Use other’s B2B marketing landing page wins to boost yours.

Most smart B2B marketers already know that the design and copy in a landing page have huge impact on the success of online B2B marketing campaigns — or even offline, if the call to action is to visit a URL.

Many B2B marketers, however, don’t have a large enough universe of prospective customers to conduct valid testing on their own. So it’s handy to have so many others conduct tests, and, from those tests, establish the best practices the rest of us can use.

Last week I experienced two landing page-related events that brought these best practices back into my focus.

One was a discussion with a client marketing team about the creation of a new landing page template. The other was the arrival of an email link to the 2012 Online Testing Awards Winners from “Which Test Won.”

The discussion included reports from several team members on landing page best practices they had picked up at recent Webinars. Most of the testing was done with B2C products and services and less for B2B, but those that would most affect B2B landing pages include:

  • Make sure the landing page headline and content continue the messaging that began in the PPC ad, banner, or whatever message directs the prospect to the landing page URL.
  • Have a strong, clear and quickly visible call to action.
  • Use directional cues to direct attention to the CTA, such as arrows.
  • Keep the landing page to a single purpose.
  • Show a visual of what is being offered — white paper, checklist, etc.
  • Use video, which has been shown to boost conversion by 80% (I don’t know if this is B2B or B2C, or if it even matters).
  • Keep the message clean, short, clear and easy to read.
  • Keep the registration fields required to receive the offer as short as possible.

The biggest surprise that has come out of landing page testing is that indicating required fields with asterisks actually reduces response.

The 2012 Online Testing Awards Winners provide a wonderful opportunity for us B2B marketers to test our own instincts about what’s best on a landing page. Each test provides the two pages tested, lets you vote, then reports which version really won the test and why.

It provides fun and instant insight into how small changes to landing pages can make a big difference in results.

B2B marketers: Let your market be your guide.

How do we B2B marketers make sure that the channel, offer and messaging choices we make have the best chance of producing the response we desire?

Let the results of this recent test conducted by one of the marketing agencies I serve be your guide:

THE CLIENT: The client sells advertising services to small businesses in markets across the country.

THE GOAL: Their goal was to enhance loyalty and help ensure renewal of their customers’ annual advertising contracts.

THE TACTIC: The client mailed, emailed and also provided an online version of a survey their customers were invited to complete.

THE OFFER: In exchange for completing the survey, the customer would have a chance to win a coffee card from a well-known national coffee retailer and get the results of the survey.

Now I ask, “How much does the dollar amount on the coffee card need to be to generate the best response?” Would it be $5, $10 or $20?

The agency’s client was sure that a higher dollar amount would produce a big increase in response. The agency’s experience was that the lower amount worked just fine. So a test was set up between the $5, the $10 and the $20.

The $5 offer achieved a 3.6% response. The $10 offer achieved a 3.6% response and the $20 did only a little better with a 4% response rate.

When this campaign is rolled out into future markets, the client will offer a $5 coffee card and know that they are almost maximizing response at a significantly lower cost.

The lesson is, don’t assume that what you would do is what your market would do.

Without testing offers (whether they be educational content, discounts, X-month free trials) there’s no way for those of us in B2B marketing to really know how to maximize results while minimizing costs. As the title says, when making B2B marketing decisions, “Let your market be your guide.”

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.

How intuitive is B2B direct marketing?

Merriam-Webster defines intuitive as “directly apprehended.” I think most would agree that, if direct marketing is intuitive, then most people can naturally know how to do it and do it right based on their own experiences.

If direct marketing is intuitive, it would mean that an executive could make a marketing decision based on his or her own experiences and attitudes. “Because I don’t read marketing materials that come to my desk at the office, direct mail marketing is not worth doing.”

If direct marketing is intuitive, a product manager would make sure that the marketing messages sent out to generate leads would talk about the many features of the product being sold. That’s because anyone wanting those features will surely read the message and want to learn more about the product right away.

If direct marketing is intuitive, a B2B marketer who monitors Twitter, Facebook, industry blogs and his company’s SEO ranking would conclude that it’s the only way today’s buyers want to get their information.

The fact is, B2B direct marketing is almost totally counter-intuitive. This has been proven thousands of times by marketers conducting true A/B split testing of marketing channels, offers and messaging.

For example, which of the following offers would work best?

  • Buy one get one free
  • Two for the price of one
  • 50% off

Every one of these offers is exactly the same, so intuition would tell marketers that neither one would work better than the other. In real life, “Buy one get one free” typically outperforms the other two by a significant margin every time it’s tested.

Recently the wonderful Which Test Won service reported on this subject line test that was sent out with an email to a double, opt-in house file.

