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B2B Marketing Creative | B2BMarketingSmarts

Category: B2B Marketing Creative

Steps #2-6 in creating ideal B2B lead generation copy.

My previous post covered the first and most important step in any B2B marketing copy for successful outbound B2B lead generation. That first step is the most important as it must contain the information necessary to make a connection with the prospect.

Once the B2B lead generation opening statement “gets the prospect” or “hooks them in,” there are ???????????????????six more copy steps necessary for moving that prospect to action — that is, generating a response.

Here are the remaining steps in order:

Step #2 — Make the B2B marketing offer, then immediately make the first call to action.
The reader is busy and needs to absorb the message in seconds. If the opening line says, “This message is for you,” then the next should present the content offer and the call to action. If the prospect does not read another line, the entire message has been communicated.

Step #3 — Expand on the benefit of responding to the content offer.
The next section is necessary for the prospects who want to know more before responding. This is the place to put a very brief or bulleted list of what they will learn from reading this valuable FREE information, attending this Webinar, accepting this private demo, etc.

The content of this section is often exactly what the product being sold can deliver. But, by not mentioning the product by name, the message does not come off as a sales pitch. If people think they are being “sold” and not “informed,” response rates will drop.

Step #4 — Repeat the call to action and then add a plug, if applicable.
If the information being offered is a published book or a report by an independent third party, that should be mentioned the first time the offer is made. However, if the information is compiled by the B2B marketing company, this is where that company can take a very brief bow. This might be, “This infographic has been compiled by XYZ Company, a leader in ….”

Step #5 — Close the communication.
Traditionally, in direct mail, the close would include a statement of what the prospect would lose by not responding. In the case of offering free information, what is lost is the opportunity to learn what the information covers. The purpose of the campaign is to get the prospect to request the offer. So the close should repeat the call to action and the main benefit.

Step #6 — Always add a P.S.
Since the opening line and the P.S. remain the most-read sections of personal communications, a P.S. should contain the offer or a secondary incentive to respond. Busy B2B prospects need to get the entire message as quickly as possible. Using this tactic in the P.S. helps accomplish that.

Keep B2B marketing copy simple; keep it short
Whatever is written, the message should eliminate any need for the prospect to have to think. Outbound B2B marketing should never make the prospect think — just react and act on what is being offered.

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Step #1 in creating ideal B2B lead generation copy.

After a short stint writing copy at an ad agency, I discovered the world of B2B direct marketing. The difference that made me love it is that B2B direct marketing requires an action on the part of the prospect or customer — so every dollar that’s spent is trackable.

Step 1 Lead Gen. Ltr.Early on in my B2B marketing copywriting career, a colleague recommended that I read Successful Direct Marketing Methods by Bob Stone (later Bob Stone and Ron Jacobs). It was from that book that I learned the foundation of B2B marketing lead generation best practices that I still use today. It still works and it’s a perfect formula generating outbound B2B marketing lead generation sent by email or snail mail.

There are six important steps in the perfect B2B marketing lead generation copy. Here is the first.

Step #1 — Open B2B lead generation messages with copy that addresses the prospect’s biggest pain.

In the B2B marketing lead generation world, testing continues to show that HTML-designed emails and direct marketing mailers that are heavily designed do not perform as well as text emails or traditional letters in #10 envelopes.

When using text emails or traditional letters, the opening line is the most-read part of any B2B lead generation copy. This opening sentence needs to focus on the most significant pain suffered by the prospect group in relation to the product or service being marketed. Basically, this is the approach that gets the prospects’ attention and lets them know that the message is for them.

As long as their #1 pain is being addressed, the context of the opening can take many forms, as Joan Throckmorton outlined in her book Winning Direct Response Advertising.

