Posts

1-Minute Quiz May Reveal Your Best B2B Marketing Tool

In the early days of this B2B marketing blog I wrote a post about social media called “Getting over our own marketing bias.”

In the post I clearly stated that I didn’t “get” social media. I couldn’t see what benefits it brings to B2B marketing. Of course, because I recognize my bias, I work hard to read about and understand the value of social media and be open minded about its value to integrated B2B marketing strategies.

DM BiasToday’s big bias on the part of most B2B marketers, however, is against direct mail marketing.

B2B marketers who do not properly test this channel for lead generation are being as narrow-minded as I was about social media. I’m here to help them get over this bias with this quick Quiz. It’s designed to help B2B marketers discover if their bias is getting in the way of their marketing success.

Answer these seven quick questions now and see the result at the bottom.

  1. My company sells B2B products or services into definable universes that can be classified using firmagraphics such as industry, number of employees, annual sales, years in business, etc.
  2. My marketing budget can cover a cost of $1 to $5 per contact to generate a direct response from qualified prospects.
  3. I want the opportunity to generate 1% to 2% response to my lead generation efforts.
  4. I am willing to spend more than $5 per contact for the opportunity to generate as much as a 10% response rate of qualified prospects.
  5. I can cover the cost of a $25,000 direct mail campaign by making just one or two sales.
  6. I have a list of respondents to my other marketing programs that I haven’t been able to reach via phone or email.
  7. Sales has identified a finite number of top prospects with whom they want to have a conversation.

If B2B marketers answer “yes” to just one of these seven B2B marketing questions, I can pretty much guarantee that their company is missing what could easily be one of its most productive marketing tools.

Lookin’ for B2B buyers in all the wrong places?

Sometimes B2B marketing is conducted like the country song “Lookin’ for Love” made popular by Johnny Lee in the 1980 film Urban Cowboy.

I was reminded of how common this problem is when working on a recent copywriting project. The work was for a B2B marketing agency whose client was selling products and services to small business.

Small businesses come in many types, of course, including such categories as:

  • Personal services, such as hair and nail salons
  • Home services, including contractors, landscapers, plumbers, electricians, etc.
  • Restaurants
  • Gift stores
  • Financial services, including CPAs and financial advisors
  • Lawyers and physicians
  • Dry cleaners and tailors
  • Shoe repairs
  • Phone stores
  • Framing shops
  • Drug stores
  • Nail and hair salons
  • and many more.

All of the direct mail, email and digital B2B marketing elements (media, channels, messaging) that were part of the client’s B2B marketing programs were chosen to reach and appeal to the generic small business.

However, like the song lyric “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places,” this company was spreading its marketing budget over such a broad sweep of channels and businesses that the impact of each dollar spent was significantly diminished.

Then, its agency conducted a detailed analysis of the client’s customer database and the revelation was dramatic. Out of the dozens of small business categories, a handful of very specific types of small businesses stood far above the rest in terms of the number of orders and amount of revenue they generated.

Now, with this research in hand, all the client’s B2B marketing efforts are focused on channels that directly reach these small business categories. All the visuals and copy used in the marketing are designed to build a connection with these specific business types.

The lesson is clear. It’s essential that B2B marketers periodically conduct this kind of analysis of their own customer data. It’s the only way to ensure that they are not spreading their dollars too thinly, but that their targeting and messaging lead to the most sales, the greatest income and the best lifetime value.

Personas: They’re not just for B2C marketing anymore.

Thanks to Software San Diego, I finally got the opportunity to learn about why there is such a widespread interest in personas these days. I always thought of them in terms of B2C marketing. Although creating personas is more formalized than it used to be, we B2B direct marketers have been targeting messaging to customer profiles for decades. So they didn’t seem like anything new.

What I didn’t understand, I learned from a knock-out presentation I just attended by Mitchell. Mitchell is a company started in 1947 that is now the leading provider of technology for claims management and repair shop solutions. They’ve adopted personas big time and not just in the marketing department.

Mitchell is in the process of joining a literal handful (5%) of companies that are putting the customer experience above all else in every aspect of their operations. That means people in every department are discussing customers, by persona, as part of everything they do.

