to establish a metric of performance. Much of this tracking comes from asking source questions of new prospects contacting the company for the first time.

Of course, B2B marketers using integrated campaigns will have much cross-over of influence between channels. So “source of sale” information is not 100% accurate. But that does not diminish the value of the information or the power of the projections in the marketer’s presentation.

It takes planning and it takes time, but committed B2B marketers can achieve C-suite cred and turn themselves into their company’s most valuable asset.