Posts tagged: B2B Marketing Best Practices

5 must-dos in B2B marketing measurement and metrics.


I just attended another fabulous live presentation by the San Diego Direct Marketing Association. The speakers, Randy Gerson of Gerson & Associates and Chris d’Eon of Deon Direct, knocked one out of the park — again.

ROI ChartLast time I saw Chris speak was when he was at ProFlowers. It was at that talk that I first realized he was a real direct marketing pro. This last presentation on “Collecting Marketing Metrics that Matter” didn’t change my mind about that. Randy, too, spilled out an impressive core of knowledge and advice.

Out of my pages of endless notes came a number of bits that every B2B marketer should brand on his or her brain. Here are five of those bits — from the experts’ mouths to my keyboard:

1. Keep your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) on a single page. Any more than that will lead only to a muddied understanding of the metrics. Remember, KPIs are NOT analysis. They are top-level trends only.

2. In B2B, never figure cost per sale on immediate sales revenue. Always calculate it using the average life-time value of a customer.

3. Always start with simple A/B split testing. If the company is new or starting testing for the first time, keep the test simple. There is an approach to testing (multi-variate) that allows for testing dozens of elements at one time. But getting the results from complex testing takes too long. When just starting out, keep it simple and always run a direct test of one time against the other. Test one online site against another, one piece of content against another, one mailing list against another, etc.

4. Test the call-to-action button on every landing page. Having discovered the dramatic difference this single item can make in conversion on a landing page, Chris and Randy advise testing the color and the copy on the call-to-action button every time a new landing page is run.

5. Don’t waste time measuring things based on pure vanity. Impressions, clicks, leads, and likes are numbers that make us feel good, but they have no value as metrics on which B2B marketing decisions should be based.

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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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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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B2B marketing secrets were rife at the 2012 DMA Conference.


My recent attendance at the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) Annual Conference and Trade Show produced a wealth of B2B marketing learning. The sessions I attended were full of quantitative information on best practices. The booths I visited revealed a number of sophisticated new technologies for managing customer communications, refining customer data, personalizing mailing packages and getting access to email data by geography. The information was great.

Unfortunately, for the vendors with booths in the exhibit hall, there was one issue that wasn’t great — signage. If the problem appeared at just one or two booths, it wouldn’t be worth writing about. But with rare exception, after reading everything the signs had to say on each booth, I still had to ask the magic question, “What does your company do?”

When I first read Ruth Stevens‘ book Trade Show and Event Marketing I learned about the best practices for trade show booth signage. They include:

  • Make the message short, clear and easy to grasp.
  • Use a typeface that’s legible enough to read at 30 feet.
  • Make sure the visitor knows — within seconds — what the company does.
  • Avoid signage that makes the visitors do all the work.

Making the visitor do all the work is exactly what I experienced. The signs were full of benefits, as she recommends. But what those companies did to deliver the benefits was a mystery. She said the same in her book.

“As I walked the aisles, I noticed how my eye would scan the signs, in an effort to decide which booth to visit and which to pass by. Many of them left me clueless. So what does a clueless aisle walker do? They have two choices. Either go up to the booth and pose the big question, “What do you guys do, anyway?” Or, move on, mumbling to oneself, “Why don’t they just tell me what they do? Why do I have to do all the work?”

Everywhere there were the words we know in B2B marketing. They included ROI, Increasing Customer Value, Data Driven Marketing, Email Marketing, Integrated Marketing Solutions. What are the folks with Integrated Marketing Solutions or any of the other companies selling? Software? Advertising services? Marketing automation?

B2B marketers need to spend time creating a short description of what they do and put it prominently on their signs. Here are rough examples of what several booths I visited could have put prominently on their signage to clearly describe what they offer:

  • Advanced software that integrates ALL customer interactions
  • Zip code-based email marketing
  • Cloud-based CRM that engages customers with relevant communications

As past posts covering trade shows on this blog have illustrated, there are many innovative ways B2B marketers can generate traffic to their booth. You can check out some of the ideas on these posts.

