Category: B2B Marketing Messaging

B2B marketing that talks “Outside-In” not “Inside-Out”

A few weeks ago, a colleague forwarded a post — “Better SEO through Integrated Content Marketing,” by Scott Fasser — that was on the Optify blog in 2012.

In the post, Scott recognizes that SEO is no longer a separate tactic but an integral part of B2B marketing strategy. He discusses four essentials to maximizing SEO. These include effectively using personas, which I discussed recently in “Personas: They’re not just for B2B marketing anymore.” He covers the importance of addressing all B2B marketing buy cycles, as well as the long list of the social media elements that are now part of any successful SEO initiative.

One point, however, was something I knew but had never seen presented in such a clear and definable way. That was his advice to “Talk Outside-In vs. Inside-Out.”

Here are the highlights of his important point:

“How you talk about yourself and market yourself dramatically impacts how well you are found via organic channels — especially SEO. If your website is driven by a brand perspective that creates new phrases to describe what you do that is unique to your communication, you are not creating a true differentiation in your product, but new words to describe something that prospects don’t understand.

Marketing AutomationA major marketing automation company has positioned themselves as a provider of ‘Revenue Performance Management’ software. This term could mean many different things to different functional perspectives, but the core term for this category of service is marketing automation. ‘Revenue performance management’ has about 590 searches in Google in North America per month while ‘marketing automation’ has 14,800. This tells us that marketing automation is a better known term and more people are looking for this type of solution than ‘revenue performance management.’

The lesson here is to review your current and future messaging from the point of view of a persona that does not know about your brand, focus on true differentiation/value proposition and create content that they will understand without needing an explanation. Finding that balance between pushing new concepts and terms vs. serving the market where it exists today is an important input into your content marketing planning.”

This point was strongly supported in an SEO copywriting training session I attended. It presented the background on Google’s SEO algorithms and why it’s important for top positions in Google to use the terms that customers are using. This is the same in all B2B marketing copy and messaging.

To truly connect with customers, it’s essential to use the words and phrases that they know and to always speak from their point of view.

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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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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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The most popular posts from B2B Marketing Smarts in 2012.

What follows are the five most popular blogs posted on B2B Marketing Smarts in 2012. They are not only packed with useful information on B2B marketing best practices, but they can give B2B marketers a little insight into what their competitors may be researching, reading and implementing now and into the coming year.

In case you missed any of these, here they are again for your review.

Also at this close of the year I have the opportunity to wish all my readers a rewarding and successful 2013.

Take your B2B trade show booth from boring to spectacular.
This guest post from Daniel Frank suggests how the right activities and practices can significantly improve the number of visitors to a B2B trade show booth, the time the visitors spend at the booth and how that visit can stand out from the competition.

Two B2B marketing rules that cross all forms of communication.
Don’t miss reviewing these two basic rules that, when followed, consistently enhance the readability and impact made by a B2B marketing message.

B2B marketing’s 10 most common copy mistakes.
Regardless of one’s marketing experience and background, there’s likely at least one rule here that a B2B marketer could be missing. Check out this list and see if there isn’t some little improvement that could enhance the impact of a marketing communication.

B2B content marketing: Be noticed in this attention economy.
Thanks to the Internet, smart phones and more, demands for our attention have multiplied tenfold. Here are a few elements that B2B marketers may have missed that can help their messages stand out when trying to reach their target markets.

Use others’ B2B marketing landing page wins to boost yours.
Here are eight ideas that have been tested by others and have proven to improve the conversions from B2B marketing landing pages.

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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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B2B content marketing: Be noticed in this attention economy.

A white paper I recently downloaded from Marketo, “From Creation to Conversion: Promoting Content to the Right Audience,” turned out to be one of the best guides I’ve read on B2B content marketing best practices. The paper provides all the step-by-step “must dos” for creating and using content properly in this “attention economy.”

They call it the “attention economy” even though demanding attention is not new. It has always been one of marketing and advertising’s most important concepts. The first principle we are taught in marketing and advertising is the AIDA acronym. That is, all marketing must be created to (in this order) grab Attention, generate Interest, build Desire, then call the reader to Action.

Today, however, thanks to the Internet, smart phones and more, demands for our attention has multiplied tenfold.

