Posts tagged: Human Behavior

B2B marketers shouldn’t forget the human touch.

In the borrowed cubicle I was using recently I found a copy of Online Executive Education, a magazine-like listing of courses offered to executives by UniversityAlliance through a number of universities across the country.

Seeing the types of courses offered gave me insight into what today’s executives are looking for in the way of skill improvement. They ranged from getting a “Black Belt in Six Sigma” to a masters in “Human Resource Development.”

Reading it, however, got me thinking about the lives of the people to which we market. It reminded me of what we B2B marketers sometimes forget — that is, we are selling products to human beings with egos and personal motivations, not just databases or a mass of social media followers.

Although B2B buyers must justify their buying decisions by the promise of benefits that will help the company — reducing costs, boosting productivity, increasing ROI, or others — they are still humans whose decisions are influenced by their emotions, experiences and personal goals.

The question is, “How can we make sure our product messaging touches our prospects as humans?” Here are a few suggestions on how it can be done:

1. Put all marketing messaging in the 2nd person.
“You” is the word that can go the furthest to make a human connection with the prospect. Companies that keep the marketing and product messaging in the 3rd person because they think it sounds more professional are actually separating themselves from their markets.

2. Discuss what the product can do in real user situations.
Help your prospect envision the product “in action” within his or her organization. Tell a story with someone in that person’s title or position gaining value from using the product. Draw them in so they can see how the product can perform in real life.

3. Spell out one or more of the “personal” rewards the buyer would experience from buying the product.
My favorite is “Become the company hero.” Others can include statements such as, “Take your next vacation free of worry,” or, “Become your company’s trusted authority on . . .”

If the B2B company is marketing to multiple titles, versioning the message for each title gives it greater impact with each target. It’s important that B2B marketers don’t get too caught up in the tools and forget the individuals who will use them.


Today’s 3 Biggest B2B Marketing Success Barriers are Human: Part II

When I vented last October about various managers in B2B companies sticking their noses into areas of marketing that are not their concern, responsibility, or expertise, I thought I’d said it all. Of course, after they read my post on “Today’s 3 Biggest B2B Marketing Success Barriers are Human,” these executives would certainly learn their place and get out of marketing’s way.

I was wrong. In fact, the problem may be getting worse. When reading Amy Africa’s QLog today I was reminded of the reason this interference continues.

Amy’s post “Stalin Is My Soulmate,” about trying make sense out of Web analytics, answered an inquiry from a person in a company that had just spent $80k on a Web analytics consultant only to end up more confused than before. The result being that management has issued an edict stopping an important marketing and sales-related activity.

The entire reason for humans being such a barrier is that it’s virtually impossible for us to be objective and open-minded. We bring our personal experiences to every opinion we have and every decision we make.

Anyone in any position, in any company is likely to experience these barriers. I find it to be especially prevalent in B2B marketing, as the three following real-life situations illustrate. Fortunately, there is a strong argument to overcome each.

1. CFO: “It’s cheaper to bring all marketing creative services and production management in-house.”

Mind-opening Argument:

a. Employees must be hired and paid their salary and benefits regardless of the workload. Costs cannot adjust as the workload goes up or down.
b. If employees don’t work out, there is a huge interruption in marketing efforts while the company goes through the lengthy firing and hiring process.
c. Outside service providers (agencies, freelancers, media buyers) must be proactive and do a great job or they will lose the business. They are more driven to keep up with the latest technology and opportunities than in-house personnel. This drive makes a positive impact on B2B marketing results.

2. Product/sales manager: “It’s a waste of time to offer content that doesn’t sell the product directly.”

Mind-opening Argument:

Content containing product details will resonate with the individuals who are already looking for a solution to the problem our product solves. But it will miss gaining the attention of those prospective buyers who are just realizing they have the problem, but may not be ready to actively search for a solution. By getting those early buy-cycle prospects into our database now, we gain a huge advantage by building a relationship with them before they begin their solution search. Only educational content will appeal to both groups of prospects.

3. VP of sales and marketing: “It’s a waste of money reaching out to new markets. All our customers are ABC providers.”

Mind-opening Argument:

All of our current customers are “ABC providers” because that’s the only vertical we’ve ever marketed to. Until we test the waters of directing our marketing to other verticals we won’t know whether those are valid opportunities. Opening new markets is a fast path to growth and revenue.

It’s sad that we B2B marketers must expend so much of our energy fighting these battles. But we must all keep trying, as pulling down these barriers is the key to following best practices and having real impact on the company’s bottom line.


How often to send B2B lead acquisition efforts? Find your Uncle Harry.

Several months ago, a prospective B2B client called me for messaging help on her company’s sales-generation email program. Because her Web service is available for a low monthly fee, she doesn’t need to nurture leads but seeks, instead, to generate ready buyers.

On the call, she told me that she is sending emails out to the same list of 20,000 small-business prospects via Constant Contact every week. I let out a small gasp when I first heard this. Any B2B company emailing me weekly would have been opted-out a long time ago. Yet, she says her opt-out rate is low. It’s possible that many of her emails are going into spam folders and aren’t being seen at all; however, they do generate some business.