Mitchell Persona-2InformationWeek recently recognized this growing shift in their cover story “Goodbye IT, Hello Digital Business: Delighting customers is job No. 1. Everything else is secondary.” In this story, Chris Murphy tells how IT no longer has a “support-the-business” role but is now at the forefront of creating products and applications that enhance the customer experience. At Mitchell, when the development team talks about products and features, those talks focus on the personas identified as users of that product.

The Mitchell presentation covered their journey and their learning process on how to create their personas, how many to create, what info should be included in them and how to make them easy to use and understand. Here are the basics I learned that may be helpful to other B2B marketing companies:

  1. The 5% of companies currently heavily focused on incorporating personas into their entire operation are, without exception, leaders in their industries.
  2. Depending on the budget available, these profiles can be created through a combination of customer interviews and surveys, plus interviews with sales and other personnel who directly interact with customers.
  3. Less is more.  To incorporate too many data points or too much information on each make using personas too complex and difficult to use.
  4. Rather than just data, the descriptions should be somewhat emotional.
  5. Each persona should be based on an individual’s role within their company.
  6. After much trial and error, here are the ingredients of each description that they found worked best at Mitchell:
  • Name: Using names with the same initials as the individual’s title were found to be much more memorable. For example: the parts managers might be Pete Murphy, the shop estimator might be Sean Edwards, and Carl Atkins might be the claims adjustor, etc.
  • Age
  • Education
  • Job Title and Description
  • Activities: What their job involves, specifically
  • Experience and Skills
  • Goals: In relation to their job
  • Tools and Technology: What they currently use, not just for the solution being sold but all the technology and tools used
  • Quote: These are usually gathered from interviews
  • Environment: A description of their surroundings when working
  • Picture: These are essential to help employees identify with each persona

At the heart of what I learned is that personas aren’t just for B2B marketing anymore. They can help the company succeed at every level and should be incorporated into decisions regarding products, messaging, personnel, processes and services. Every one contributes to the customer experience.

B2B marketing that uncovers hot leads & builds involvement.

LinkedIn may have flaws and spam problems at times, but the ability it gives us to meet and share ideas with colleagues all over the world is wonderful.

One of my new LinkedIn acquaintances, Tracy Johnson, President of Spotted Dog Promotions, recently sent me an article he wrote about “Contests and your Marketing Strategy.”

What he has to say fits right into a tactic that I strongly believe is necessary in today’s B2B marketing. That is the importance of getting attention and standing apart from the competition by getting prospects “involved.”

Contest WinnerTracy’s presentation talks mostly about using contests to get attention in social media and for branding. He makes a strong case. But since my focus and expertise is in outbound B2B marketing and direct response marketing, I see contests also as an inviting way to generate a response.

Content is the primary device used in B2B marketing these days. It’s smart and it works. But just reading white papers, guides, blogs and attending Webinars — even watching videos — can get pretty tedious after a while. Contests add excitement and interest to making contact with a prospective new customer. They even allow B2B marketers to add a bit of fun and personality to their communications.

There’s no reason to think B2B buyers won’t take the time to participate in contests. They are humans, after all, who love to measure or test their expertise. The prizes can be related to the product or service being sold — or be simple gifts that could be tied to a benefit-related theme.

As Tracy explains in his article, contests are also great devices for gathering valuable sales data:

“You can increase sales and learn more about your customers, their perceptions and behaviors, along with their intent to purchase products in your industry category via embedded surveys in your contest entry form. These surveys can identify prospects, generate hot leads or provide insight into your audience. One of our affiliates in the travel industry recently attracted over 20,000 leads to a contest, 97% of whom answered three multiple-choice questions that identified their interests in travel. This is a valuable list of qualified leads that turns into new revenue.”

Even though he uses a B2C example here, B2B marketers can easily imagine how a short survey can be used to find out if a prospect has a need for their product or service.

I’ll bet that many B2B marketers would never think of doing a contest. The reason being that contests don’t appear to be serious and might reflect poorly on the company. I disagree. If the contest is well planned and ties into the company’s brand and product focus, it’s a fresh and effective way to draw attention to its solutions and to get its prospects involved.