  1. Directly address the pain in a generic form: “Tracking labor hours for employees across the globe is a huge challenge.”
  2. Start with an invitation: “You are invited to discover how you can simplify the tracking of labor hours for your employees across the globe.”
  3. Use a quotation: “According to a recent Business Week survey of CFOs, ‘68% of global companies identify employee labor hour tracking as their biggest challenge.'”
  4. Identify your prospect: “As CFO of ABC Company, you know that tracking labor hours for employees across the globe is a huge challenge.”
  5. Take an if/then approach: If you’re looking to simplify the tracking of labor hours for employees across the globe, then . . . .
  6. Ask a question: “Are you feeling overwhelmed by the time and cost involved in tracking employee labor hours for employees across the globe?” I personally do not like this approach because questions force readers to think. As I’ve covered in earlier posts, B2B marketers don’t want prospects thinking. We want them to intuitively react to the message.
  7. Be negative and instill fear: The inability to accurately track labor hours for employees across the globe can have a huge negative impact on your bottom line.”
  8. Build a fantasy: Imagine gaining a 20% increase in revenue by being able to accurately track labor hours of employees across the globe.
  9. Open with an analogy: Find out how today’s financial executives are handling labor hour tracking more easily than putting on their shoes in the morning.
  10. Tell a story: “In November of 2012, John Smith, CFO of XYZ Company, discovered a painless way to handle the tracking of labor hours of employees across the globe.”

Which of these approaches to choose will depend on what type of content or information is being offered. Next week, I’ll cover Step #2 on how this opening can lead instantly into the offer of content with information to help the prospect see how they can overcome their pain.

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B2B marketing that uncovers hot leads & builds involvement.

LinkedIn may have flaws and spam problems at times, but the ability it gives us to meet and share ideas with colleagues all over the world is wonderful.

One of my new LinkedIn acquaintances, Tracy Johnson, President of Spotted Dog Promotions, recently sent me an article he wrote about “Contests and your Marketing Strategy.”

What he has to say fits right into a tactic that I strongly believe is necessary in today’s B2B marketing. That is the importance of getting attention and standing apart from the competition by getting prospects “involved.”

Contest WinnerTracy’s presentation talks mostly about using contests to get attention in social media and for branding. He makes a strong case. But since my focus and expertise is in outbound B2B marketing and direct response marketing, I see contests also as an inviting way to generate a response.

Content is the primary device used in B2B marketing these days. It’s smart and it works. But just reading white papers, guides, blogs and attending Webinars — even watching videos — can get pretty tedious after a while. Contests add excitement and interest to making contact with a prospective new customer. They even allow B2B marketers to add a bit of fun and personality to their communications.

There’s no reason to think B2B buyers won’t take the time to participate in contests. They are humans, after all, who love to measure or test their expertise. The prizes can be related to the product or service being sold — or be simple gifts that could be tied to a benefit-related theme.

As Tracy explains in his article, contests are also great devices for gathering valuable sales data:

“You can increase sales and learn more about your customers, their perceptions and behaviors, along with their intent to purchase products in your industry category via embedded surveys in your contest entry form. These surveys can identify prospects, generate hot leads or provide insight into your audience. One of our affiliates in the travel industry recently attracted over 20,000 leads to a contest, 97% of whom answered three multiple-choice questions that identified their interests in travel. This is a valuable list of qualified leads that turns into new revenue.”

Even though he uses a B2C example here, B2B marketers can easily imagine how a short survey can be used to find out if a prospect has a need for their product or service.

I’ll bet that many B2B marketers would never think of doing a contest. The reason being that contests don’t appear to be serious and might reflect poorly on the company. I disagree. If the contest is well planned and ties into the company’s brand and product focus, it’s a fresh and effective way to draw attention to its solutions and to get its prospects involved.

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3 tips for maximizing clarity in B2B marketing copy.

Often I’ve mentioned that there are B2B marketers who believe that using big, complex wording in their B2B marketing copy makes the company look smart and sophisticated.

The best example I’ve ever seen of this B2B marketing copy approach was discovered and reported by Peter Helmer, which I discussed in a previous post “B2B marketing shalt not speak in strange tongues.”

“We provide CMOs with best-of-breed, next-generation, scalable solutions that optimize revenue and enhance customer value. We act as a change agent empowering a paradigm shift using a value added synergistic approach that enables clients to take a deep dive.”

Copy ClarityThe lack of clarity in this communication is pretty obvious. But B2B marketers often use messaging in their companies’ Web sites, emails, direct mail, brochures and other sales materials that makes perfect sense to the B2B marketing team and company execs — but leaves the prospect clueless.

In the end, only the response from the market — or lack thereof — can tell B2B marketers for sure whether or not their messages resonate. But here are a few tips to help ensure that marketing copy has a chance of generating the desired response, before it’s seen by the market.