Take your B2B trade show booth from boring to spectacular.
Four quick B2B marketing ideas for a short week.
Rock-Bottom Trade Show Tactics: Event Marketing on the Very Cheap

But if the signage visitors see when walking the aisles doesn’t grab them, B2B marketers may not generate the traffic they need at these costly shows.

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B2B marketing efforts that deliver big payoffs.


B2B marketers get hammered daily with so many pieces of advice that it’s hard to know what to do next.

Just this morning I got an article from LinkedIn Today — “4 Blogging Tips to Double Your Site Traffic” — that endorses the power of videos and blogging. Written by Louise Julig for SocialMediaExaminer.com, it tells of how a video and a huge commitment to their blog and its content generated these remarkable results for Block Imaging International Inc.

“Sales volume has increased significantly enough since September that the company — which had been in a slump — hired 13 employees, including 3 additional salespeople.” But best of all, that single post with the video generated a $70K order.

This is a perfect example in which new technologies and new inbound channels deliver bottom-line results. But it took a huge commitment in time and effort by the players at Block Imaging to make it happen.

On the outbound side of the fence, I recently had a client send an email to its house list and experience a significantly higher-than-average response. This email did not offer free informational content, but was designed to generate calls and emails directly to sales.

The client is a company selling technology and services to CIOs in a very small, very vertical market. Most of the time, they send every B2B email marketing effort to their entire list of CIOs. However, in this particular effort, they put much time and energy into refining their targeting.

The product and service being offered related to a compliance issue faced by their market. With this email, they took the time and effort to select the specific state in which each company resided. Then they personalized each message with verbiage that read something like:

If you’re looking for ways to meet this (compliance issue)
look no further.

ABC Company has already helped [XX] companies
in [Name of State] achieve this functionality . . .

The client built 24 versions of the email, for prospects in 24 states, each in HTML and text. Within days they had gotten 25 responses — with many asking for more information. Again, this was not an offer for informational content but a “deep buy cycle” offer.

Both the inbound and outbound campaigns put in the extra time and effort necessary to use best practices. If B2B marketers reading this post get only one message, it’s that making a commitment and putting in the effort to follow best practices — whether inbound or outbound marketing — has a big payoff.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bad B2B marketing practice keeps showing its ugly head.


Catching up on my favorite B2B blog sites recently I came across this sage advice from Christopher Ryan of Great B2B Marketing, “B2B Marketing: Do This, Don’t Do That.”

He includes three “dos” and three “don’ts” that are so basic, it’s impossible to believe any of today’s B2B marketers should need his reminders. Yet, they do. I advise everyone to take a quick review of what he has to say. They are important recaps for B2B marketers who know these rules and essential B2B marketing basics for those who do not.

But the one I saw that spurred me to write this post is a “don’t” that I have had to deal with my entire 25+ years in B2B marketing.

“Stop changing your message/positioning every five minutes.”

To that, I’ll add: “Stop changing your package, your theme, your style.”

This practice goes back to the most basic rule in B2B marketing, or any marketing for that matter — marketers (and all those to whom they report) need to see the world from the point of view of the prospect/customer, not their own world.

B2B marketers must push back when they have these thoughts or hear them from others in their company:

  • “We’ve been doing this for too long. I’m tired of it, so our customers must be tired of it, too.” B2B marketers and the other folks in the company see what is being done every day. Customers and prospects do not. In fact, B2B marketers are lucky if their customers and prospects remember their positioning or their message from one appearance to the next.
  • “I showed it to my (wife, son, daughter, golfing buddy, dentist, pet sitter) and (he, she, it) didn’t like it.” Unless the wife, son, daughter, golfing buddy, dentist or pet sitter are qualified prospects for the product or service being sold, AND a B2B marketing professional, marketers should make sure this statement can’t change anything.

As Christopher says in one of his other excellent points, don’t change it unless it’s not working.

