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Perfectly time your contact with B2B buyers.

It’s widely understood that most B2B buyers conduct product or service research on the Web during the buying process. Knowing when they do this online research can give B2B marketers great insight into what marketing practices to put in place and when.

Fortunately, Derek Singleton, a B2B Sales and Marketing Analyst for Software Advice, studied data from more than 6,000 visitors to their site to discover when this research is performed and when is the best time to pick up the phone and call these prospects.

His post “B2B Buyer Behavior—Web & Phone Channels Industry View 2013” tells it all. B2B marketers will want to review his entire report, but here are highlights of the valuable data he uncovered:

  • Call leads fast—really fast. When they call a lead generated on the Web within 5 seconds, the odds of qualifying them are 29 percent higher than if they are called within 5 minutes.
  • Tuesday through Thursday is the best time to reach buyers. Leads that come in Tuesday through Thursday qualify at twice the average qualification rate as other business days.
  • Don’t underestimate the opportunity around the holidays. The week before Christmas is surprisingly active for conversion and qualification rates.

This information is not only over-the-top valuable for managing the staffing of your inside sales force, but it reveals that offsite meetings and other “non-sales” activities should be scheduled for Mondays or Fridays. Marketers might even consider some weekend staffing for those leads that do their research on the weekends. These leads could easily be lost or overlooked if they don’t receive a well-timed call.

Of course, this data is based on the practice of the prospects and customers of Software Advice, so marketers may want to study their own data to make sure these findings apply to their business and market. It’s great information that can make a fast and direct impact on the bottom line.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Learning smart B2B marketing from an industry event invite.

It may seem strange for me write about a B2B marketing event I haven’t yet attended. But the invite was so informative, I have to share. The upcoming event is sponsored by the San Diego Software Industry Council (SDSIC) and features Reid Carr, CEO of Red Door Interactive, and Harley Orion, CEO of Orion Creative Group.

The title, “Top Five Ways to Maximize Your Marketing Dollar,” really caught my eye because it’s a concept I’ve supported in my own marketing for many years — track every penny that’s spent directly to leads and sales.

With social media being so hot today, it can often distract B2B marketers from the full scope of elements that must be part of every B2B marketing strategy. What I love about this invite from the SDSIC is that it’s a perfect reminder of how important it is to make sure an online B2B marketing strategy covers all the bases — not just social media.

I know most of you can’t attend this live event. But even the list of what is to be covered is a great reminder of the areas that should never be left out of any online B2B marketing strategy. It reads:

  • Know your customer: How to mine your existing data, and do additional research to fully understand the needs of your target customer, how to reach him or her online, and how to position your offering for the greatest impact.
  • Define goals: Goals are more than just measurements of success or failure; setting goals helps to clarify your tactics. Knowing where you’re going helps determine the most successful and cost-effective way to get there. We’ll talk about not just the importance of setting goals (the obvious), but literally how to create goals that will streamline execution and generate results.
  • Get your website right: Before spending money to drive traffic to your site, make sure it’s ready.  Driving traffic to a dysfunctional, off-brand or otherwise under-performing website may not create the desired ROI. We’ll discuss both simple and comprehensive ways to improve your web presence, through user experience design, analytics and testing – not just so it “looks prettier” but so that it effectively communicates and converts.
  • Identify good traffic building strategies: Most people are familiar with numerous ways to generate online traffic. But we’ll give you a rare look into how interactive agencies evaluate potential strategies for each unique client, and make these big decisions using data, not opinion.
  •  Retain your customers: How to build and maintain effective retention tools, such as CRM (customer relationship management), customer lifecycle research and monitoring, social CRM tools, and email marketing, among others.

 

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Matching B2B marketing channels to buyer preferences.

With so much information appearing daily on the Internet, it becomes impossible to know which information to trust and which is just random opinion.

That’s why I was so happy when a colleague sent me a copy of a study from Epsilon Targeting, “The Formula for Success: Preference and Trust.” A division of Epsilon, a provider of consulting, marketing data, and marketing technology, they compiled responses from 2,226 U.S. and 2,574 Canadian age 18+ consumers to an online survey in August of 2011. Their statistical significance of the results is calculated at a 95% confidence level. This is their third study on the topic of marketing channel choices.

Readers may question why I would report on a consumer survey when the focus of this blog is B2B marketing. But I feel that the results of this survey translate very nicely into the B2B world, because business decision-makers are also consumers and naturally bring their personal preferences into the workplace.

