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B2B Marketing Research | B2BMarketingSmarts

Category: B2B Marketing Research

Lookin’ for B2B buyers in all the wrong places?

Sometimes B2B marketing is conducted like the country song “Lookin’ for Love” made popular by Johnny Lee in the 1980 film Urban Cowboy.

I was reminded of how common this problem is when working on a recent copywriting project. The work was for a B2B marketing agency whose client was selling products and services to small business.

Small businesses come in many types, of course, including such categories as:

  • Personal services, such as hair and nail salons
  • Home services, including contractors, landscapers, plumbers, electricians, etc.
  • Restaurants
  • Gift stores
  • Financial services, including CPAs and financial advisors
  • Lawyers and physicians
  • Dry cleaners and tailors
  • Shoe repairs
  • Phone stores
  • Framing shops
  • Drug stores
  • Nail and hair salons
  • and many more.

All of the direct mail, email and digital B2B marketing elements (media, channels, messaging) that were part of the client’s B2B marketing programs were chosen to reach and appeal to the generic small business.

However, like the song lyric “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places,” this company was spreading its marketing budget over such a broad sweep of channels and businesses that the impact of each dollar spent was significantly diminished.

Then, its agency conducted a detailed analysis of the client’s customer database and the revelation was dramatic. Out of the dozens of small business categories, a handful of very specific types of small businesses stood far above the rest in terms of the number of orders and amount of revenue they generated.

Now, with this research in hand, all the client’s B2B marketing efforts are focused on channels that directly reach these small business categories. All the visuals and copy used in the marketing are designed to build a connection with these specific business types.

The lesson is clear. It’s essential that B2B marketers periodically conduct this kind of analysis of their own customer data. It’s the only way to ensure that they are not spreading their dollars too thinly, but that their targeting and messaging lead to the most sales, the greatest income and the best lifetime value.

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Last-ditch B2B marketing metric.

Recently I responded to an offer for a paper, “Getting Started with Marketing Measurement,” from Act-On Software. The paper opens with:

“The B2B marketing world has changed a lot over the past decade. One especially important new trend is the growing emphasis on measurement and analysis.”

MetricsComing from a direct marketing background in which measurement is everything, I say, “It’s about time.” Then the paper quotes, “Today, almost 70% of B2B marketers are turning to metrics to help them justify their budgets.” This spurs me to ask, “Why would anyone in demand generation marketing want to spend one dime in marketing (not branding) if they weren’t willing and able to measure what that marketing produced?”

The reason 100% of the B2B marketers in the study aren’t tracking metrics is because it’s hard. Marketers doing true integrated B2B marketing have a lot to keep track of.

Marketing automation helps, as most of those vendor systems include features for tracking response. However, not all responses to outbound campaigns end up on a landing page. Some generate incoming phone calls or emails and many end up as visits to the company Web site. Some traditional B2B direct mail efforts come back in reply devices.

Tracking that builds accurate B2B marketing metrics and measurement takes planning, processes and personnel. In many companies, those are all in short supply.

If limited or no tracking or measurement has been done, a last-ditch analysis can still provide the most important metric. This last-ditch option is to periodically run a match back data analysis by bumping the list of prospects or the customer file against the list of sales and identify matches.

Relevate Group briefly covers how this is done in “Driving Campaign Profitability Using Match Back Response Analysis in B to B Marketing.”

The Act-On Software paper includes a long list of revenue-related metrics a company should track. However, in the end, a match back can identify the most important metric of all. That is, “How many sales and how much revenue did the marketing generate?”

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When and why B2B marketing fails.

The team at Savvy B2B Marketing has a great blog with consistently valuable information and insight. Recently they printed a wrap-up of their “10 Most Popular Posts from 2012.” One of them is a post by Chris Fell, Managing Director and owner of G2M Solutions in Australia on “The Top 5 Reasons Your Great Content Fails.

The point that struck me most from this post is that great content fails because it’s not marketed properly. He’s right. A company may have the greatest content, the greatest product or the greatest service – but, if it is not marketed properly, it can be a failure.

B2B marketing can fail, too. When prospects call me and I ask about their past marketing, I often hear stories of programs that produced zero response. This got me thinking about what causes B2B marketing failures and what I know about how to help prevent those failures.

In the late 1990s, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a sabbatical living and traveling on a sailboat in Mexico’s Gulf of California — or, as it is called by the locals, the Sea of Cortez. In preparation for this extended life at sea, my honey and I spent several years reading every sailing and cruising magazine available. Every time we read about a death or disaster at sea, we talked about it to understand the cause and try to make sure it never happened to us. Our conclusion was that, with rare exception, every time there was a disaster, it related to lack of proper planning, preparation or a bad decision on the part of the people involved.

