Steps #2-6 in creating ideal B2B lead generation copy.

My previous post covered the first and most important step in any B2B marketing copy for successful outbound B2B lead generation. That first step is the most important as it must contain the information necessary to make a connection with the prospect.

Once the B2B lead generation opening statement “gets the prospect” or “hooks them in,” there are ???????????????????six more copy steps necessary for moving that prospect to action — that is, generating a response.

Here are the remaining steps in order:

Step #2 — Make the B2B marketing offer, then immediately make the first call to action.
The reader is busy and needs to absorb the message in seconds. If the opening line says, “This message is for you,” then the next should present the content offer and the call to action. If the prospect does not read another line, the entire message has been communicated.

Step #3 — Expand on the benefit of responding to the content offer.
The next section is necessary for the prospects who want to know more before responding. This is the place to put a very brief or bulleted list of what they will learn from reading this valuable FREE information, attending this Webinar, accepting this private demo, etc.

The content of this section is often exactly what the product being sold can deliver. But, by not mentioning the product by name, the message does not come off as a sales pitch. If people think they are being “sold” and not “informed,” response rates will drop.

Step #4 — Repeat the call to action and then add a plug, if applicable.
If the information being offered is a published book or a report by an independent third party, that should be mentioned the first time the offer is made. However, if the information is compiled by the B2B marketing company, this is where that company can take a very brief bow. This might be, “This infographic has been compiled by XYZ Company, a leader in ….”

Step #5 — Close the communication.
Traditionally, in direct mail, the close would include a statement of what the prospect would lose by not responding. In the case of offering free information, what is lost is the opportunity to learn what the information covers. The purpose of the campaign is to get the prospect to request the offer. So the close should repeat the call to action and the main benefit.

Step #6 — Always add a P.S.
Since the opening line and the P.S. remain the most-read sections of personal communications, a P.S. should contain the offer or a secondary incentive to respond. Busy B2B prospects need to get the entire message as quickly as possible. Using this tactic in the P.S. helps accomplish that.

Keep B2B marketing copy simple; keep it short
Whatever is written, the message should eliminate any need for the prospect to have to think. Outbound B2B marketing should never make the prospect think — just react and act on what is being offered.

Single B2B marketing effort delivers $30MM in new business.

B2B marketing — that is, B2B direct mail marketing — is a classic example of the old adage “You have to spend money to make money.” That’s because the entire practice of direct marketing is judged on a cost-per-lead and cost-per-sale basis.

So it was no surprise to me when I read in Deliver Magazine that Netezza, a company acquired by IBM in 2010, had spent $200,000 on a direct mail marketing campaign that generated a 35% response rate, made approximately $30 million in new sales, and achieved a 150-to-1 ROI.

The article in Deliver’s August 2012 issue “Disguise the Prize” by Bruce Britt tells how Netezza sales wanted meetings with C-level executives to present their sophisticated data warehouse appliance and business analytics. The first concern of the B2B marketing staff at Netezza was getting past the gatekeepers to the CEOs, CIOs and CMOs that are common in the larger organizations they were trying to reach.

Here’s the story that Britt tells of what Will Pringle, a marketing demand generation vice president at Netezza, did:

“Pringle and his team came up with the idea of shipping MP3 devices that featured apps designed to create a sales meeting experience. Pringle tingled at the possibilities. ‘I thought it would be the ultimate direct mail piece if we could immediately catch the attention of C-level executives,’ he says. ‘What if the recipient powered the MP3 player up and the first thing they experienced was a customized video that addressed them by name? The more I thought and penciled everything out, the more excited I became.”

The package consisted of a cylinder that carried no indication of what was inside. This helped the package get past the gatekeeper. Or if the gatekeeper opened the package first, that person would immediately see the value of the enclosed gift and pass it along to the executive. Inside was a personal letter, business card, and the player.

“A few days after the initial packages were shipped, Pringle’s team started putting in calls to his target C-level executives.’Within the next two to three weeks, we secured seven meetings out of 15 — an almost 50-percent success rate,’ Pringle says.’In many cases, we had attempted to meet with these companies for years, and this was the piece that opened the door.”

The success of this campaign was not only based on creative thinking on the part of Pringle and his marketing team, but on the mathematics, i.e. B2B marketers should calculate what a new sale is worth and then how much they are willing to invest in making each sale.

In this case and in many others, the investment is worth every penny.

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.

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.

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.”

B2B marketers shouldn’t forget the human touch.

In the borrowed cubicle I was using recently I found a copy of Online Executive Education, a magazine-like listing of courses offered to executives by UniversityAlliance through a number of universities across the country.

Seeing the types of courses offered gave me insight into what today’s executives are looking for in the way of skill improvement. They ranged from getting a “Black Belt in Six Sigma” to a masters in “Human Resource Development.”

Reading it, however, got me thinking about the lives of the people to which we market. It reminded me of what we B2B marketers sometimes forget — that is, we are selling products to human beings with egos and personal motivations, not just databases or a mass of social media followers.