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Three dumb — and costly — B2B marketing mistakes.


A few days ago in the mail, I received a white padded envelope addressed to my business. It contained a single-page B2B marketing 8 1/2″ x 11″ letter and an 8GB jump drive.

It’s a great B2B direct mail package. Using a padded envelope makes it a “dimensional” or “lumpy” mailing package, which pretty much guarantees it will get opened. It also contains a something-for-nothing gift, which everyone loves.

On the label of the mailing package is my company name and address, and under that it reads “Attn: Susan Fantle.” Definitely personalized, with my name, which is also a best practice. Plus, it wasn’t cheap to send. The first class postage came in at $1.10. That doesn’t include the cost of the envelope, the production or the jump drive.

The B2B company sending the package kept their name subtle and understated by having a small line at the top of the label that read: Symantec, and their address.

The package uses best practices all around, so I was impressed. The B2B marketing letter inside the envelope, which was not personalized, opened with:

“Congratulations! I’m delighted to let you know that you are one of the first respondents to our recent offer. That means you are the lucky winner of the enclosed free gift!”

My response to the opening line was “Yikes!” I have no clue what offer I had responded to that made me a winner. Then the letter goes on to say:

“Symantec Website Security Solutions is the choice for leaders in online security.”

That’s very nice of them to say, but I’m not a leader in online security and never have been. I’m a B2B marketer. I do subscribe to a few online technology publications to try to keep up with the industry a bit. But, in order to subscribe, those publications make me fill out an extensive form that would reveal instantly I am not a technology buyer. Anyone renting those lists could easily have selected IT titles only and not wasted $1.10 in postage and more sending me the package and the free drive.

But that’s not the only thing that made me say “yikes.” The enclosed jump drive was BLANK! The B2B marketer behind this effort missed a huge opportunity to include a video, a brochure, a case study or any number of strong communications that would have expanded the sales message. Most marketing specialty firms that provide branded jump drives will record messages on them for their buyers. So that would have been pretty easy to do.

Symantec is a respected company, with fine products. But whoever managed this B2B direct mail missed three basic best practices: properly target, remind people of what they did online to gain the marketer’s interest, and make full use of the power of the free gift.

It’s possible that this campaign may get into the hands of enough qualified prospects to generate enough business to pay for the cost of the campaign. But I believe that every marketing effort should attempt to maximize that response. That means doing everything right.

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Great B2B marketing ideas you may have missed.


The rising number of visitors to this blog is not only good for my ego, but also indicates that more and more B2B marketers out there are interested in knowing about and following B2B marketing best practices.

It occurred to me, that with many readers taking the day off to celebrate the great day of our nation’s independence, it might be time to remember this blog’s great history. It seems a perfect time to expose some of the more popular earlier posts to new visitors who may have missed them.

So below are links to five of my earlier posts that remain the most popular on this site. Note that getting “B2B marketing ideas” does seem to be a theme.

Three Great B2B Marketing Ideas I Read in (OMG) Print Media.

  • One over-the-top creative idea that was a big hit
  • Ideas for writing more powerful B2B marketing email subject lines
  • Report on the goals driving IT decision-makers and how they affect B2B marketing copy

Two simple B2B marketing ideas I wish I’d thought of.

  • Making it easy and inviting for prospects to access and share business/product information
  • Adding a powerful Web page that boosts communication and SEO

Five B2B marketing ideas you can implement (almost) instantly.

  • Boost content downloads
  • Increase landing page performance
  • Lighten the burden of creating nurturing content
  • Get a longer life out of email and direct mail content offers
  • Get better results by using the word FREE in subject lines and emails

The two biggest B2B marketing campaign essentials.

  • Targeting
  • Tracking

Bad thoughts that block B2B marketing success.

  • I’m reaching everyone I need to reach with email
  • Social media is the only way to go today
  • We tried that and it didn’t work

I wish all marketers out there a happy and safe Independence Day observance full of fun and festivities, and many years of successful B2B marketing using today’s best practices.

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