Then a recent blog post, “eMarketing – How Many Touches Produce Results?,” from Manticore Technology, a B2B marketing automation provider, addressed the email frequency issue. In their words, they had “set out to discover how many touches are optimal for multi-touch email marketing campaigns.”

They offered an educational eGuidebook to the same target list, sending one email per month for four months. Here is their result:

Email #1: 1235 downloads
Email #2: 585 downloads
Email #3: 52 downloads
Email #4: 17 downloads

In direct mail marketing, the predictive formula of results when sending the same message to the same audience is a 50% drop in response with each successive mailing. This example in emailing shows a greater decline that may or may not produce similar results if repeated in the future.

But the question remains, how often is too often? What’s the answer? The number is different for every company, every product, every target market. Only through testing can a B2B company determine which frequency is the most productive and cost-effective. Only through testing can each company find their Uncle Harry.

Who’s he? Uncle Harry is the guy that triggers how often a company should mail lead generation offers to the same group of prospects. Here’s the story:

Many years ago, an insurance company that sold primarily through direct mail was trying to determine how often it should mail offers to its base of prospective customers. Their marketing team broke the mailing list into groups and tested various mailing patterns. The one that performed the best for them was to re-mail every 90 days.

They found that mailing more often cost more and did not produce enough additional business to justify the additional mailing costs. On the reverse, they found that waiting longer than 90 days did not boost response significantly enough to justify the wait.

So why was 90 days the magic number for them? Because Uncle Harry died.

That’s right. Every 90 days, there are enough people in the country who have a relative die to trigger the awareness that maybe they need to get life insurance.

How does this consumer example apply to B2B marketing? Because, most of the time, the decision to move ahead with finding a solution to a particular business challenge relates to an event. Uncle Harry may not have died, but perhaps a big customer was lost, a competitor won the bid for a new customer, costs suddenly rose or one of hundreds of events happened that triggered a change in company priorities.

It’s then that a B2B company needs to be in front of its prospect with the right message. For some, like the prospective client who called me, every week may not be too much. For others like Manticore, once a month with the same offer may be too often. B2B marketers should test their lead generation marketing frequency to find their own Uncle Harry.


B2B Nurturing: It Isn’t Just for Leads Anymore

Yesterday, Seth Godin wrote a nice post on “loyalty.” He describes it accurately as the “good feeling some people get when they’re being loyal.”

Doug Hanna of The Social Customer talks about customer loyalty and how it ties into a company being “presented as trustworthy, competent, efficient, and intelligent.”

They are both true. But customer loyalty to a coffee brand like Starbucks® and loyalty to a piece of enterprise-wide management software are about as similar as the coffee bean is to the server.

Loyalty to a product that a company has spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to acquire and months to implement is often based on fear of the cost and time involved in moving to another solution. That’s not loyalty.

True loyalty in the B2B world is all about relationships and is often based on attitudes and practices like these from the solution vendor:

  1. Regularly speaks to its customers about the customer’s current operational struggles and challenges.
  2. Is a pro-active partner who initiates efforts to help customers improve its business operation via feature enhancements.
  3.  Helps customers stay educated on advancements, trends and how to get the most from their current product.
  4. Provides willing and attentive support when customers have a problem.
  5. Provides regular opportunities for customers to enhance their capabilities via cross-sell opportunities with incentives.
  6. Maintains a visible attitude of putting customers first.

Some of these relationship practices are the job of operational and support departments. But marketing can play a big role in achieving “relationship” loyalty over “fear-of-leaving” loyalty.

Just as B2B marketing best practices today advocate nurturing leads with a scheduled program of contacts and educational content offers, customer loyalty can be enhanced through a planned program of customer contacts via emails, social media contacts, letters and phone calls.

High-end B2B product providers may think their customers are locked in forever and can be ignored. Without a solid relationship, though, buyers can always be wooed away by newer, better, more affordable solutions.


Ancient secrets for getting B2B email opened and read

Is there a polite way to say that I love being proven right? Is it a “neener, neener” moment?

Yesterday, MarketingSherpa posted the results of research presented at their Email Summit by Bob Johnson, VP and Principal Analyst at IDG Connect. This research addressed “What Motivates Buyers to Receive and Engage with Vendor Email?” (Access to this MarketingSherpa article will close on Ancient Secrets2/20/10.)

What Johnson reported, which I was so pleased to read, is that the elements that make buyers pay attention to opt-in emails are the same ones that have made buyers pay attention to direct marketing messages for decades — possibly centuries.

They are . . .

  • LIST — Influences results by 200%
    How targeted is the list of people who are receiving the message?
  • OFFER — Influences results by 100%
    What information is being offered, what action, what opportunity?
  • CREATIVE — Influences results by 50%
    How clearly does the email communicate the message and the call to action and resonate with the individual reader?