Direct mail is the trust and attention-getting winner:

  • 26% of U.S. consumers and 30% of Canadians said direct mail is more trustworthy than email.
  • 50% of U.S. consumers and 48% of Canadians said they pay more attention to postal mail than email.
  • 60% of U.S. consumers and 64% of Canadians said they enjoy checking the mailbox for postal mail, highlighting an emotional connection.
  • 30% of U.S. consumers said they’re receiving more mail that interests them compared to a year ago, and just 50% (down from 63% in 2010) said more information is sent to them in the mail — indicating marketers are improving targeting efforts.
  • The perception that reading email is faster declined among U.S. email account holders to 45% in 2011 (from 47% in 2010), suggesting clogged inboxes are draining time.

Email still has many advantages:

  • 42% of U.S. respondents like that they can choose to receive or not receive email.
  • 41% like the fact that they can decide whether to print out the information or not.
  • 34% of U.S. consumers (up from 21% in 2010) like the ability to be green and save on the use of paper.
  • 23% like the easy ability to forward information (a very valuable tool in B2B marketing).

From the above portion of the study’s results, it’s clear that both direct mail and email still have a place in B2B marketing. It supports my long-held position that direct mail is still the best outbound marketing channel for generating leads, and email is still the best for nurturing those leads through the buy cycle.

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5 ways B2B companies can make millions from referrals.

How could I not attend the recent San Diego Direct Marketing Association (SDDMA) event entitled “How to make over a million dollars in referral business?”

Referrals are almost like free money. It may take some time, effort and even some travel to close the sale, but the marketing cost is zero. That makes the return on the marketing investment a whopper.

The SDDMA luncheon speaker, Suzanne Weinstein of InSync Consulting, helps leaders and others resolve conflict and achieve greater levels of effectiveness and satisfaction. For her one-person business, she has actually made a million dollars from referrals. For a B2B company selling high-ticket products with a long buy cycle, referrals can easily add up to multiple millions.

Much of what Suzanne related in her talk has to do with what to do when sitting face to face with customers. In my B2B business, like many today, I don’t have the opportunity to meet clients face to face, and communication is either by phone or email. However, she did share a few tips for encouraging referrals that don’t require being in the room with the customer. To her suggestions I have added a few of my own for a short list of what B2B marketing and sales can do to encourage more of this “free money.”

1. Create a “member-get-a-member” marketing campaign. Conduct a marketing campaign that invites customers to make one or more referrals to their peers. If the referred party becomes a new customer, the referring customer receives a reward of some kind. This reward can be a gift, a free service, a discount or any other time-saving or money-saving extra. Some referral campaigns also offer a reward or welcome gift to the new customer as well.

2. Make it easy for customers to share information with their colleagues. It’s important for B2B marketers to include an “invite your colleagues” button on Webinar and event invitations and a “share with colleagues” link when sending out product information.

3. Be a resource for customers outside of direct product support. Those in B2B marketing and sales can better cement their relationships with customers by being a willing resource of information. This can include being ready with recommendations of other vendors that could solve other challenges for the customer as well as forwarding any pertinent news or other information about the customer’s company or their industry.

4. Ask for referrals. There’s no reason to beat around the bush. If B2B marketers or sales people have a good relationship with customers and vendors, there is no harm in asking.

5. Give referrals to get referrals. As a vendor, sales people and marketers at B2B companies should know the value of the products and services of their customers and vendors. With the availability of today’s virtual networks, providing customers with referrals should be easier than ever. B2B marketers and sales people should make every effort to do this. The favor is often returned.

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Effective B2B marketing requires budget AND brains.

Everyone needs a break from the daily stack of work. That’s why I took a moment to read a communication from the LinkedIn B2B Lead Generation & Content Marketing group entitled “20 Quotes To Inspire Your Marketing.”

Put together by Michael Brenner, Sr. Director, Global Marketing at SAP, many of them amused and inspired me. My favorites on his list are these:

 “What really decides consumers to buy or not to buy is the content of your advertising, not its form.” David Ogilvy

 “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” Seth Godin

 “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.” David Packard

 However, I found one quote to be a bit of an insult to B2B marketers:

 “If you have more money than brains you should focus on outbound marketing. If you have more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing.” Guy Kawasaki, author of Engage and founder of Alltop

 I was insulted because I spend much of my days writing messaging for outbound B2B marketing, including email and direct mail. Every one of my clients has first-hand experience with outbound marketing directly generating business. If done right — that means following best practices — outbound marketing consistently generates business at an acceptable cost-per-lead and cost-per-sale.

If outbound marketing is a “brainless” task, as Kawasaki implies, then marketing automation providers would have failed long ago. Instead, these companies are booming. The fact is, SAP has been a frequent and successful practitioner of outbound B2B direct mail marketing.