Is data killing your B2B marketing opportunities?

Those who read this blog probably think I’m a B2B marketing copywriter and consultant offering insight into B2B marketing best practices. According to the mailer I received today, however, they’d be wrong.

It appears I am the owner of the Coca-Cola Company. Well, if that’s true, I’m living way below my means.

Coca-Cola Mailer

Receiving this type of communication can be a bit amusing. But it’s a classic example of the importance of having accurate data in all communication — whether it is lead generation, nurturing or CRM.

Personalization is wasted if it’s not accurate.

Much is being said these days about the advantages of personalizing lead generation and nurturing messages in B2B marketing based on a person’s interests and past behavior. It’s true.

But what good is it to recognize that a person has shown an interest in the kind of product or service being offered if the B2B marketing data has the recipient’s name is misspelled or they are listed at the wrong company?

The typical reaction is, “If a company can’t get the basics of who I am right, then how can I trust anything else they do?” That is true regardless of the channel through which the communication travels.

Frankly, accurate B2B marketing data is everything. Mistakes in B2B marketing data increase the cost per contact while reducing response. It’s essential that every B2B marketing plan include steps to keep customer and prospect data accurate.

Budget for updating data — and do it annually.

Calling is the best way to ensure the data is accurate. These calls are not complicated to make, as they are just informational and not sales-related. They can be done by a group of interns or by hiring a professional telemarketing firm. Verification calls should be conducted annually if possible. These calls can also be used to determine if the contact name is correct for the product or service being sold.

Accurate data increases response to B2B marketing. Without accurate data, the rest of the B2B marketing expenditure is wasted.

3 tips for maximizing clarity in B2B marketing copy.

Often I’ve mentioned that there are B2B marketers who believe that using big, complex wording in their B2B marketing copy makes the company look smart and sophisticated.

The best example I’ve ever seen of this B2B marketing copy approach was discovered and reported by Peter Helmer, which I discussed in a previous post “B2B marketing shalt not speak in strange tongues.”

“We provide CMOs with best-of-breed, next-generation, scalable solutions that optimize revenue and enhance customer value. We act as a change agent empowering a paradigm shift using a value added synergistic approach that enables clients to take a deep dive.”

Copy ClarityThe lack of clarity in this communication is pretty obvious. But B2B marketers often use messaging in their companies’ Web sites, emails, direct mail, brochures and other sales materials that makes perfect sense to the B2B marketing team and company execs — but leaves the prospect clueless.

In the end, only the response from the market — or lack thereof — can tell B2B marketers for sure whether or not their messages resonate. But here are a few tips to help ensure that marketing copy has a chance of generating the desired response, before it’s seen by the market.

  1. Talk to the lowest common denominator: B2B marketers can’t control who sees their messaging. Don’t assume the reader knows and understands anything about what is being offered. Simple language and a straightforward presentation of information have proven to be the most successful approach, even to a highly educated audience.
  2. Focus on the first impression: Read the copy one time after it’s been drafted. Anything that feels awkward or unclear in that first read needs to be revised. B2B marketers should not read the copy 25 times and keep revising it. They should remember that the prospect will read it only once, so the first impression is the one that counts.
  3. Use an outside reviewer: Have someone who is outside of the company and not familiar with the product or service read the messaging and report back what they learned, or did not learn, from the copy.

 

A dangerous oversight in B2B marketing.

Most of the content posted here addresses the B2B marketing efforts necessary to attract leads, nurture them and convert those leads into customers. Experienced marketers know there is a significant cost involved with these efforts – and it’s much greater than the cost involved in retaining, upselling or cross-selling existing customers. So the last thing any LikeB2B company wants is to lose customers. Yet statistics consistently show that B2B marketers, and B2C as well, typically dedicate a very small portion of their budget and their efforts to customer retention.

Here are some pretty convincing stats on why they should:

  • “It costs 6 to 7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one.” – Bain & Company
  • “The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5 to 20%.” – Marketing Metrics
  • “A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%.” – Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Emmett Murphy & Mark Murphy
  • “A 5% reduction in the customer defection rate can increase profits by 5 to 95%.” – Bain & Company
  • “Customer profitability tends to increase over the life of a retained customer.” – Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Emmett Murphy & Mark Murphy
  • “Research shows that a 10% increase in customer retention levels results in a 30% increase in the value of the company.” – Bain & Company

Just like B2B marketers need an annual plan for customer acquisition, they need a formal plan for customer retention as well.