B2B marketing failures are no different. Most every time a B2B marketing program fails, it’s because of a lack of proper planning, preparation or a bad decision.

B2B marketers can read blogs like mine and white papers all day long about dozens of best practices you can follow to make B2B marketing perform better. B2B marketers spend lots of time and energy on copy and design because, frankly, that’s the fun part of marketing.

But the fact is, there are only three things that can ensure 100% failure — that is, zero response to a marketing program — and none of them have to do with copy or design. They are:

  1. Marketing is targeted at the wrong industry or titles or both.
  2. There is no content or other offer being made to incentivize a response and no clear call to action — or the offer is bad.
  3. The marketing is directed at too small a number of potential responders.

Most B2B marketing teams spend 80% of their time on copy and design and 20% on market research, targeting and offer selection. The irony is that it should be just the opposite.

Perfect copy and design and a great content offer to the wrong market will fail. Mediocre copy, design and content offered to the right market will still generate some leads, even if the program does not maximize potential response.

So the best insurance against experiencing a complete failure in B2B marketing is spending more time on the big picture and less time on the details.

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One practice helps achieve the three “Rs” in B2B marketing.

I woke up this morning thinking about the “three Rs”. Many of my readers may remember them: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic. I was thinking how strange it is that a term related to education should be so grammatically incorrect. But hey, even education has to have its jingles if it wants to sell the product.

Then, later, I saw Ardath Albee’s post “Bullocks to B2B Marketing Buzzword: Relevance” and realized there are “Rs” in B2B marketing, too. And they really are words that start with R. Ardath mentions “relevance.” But there’s also “relationships,” “reputation” and the ever-popular “return on investment.”

Like children’s names are subject to fads — so is B2B marketing-speak.

But once these terms are defined, we discover that these concepts are not new. Just like the three Rs are still at the heart of a solid education, the foundation of what it takes to attract, interest, and convert B2B buyers is no different now than it was in 1975 or even 1875. Only the methods of communication have changed.

Ardath nicely defines “relevance”. “The secret to relevance in B2B marketing is to learn what your intended audience is interested in and applying what your solutions enable in relation to that interest — using words that resonate.”

Here’s how B2B marketers can make sure they are able to do this:

Set up interviews with every sales person in the company who has direct contact with prospects and customers to learn what prospects are telling them. Also interview customers. Hear what problems are being experienced by the customer or prospective customer. Learn their objections, the terminology they use, and how they may be trying to solve the problems now.

This is one  practice that people use to build the “personas” that are popular in B2B marketing today. It is the knowledge that helps ensure B2B marketers do what Ardath advises. That is, using the language that resonates with the prospect while focusing on solving THEIR problems, not on the product being sold. This is what builds relationships, supports the company’s reputation and can result in a better return on investment, too.

Any marketer that doesn’t talk to sales and/or customers is only guessing on how to make sure their B2B marketing communications are relevant and have the most impact.

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B2B marketing “Advice from the Top.

This year’s Business Marketing Association’s (BMA) early June conference in Chicago was a big coup for the Colorado BMA Chapter. It was at this event that they proudly released their new collaborative book on B2B marketing Advice from the Top: The Expert Guide to B2B Marketing.

The Colorado organization’s Executive Director, Marilee Yorchak, describes this book as “a compilation of real-life case studies from 24 B2B marketing experts. It’s like having your own consultant right there with you.”

It was my pleasure to join with my colleague Dave Ariss of Ariss Marketing Group to co-author Chapter 23, which reports on the success (and insight) gained from a combination direct mail and email test campaign we created and managed for a technology publisher.

These success stories cover all the critical B2B marketing topics:

  • Strategy
  • Content Development
  • Implementation
  • Success Measurement

So what do the folks at the top have to say? This book is jam-packed with useful advice. It includes such valuable info as: how to make sure your research is accurate and actionable; a step-by-step guide to creating effective marketing plans; how to tell a compelling company story; how to get sales and marketing to support each other’s efforts — and a lot more.

If you’re serious about marketing success, having a copy of Advice from the Top within arm’s reach is a must.

It’s available directly from the Colorado BMA at BMA Top Advice or from Amazon.

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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.

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Non-stop tips and insights for the muddled B2B marketing mind.

Congrats and thanks to Denny Hatch, marketing guru, commentator and author, on the recent release of his wonderful book “Career Changing Takeaways!” As the book’s subtitle elaborates, it’s a collection of “Quotations, Rules, Aphorisms, Pithy Tips, Quips, Sage Advice, Secrets, Dictums and Truisms in 99 Categories of Marketing, Business and Life.”

These mighty statements from recognized leaders and experts can instantly clear a confused mind on topics such as Brands and Branding, Communications, Creativity, Data Management, Decision Making, eMarketing, Job Searches, Website design and so much more.

