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.

B2B marketing know-it-alls are on a fast path to failure.

In the course of putting together a marketing program for a client recently, I had the opportunity to call a colleague I had not worked with in many years. In our initial conversation I asked about her daughter (whose age I had forgotten). My colleague responded by saying, “She’s a senior in high school now and she knows everything.”

The daughter’s attitude, of course, comes from the limited experience of youth.

This attitude is evident in parts of the B2B marketing, too. A person who is new to the working world of marketing and in a position related to digital marketing, for example, completely rejects all other channels as dying or dead. Those immersed in social media think that outbound marketing is completely out of date and old-fashioned.

These individuals have not experienced the power of other marketing channels and therefore dismiss their viability. They aren’t exposed to B2B marketing efforts like these and, when they are, don’t believe what they see:

  • On a direct mail marketing survey effort designed to generate B2B leads for a large corporation, the young members of the marketing staff were shocked that 74% of the direct mail responders mailed back the completed survey instead of taking it online.
  • An ecommerce company that had been selling online exclusively for five years mailed their first printed catalog and were surprised that it delivered a 1.5% response rate. Those weren’t just leads, but sales.
  • A B2B outbound marketing lead generation campaign sent out by a publisher generated a 3.1% response from direct mail and a .6% response from email making the same offer.

One of the important steps in building a solid marketing strategy is selecting which channels to test. Any B2B marketers putting their entire budget into a single medium must be one of those marketers who knows it all.

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.

Is your B2B marketing missing a secret ingredient?

The network of B2B marketers digitally sharing news, information and expertise through LinkedIn, Twitter, and dozens of other sites is currently focused on social media. Not long ago it was talking about email marketing, SEO and other tools available to B2B marketers today.

Each of those digital marketing methods has value for communicating, building relationships with prospective buyers, nurturing them through the buy-cycle and more. But there’s one thing digital media doesn’t do well and there’s one medium that can deliver it most consistently. This secret ingredient is “longevity” — and the medium is direct mail.

Tweets arrive, race through groups of users and are gone. The daily emails that arrive on the desktops of B2B buyers and influencers number in the hundreds. Email communications grab attention quickly and then are gone — often never to be seen again. There are times when they don’t even grab attention.

The only medium or channel that has the ability to stay around and add valuable longevity to a B2B marketing investment is printed material sent through the mail.

Printed material can physically sit in stacks on the desk to be picked up and read later. Printed material gets read offline when there are no other electronic distractions. Many business buyers take material to be read in the convenience of their home. Printed material gets filed for future reference.

I experienced this personally just this morning. I received an email invitation from a stranger to bid on a project. The inquiry was sent to my main email address, not the info@ address I use on my Web site. So naturally, I asked where the sender got my name.

Her answer: “I received a cold marketing letter from you in 2009 and saved it. How about that for longevity?”

Putting a physical piece, letter, brochure, data sheet, CD, or other bit of information in the hands of your targeted prospects gives them something to review at their leisure, save, pass along to associates, pass around at meetings, file and reference later.

It works now for generating qualified leads and gives your B2B marketing investment the long life that doesn’t readily exist in other B2B marketing channels.

B2B marketing basics for filling the sales pipeline.

This morning I wrote copy to help promote the upcoming November event for the San Diego Direct Marketing Association. The presenter is a video blogger and social media evangelist for Sony Electronics, Sukhjit Ghan. At the event she will tell the story of a social media campaign for Sony that’s being recognized on The Next Web as the most successful social media campaign in history.

The B2C campaign involves the launch of a new Sony tablet and how the effort got customers talking about the tablet and going into retail outlets to see it. It also generated 10,000 contest entries. Marketing success stories always make great presentations and learning opportunities.

But what if the marketer is B2B and the company sells prototyping software to manufacturers of technology products? What if it sells outsourced IT services to a limited geographic area or technology solutions designed just for hospitals?

These marketers don’t have millions of potential buyers. Their marketing universes are as little as 2,000 to 20,000 prospects, which can be easily identified by industry, employee size, location and annual sales figures.

Social media may have some value to these companies in certain situations such as conferences and other industry settings. Unlike Sony, however, social media can’t be used to reliably and consistently fill their sales pipelines with qualified leads.