If a B2B marketing company has a large sales staff and needs to drive thousands of leads per month, social and inbound marketing cannot consistently drive the number of leads required.

Also, inbound marketing often generates leads that are further down the buy cycle. Engaging with those prospects late in the process puts the seller at a disadvantage. Competitive companies who reached out to that prospective buyer earlier in the process have been nurturing and building a relationship with them. When it comes to making a buying decision, the competitor has the advantage.

Outbound marketing can reach prospective buyers early in the process when they are just realizing they have a pain to solve but before they take action to search for a solution to that pain.

So, to add to Michael’s list of inspiring B2B marketing quotes, here is this old-timer: “The early bird gets the worm.”

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Four quick B2B marketing ideas for a short week.

There is no official holiday this week. It’s just that I’m taking a long weekend away from the office — so that means I have a short week. My short week doesn’t mean I don’t have a little B2B marketing wisdom to share. Of course, it’s not my wisdom. It’s great ideas I’ve heard recently from colleagues and associates that are well worth passing along.

These apply to different marketing situations, so give them a read and see if they can’t be used to help leverage more leads, more business and more customer loyalty in your B2B marketing environment.

1. Nurture top prospects: At your next customer gathering, summit or users’ group, invite your top prospects. Then sit those prospects down at dinner next to your best customers. There’s no better way to deliver a testimonial or a success story.

2. Build customer loyalty: Create an advisory board made of up a dozen customers. Then charge this group with helping to define future product enhancements. Make the position a two-year term, so customers can be rotated in and out of the board. This not only builds loyalty but creates a very positive image for your company.

3. Make event booths more interactive: Set up a fun photo setting at the booth of your next conference or trade show. Then invite booth visitors (prospects) to have their picture taken in this setting. This is a great way to get prospects to interact with your booth sales staff. It also keeps visitors around the booth longer while they wait for their photo to be printed and inserted into a cardboard or plastic frame — branded with your logo, of course. A setting idea might be a life-sized stand-up of a famous industry expert or other famous person that the prospect could be photographed with. Another might be an image with a face cut out of a person holding an award that says “World’s greatest marketer” or “World’s Greatest CIO” — or HR director, or CFO or whatever group represents the title of your target market.

4. Strengthen customer relationships and your brand: Get involved in support of a chosen charity activity and invite customers to join in when your company volunteers. It’s great image building, helps create a closer bond with customers and is a positive activity for customers and employees.

I hope you found some of these ideas helpful for your B2B marketing. Have a great week!

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Hat’s off to the B2B marketer behind this effort.

I love marketing offers. In B2B marketing (or any kind, for that matter), offers are what you give someone for doing something you want them to do.

Content is an offer. Offering content in outbound B2B marketing is basically saying:

“By accepting this offer you are showing that you have interest in learning about this topic. Tell me who you are and how to reach you and, in exchange, I’ll give you this white paper or this assessment or this guide or these case studies, etc.”

How often should a B2B marketer make an offer in outbound marketing efforts? The answer is ALWAYS.

When we B2B marketers invite prospects and clients to a Webinar, we see the Webinar as the offer. It has value and is educational. That’s why I was surprised and delighted to get this email invite.

Not only do InformationWeek and the event sponsors Syncsort and NetApp invite me to a Webinar, but they offer me the opportunity to win something if I attend.

So I asked myself, “What is their strategy in doing this?

I’m not sure I’m correct, but when I read the “contest rules” I discovered two possible answers. Here is the section of the Contest Rules I found revealing:

“To enter, each potential entrant must become a registered user of the Web Site and truthfully and accurately provide all information required by the registration process and view the “Virtualize without Compromise: Understanding VM Backup and Recovery” Webcast in its entirety prior to 2 p.m. EDT on July 26, 2011. The eligible prize winner(s) will be selected at random from all eligible entrants who view the Webcast in its entirety.”

It’s possible that two of the reasons this offer is being made are:
1. To make sure the registration is complete and accurate, and
2. To ensure that attendees don’t leave the Webcast early.

This offer makes the invitation stand out from dozens passing through a typical inbox. The subject line of “Win [50] $10 Starbucks gift cards: Understanding VM Backup and Recovery” puts the offer up front.

In addition, this offer gives me a very positive perception of the publication and the event sponsors. They are making a $500 investment in the hope that this Webcast will generate X number of leads and X number of new customers and potential revenue that justifies the investment.

It’s a strategically and financially sound B2B marketing strategy.

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