Category: Outbound B2B Marketing

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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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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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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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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Is data killing your B2B marketing opportunities?

Those who read this blog probably think I’m a B2B marketing copywriter and consultant offering insight into B2B marketing best practices. According to the mailer I received today, however, they’d be wrong.

It appears I am the owner of the Coca-Cola Company. Well, if that’s true, I’m living way below my means.

Coca-Cola Mailer

Receiving this type of communication can be a bit amusing. But it’s a classic example of the importance of having accurate data in all communication — whether it is lead generation, nurturing or CRM.

Personalization is wasted if it’s not accurate.

Much is being said these days about the advantages of personalizing lead generation and nurturing messages in B2B marketing based on a person’s interests and past behavior. It’s true.

But what good is it to recognize that a person has shown an interest in the kind of product or service being offered if the B2B marketing data has the recipient’s name is misspelled or they are listed at the wrong company?

The typical reaction is, “If a company can’t get the basics of who I am right, then how can I trust anything else they do?” That is true regardless of the channel through which the communication travels.

Frankly, accurate B2B marketing data is everything. Mistakes in B2B marketing data increase the cost per contact while reducing response. It’s essential that every B2B marketing plan include steps to keep customer and prospect data accurate.

Budget for updating data — and do it annually.

Calling is the best way to ensure the data is accurate. These calls are not complicated to make, as they are just informational and not sales-related. They can be done by a group of interns or by hiring a professional telemarketing firm. Verification calls should be conducted annually if possible. These calls can also be used to determine if the contact name is correct for the product or service being sold.

Accurate data increases response to B2B marketing. Without accurate data, the rest of the B2B marketing expenditure is wasted.

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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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B2B marketing know-it-alls are on a fast path to failure.

In the course of putting together a marketing program for a client recently, I had the opportunity to call a colleague I had not worked with in many years. In our initial conversation I asked about her daughter (whose age I had forgotten). My colleague responded by saying, “She’s a senior in high school now and she knows everything.”

The daughter’s attitude, of course, comes from the limited experience of youth.

This attitude is evident in parts of the B2B marketing, too. A person who is new to the working world of marketing and in a position related to digital marketing, for example, completely rejects all other channels as dying or dead. Those immersed in social media think that outbound marketing is completely out of date and old-fashioned.

These individuals have not experienced the power of other marketing channels and therefore dismiss their viability. They aren’t exposed to B2B marketing efforts like these and, when they are, don’t believe what they see:

  • On a direct mail marketing survey effort designed to generate B2B leads for a large corporation, the young members of the marketing staff were shocked that 74% of the direct mail responders mailed back the completed survey instead of taking it online.
  • An ecommerce company that had been selling online exclusively for five years mailed their first printed catalog and were surprised that it delivered a 1.5% response rate. Those weren’t just leads, but sales.
  • A B2B outbound marketing lead generation campaign sent out by a publisher generated a 3.1% response from direct mail and a .6% response from email making the same offer.

One of the important steps in building a solid marketing strategy is selecting which channels to test. Any B2B marketers putting their entire budget into a single medium must be one of those marketers who knows it all.

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B2B marketing’s 10 most common copy mistakes

My first contact with a prospective client always fills my head with questions. Are they savvy marketers who need their work refined? Are they clueless? Are they trying to do their best in spite of restraints from upper management? The possibilities are many, and I’ve seen them all.

Regardless of the situation and experience of the prospect, however, it’s rare that I don’t come across at least one of these common mistakes on the company’s Web site or other marketing material.

So I’m sharing this list with other B2B marketers who may want to review it and check out their own practices:

1. Selling the product and the company, not the call to action.
To maximize the response to a B2B content offer, Webinar invite, or any other free information designed to generate qualified leads, the copy message must sell the benefits of responding to the offer, not the company’s product.

2. Forgetting to tell prospects exactly what they should do.
B2B marketers should never assume the prospect/buyer/reader will know what they are to do. Testing has proven time and time again that, to get someone to respond, they must be told exactly what to do and when to do it — download now, call now, email now, click here now, etc.

3. Making the copy virtually unreadable by reversing it out of a dark background.
Copy is not a design element. Design should support the company graphic standards while making the message easy and inviting to read. Dark type on a light background is always the best.

4. Putting the company credentials ahead of the “what’s in it for me” copy. Putting the “we” ahead of the “you.”
I cringe when I see Web copy, emails or any other marketing materials opening with the word “we.” Prospects don’t care about the company behind the product or offer until they are in a purchase evaluation stage. In lead generation it’s OK to mention who the company is and include a brief statement of its expertise or focus, but that copy should appear after the offer and call to action have been made clear.

5. Using long, complex words and language thinking it makes the company appear sophisticated.
I addressed this issue in a previous blog and included the following paragraph that was shared on a blog by Peter Helmer. Basically, his advice is “Don’t write like this” and he’s right. “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.”

6. Promoting features, not benefits.
Working recently with a client on integrating direct mail best practices into a mailer, this discussion came up. For B2B marketers who want to educate product managers on this issue, here’s the classic example using a portable dishwasher.

Spec:        Measures 12″ x 12″
Feature:     Small size
Benefit:     Fits anywhere

7. Using the same messaging regardless of the title or industry of the individual target.
Emails, Web site pages dedicated to specific titles or industries, or direct mailers segmented by title or industry — with copy focusing on those targets — consistently performs better than using a single generic message for everyone.