Although B2B buyers must justify their buying decisions by the promise of benefits that will help the company — reducing costs, boosting productivity, increasing ROI, or others — they are still humans whose decisions are influenced by their emotions, experiences and personal goals.

The question is, “How can we make sure our product messaging touches our prospects as humans?” Here are a few suggestions on how it can be done:

1. Put all marketing messaging in the 2nd person.
“You” is the word that can go the furthest to make a human connection with the prospect. Companies that keep the marketing and product messaging in the 3rd person because they think it sounds more professional are actually separating themselves from their markets.

2. Discuss what the product can do in real user situations.
Help your prospect envision the product “in action” within his or her organization. Tell a story with someone in that person’s title or position gaining value from using the product. Draw them in so they can see how the product can perform in real life.

3. Spell out one or more of the “personal” rewards the buyer would experience from buying the product.
My favorite is “Become the company hero.” Others can include statements such as, “Take your next vacation free of worry,” or, “Become your company’s trusted authority on . . .”

If the B2B company is marketing to multiple titles, versioning the message for each title gives it greater impact with each target. It’s important that B2B marketers don’t get too caught up in the tools and forget the individuals who will use them.

B2B marketers should watch their words.

In “The History Boys,” one of my favorite movies, author Alan Bennett has his English teacher character state, “I didn’t want to turn out boys who would claim in later life to have a deep love of literature or who would talk in their middle age of the lure of language and their love of words.”

Yet, that’s how I am. I love words. Used well, words not only communicate information but express the emotion behind the information.

In B2B marketing communication, the design of Web sites, emails, brochures, ads, and letters do contribute to how a company is seen and recognized. But it’s the words and the copy messaging that cause prospects to act on what a B2B marketer is offering.

That’s why B2B marketers should care about the words they use and, unfortunately, many do not understand how important those words can be.

They may think that using big words makes their company appear to have a higher intelligence and sophistication. They write based on the knowledge that a powerful vocabulary connotes success. Actually, in B2B marketing, it’s just the opposite. Big words and long sentences reduce the effectiveness of human-to-human communication.

Using simple language and avoiding bigger, more complex wording and long complex sentences maximizes the readability of B2B marketing messages. For example, here are introductory paragraphs from two B2B Web sites that do not communicate in a direct and clear manner (sites shall remain unnamed to protect the guilty).

“Our extensive business and subject-matter expertise and technical acumen enables us to identify and apply best practices to resolve issues and optimize opportunities. We consult and collaborate with our clients to deliver products and solutions that are highly specialized, practical, realistic and feasible.”

“. . .  aims to provide marketing services to targeted business environments in Indonesia, Asia, and the west Pacific region. This plan seeks to generate a significant increase in company sales and profits from the delivery of retainer consulting, project consulting, market research and industrial analysis, feasibility studies, and strategic analysis and reporting services, compared to the preceding year. “

Fortunately, B2B marketers don’t have to wonder about the readability of their Web sites or other marketing communications.

JuicyStudio provides an excellent lesson on readability measurement and actually shows that even the Wall Street Journal is written for the reading level of a high school junior. B2B marketers can use this site to enter their URL and get their site scored immediately for readability. I discovered that my Web site (The Copy Works) is readable by someone with a 7.7 grade education.

The Juicy Studio page even shares how to calculate the Gunning-Fog Index of B2B marketing copy (or any writing) to determine a rough measure of how many years of schooling it would take someone to understand the content. In addition, in the spelling feature of Microsoft Word, B2B marketers can select an option to see the Flesch-Kincaid grade level readability measurement along with the spelling.

The lesson here is for B2B marketers to not make their prospects and customers work to get their message. They should use visuals to show their image and success. Let the words stay simple so readers can get the message without effort — and then act on it.

3 Great B2B Marketing Ideas I Read in (OMG) Print Media.

Yes, there is still print media out there, and it still has value for those of us that don’t yet own an iPad and like to sit on a lawn chair and read industry pubs. Here’s what I learned just this past weekend.

1. Over the top’ creative approaches can generate appointments with decision-makers. The July issue of the U.S. Postal Service’s publication Deliver® featured a story on Chris Newman. As the award-winning senior art director at Euro RSCG Chicago, Chris emphatically shows why B2B marketing doesn’t have to be dull.

He uses ‘over the top’ creative dimensional mailers that get decision makers to interact with the marketing and say yes to a face-to-face appointment with sales. As Chris observes, there’s something “powerful about being able to hold something in your hand and explore it on your own . . . it’s definitely a ‘real’ experience, as opposed to a virtual experience.” How does this work?

Here are two of his great (and productive) creations:

On behalf of Sprint, Euro RSCG sent decision-makers a Tackle Box, described as a “solution toolbox” with the clever teaser “Don’t let this one get away.” The box contained typical fishing paraphernalia plus a brochure promoting Sprint’s work grade communications and a business card from a Sprint Sales representative. Mailing to 500 decision-makers, this campaign generated a huge 5% response.