The secret to knowing how to get attention is, of course, for B2B marketers to get inside the heads of the people they are trying to reach. Who are they? Where do they work? What do they do? What do they care about? What do they know? What are they comfortable with? And, of course, what are their biggest pains?

There’s nothing new in B2B marketing about making subject lines, headlines, teasers, ads, emails, content, etc., relevant to the reader. The Marketo White Paper addresses this important point. The problem is that most B2B marketers go halfway in making their marketing relevant.

Next time a B2B marketer is out there trying to grab attention, they should look at this list and see how many of these important elements of relevance they can include in their content and the messaging they use to market the content. They should also consider how many versions they can create to be as relevant as possible to each individual prospect.

  • Industry or field
  • Type of business
  • Title or area of responsibility
  • Name of company or organization
  • Individual name of prospect
  • Number of employees, size of company
  • Current solution being used (for some companies this can be determined)
  • Partnerships and associations with other firms, where appropriate
  • Location, where appropriate

Getting attention isn’t as difficult when the message or the content offer relates directly to the person trying to be reached. It’s the surest way to get noticed in this attention economy.

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Where B2B marketing personas meet the road.

Knowledgeable B2B marketers know that the better lead generation or nurturing content and messaging focuses on the needs and interests of targeted individuals, the more successful it will be. That understanding has produced the need to create prospect personas.

As defined on Wikipedia, “A user persona is a representation of the goals and behavior of a hypothesized group of users. In most cases, personas are synthesized from data collected from interviews with users. They are captured in 1–2 page descriptions that include behavior patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and environment, with a few fictional personal details to make the persona a realistic character.”

Personas provide B2B marketers with a strong visual “target person” to keep in mind when creating marketing strategies and messaging.

Since personas are typically built through interviews (not real-world testing) they can be misleading. As respected marketing expert Ardath Albee asks in her recent blog post, Can B2B Marketers Become Content Whisperers?, “If one person says so, is it true? How about 10? Or 100?”

Interviews have value, but real-world response to various testing of content and messaging is far more reliable.

The unfortunate fact is that many B2B marketers don’t have a large enough prospect universe to conduct statistically valid testing. Many do not have the bandwidth to conduct extensive interviews or the budget to hire an outside firm to do it for them.

The solution is to trust your knowledge of human nature. Although there may be nuances discovered in the process of building personas, there are still a number of overriding human traits that are consistent within B2B titles, regardless of industry. Individual industries may drive some overarching goals. Healthcare may want to improve patient care. Service firms may want to satisfy customers and build loyalty. But when the rubber meets the road, most people’s motivation to act comes down to very personal needs and goals.

Therefore, B2B marketers won’t go wrong if they build their marketing strategy and messaging on these basic human needs and goals:

Owner of private company
* Make more money.
* Gain respect and recognition.
* Gain market share.

CEO/President of public company
* Increase share prices.
* Produce growth.
* Increase market share.
* Gain respect and recognition.

CFO/Controller
* Lower costs.
* Minimize risk.
* Get a high ROI on solutions purchased.

CIO/Department or Division Manager
* Increase department productivity.
* Reduce risk.
* Reduce costs.
* Get more done with less effort.
* Meet goals faster.

Workers
* Reduce effort involved in doing their job.
* Minimize mistakes.
* Gain respect and recognition.

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B2B marketing shalt not speak in strange tongues.

It’s always nice to read someone else’s very solid argument in favor of some B2B marketing position I advocate. I had this experience last week when reading the words of Peter Helmer on the MENG Blend blog. His post “For an Effective Elevator Speech, Obey the Ten Commandments” discussed one of my favorite topics — words.

He starts out with one of the most classic examples of poor B2B marketing-speak I’ve ever read.

“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.”

You’ll want to read his post as it provides great guidance for creating an elevator pitch and positioning a sales message. What I really connected with, however, was Commandment #8, which reads:

8. Thou Shalt Not Speak in Strange Tongues

Don’t talk in Consultant Speak. Use plain English. Avoid terms like “scalable”, “best-of-breed,” “next generation” and the like. These are meaningless buzz words. Smart, successful people don’t need to describe their work in highfalutin language. Your listeners won’t be impressed. They’ll think you’re showing off. That’s a sure-fire way NOT to get referrals.