8. Saying too much.
When B2B marketers are offering a white paper download via an outbound marketing message, they should sell “what you’ll learn” and “what the content will help the reader do or understand” put in the call to action, then shut up. Many marketers I’ve worked with feel the need to go on and on about all of the elements connected to that issue. Determine if the information is really necessary to get a response. If not, leave it out.

9. Being dull.
Clients who present what they have to offer in a very straightforward, matter-of-fact manner are typically afraid that any other tone sounds too promotional. But if the messaging does not show any excitement or energy about the content or product being offered, how can the reader get excited about it?

10. Putting cute ahead of communication.
Being clever — getting prospects to smile when they read a B2B marketing communication — is not bad. Unfortunately, many times the move to be clever overpowers the communication. B2B marketers should be very sure to keep the tie-in to the theme or visual in marketing to a minimum so as not to overpower the purpose of the message.

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Outbound calling works in B2B marketing and I can prove it.

For a long time, I’ve been requesting a guest post from Leeann Raymond, Director of Operations & Sales at Business to Business Marketing (B2B), but she’s been way too busy to fit it into her schedule. So I finally got wise and asked if I could just interview her. She agreed and now I’m pleased to share with everyone something I’ve been wanting to illustrate in this blog for years — that outbound calling campaigns (done professionally) are powerful and productive in B2B marketing.

I started the interview by mentioning to Leeann how I regularly see posts on LinkedIn or on blogs that calling, especially cold calling, is dead (along with direct mail, email and everything else marketers did before social media).

She then related a story of a sales call she had made to a CEO to sell her company’s outbound calling services. When she got him on the phone, he said, “I don’t want to do it because calling doesn’t work.” Her response made for rather a “duh” moment when she replied, “I just called you and you’re the CEO of your company. If our outbound calling services didn’t work, we wouldn’t be able to stay in business.”

I then immediately asked, “Does it always work?” She responded, “In 12 years, I can count on one hand programs that didn’t work. In each case the problem was primarily oversaturated markets.”

So here are two of the 12 years of case studies she shared. She asked me not to name the actual companies because we’re including specific data from their campaigns.

Case Study #1 involved making calls to physician practices and medical testing centers on the part of a leading provider of healthcare technologies. During the process of the campaign, the client sent regular call reports with input on leads so the direction of the calling message could be shifted as necessary.

Engagement: 90 days

Goals: Determine if there was enough demand to support a sales force focusing on a non-hospital market for their products, and also to generate incremental sales.

Calling List: Provided by the client

Results:

  • Conducted 675 hours of calling in 3 months, making a total of 9112 calls
  • Reached 2047 individuals, with 22% of reached prospects resulting in conversations
  • Generated 161 sales-accepted leads, i.e. leads that were validated by the sales team as workable, with 7% of the conversations resulting in qualified leads
  • Created a pipeline of over $5.5 million in sales in the 90 days, based on a typical sale of $150,000
  • Total campaign cost: $29,722
  • Total cost per qualified lead: $134; sales qualified leads were defined as having the name of decision maker, a company with a stated need, budget, and time-frame to purchase

Case Study #2 was for a company selling a cost-saving financial technology tool marketed to CFOs or VPs of Finance at companies with $1 billion or more in revenue. The B2B prospects were at companies where one would think it would be difficult, if not impossible, to reach a decision maker by phone. These included Nike North America, Sony Music Entertainment, Verizon, Dell Computer, Southwest Airlines, Motorola, Whole Foods and the list goes on.

Engagement: 12-month program

Goal: Set up five to 10 appointments per month for individual sales people, including managing the sales person’s calendar, sending out Outlook® meeting invites, getting confirmations and updating the sales person’s calendar. These additional steps were all necessary, as sales people were on the road non-stop traveling to appointments.

Calling List: Obtained by Business to Business Marketing to match the client’s selected criteria.

Results:

  • Made 29,078 calls
  • Calls resulted in 332 appointments — meeting and often exceeding the monthly goal
  • Made 914 presentations, of which 17% turned into appointments
  • Client did not share actual sales data; however, they tracked results and, in over a year of working with them, the client reported that a total of only 17 appointments were not qualified

Leeann says that, even when callers are reached and are not immediately productive, the call can still be used to gather important information such as the name of the decision maker. She recalled one prospect that was spending $100,000 a quarter to send out a fancy mailer and getting nothing. B2B Marketing suggested that the company let B2B call in advance of the next mailing to find out why. The calls revealed that 50% of data was wrong. The company had been wasting half of their budget.

She said, “We generate 70% of our business from cold-calling.”

There’s virtually no limit to the options available in this channel:

  • List building or list clean-up
  • Lead generation
  • Appointment setting
  • Event attendance confirmations — advanced calling has proven to increase attendance by 20% to 30%
  • Research
  • Nurturing
  • Following up leads from trade shows — post-event follow-up
  • Qualifying SEO leads, customer touch
  • Upselling and cross-selling
  • Marketing new offerings
  • Just keeping in touch with customers

I can hear some readers responding to this blog with, “We don’t have the money or time to make thousands of calls to get the results we want.” But that’s not the point of these examples. The point is, B2B decision makers can still be reached via phone and it’s still well worth the effort to include calling in the marketing and sales process.

About Business to Business Marketing: Business to Business Marketing has been conducting outbound calling for complex business-to-business offerings since 1999. Their second division MedContacts specializes in outbound calling for companies selling products to the healthcare market.

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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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