  1. Talk to the lowest common denominator: B2B marketers can’t control who sees their messaging. Don’t assume the reader knows and understands anything about what is being offered. Simple language and a straightforward presentation of information have proven to be the most successful approach, even to a highly educated audience.
  2. Focus on the first impression: Read the copy one time after it’s been drafted. Anything that feels awkward or unclear in that first read needs to be revised. B2B marketers should not read the copy 25 times and keep revising it. They should remember that the prospect will read it only once, so the first impression is the one that counts.
  3. Use an outside reviewer: Have someone who is outside of the company and not familiar with the product or service read the messaging and report back what they learned, or did not learn, from the copy.

 

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Use December to assess B2B marketing practices for 2013.

December is traditionally a slow month in which to conduct B2B marketing, with the possible exception of outbound calling. When B2B buyers are in the holiday spirit they are typically more likely to take calls. But since December isn’t great for marketing, it’s the perfect month to assess B2B marketing plans and practices for 2013.

For 2013, MarketingProfs is predicting the continued rise of content marketing. Another Marketing is predicting a greater return to offline channels and the increased value of mobile. In fact, all of the predictions for 2013 support the continued importance of integrated marketing. That is, being everywhere a B2B prospect or customer might be and not putting all of one’s B2B marketing eggs in one basket.

So now is the time for B2B marketers to assess how well they are following best practices — then to update their marketing plans for 2013. Here are three areas that might be worth assessing:

  1. Analyze if the targeting being used is missing any huge potential for growth and sales in 2013. Here are a few tips on how to do this: “Is your B2B marketing barking up all the right trees?
  2. Evaluate how well the Website supports the online brand and generates involvement on the part of the visitor by reviewing “Is anything missing from your online B2B brand?
  3. Evaluate overall B2B marketing messaging to make sure it’s consistent from channel to channel. Then check it for best practices in “B2B marketing’s 10 most common copy mistakes.”

B2B marketing is a process of reaching the right people with the right messaging and using the tools and tactics that have been proven to generate leads and convert them into a qualified pipeline. B2B marketers can use December to make sure 2013 doesn’t miss one opportunity to generate leads, support growth and make a big impact on the bottom line.

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Making B2B marketing landing pages something to CRO about.

The content in an online session I recently attended made me very happy. The session was about maximizing and tracking online conversions. These efforts are now referred to as CRO — for Conversion Rate Optimization.

What made me happy was that the session confirmed that the landing page best practices I know are still valid based on current and extensive testing.

Many of my B2B marketing clients have a prospect universe that is too small to run statistically valid testing. So I continue to recommend that these B2B marketers follow the tested learnings of others, as that is their best way to maximize conversions.

Here are the landing page best practices that were confirmed in this session, plus a few I learned during a session at the recent Direct Marketing Association‘s annual conference:

  • Having only one “call to action” on a landing page creates a 240% higher conversion rate.
  • Having the landing page take more than 5 seconds to load drops conversion by 47%.
  • Visitors have a 3-second attention span. Redirects on a landing page create a 37% higher abandon rate.
  • Forms must take way less than 45 seconds to fill out.
  • Every added field on a landing page form loses 6% more registrations.
  • Using the same images on the email and the landing page raises conversion by 20%.
  • Having the landing headline match the PPC ad headline is a must; otherwise, the B2B marketing effort looks like a come-on and not a legitimate offer.
  • The word “Click here” continues to substantially outperform the word “Submit” on the landing page action button.
  • Simplifying the messaging and the presentation lifts conversions. Copy and design should direct the prospect to what they are to do and not distract them with too much on the page.

It’s smart for B2B marketers with a large enough prospect universe to test various landing page approaches and designs for themselves. But following the above rules consistently shows the highest CRO. So, testing or not, I suggest that these are the best CRO practices to follow.

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B2B marketing’s 6 most common design mistakes

My recent post on “B2B marketing’s 10 most common copy mistakes,” attracted many readers. Since copy doesn’t stand alone, it made sense to update and repeat a post from 2009 on common B2B marketing design mistakes.

That post began with me talking about why I love “direct” marketing more than advertising.

Direct marketing is a discipline built on the testing and measurement of every element of a marketing campaign to let the market reveal which approach produces the most response. This ability to learn what works and what does not, gives each new B2B marketing campaign the potential to be more successful than the last — and to make B2B marketers smarter.

Direct marketing has been around for over 100 years, so those B2B marketers who have come before us have tested EVERYTHING. Granted, different products and different target markets can produce different results, but there are some findings that are pretty much universal. That’s because human nature is universal. So here are the design mistakes I see most often that can affect the performance of a Web site or other marketing effort:

1. Treating copy as a design element: Words laid out in a cute shape or design manner are unreadable. B2B marketers want the design to reflect their business brand and style, but the purpose of marketing design is to make the message as inviting and readable as possible. Designing headlines with some words larger than others also diminishes readability. Headlines in sentence case are more readable than those in title case or all caps.

