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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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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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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A dangerous oversight in B2B marketing.

Most of the content posted here addresses the B2B marketing efforts necessary to attract leads, nurture them and convert those leads into customers. Experienced marketers know there is a significant cost involved with these efforts – and it’s much greater than the cost involved in retaining, upselling or cross-selling existing customers. So the last thing any LikeB2B company wants is to lose customers. Yet statistics consistently show that B2B marketers, and B2C as well, typically dedicate a very small portion of their budget and their efforts to customer retention.

Here are some pretty convincing stats on why they should:

  • “It costs 6 to 7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one.” – Bain & Company
  • “The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5 to 20%.” – Marketing Metrics
  • “A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%.” – Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Emmett Murphy & Mark Murphy
  • “A 5% reduction in the customer defection rate can increase profits by 5 to 95%.” – Bain & Company
  • “Customer profitability tends to increase over the life of a retained customer.” – Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Emmett Murphy & Mark Murphy
  • “Research shows that a 10% increase in customer retention levels results in a 30% increase in the value of the company.” – Bain & Company

Just like B2B marketers need an annual plan for customer acquisition, they need a formal plan for customer retention as well.

It’s been determined, through the tracking of customer lifetimes at many companies, that the first 90 days are the most critical in the customer retention process. Starting a customer retention program immediately after acquisition makes the most impact on that customer’s long-term satisfaction.

A colleague and client of mine, James Pennington at Anderson Direct Marketing, recently put together a presentation for the launch of a client’s onboarding program. Here are some highlights of the best practices for onboarding and customer retention that he presented that I think are worth sharing:

  • Listen carefully, ask questions.
  • Find out what customers like about your company, products, services and experiences.
  • Find out what they don’t like about those same things.
  • Find out what they would like to be able to get from you, but can’t because you don’t offer it. Marketers are not pointing out their product or company weaknesses here; they are establishing a position that the company cares about serving their customers’ needs.
  • Be sure to ask if there are any things you offer that they do NOT view as valuable.
  • Set up a “Red Flag” system that indicates potential high-risk customers. These alerts can be triggered by a reduction in orders, a reduction in site visits, a reduction in the dollar amount of orders, a technical issue that is not easily resolved, or other service problems.
  • Once an alert is received, act on it immediately.
  • Touch customers consistently via a variety of channels.
  • Keep the messaging of those touches consistent.
  • Provide a feedback channel with every touch.
  • Periodically update the customer’s contact information.
  • Ask for more information that will help you understand their needs better.

B2B companies spending a lot of money acquiring customers should never stop marketing to them. It’s retention that makes the biggest impact on the bottom line.

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Discovering the true power of personal B2B marketing videos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why anyone can use video in B2B marketing & why they should.

With all the things we do to make B2B marketing interesting, attention-getting and memorable, it’s a fact that there’s nothing like video. Video personalizes and humanizes communication in a way that words and even still pictures cannot do. It adds a human touch to marketing messaging that can be beat only by a face-to-face meeting. I’m not diminishing words and pictures, but, living in a world raised on television and movies, we’ve all been trained to respond to moving and talking pictures.

The arrival of YouTube in 2005 has made it remarkably easy for anyone to put video on the Internet, even a small B2B business like mine. In fact, I did just that in 2012 when my SEO resource, SharpNet Solutions, recommended that I could boost my Website’s SEO performance by adding video. Which it did.

I was so pleased with the result and with the company I chose to do the work that I recommended to the San Diego Direct Marketing Association (SDDMA) that they invite Greg McKinney, Founder and President of Webstorytellers, to be a speaker at one of their luncheon events. So, on Tuesday, I joined my fellow SDDMA members to hear what he had to say. Here are some of the highlights:

Why use video — the stats.*
If B2B marketers are not yet convinced about using video, these powerful stats may convince them. These numbers are based on reality today and don’t even include the projections on the huge future of video:

  • The average user’s visit to a text-and-image-based Website lasts only 43 seconds. For a Website with video, the average lasts 5 minutes and 50 seconds.
  • Customers who watch videos of products or services are 85% more likely to make a purchase.
  • 75% of executives surveyed say they watch work-related videos on business-related Websites at least weekly. More than half watch work-related videos on YouTube at least weekly.
  • 65% of senior executives have visited a vendor’s Website after watching a video.
  • It’s estimated that 75% of U.S. smartphone users watch online video on their smartphones and 26% of them do so every day. 50% of tablet users watch online video content.