A. [First Name] Test, track, increase your profit – start today!
B. [First Name] Start tracking and optimizing your business today!

These subject lines say practically the same thing, so is this even worth testing? It turns out that 67% who took a guess on the winning line picked line A. Yet line B was not only the best performing subject line, but it generated an 88% lift in open rate.

It’s very clear that using one’s intuition to make any B2B marketing decision is not a reliable way to achieve marketing success. Smart marketers test, they don’t guess. It’s the only way to go.

When B2B Marketing should apply the rule of IDM.

In today’s B2B marketing world a large number of blogs, LinkedIn commentary, Webinars and the like focus on all the changes in marketing. In fact, the header on G. David Dodd’s Marketing Directions blog is positioned on following the changes. His header reads, “The rules of B2B marketing are constantly changing. What worked yesterday won’t necessarily work today. . .or tomorrow. This blog presents information, opinion, and speculation about where B2B marketing is headed.”

Unfortunately, there is one constant in the B2B marketing world in which I travel — and that’s “delay.” Web sites that could be redone in eight weeks suffer a six-month process of redesign. Marketing messages get reviewed and re-reviewed and reviewed again. One client got so backed up that they were months behind in sending out nurturing emails to prospects.

Many delays are impossible to avoid due to workloads and priorities. B2B marketing, however, should be a top priority. Generating leads, nurturing leads, upselling and cross-selling customers, maintaining customer loyalty — all those efforts are critical to company sales, growth, and success.

What can marketers do to minimize delays? Learn when to apply the rule of “IDM.”

“IDM,” of course, is “it don’t matter.” Many B2B marketing projects are held up by players messing with elements that, frankly, make little or no difference in response or results.

Ken Flowers, in his Practical Leadership blog, says it best when he updates Voltaire’s quote: “perfect is the enemy of good.” In Flower’s version, “Perfect is the Enemy of Done.” He goes on to point out that this quote comes in handy too often as people are reminded that there’s no value in perfect work until it is delivered.

A B2B marketer’s biggest job is knowing which marketing elements are critical to increasing response and which are IDMs. For example:

  • Copy and buttons on landing pages and emails matter. (Ann Holland points this out on her “Which Test Won” site where she reports results of real-world testing of emails and landing pages.)
  • Clear, prominent calls to action matter.
  • Subject lines matter. (Testing subject lines is critical.)
  • Home pages matter.
  • Language clarity matters.
  • Message targeting and personalization matter.
  • Titles of content offers matter.

There’s much more. This entire blog is focused on covering the marketing stuff that matters.

When delays happen, B2B marketers should look at the element delaying the project and determine if it’s critical or if it’s an IDM. Then they should know whether to make the change or to move on.

How often to send B2B lead acquisition efforts? Find your Uncle Harry.

Several months ago, a prospective B2B client called me for messaging help on her company’s sales-generation email program. Because her Web service is available for a low monthly fee, she doesn’t need to nurture leads but seeks, instead, to generate ready buyers.

On the call, she told me that she is sending emails out to the same list of 20,000 small-business prospects via Constant Contact every week. I let out a small gasp when I first heard this. Any B2B company emailing me weekly would have been opted-out a long time ago. Yet, she says her opt-out rate is low. It’s possible that many of her emails are going into spam folders and aren’t being seen at all; however, they do generate some business.

Then a recent blog post, “eMarketing – How Many Touches Produce Results?,” from Manticore Technology, a B2B marketing automation provider, addressed the email frequency issue. In their words, they had “set out to discover how many touches are optimal for multi-touch email marketing campaigns.”

They offered an educational eGuidebook to the same target list, sending one email per month for four months. Here is their result:

Email #1: 1235 downloads
Email #2: 585 downloads
Email #3: 52 downloads
Email #4: 17 downloads

In direct mail marketing, the predictive formula of results when sending the same message to the same audience is a 50% drop in response with each successive mailing. This example in emailing shows a greater decline that may or may not produce similar results if repeated in the future.

But the question remains, how often is too often? What’s the answer? The number is different for every company, every product, every target market. Only through testing can a B2B company determine which frequency is the most productive and cost-effective. Only through testing can each company find their Uncle Harry.

Who’s he? Uncle Harry is the guy that triggers how often a company should mail lead generation offers to the same group of prospects. Here’s the story:

Many years ago, an insurance company that sold primarily through direct mail was trying to determine how often it should mail offers to its base of prospective customers. Their marketing team broke the mailing list into groups and tested various mailing patterns. The one that performed the best for them was to re-mail every 90 days.

They found that mailing more often cost more and did not produce enough additional business to justify the additional mailing costs. On the reverse, they found that waiting longer than 90 days did not boost response significantly enough to justify the wait.