2. Running copy lines across a full page from left to right: The eye moving across a computer screen or printed page from left to right can easily lose its place. The harder a B2B marketing message is to read, the faster a prospect or customer will stop reading it and move on. In fact, in email marketing, the rule is to put no more than 70 characters, including spaces, on a single line.

3. Not including visuals: The message offering a white paper is stronger if a visual of the white paper is included. Using pictures of people on Web site pages, landing pages, printed materials, and emails subliminally makes a company look human and adds a level of comfort to those thinking about responding. A visual that directly supports what is being said makes the message stronger.

4. Presenting the message in big, long paragraphs: Other B2B direct marketers have tested this and proven that paragraphs of over four lines look like work to read and reduce response. Busy B2B buyers don’t want to have to work to get information. Good readable copy is easy to scan. That means using bold subheads, bullets, indents, numbers, and other devices that make the message easy to understand by scanning the page.

5. Hiding the call to action: Presenting links online is pretty easy. But if B2B marketers want a response from any printed material — letters, sales sheets, data sheets, and brochures — the call to action needs to be prominent and clear. Prospects need to see the phone numbers, URLs and/or email address quickly and clearly so that they know instantly what they must do to respond.

This last note was mentioned in the recent “10 common copy mistakes” post as well. It’s frightening how often I see this design error — in fact I’ve seen entire Web sites designed this way.

6. Reversing body copy out of a dark background: This practice reduces readability by over 30%. Web pages, ads, fliers or mailers with all-black backgrounds and light copy are the worst. Reversed headlines are OK, but not body copy. Dark type against a light or white background is always the most readable.

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Single B2B marketing effort delivers $30MM in new business.

B2B marketing — that is, B2B direct mail marketing — is a classic example of the old adage “You have to spend money to make money.” That’s because the entire practice of direct marketing is judged on a cost-per-lead and cost-per-sale basis.

So it was no surprise to me when I read in Deliver Magazine that Netezza, a company acquired by IBM in 2010, had spent $200,000 on a direct mail marketing campaign that generated a 35% response rate, made approximately $30 million in new sales, and achieved a 150-to-1 ROI.

The article in Deliver’s August 2012 issue “Disguise the Prize” by Bruce Britt tells how Netezza sales wanted meetings with C-level executives to present their sophisticated data warehouse appliance and business analytics. The first concern of the B2B marketing staff at Netezza was getting past the gatekeepers to the CEOs, CIOs and CMOs that are common in the larger organizations they were trying to reach.

Here’s the story that Britt tells of what Will Pringle, a marketing demand generation vice president at Netezza, did:

“Pringle and his team came up with the idea of shipping MP3 devices that featured apps designed to create a sales meeting experience. Pringle tingled at the possibilities. ‘I thought it would be the ultimate direct mail piece if we could immediately catch the attention of C-level executives,’ he says. ‘What if the recipient powered the MP3 player up and the first thing they experienced was a customized video that addressed them by name? The more I thought and penciled everything out, the more excited I became.”

The package consisted of a cylinder that carried no indication of what was inside. This helped the package get past the gatekeeper. Or if the gatekeeper opened the package first, that person would immediately see the value of the enclosed gift and pass it along to the executive. Inside was a personal letter, business card, and the player.

“A few days after the initial packages were shipped, Pringle’s team started putting in calls to his target C-level executives.’Within the next two to three weeks, we secured seven meetings out of 15 — an almost 50-percent success rate,’ Pringle says.’In many cases, we had attempted to meet with these companies for years, and this was the piece that opened the door.”

The success of this campaign was not only based on creative thinking on the part of Pringle and his marketing team, but on the mathematics, i.e. B2B marketers should calculate what a new sale is worth and then how much they are willing to invest in making each sale.

In this case and in many others, the investment is worth every penny.

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B2B marketing blog file reveals 17 useful ideas.

When it became difficult to force another piece of paper into my deskside file drawer I realized it was time to clean out some of the files it contained.