B2B email marketing is perfect for nurturing leads through the buying cycle until they are ready to buy. Despite its lower cost, however, it’s fairly dismal at generating fresh leads. Search has great value, but there’s no control over how many prospects might reach out looking for a solution at a particular time. Direct mail marketing, on the other hand, is still cost effective, even for B2B marketers with a small budget and small prospect universe.

Here are the basic numbers that support it. These numbers are very conservative and are based on averages using a small-quantity prospect universe. As the quantity grows, the results and the ROI both grow. This campaign uses a #10 business envelope containing a letter and a flat, branded gift item that makes the package slightly lumpy so it stands out in the mail and gets opened. Responders go to a PURL to download educational content being offered.

At first glance, these numbers may seem high. But what if the company doing the marketing sells a product or service that produces $20,000 in gross revenue per sale? That means three sales would generate $60,000. What if it’s $100,000 per sale? What if the value of a new customer generates $500,000 to $1,000,000 over its lifetime?

In that perspective, the costs are very much in line. Of course, to meet these projections requires that the campaigns follow best practices, use a quality mailing list, etc. There are direct mail strategies that can generate greater response rates of 2% to 5% or more. These strategies raise the campaign costs, but also raise the number of leads generated and the conversions at the same time.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, there are a number of respected technology and other B2B firms using direct mail marketing regularly and successfully. It provides B2B marketers with one of today’s most reliably effective strategies for generating qualified leads and filling the sales pipeline.

In B2B marketing — it’s not outbound vs. inbound.

Getting educated on marketing best practices is a lot easier than it used to be. Now, we don’t have to spend a minute driving to a local marketing event or flying CSL083to a national conference to hear the experts. Almost daily we can tune in to informative Webinars right from the office. In a single hour, we can get up to speed on any one of hundreds of critical marketing issues.

This brings me to a very inviting offer I received recently from MarketingProfs. It invited me to download a Kit of info from HubSpot entitled “Marketing in a Downturn.” It included the following:

  1. Video: Marketing in a Recession (1 hour)
  2. Video: How to Generate Leads on a Budget Using Inbound Marketing (1 hour)
  3. Video: How to Demonstrate the Value of Social Media to Your Boss (1 hour)
  4. Video: Marketing Detox: How to Get Off Google AdWords PPC Crack (1 hour)
  5. e-Book: Getting Found Online – Learn how to get found online in the search engines, blogosphere, and social media sites (10 pages)

Item two, “How to Generate Leads on a Budget Using Inbound Marketing,” contained terrific guidance on blogging that I found to be very valuable. I listened intently for the full hour.

However, I made it through only the first few minutes of the “Marketing in a Recession” presentation. Not because it didn’t have good content in it, but because, early on, Mike Volpe, the presenter, made a statement implying that the response rates to “outbound channels” are diminishing.

In his section on “Rethinking Marketing” he made the argument that outbound marketing channels are losing their effectiveness and are being replaced by inbound marketing channels. Here are the channels he included:

Outbound Marketing
Trade shows
Direct mail
Email blasts
Print ads

Inbound Marketing
Social Media
Free tools/trials
Public RelationsÂ

Because of the rising costs of most of these outbound channels, fewer businesses are using them. But most of these channels are still cost-effectively generating qualified leads for larger ticket B2B products and services. I can’t speak for TV/Radio, and it’s true that email lead generation response rates have fallen, but these channels are still a productive part of an integrated B2B marketing program.

  • Trade shows may have smaller attendance, but those who do attend represent a highly targeted market in search of solutions.
  • In direct mail and telemarketing there are lists available that provide significant selections on each record, so targeting by title, employee size, company size and many other criteria are available. They allow companies to match prospect lists to an exact profile of their best customers.
  • Print ads have never been as directly productive as other channels. However, vertical industry publications are a perfect place to help build name recognition that supports the brand just like social media and public relations.

Inbound marketing is an important part of today’s marketing mix, but for businesses who still want to spend X dollars and know that the money they spend will generate Y qualified prospects, outbound is still the only way to go.

And by the way, Mike, you used MarketingProfs’ outbound marketing to generate downloads for your Kit, so I guess you haven’t given up on outbound channels, either.