Because Denny’s background is in direct marketing, there’s tons of good guidance for those of us in B2B marketing.

It ranges from the fun . . .

“I have always believed that writing advertisements is the second most profitable form of writing. The first, of course, is ransom notes.” Philip Dusenberry

To the insightful . . .

“What’s your brand? If you can’t answer that question about your own brand in two or three words, your brand’s in trouble.” Al Reis

To the live-or-die guidance . . .

“If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.” Jack Welch

It’s a great read, a great guide and a nice break to take when one’s marketing or decision-making mind is muddled. What better refresher than to read a few guiding thoughts from the pros?

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Two ways to use your B2B customer database as a valuable targeting tool.

There are three great experiences to be had from attending an in-person presentation by a B2B marketing expert. There’s the value of networking, of course. Then there’s the opportunity to learn something new. Best of all, there’s the chance to confirm that the practices I often advocate are also those endorsed and promoted by a recognized expert.

The expert in this case is Robert Hale, President of Robert Hale & Associates, a strategic marketing firm that bases all of its recommendations on fabulous, in-depth research for its clients.

It was in a meeting of the San Diego Software Industry Council that I heard Hale’s presentation “Market Strategies for Software Companies.”

The first part of his presentation was on what I know is the most important part of any B2B marketing campaign — targeting the right market. Hale begins his targeting strategy addressing segmentation.

BusinessDictionary.com defines “segmentation” as:

“Process of defining and sub-dividing a large homogenous market into clearly identifiable segments having similar needs, wants, or demand characteristics. Its objective is to design a marketing mix that precisely matches the expectations of customers in the targeted segment. Few firms are big enough to supply the needs of an entire market; most must break down the total demand into segments and choose the one or few the firm is best equipped to handle. Four basic factors that affect market segmentation are:

(1) clear identification of the segment,
(2) measurability of its effective size,
(3) its accessibility through promotional efforts
(4) its appropriateness to the policies and resources of the firm.”

Hale expands this definition of segmentation somewhat. In addition to measurability and accessibility he adds sustainability and actionability. (I’m not sure actionability is a word, but we all get the point.)

For me to fully understand this definition of a worthwhile B2B market, I must translate this description into simpler descriptions.

A B2B market must be:

  • Able to be clearly defined and described,
  • Big enough to warrant B2B marketing efforts and costs,
  • Reachable via some channel — direct mail, email, telemarketing, industry pubs, membership groups, trade shows,
  • Qualified to buy the B2B product or service being sold.

Before the segmentation analysis begins, however, B2B marketers need to identify which companies should be targeted based on industry, title, company size, number of employees, etc.

Some companies just guess. Some say, “Well, we have a client in healthcare; we should pursue healthcare.” What Hale confirmed for me is that a company’s database has all the information needed to choose the markets a B2B company should target. He proposes a two-part analysis:

  1. Look at your customer base and segment it by revenue and profitability. 20% of the customers will float to the top as being the source for 70% to 80% of your revenue.
  2. Look at the customers you’ve lost. Determine why they were lost and what it is about the profile of these companies that makes them different from the customers who stay with you.

That’s all it takes to know who to target and who to avoid. It’s that simple.

This practice does not mean that there are no undiscovered opportunities to break into new markets or new industries. However, it’s the smart starting point for ensuring the success of B2B marketing efforts.

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Conduct B2B marketing research in 15 minutes or less.

Most good B2B marketers today know that effective marketing requires the insight of market research.

Research reveals much of the critical information needed to make productive marketing decisions. This information includes the answers to:

  • Who is the buying decision-maker?
  • Who influences the buying decision?
  • What are the biggest pains experienced by the users, influencers and decision-makers that the product or service being sold can relieve?
  • What other options are open to prospective buyers for solving this problem?
  • Is the product and/or company known in the market?
  • How is the company and/or product perceived by the market?
  • What channels and resources are prospective buyers using to research and evaluate solutions?
  • What are the objections to purchasing the product or service?
  • How can these objections be overcome?

Products and services are usually created to fill existing gaps in business processes or operations. Thus, many of these questions must be answered before the product is even created. But once the B2B marketing has begun, fresh research is needed to determine which channels, messaging and content offers have the best chance of producing the desired marketing results.

Meet with SalesIn addition to traditional research methods (industry surveys, benchmark studies, analyst insight) there is one research method that can take as little as 15 minutes and yield immeasurable insight. That is to sit down and ask the above questions to one or more of the sales people in the organization.

Because sales people are in direct contact with prospects on a daily basis, the answers marketers need are safely tucked inside their heads. Having frequent 15-minute one-to-one conversations with individual sales people is a smart and easy way to help keep marketing messages, content offers and even channel choices on target.

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