Posts tagged: B2B Marketing Messaging

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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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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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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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’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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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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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 SEO meets the keyword monster.


Back in the old days (like childhood), being found was not a good thing. It involved the game of “Hide and Seek” and required finding imaginative hiding places that would confound your fellow gamers. Today, the game has turned into “Find Me, Find Me, Pleeeeease” or Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It’s a lot harder to play and not nearly as much fun — until you get found, that is.

I was optimistic the day I hired a team of pros to build and maintain SEO for my company Website. Their first step was to research the top search terms for my type of B2B marketing service business. When they sent me the list they had found, my response was “yikes.” It wasn’t anything like the keyword ideas I had sent them initially.

Who knew that people could conduct strange searches, use such off-the-wall wording, or have completely forgetton how to spell?

So how can a B2B marketing team put these strange, convoluted keyword phrases into the language on their Website copy without looking uneducated or downright sloppy?

Add connective words
Fortunately, it’s my understanding that Google and other search platforms ignore small words. So adding the words “in”, “to” or “the” inside a search term should not diminish its effectiveness and can turn an awkward phrase into something that can be placed comfortably into a sentence.

For example, a search term such as “sales training San Diego” can be more easily placed in a sentence by changing it to “sales training in San Diego.”

Hiding awkward SEO phrases.
Awkward phrases may be just fine for searching but they’re a bit of a nightmare in marketing messaging if the company wants to appear to have any brains. Sometimes, however, awkward SEO phrases can be bunched together in a less prominent paragraph and not appear to be quite so out of place:

“Whether you’re looking for donations direct mail political, a direct mail sample political campaign, political direct mail portfolio samples, donations direct mail political, or campaigns direct mail political — ABC agency has the experience and success you can count on.”

If a B2B marketer’s business includes keywords that are commonly misspelled and generate traffic, it’s important to include those in the site text as well. Fortunately, Google helps reduce the number of searches using misspellings with their familiar “Did you mean ______” generator. However, this does not correct 100% of the searches.

Many companies add “footnotes” or blocks of copy under the call to action on a Web page that incorporate misspelled words. They can first be presented spelled as the searcher might spell it, then correctly in parentheses afterwards as in this example:

“ABC Company is your best resource for interim buisness (business) managers . . .”

Maximizing SEO positioning does require longer copy on a page. But if the main points are highlighted in subtitles and communicated early in the copy, B2B marketers can help deliver effective communication and successful SEO.

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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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