So why was 90 days the magic number for them? Because Uncle Harry died.

That’s right. Every 90 days, there are enough people in the country who have a relative die to trigger the awareness that maybe they need to get life insurance.

How does this consumer example apply to B2B marketing? Because, most of the time, the decision to move ahead with finding a solution to a particular business challenge relates to an event. Uncle Harry may not have died, but perhaps a big customer was lost, a competitor won the bid for a new customer, costs suddenly rose or one of hundreds of events happened that triggered a change in company priorities.

It’s then that a B2B company needs to be in front of its prospect with the right message. For some, like the prospective client who called me, every week may not be too much. For others like Manticore, once a month with the same offer may be too often. B2B marketers should test their lead generation marketing frequency to find their own Uncle Harry.

B2B marketers must tell their CEOs to stop playing golf.

Today’s smart B2B marketers develop strategic, integrated marketing plans that make strong offers to targeted markets using the right channels, the right messaging and the right design. They track results, then adjust campaigns to grow and maximize those results.

These plans are carefully crafted and incorporate the latest in B2B marketing best practices. These marketers are proud of their diligent work and begin to execute the programs based on their plan.

Then their CEO goes golfing.

The very next day, that CEO walks into the marketer’s office requesting changes to the campaigns based on the great advice gotten from a peer on the golf course. Advice like:

  • “When I run political campaigns, here’s what I do.”
  • “How come you’re not doing this?”
  • “You should do what this consultant told us to do.”

If there’s a B2B marketer out there who has never experienced this, my congratulations. For the rest of us, we must resort to the only approach we can use to educate the misguided CEO we dare not insult.

  • Be ready to defend each strategy based on best practices supported by third-party sources.
  • Show what market leaders in their industry are doing.
  • Show what has been tested in the past that supports the current recommendations.
  • Offer to test the CEO’s wacky ideas (in a small test panel to minimize the damage).
  • Remind the CEO that all of the strategies are based on acceptable cost-per-lead and cost-per-sale numbers.
  • Show the CEO the negative financial impact of using his or her ideas, if unsuccessful.

This problem is not confined to golfing buddies. Influential, but bad, advice can come from spouses, neighbors, college chums and a full assortment of people who have access to the CEO’s ear but know nothing about B2B marketing.

So be prepared to correct this bad advice at any time. After all, telling the CEO to stop golfing is a lot harder to do.

Subject testing: Hate it in the classroom, love it in B2B marketing.

Sitting in the classroom on test day was always a painful experience. “Do I know the materials?” “Did I read the right chapters?” “I should have spent more time studying.” “What will happen if I fail?” Back then, testing was a bad thing full of questions.

Today, as a B2B marketer, testing is a good thing that delivers answers. Testing, in fact, is the thing that keeps us from failing and allows us to continually improve the success of our outbound marketing efforts.

Direct marketing has always been about testing. Without testing, how can a B2B marketer know which marketing channels, offers and language will work for his or her particular company, product and market?

Yesterday I sat in on part of a MENG Webinar by Beth Harte, Client Services Director, Serengeti Communications on “Strategies for Integrating Traditional Marketing With Social Media.” She spoke about the importance of using the right language. Her point was that, if a company’s market is “gear-heads,” then the person communicating with that market via social media better be a “gear-head” or the social media strategy will fail. She’s so right. Having the right “voice” is critical in all B2B marketing.

Unless our market is very vertical (such as “gear-heads”), figuring out which “voice” will best resonate with our prospects is best determined by testing.

Since smart B2B marketers use emails to nurture their pipeline leads in an effort to move them through the buying cycle, subject lines are at the top of the list of items that should be tested. The question arises, “What should we test?”

Fortunately there was a great discussion recently on LinkedIn about subject lines. Started by Ben Bush of The Crocodile on the B2B Technology Marketing Community, the 26 participants shared great insight.

Here are some of the approaches that have worked for others and are, therefore, worth testing:

John McMillan at McMillan Technology Ltd.:

  • Eye-catching benefit subject lines going to strangers — the equivalent of a “cold call”
  • First names in subject lines (he notes that it works in the U.S. but can be seen as rude in other cultures)

Sandra Nangeroni, Director of Interactive Marketing:

  • Include in the subject line “what” they get if offering a white paper or Webinar
  • Who it comes from carries a lot of weight as it identifies the sender as a trusted, credible source
  • Words or phrases that resonate with the target and industry
  • Use themes like “Top 10 Tips for . . .” or “5 Reasons Why . . .”

