Category: Lead Handling and Nurturing

Discovering the true power of personal B2B marketing videos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Policies that put B2B marketing and sales on the same page.

Recently I saw Christopher Ryan’s post on Great B2B Marketing, “B2B Lead Management — 6 Best Practices.” As an advocate of best practices it caught my eye since it presents a valuable list well worth reviewing.

His number-one point, “Follow up every inbound inquiry within 48 hours — preferably 24 hours,” reminded me of two very contrasting client experiences I think are worth sharing.

 

Story #1
Back when it was still a relatively new marketing channel, a software developer ran their first email lead generation campaign. The email I was asked to write simply promoted their virtual collaboration software, which was also a relatively new concept at the time. The campaign generated more leads than could be responded to in 48 hours. So the Director of Marketing and his assistant stopped doing their jobs, took to the phones and pitched in so all the leads could be contacted quickly.

Story #2
Tasked with generating leads for a B2B technology service company, their marketing consultant asked me write an informational guide they could offer to a list of targeted companies via direct mail. The guide was to be fulfilled individually and not by a download. The direct mail letter making the offer generated an excellent response. However, the company’s sales manager took it upon himself to decide that none of the guides would be fulfilled until the companies requesting them could be “qualified.”

I’d be hard pressed to come up with two more opposite scenarios — and I look to top management for the reason. I think it’s up to them to set policies that make sure marketing and sales are on the same page. Here are two ways they can do that:

  1. Marketing success should never be based solely on the number of leads. It must ultimately include the closed deals produced by those leads.
  2. Sales people should be judged on how they follow up with leads as well as close them.

The final goal of everyone in B2B marketing and sales should be the same — making sales.

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Lift B2B marketing response by putting time on your side.

It’s never a good idea for B2B marketers to project our own personal opinions and practices on the B2B audience to which we market. How we like to receive information, our work patterns, and our preferences are not likely to mirror the people who buy our company’s B2B products or services.

But there is one area in which all of us in B2B marketing and in the B2B buying community are exactly alike — that is, we have too much to do and too little time in which to do it.

Not long ago I wrote a blog about “Four Rules for Communicating with the Crazy-Busy Prospect,” which focused on how to organize and present B2B marketing copy so the heart of the message could be comprehended with a quick scan.

Then, a few days ago, I learned another powerful way to use time to gain an advantage in B2B marketing. What I learned from one of my technology clients is that she’s cut back all of her Webinars to 30 minutes. Not only has this measurably boosted attendance, but it has generated emails from customers and prospects thanking her for this time-saving way to learn.

Like me, many people feel they can spare 30 minutes but not an hour. How often have I attended a one-hour event only to have to leave early because of a more pressing demand? In fact, I would attend more Webinars if they were only 30 minutes.

I hear push-back from many B2B marketers like, “Oh, we can’t cover the subject properly in 30 minutes.” I’d recommend they find a way to edit the presentation down to its core and make it work. One approach might be to create a Part I and Part II presentation of the materials for two separate events.

If this tactic would mean increasing attendance and getting attendees to stay for the entire presentation, it may be well worth testing.

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B2B Marketing Automation: Is it really worth the effort?

There’s nothing nicer when writing B2B marketing copy than to be able to talk about the fact that a product or service has “automated” some process. Automation typically removes one or more steps that have to be done manually by one or more human beings.

Automation can mean completely releasing labor from one task so time can be spent more productively on another. It typically lets today’s universally overburdened workers get more done in less time. That description is not, however, completely accurate for B2B marketing automation — as Justin Gray, CEO & Chief Marketing Evangelist of LeadMD, reports so accurately in “Marketing Automation ROI: Myths and Facts.”

Appearing on the Marketing Automation Software Guide, the opening of his conclusion says it all –marketing is hard. As I’ve stated in earlier posts, making the decision to implement and use this marketing tool provides two big benefits:

  1. Automate an essential process that is messy and time-consuming to do manually. Nurture prospects by automatically offering them the appropriate next piece of marketing content based on their last action with the goal of helping them move through the buying cycle.
  2. Boost sales by achieving 100% follow-up on ALL leads generated. 45% of all leads generated make a purchase from someone in the industry product category within one year. Companies not paying attention to all the leads they generate will miss sales they could have won.

Gray’s instructions on the steps necessary for building an effective marketing automation strategy are valuable and sound. He warns that there are no shortcuts. However, if all of it seems like much more than your company can take on, you should check out these lead nurturing stats reported on an insightful, one-page infographic prepared by NuSpark Marketing.

  • According to Forrester Research, companies that excel at lead nurturing are able to generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost per lead.
  • According to CSO Insights, sales reps at companies that excel at lead nurturing reach quota 9% more often and new reps at those companies enjoy a 10% shorter ramp-up time.
  • According to DemandGen Report, nurtured leads produce, on average, 20% more sales opportunities than non-nurtured leads.