It’s been determined, through the tracking of customer lifetimes at many companies, that the first 90 days are the most critical in the customer retention process. Starting a customer retention program immediately after acquisition makes the most impact on that customer’s long-term satisfaction.

A colleague and client of mine, James Pennington at Anderson Direct Marketing, recently put together a presentation for the launch of a client’s onboarding program. Here are some highlights of the best practices for onboarding and customer retention that he presented that I think are worth sharing:

  • Listen carefully, ask questions.
  • Find out what customers like about your company, products, services and experiences.
  • Find out what they don’t like about those same things.
  • Find out what they would like to be able to get from you, but can’t because you don’t offer it. Marketers are not pointing out their product or company weaknesses here; they are establishing a position that the company cares about serving their customers’ needs.
  • Be sure to ask if there are any things you offer that they do NOT view as valuable.
  • Set up a “Red Flag” system that indicates potential high-risk customers. These alerts can be triggered by a reduction in orders, a reduction in site visits, a reduction in the dollar amount of orders, a technical issue that is not easily resolved, or other service problems.
  • Once an alert is received, act on it immediately.
  • Touch customers consistently via a variety of channels.
  • Keep the messaging of those touches consistent.
  • Provide a feedback channel with every touch.
  • Periodically update the customer’s contact information.
  • Ask for more information that will help you understand their needs better.

B2B companies spending a lot of money acquiring customers should never stop marketing to them. It’s retention that makes the biggest impact on the bottom line.

Discovering the true power of personal B2B marketing videos.

Video seems to be popping up all over the place in my B2B marketing world these days.

First (as you can see from last week’s blog on “Why anyone can use video in B2B marketing & why they should“) I was told by my SEO provider that I needed to put a video on my Website, which I have done now.

Video Salesman 2Then, just days ago, I got a personal video with a message from a client that was just for me. He had used a service called Eyejot to record it. Being the first personal video email I’d ever gotten, I have to say I got pretty excited about it. So much so that I told a colleague what a great tool I thought it was for sales people to communicate with prospects and customers.

His response was, “I think it’s tacky.”

Not sure that a survey of one produces reliable B2B market data, so I posed the question on the B2B Video Marketing Group I belong to on LinkedIn. “Do you think that sending a personal message via video in business emails is great or do you think it’s tacky?”

What a wonderful education I got. Here are a few of the great responses:

Daniel Dorfman of Covideo Systems shared a terrific video that supports the importance of visuals and tone in effective communication:

“Susan, I work in the video email and marketing industry, and I agree with what most people have said thus far and have found that it is all about the context in which you use the technology. It will never replace email communication but it can give you that personal touch that you might be looking for. Video as a communication medium also takes out any chance of your message getting misunderstood. Here is a great video on ‘why email starts fights‘.”

Hugh Macfarlane, another group member, made a quick video to demonstrate how a sales person might use a video for a personal communication. I agreed with Caroline Leslie’s response:

“Great video, Hugh! An excellent example of not being naff, tacky or inappropriate and making it about them, not you. A useful strategy for cutting through to a qualified prospect. In a marketing (vs sales) context, the challenge is to make videos which are still about them (i.e., carefully segmenting your audience) while leveraging your database for one-to-many communication.”

Daniel agreed with what I take as a good response to my question and good advice:

“Great point Caroline. I use video daily throughout my communications and I have learned that when you directly communicate to a prospect or client it is best to keep the videos one-to-one or one-to-few. This allows you to really personalize and tailor the videos toward your audience and give them a direct call of action that really hits home. It’s amazing the response you get when the first thing the client or prospect hears is their own name.”

That was my response exactly. It’s good food for thought for any B2B marketer.

B2B marketing: The truth behind the trends for 2013–Part II

Last week, I judged the validity and value of the first ten of Hubspot’s “20 Marketing Trends and Predictions for 2013 and Beyond.”