Graeme McKee at API Software and AudoRek:

  • A phrase or sentence that summarizes the email content — no more, no less

Karen Dove, at DEX Imaging:

  • Simply the company name in the subject line is very effective
  • Sometimes, after the company name, put a colon and then add detail

Sokol Nikolov at EL MEDIA:

  • Use specific technology-related words in the subject line

These are some of the elements B2B marketers may want to consider when conducting email subject line testing. There was much other good advice as well.
Jason Ball, Specialist B2B Copywriter, for instance, uses Litmus to check whether subject lines would get tossed by spam filters before sending. This is an excellent idea, as a test result is not very valid if one of the two lines being tested never makes it to the prospect’s inbox.

The best testing approach, of course, in an A/B split. That is sending the two options at the same time in a half-and-half split.

The lesson today is that testing is good and, in B2B marketing, it can end with more than an A+ grade. It can result in learning how to generate more click-throughs and more prospects being moved down the buy cycle and into the hands of sales for conversion.

My 5 favorite B2B marketing numbers.

Everyone, except perhaps the creative folks in advertising agencies, knows that marketing is a numbers game. Numbers such as click-thrus, cost-per-lead, cost-per-sale and ROI dominate the landscape of marketing numbersdiscussions.

I like numbers. They measure the real market success (or failure) of B2B marketing campaigns, they support the argument for following best marketing practices, and they give marketers real insight into the cost and potential value of various marketing approaches.

So, it makes sense to share my 5 favorite numbers to help other marketers experience the confidence and the joy that numbers bring to the strategic process. I didn’t devise these numbers. But after years of knowing them, I cannot honestly remember whose testing and research discovered them in the first place. They are:

  1. The value of following up with leads immediately: 88% of people are happy to hear from the B2B vendor within 24 hours of downloading informational content. Waiting 96 hours drops that percentage to the 40s.
  2. The reason nurturing leads is critical in maximizing sales: 45% of new leads generated will buy from someone in the industry category within 12 months.
  3. One big argument for integrated outbound marketing: Qualified B2B direct mail lists consistently provide 60% more records, business profiles and demographics than email marketing lists.
  4. Making sure the results of marketing tests are statistically valid: When testing one list or channel against another, the results of the test can be considered minimally statistically valid only if the response to each individual test cell is 85 responses or higher.
  5. Where to focus efforts in B2B marketing campaigns: Out of 100%, the elements that affect the outcome of a B2B marketing campaign carry the following weights List/Media/Data = 40%, Offer = 30%, Design = 15% and Copy = 15%.

Marketers building strategies and plans for the remainder of the year and beyond should let the numbers be their guide.

6 tips for B2B landing pages that land business.

In the history of the human race, information has never been so readily available. There’s hardly a subject in the world that isn’t discussed and accessible online — from the genealogy of Goofy to what Brad Pitt orders when he goes out to dinner.

If one is looking for a business solution — software, consulting services, ink cartridges, training materials or thousands of other products and services — it is easy to find, right from the desktop. Then there’s a ton of advice for those businesses selling those products and services — to which I am very happy to contribute.

With this plethora of advice and ease of getting it, I am baffled when I see emails, landing pages, websites and other marketing tools that do not follow best practices.

A landing page has the attention of a prospect for so little time, it’s important that everything works. So what set of tips should be followed? Those that have come out of multivariate A/B split testing in the real marketplace. For those not familiar with multivariate testing, the subject is nicely covered by Mona Elesseily in “Getting Multivariate Landing Page Testing Straight!” on Search Engine Land.

Companies should do their own testing with their own message to their own market. But lacking the time, budget or willingness to test, the next best thing is to implement the findings of those who have tested.

Here’s what the marketers who have tested landing pages have found:

  1. Message Presentation: Assume the prospect will not read the copy but give the page a once-over. So the core of the message must be communicated through headlines and subheads.
  2. Visuals: Include a photo or two if possible. Photos of people make a company seem personal and approachable. Use captions with pictures. Captions are a great way to emphasize an important point, and they actually get read.
  3. Focus: Focus the message and the call to action on responding to the offer being made. Any navigation options that take prospects away from getting them to accept the offer on the page will diminish response. If you want to provide more info, such as testimonials or product details, turn the landing page into a microsite and put that information on secondary tabbed or pop-up pages. But don’t send prospects away from the offer.
  4. Flow: Look at your page and make sure the headline and message flow easily from one point to another. Companies like actually measure how the eye moves through a message. If a message does not follow the natural flow, that too will diminish response.
  5. Offer Placement: Make sure the offer and call to action are the first things seen when the email is opened. Then they can be repeated several more places on the page.
  6. Response Form: Put the response form and fields on the landing page. Every additional time prospects are asked to click-thru to another page will reduce response.

For those who test landing pages, the marketplace has spoken. There’s no reason not to maximize click-thrus by following the practices they have found to work best.