(Other direct marketers may put different percentages on these items, but the relationship between them will remain the same.)

So what did the IDG Connect research reveal?

  • LIST – Obviously, a B2B marketer can’t find any better list than one made up of prospects that have opted-in. Every recipient has raised a hand and asked for information related to the product or service being offered. So that element is as good as it can be.
  • OFFER – The offer is as important as it ever was. MarketingSherpa reports that “Underwhelming offers are the biggest weakness of most emails, according to buyers.” This insight tells B2B marketers exactly what area of their emails they can enhance if they hope to improve their open and response rates.
  • CREATIVE – The survey shows two creative elements that can make an impact on email response. One is recognizing the sender. “Buyers cited ‘known sender’ as the most important factor in determining whether or not they open an email.” The second is personalization — not just with the name but also with title and area of interest. Directing the message to individuals is why direct marketing is also called target marketing.

Another “revelation” is that “Buyers want to do a good job for the organization they work for, but they’re also looking out for number one.” That point is no surprise to those of us in B2B direct marketing who know that ALL decisions are emotional. The more the message is focused on what the product or service can do for that individual in his or her workday (while benefiting the company), the better it will perform.

So I send out a thank you to my readers for letting me have this moment of glory and proving once again that marketing channels may change — but people do not.

One note on social media
This IDG Connect study researched the opinions of both buyers and marketers, finding interesting differences between their views. In fact, marketers gave far more importance to social media as a “favored method for receiving product/services information.” Buyers were shown to favor that channel by only 12%.


Advice to most B2B marketers: “Don’t sweat the big stuff”

Among the several dozen opt-in emails I got today was a warning from iMedia Connection. The email was an intro to a blog post by Adam Kleinberg, CEO of Traction, titled “5 Marketing Megatrends You Can’t Ignore.”

It’s true — I did not ignore his post. The implied warning is that marketers, Globeincluding B2B marketers, must adapt to these overpowering market trends.

Actually, the post is an insightful, worldview of marketing — and it’s not wrong. Kleinberg talks convincingly of the opportunities available to those who are able to leverage these trends into their brand and their marketing practices. Here is his list:

  • Megatrend 1: Mass collaboration is powering the new economy
  • Megatrend 2: Constant connectivity in an on-demand world
  • Megatrend 3: Globalization, making the world a smaller place
  • Megatrend 4: Pervasive distrust in big corporations
  • Megatrend 5: A global sense of urgency to fix the problems of a modern world

“These,” he says, are a “tsunami of change transforming society.”

However, if these trends are big enough to affect all marketers, then why did a fairly recent Sysomos study show that 75% of all Twitter traffic is generated by 5% of users? Why did a Forrester Research growth forecast for 2009 predict that online sales would make up only 7% of overall retail revenue, compared with 6% in 2008?

Marketers who are not using Twitter may be missing some of the population but not a majority of their market by a long shot. The share of Internet retailing is growing, but it’s still a small percentage of retail sales. There may be “pervasive distrust in big corporations,” but big corporations make up less than 2% of the companies in the United States. As of 2004, the U.S. Census Bureau found that out of the 25 million firms in the United States, only 5,104,331 have paid employees. Of those, 4,980,165 (98%) have fewer than 100 employees and 4,453,810 (87%) have fewer than 20.

So the trends are big. People and business buyers may be changing how they communicate, how they research information, how they collaborate, what public goals and causes they support, and more. But people haven’t changed.

B2B marketers and companies big enough to have the time, the personnel and the budget to take advantage of these trends should go for it. The remaining 98% of B2B marketers should know that these trends haven’t changed the market enough that they need to sweat it.


Knowledge of human behavior is a marketer’s best asset.

Today a colleague forwarded an excellent article by Kaila Colbin — “Understanding Human Behavior,” published online on MediaPost. It discusses human behavior and states that, when dealing with people, the important question to ask is, “What will people do if given a certain stimulus?”


The example that comes to mind is that, if you raise taxes on a product or service, the first thing people will do is stop buying it. But then, moving my mind into the realm of marketing (where it dwells most of the time), I know that this question is also at the heart of successful direct marketing. For instance:

  • What will prospects do if you offer them a free white paper discussing best practices relating to a business process that affects their job?

Answer: They will request the white paper and you’ll gain a qualified lead — whether they want to find out how to improve their processes OR if they think they are doing everything right and just want to confirm it. This approach is likely to ensure marketing success when generating leads.


Why is this? It offers an immediate reward and carries no effort or obligation.

  • What will prospects do if you invite them to a Webinar to learn more about your product and how it can solve their operational problems?

Answer: They will sign up to attend only if they are already actively evaluating solutions to solve this problem; otherwise, they will ignore your message. Your response will be small.


Why is this? The offer does not deliver an immediate reward and requires a commitment of time (which, these days, is a precious thing).

Both of the above offers have value — just at different stages of the buying cycle. The key to making the right offer at the right time requires knowledge of human nature and the reward vs. the effort.


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