Just like all aspects of successful B2B marketing, effective nurturing takes strategic planning, the creation of useful content, plus having a team in place to manage the process and take advantage of all best practice tools that are part of today’s marketing automation software. In the end it means more sales. I say that’s well worth the effort.

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B2B marketing and sales is still about people.

Paul Mosenson, President of NuSpark Marketing, is a very handy colleague to have. As a content aficionado, he frequently forwards valuable B2B marketing info that I might miss seeing otherwise.

Recently he sent me a copy of a report from 2009 loaded with interesting insight into the behavior of business buyers. The 202 pages in the document are part of “The Buyershere Project” put together by Gord Hotchkiss of Mediative (formerly Enquiro).

As he explains, the Project started with wanting to know how business product and service buyers make their buying decisions. He began the research by just talking to over 100 B2B buyers and asking them how they buy within their organization. Then he added insight gathered from a panel he moderated at the SES San Jose that included representatives from Google, Covario, Business.com, Demandbase and Marketo.

Here are highlights of a few items the report covered that I found most interesting:

At their core, buying decisions are not rational. Regardless of the RFPs, RFQs and vendor approval processes in place to make sure that buying decisions are purely rational, the fact is that, after all the information is gathered, decision makers and influencers make gut decisions. I think this is why personal “relationships” are one of the most important elements in the decision.

  • 50% of B2B budgets go to purchase common items that we buy frequently and repeatedly
  • 46% of these repeat purchases are made from a single preferred vendor
  • The opinion of an existing vendor was the most in?uential factor in business purchases

 “99% of B2B buying is about covering your butt.” Buyers typically reduce risk based on these channels:

  • Personal experience with existing vendors
  • Word of mouth from co-workers and peers
  • Credibility and position of the vendor (Remember when buyers thought, “You can never be fired for buying IBM”?)
  • Online research
  • Price

After price/value, the second reason B2B buyers bought was the sales rep. This was true for influencers as well as decision makers.

Winning sales seems to be nearly as much about smart, likeable sales people as it is about the product being offered. It tells me that, maybe, B2B marketers should bring sales into the picture earlier.

As I reported in an earlier blog post, “How B2B marketers can help prevent lost sales,” Kathy Tito of Call Center Services, Inc. explained, “I have seen instances of companies that allow sales leads to become stale by not transitioning them to sales quickly enough to develop interest on the next level. If you have to err on one side or the other, keep in mind that the ‘premature’ hand-off can be managed to have little to no downside. If the lead is not ready, they can always be cycled back into nurture mode.”

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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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B2B marketing’s one-stop manual of content best practices.

Recognizing the critical importance of content in B2B marketing, a colleague of mine, Paul Mosenson, is tapping the knowledge and expertise of a number of marketing communication strategists to help support his NuSpark Marketing venture. He’s started a group on LinkedIn, “B2B Lead Generation & Content Marketing,” and has gathered together a collection of top blog posts from his team.

It’s a privilege for me to be part of this impressive group of marketers. But it’s also good luck for the B2B marketers reading this post. Because Paul has put together a collection of these top posts into an eBook that makes a top-notch reference guide to best practices for all aspects of using content in lead generation, nurturing and moving prospects through the buy cycle. This collection includes 20 excellent posts (two of which are mine) on every angle of content planning and preparation you can imagine. Here are the titles of what’s included:

  • How Good Content Can Grow Your Business
  • 5 Rock-Bottom Rules for Effective B2B Marketing Content Offers
  • How to Boost Content Downloads
  • A Matter of Trust
  • Message Maps – Easier Content Creation
  • 9 Steps to Continuous Content Improvement
  • Interruption Marketing; Billy May Exposed
  • 20/20 Insight/Content Strategy
  • Creating Value and Trust
  • Military Intelligence (re: effectively reaching outside of marketing)
  • 3 Easy Steps to a True Value Proposition
  • 2 Key Ingredients to Social Media Content
  • Content Marketing for Your Brand
  • Using Customer Stories to Nurture Leads
  • White Papers for Lead Generation
  • Using Email to Promote Your Content
  • Matching Content to Buyer Personas
  • Feeling Stumped when Creating Content?
  • Is Your Content Having an Identity Crisis?
  • Content, SEO, and Landing Pages

This book is for B2B marketers generating leads, nurturing leads, boosting the company’s brand recognition, delving into social media, improving the Web site, or other tasks. It takes them through the all-important steps that need to be completed before creating one word of content, then through how to make sure that the content resonates with their audience.

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5 B2B marketing ideas you can implement (almost) instantly.