This trend report covers the issues that marketers are being encouraged to pay attention to and incorporate into their planning for 2013. Here is my take on items 11 through 20:

Good Information

“Email Lives On”
This prediction promotes that email will become “less batch and blast” and more personalized. That’s good, as the more any message can be personalized the more effective it will be.

“Marketing Technology Evolves”
I hope this prediction is correct. One point promises that marketing solutions, ROI measurement, etc., will become more integrated so marketers can get a true picture of what’s working and what is not.

“Content Crowdsourcing Grows”
Leveraging viral content created by prospects and customers adds an interesting and possibly money-saving resource to the B2B marketing tool chest.

“Marketing Gets Gamified”
Not sure about the product placement possibility mentioned in this prediction; however, making content more sticky by adding some entertainment value to it is just the tactic today’s B2B marketers need to stand out and get attention.

Nothing New

“Marketing Speaks Like a Human”
This trend implies that, because of social media, marketers can start talking to their prospects as one human to another. Speaking to buyers in a one-on-one tone, based on the buyer’s individual wants and needs, has always been a hallmark of successful target marketing.

“I’ll Take Some Content Curation, Please”
The creation of more targeted and compelling content has been and should be a line item on every B2B marketing budget.

“A Picture is Worth 1000 Words”
This point refers to the hot new picture posting sites on the Web such as Pinterest. However, since the above phrase has been recognized as an old Chinese proverb, it’s safe to assume that there’s nothing new about value of pictures. How effective these sites can be for B2B marketers remains to be seen.

“Context is Content’s New Best Friend”
There’s nothing new about choosing content, messaging, channels and placements based on the profile and past behavior of prospects and customers. It’s always been and will always be a best practice.

Don’t Believe It

“Inbound, Not Automation, Becomes Priority”
I disagree with the premise that automated marketing is, overall, a failure. I agree that many companies do not put in the strategy and follow-through necessary to make automation work as it should. But automating contact with prospects and trying to move them through the buy cycle based on their past actions is still better than not following up at all. Inbound marketing does not replace this on any level.

“Outbound Marketing Loses Traction”
This claim begins with these stats: “Mass marketing gets a 2% response rate, if you’re lucky. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, can produce conversion rates 10X higher or more.” This is playing with math, as it does not compare response rates or conversion rates. If done right, responders to outbound marketing effort also have high conversion rates. B2B marketers that eliminate outbound efforts to generate qualified leads will be out of work soon.

Technology and channels continue to grow and change. But integrated strategies and best practices will keep B2B marketers on top of those trends regardless of the changes.

Making B2B marketing landing pages something to CRO about.

The content in an online session I recently attended made me very happy. The session was about maximizing and tracking online conversions. These efforts are now referred to as CRO — for Conversion Rate Optimization.

What made me happy was that the session confirmed that the landing page best practices I know are still valid based on current and extensive testing.

Many of my B2B marketing clients have a prospect universe that is too small to run statistically valid testing. So I continue to recommend that these B2B marketers follow the tested learnings of others, as that is their best way to maximize conversions.

Here are the landing page best practices that were confirmed in this session, plus a few I learned during a session at the recent Direct Marketing Association‘s annual conference:

  • Having only one “call to action” on a landing page creates a 240% higher conversion rate.
  • Having the landing page take more than 5 seconds to load drops conversion by 47%.
  • Visitors have a 3-second attention span. Redirects on a landing page create a 37% higher abandon rate.
  • Forms must take way less than 45 seconds to fill out.
  • Every added field on a landing page form loses 6% more registrations.
  • Using the same images on the email and the landing page raises conversion by 20%.
  • Having the landing headline match the PPC ad headline is a must; otherwise, the B2B marketing effort looks like a come-on and not a legitimate offer.
  • The word “Click here” continues to substantially outperform the word “Submit” on the landing page action button.
  • Simplifying the messaging and the presentation lifts conversions. Copy and design should direct the prospect to what they are to do and not distract them with too much on the page.

It’s smart for B2B marketers with a large enough prospect universe to test various landing page approaches and designs for themselves. But following the above rules consistently shows the highest CRO. So, testing or not, I suggest that these are the best CRO practices to follow.