One, labeled B2B Marketing Ideas, was many inches thick, so I decided to start there. Sorting through the file, I discovered a number of pieces of B2B marketing content full of valuable advice. Here’s what I re-discovered:

Strategies for a Great Headline
In a 2010 issue of Target Market Magazine, Robert Lerose provided what he calls “Six timeless formulas for envelope and landing page teasers.” These strategies might stimulate ideas for some interesting email subject lines, too.

  1. Use a news element.
  2. Use a provocative question or outrageous statement
  3. Arouse emotions
  4. Present a problem/solution
  5. Leverage specifics
  6. Share a big idea

10 Critical Steps for Hooking Decision-Makers Online
Another item in the drawer was notes I took at a live presentation from a representative at QuinStreet. I don’t have all 10 Critical Steps listed in my notes, but here are the ones I put stars next to that I think are worth sharing:

  1. Test creative and messaging concepts using less expensive Internet channels such as email before using those ideas in more expensive channels such as direct mail marketing.
  2. Make sure that the verbiage in banners, pay-per-click ads and landing pages relates to where a prospect is now, or what the prospect may be using now, not to what is being sold.
  3. Never put anything in your messaging that will cause a reader/viewer/prospect to pause. (This is one reason I like to minimize the use of questions in copy.)
  4. Add an 800# on the response confirmation page to make it easy for hot leads to call immediately.

Five Keys to the Executive Suite
Notes from another live event I attended do not contain the name of the company or speaker. So, many apologies to whoever it was and thank you for these excellent B2B marketing ideas.

  1. In your B2B marketing messages to execs, never try to achieve more than one objective at a time. For every additional objective, performance drops to half. Therefore, use only one call to action in the marketing effort. (Actually, this is true of every B2B marketing target, not just executives.)
  2. When marketing to executives, make sure to use names. To middle managers and other targets, marketing to titles only often can work, but with top execs names are essential.
  3. Emotion works as long as the message is believable.
  4. Personal offers (that benefit the individual) work better than business-related offers.
  5. The value of the offer you make to an executive must match the commitment the B2B marketing is asking them to make. That is, if the marketing is trying to get appointments for sales, then the offer gift better be a big deal.
  6. Longer letters actually produce a better response, as they are perceived to have more value. Tested at IBM, a 4-page letter actually outperformed a 2-page letter.

The last point relates to something I learned very early in my B2B marketing career. It is that every prospect may respond because of a different “benefit” provided by the product or service being sold. Marketing messages that include ALL of the potential benefits will reach more of the target market and generate greater response.

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Converting B2B marketing click-throughs in 50 milliseconds

Tim Ash, in the latest version of Target Marketing magazine, makes a dramatic point about how critical it is to make sure a landing page follows all the right practices to maximize conversions.

In his article “After the Click“, Tim lays out specific must-dos for landing page productivity. He says, “Getting people to click on your email link or banner offer is irrelevant if they don’t see what they expected to see, can’t find what they came for or are just plain turned off by your landing page.”

As the CEO at SiteTuners and author of Landing Page Optimization, Tim knows his stuff. He reports on research estimating that marketers have only 50 milliseconds to capture a person’s attention. Tim reports, “Recent findings in neuroscience are giving marketers insights into how the brain reacts to new information, what it likes and what it rejects. For example, the brain is frustrated by:

  • Tasks that take too long to resolve;
  • Clutter; and
  • Messages that distract or don’t apply.”

I’ve often written about the importance of keeping messages simple so B2B buyers can “react” to offers without ever having to stop and think. Tim refers it as “first impressions.” That’s why I thought it might be time to repeat the highlights of my “5 Biggest B2B Marketing Design Mistakes” to help B2B marketers creating landing pages make the right visual impression:

  1. Never reverse body copy out of a dark background (headlines are OK, but not body copy).
  2. Keep lines of text short from left to right to maximize readability (no more than 70 characters per line).
  3. Never treat copy as purely a design element.
  4. Use pictures whenever possible.
  5. Don’t hide your call to action.

Tim adds to these instructions on other ways to keep the design uncluttered. He adds:

  1. Keep your colors pleasing and neutral.
  2. Use standard fonts large enough to read without straining.
  3. Make text easy to scan.

The other point Tim makes is one I have also advised clients to remember for years — to have a single call to action. Those who click through will stop and get confused if the landing page gives them choices. Remember, B2B marketers don’t want prospects to have to think. They want prospects to react.

Tim clearly states that the landing page is not an “afterthought.” It’s the biggest part of a B2B marketing campaign that must convert click-throughs into follow-throughs.

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