I’ve been delinquent in keeping up with my favorite blogs and staying up to date on today’s latest B2B marketing practices. Today I tried to catch up. All of the advice was very good — excellent, in fact — but it was also painful advice. That’s because, without exception, every post concerned big-picture B2B marketing strategies, the kind that require revising existing processes or implementing new ones. They are changes that need to be made, but could take months to implement.
Most of the B2B marketing teams I know are happy to just get a product launched or complete programs to drive booth traffic at their next industry event. Making any necessary but complex changes to marketing processes has the word “later” stamped all over it.

With this in mind, I’ve been on the lookout for ideas on small, but quick improvements that B2B marketers can make to at least feel like they’re moving the success of their programs up a notch. Here are the first five I’ve found.

  1. Boost content downloads: I read advice from Jonathan Kantor of The White Paper Company. He recommends that marketers provide site visitors with a free sample of part of a white paper before asking them to register to get the rest. Once engaged, they are more likely to register.
  2. Increase landing page performance: From the Pardot Marketing Automation‘s white paper on “Best Practices to Successful Landing Pages” I pulled out this little gem. They say that the most effective landing pages are those that reflect the look and feel of your Website, but do not allow for navigation to your actual homepage. Prospects can easily get distracted and click away from your landing page, losing the chance for you to get them to do what you were inviting them to do in the first place. They say, and I agree, that it is more appropriate to place links to the company site on the “thank you page” they see after registering.
  3. Lighten the burden of creating nurturing content: Reading the terrific Hubspot eBook “100 Inbound Marketing Content Ideas” spurred an idea. I remember that, when a colleague finds an interesting piece of content, they send me a link to it. There’s no reason why one of the elements in a nurturing campaign couldn’t do the same thing. B2B marketers can find valuable information that others have created (not competitors, of course) and forward a brief description and a link to the content in a nurturing email. It looks less like “self promotion” than sending one’s own materials and the content has already been created.
  4. Get a longer life out of email and direct mail content offers: Personalized URLs (or PURLS) have been around for a long time. It’s true they’ve lost the attention they once generated. Yet, a paper from Easypurl, Inc. does promote one benefit that I believe still has much value — that PURLs have a longer life than promotional URLs. Consciously, we know that using our name in a URL is not really personal, yet something with our name on it still makes a connection that other URLs do not. The Easypurl paper says that PURLs “have a long response tail.” For this reason, I think they still have value.
  5. Get better results by using the word FREE in subject lines and emails: A collection of articles on email marketing from Email Labs (now part of Lyris) that I saved supports a point that past testing by some of my clients has proven to be true. It says, “Perhaps the most common misconception in email marketing is that you should ‘never use the word free.’ By itself, the word free will not cause any of the major spam or content filters to reject your email. (Though it is possible that some corporations or user-driven spam filters might be set to delete emails containing the word “free”) So why then would you risk using free when there is a chance, albeit small, your email might be filtered? Quite simply, better results. In our experience across various clients, when used correctly, the word free can provide a powerful boost to your results.”

 

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B2B marketing automation hindsight.

Marketing experts have been beating the drum of marketing automation for quite some time now. If a B2B company is not using marketing automation yet, they could feel behind the times.

Today, however, those who have NOT implemented marketing automation yet are in luck.

Recently, a survey of marketing automation users conducted by Software Advice reveals what users of marketing automation wish they had done when selecting their software automation vendor. B2B marketers who have held off moving into marketing automation can now benefit from this valuable hindsight.

Lauren Carlson, CRM Analyst at Software Advice, reports the results of this survey in her recent post “What Do You Wish You Had Asked Your MA Vendor?”

Each participant was asked, “What questions do you wish you had asked your marketing automation vendor before purchasing?” Their responses fall into four areas: integration, support/training, roadmap and maintenance. Lauren’s post highlights these top 10 most popular questions:

  1. How do the marketing automation and CRM systems work together?
  2. Can we have a bi-directional sync between the marketing tool and our CRM software?
  3. If we discontinue using the software how do we get our valuable lead information and lead activity out of the system to load in the next system?
  4. What kind of training is required to get program managers up to speed, and what is the learning curve?
  5. What level is the instruction and is it customizable to meet the level of knowledge that our team currently has?
  6. In terms of customer service, what happens after implementation? Is there something in the contract that can guarantee a set of dedicated reps or a minimum turnaround time for customer service requests?
  7. What is your roadmap for the coming year and how committed are you to delivering on that? (i.e., when you announce a new user interface, how long before it’s actually rolled out?)
  8. Is the solution robust enough to handle our long-term goals?
  9. How complex is the system to maintain?
  10. How much down-time does the system have and how does that affect our usage of the tool?

You’ll want to catch her full post to read the insightful comments of those interviewed. For B2B marketers who have not yet made the move to marketing automation, I say thanks to Software Advice and Lauren for providing this valuable guide to help them choose the right provider.

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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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