Early in my writing career I was taught this instruction I still follow today. “Write to the lowest common denominator.” That is, write B2B marketing copy to fit the person with the least knowledge about your topic. The criterion I was taught to use was to write to someone with a junior-high school education level. I believe that is the level targeted by the Wall Street Journal. This writing approach will not insult highly educated readers. It will simply make a B2B marketing message something that communicates effectively and is easy and comfortable to read.

Here, for example, are some plain and simple substitutions for these highfalutin words:

  • Scalable — grows as your business grows
  • Best of breed — unmatched, market leader
  • Next generation — new, advanced
  • Optimize — improve the efficiency of, make more productive
  • Synergistic — works together, creates a team setting

B2B marketers should scan their Web sites, brochures, emails, data sheets and other materials for these words and find easier ways to communicate the points being made. The fact is, simple, straightforward language is the basis of successful communication.

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Use other’s B2B marketing landing page wins to boost yours.

Most smart B2B marketers already know that the design and copy in a landing page have huge impact on the success of online B2B marketing campaigns — or even offline, if the call to action is to visit a URL.

Many B2B marketers, however, don’t have a large enough universe of prospective customers to conduct valid testing on their own. So it’s handy to have so many others conduct tests, and, from those tests, establish the best practices the rest of us can use.

Last week I experienced two landing page-related events that brought these best practices back into my focus.

One was a discussion with a client marketing team about the creation of a new landing page template. The other was the arrival of an email link to the 2012 Online Testing Awards Winners from “Which Test Won.”

The discussion included reports from several team members on landing page best practices they had picked up at recent Webinars. Most of the testing was done with B2C products and services and less for B2B, but those that would most affect B2B landing pages include:

  • Make sure the landing page headline and content continue the messaging that began in the PPC ad, banner, or whatever message directs the prospect to the landing page URL.
  • Have a strong, clear and quickly visible call to action.
  • Use directional cues to direct attention to the CTA, such as arrows.
  • Keep the landing page to a single purpose.
  • Show a visual of what is being offered — white paper, checklist, etc.
  • Use video, which has been shown to boost conversion by 80% (I don’t know if this is B2B or B2C, or if it even matters).
  • Keep the message clean, short, clear and easy to read.
  • Keep the registration fields required to receive the offer as short as possible.

The biggest surprise that has come out of landing page testing is that indicating required fields with asterisks actually reduces response.

The 2012 Online Testing Awards Winners provide a wonderful opportunity for us B2B marketers to test our own instincts about what’s best on a landing page. Each test provides the two pages tested, lets you vote, then reports which version really won the test and why.

It provides fun and instant insight into how small changes to landing pages can make a big difference in results.

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Two B2B marketing rules that cross all forms of communication.

After back-and-forth email discussion with a client today about subject lines on a particular email, I got to thinking about how what I was saying applied to all types of B2B communications.

The fact is, we want to be effective communicators whether the platform is an email, letter, PowerPoint presentation, Website, post card, brochure or who knows what else. If B2B marketers forget all the other rules and best practices of communication, they must remember these two as the basics of getting their messages read. They are simple to remember — but can make a powerful difference.

1. Keep it short.
People are multitasking. They may be reviewing their emails while on a conference call. Schedules are often booked solid all day long. Often they don’t have time to do more than take a quick eye scan of the communication.

B2B marketers are not usually in the same room with the reader when the messaging is being read. They aren’t there to see the person yawning, looking at their watch or not giving the message any more than a glance. The trick to keeping it short is to write the communication. Then let it sit overnight. Then review it the next day and remove every word and sentence that is not critical to its purpose.

Don’t go on and on about product details in a communication inviting attendees to a Webinar demo. Don’t give away all the details of a case study you’re asking prospects to download.

2. Forget your big vocabulary.
B2B marketing communication is always more effective when it uses simple, direct language. The easier it is to read by anyone, the better. Some assert that one should use formal language when talking to, say, academics. However, everyone, regardless of education level, prefers simple, straightforward language. This is especially true when learning about products or services they might want to use. Clearer, more basic language also helps keep the communication short.

This isn’t new advice. In fact it’s been said over and over and over again by me and others. What’s disappointing is how often I still see these rules broken. B2B marketers have a better chance of standing out from their competition in this crowded marketplace by just following these two simple rules.

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