Looking for a “high-impact” way to promote Sprint’s Wireline Convergence Wireless Integration system, Chris and his team created a B2B direct mailer that included a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly, plus a gift card for high-quality steaks. The marketing message was “Not since PB&J has integration been so seamless.” Exceeding the marketing goal by over 300%, Sprint reported that their national account managers loved the concept so much that when they were scheduled to go to the appointments, they were actually bringing loaves of bread to go with the peanut butter and jelly.”

When the value of making a sale is high enough, these approaches are well worth the extra cost and effort. They produce interaction — and response — and make a strong brand impression at the same time.

To read the complete article, entitled “Alpha Mail,” just download a copy of this issue of Deliver.

2. Adding drama to subject lines and headlines produces better results. An article by Robert Lerose in the latest issue of Target Marketing Magazine effectively covers six ‘timeless’ “Strategies for a Great Headline.” When looking at his list, I realized how rarely I see the power of these six approaches used in B2B marketing.

Subject lines, headlines, and the title of the offer content, however, must be powerful enough to draw the prospect into the marketing message. How would these proven headline approaches affect B2B marketing?

Here are a few examples:

Acceptable Subject Line: Seamlessly integrate timesheets w/ invoicing
Dramatic Subject Line: Cut 50% off data entry time and costs

Acceptable Headline: Reduce on-the-job accidents with new innovative training tool.
Dramatic Headline: Build a lifetime of safe behavior in 20 minutes of fun.

Acceptable White Paper Title: How to Move or Expand Your Company’s Network Infrastructure.
Dramatic White Paper Title: IT Manager’s Survival Guide: 5 essential steps to a flawless installation, expansion or move of your company’s network infrastructure.

Robert’s other approaches to making headlines dramatic are all worth reading and considering. But remember, in this day of B2B marketing message overload, the headline can make or break the effectiveness of marketing.

3. Today’s technology buyers still want more savings and efficiency. The June 29 issue of Information Week has some good news, B2B marketers. Chris Murphy’s subhead in his “Return to Growth” article says “The belt tightening isn’t over, but companies are spending more of their IT dollars to drive revenue and gain customers.”

In the article, Chris compares the results of the “InformationWeek Analytics 2010 Global CIO Survey” with last year’s survey, providing the following insight that should guide our current messages for selling to this target:

Here is what 333 IT executives said about their “Innovation Plans for 2010.”

48% — Make business processes more efficient.
36% — Introduce new IT-led products and services for customers.
32% — Lower IT costs and business costs.
28% — Create a new business model and revenue stream for the company.

Looking at these results, I see “making business processes more efficient” to be strongly tied into “lowering IT costs and business costs.” So cost-cutting should probably remain a part of B2B marketing messages along with the growth that can come from new product introductions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best place to start all B2B marketing efforts.

There’s a very important place marketers have to be when conducting B2B marketing or selling B2B products or services. It’s not in the office. It’s not at a trade show. It’s not at a networking event, and it’s not even on the golf course. Brain 2It’s inside a prospect’s mind.

Whenever I write marketing copy I imagine the prospective buyer and try to understand where he or she might be sitting when reading what I am writing. I envision the person on the job, interacting with others, agonizing over problems or barriers that my client’s product or service can solve. With this in mind, I can formulate copy that, I hope, will capture their attention and make them feel the message is personal to them.

It’s not enough to know which benefits and features will solve the challenges faced by prospective customers. B2B marketers must also know how and why human beings make buying decisions.

Amy Africa of Eight-by-Eight, in her recent QLOG “Do You Remember Your First Kiss?” begins a series addressing just that. Her focus is ecommerce Web sites, but her insight also has value for B2B marketers selling high-end, complex products or services.

Then last week a marketing organization of which I am a member gave a presentation covering this same point. It explained how the context of what you say about your product or service must fit with the way the human brain needs to receive the information.

It’s all about getting into the minds of your prospects by understanding not only what they need but also how their minds work. So here are 4 basic human-thinking practices I’ve learned over the years that marketers might want to keep in mind before communicating with prospects about their products or services:

  1. Minds resist change and like the familiar — B2B marketing conversations should begin from where the prospect’s mind is now, not where you want it to be. A very obvious example is matching the case studies you provide to the prospect company’s industry and size. Another area in which this point works well is in formulating SEM ads. Those ads should speak to the solution the prospect is using now and not the solution you’re trying to sell them.
  2. Minds need clear-cut distinctions — The best way to show the size of a very small product is to show a picture of the item next to something everyone knows and uses. Product competitive advantages should be instantly understood.
  3. Minds need to be told what to do –“Click Here Now,” “Call Now,” “Start Your FREE Trial Now,” “Download Now” may seem boring and obvious. But B2B marketers cannot expect prospects to think or to guess. A clear, strong call-to-action in marketing materials always produces a higher response.
  4. Minds selectively retain information — Following up a B2B lead-generation email, direct mail or other communication with a phone call is a strong interactive-marketing approach. But the call must be made in 5 days or less. After that, most of today’s overworked prospects will have no recollection of the previous communication.

Focusing your marketing approaches and sales pitches on how the human mind works and how it responds to new information is the key to gaining attention, being heard and closing sales. So before marketers start, they need to take a little trip inside their prospect’s minds.