Ways to use video.
There are many ways to use video. The best approach is to have multiple videos that cover all these options. Length should depend on the location and purpose of the video. Like all marketing issues, length should be tested for each product and market.

  • Testimonials and Customer Stories: One of my clients took advantage of a customer summit to record video success stories told by their customers. These were then edited into quick video testimonials for use on their Website. They also turned the full stories into case studies, which were put into a very popular content text-based offer.
  • Meet the CEO/President/Owner/Employee, etc.: There are few faster or more effective ways to personalize a B2B company to its prospects than showing an exec or employee talking about the company, its mission, its commitment, or the benefits it offers to customers and clients. Greg recommends that these recordings NOT be scripted.
  • Product Sales: One of my B2B ecommerce clients is adding video descriptions to products on their Website. They’ve made a huge impact on the company’s SEO and product sales.
  • Present the USP: B2B marketers can present their unique selling proposition (USP) in a quick video statement that adds life to the words.
  • Promote the Offer on Landing Pages: Videos produce better conversion from search engine ad or banner landing pages.
  • Enhance Page Content: A video can be put on every page of the site to support or enrich the content of that page with testimonials, product details, etc.
  • Video on Emails: Just like a video can enhance a Website, Web page or a landing page, it can do wonders for generating readership and response to prospect or customer emails.

What to pay for video.
The answer, of course, is, “It depends.” Companies can produce their own videos in-house for very little. But no company wants to project an amateur image. Using a professional video firm can significantly enhance the quality and results. Some resources are willing to do a simple animated video with voice over (like the one I had done) for around $1000. Using interviews, announcers, animation and more might cost an average of $5000 and up.

Video can be a cost-effective investment in better SEO, a more compelling Website and landing pages that convert. If I can do it, anyone can.

*The sources for the stats are available on request.
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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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How B2B marketers can make a good mobile impression.

In a recent blog, “Writing B2B email subject lines with complete confidence,” I reported on a session I attended at the October 2012 Direct Marketing Association Conference. In it, the presenter, Jay Schwedelson, President & CEO of Worldata, made it very clear that every email and Website today must be mobile-friendly.

Christopher Wallace, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, a promotional products specialty company, heartily supports that edict. Recently, he explained why:

“When I was a child learning how to fish, I remember my grandfather always reminding me to ‘set the hook.’ That’s a lesson that’s followed me into my career, and one that applies to any B2B marketing plan.

When B2B marketers put out the right bait to attract a prospect to their site and the site is not mobile-friendly, the hook can’t be set.”

Having visitors come to a B2B marketing site only to find that the margins are cut off at the sides or the dropdown menu links are difficult to click immediately defeats the momentum the marketing has initiated. These problems are enough to make a bad first impression on the prospect — which is the last thing any B2B marketer would want to do.

Making B2B Websites mobile friendly may sound like a monumental effort. However, Wallace suggests that, while a company’s developer is working on the new mobile platform, there are a growing number of online mobile site design and management portals B2B marketers can use to make this conversion quickly. Here are his suggestions:

WixMobile
Once the king of do-it-yourself Flash sites, Wix has managed to adapt to the times (including the continued Flash-averseness of Apple’s iOS). Instead of reworking an existing site for mobile, Wix creates an alternate site that’s designed specifically for devices. A company’s domain remains the same and the device automatically redirects users. If B2B marketers are creating a new mobile site to accompany their physical one, the cost is about $15 a month for 2.5GB of storage, unlimited bandwidth, tech support, and a free domain (if needed).

MoFuse
MoFuse has grown itself into a major player in the mobile design front, with clients ranging from NFL teams to the U.S. Department of State. Clients can design their own site with drag-and-drop pictures and text, or let MoFuse build it for them to their specifications. It’s easy to include simple buttons and a space for visitors to enter data using a simple form builder. Pay is via a monthly subscription — with a basic plan starting at $39/month.

ConvertWebsite
A suitable option for many businesses is to convert their existing site to mobile. This service digs into a company’s existing site code, images, and links, optimizing them for various mobile sizes (and setting up a redirect when different devices access the site). Because it’s a one-time fee of around $300, rather than a monthly subscription, it’s an excellent ‘quick fix’ for many companies with a simple site that experiences glitches on some mobile devices.

B2B companies should not wait to optimize their site for mobile. Making a good first impression in this competitive B2B marketing environment is everything.

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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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