Posts tagged: Marketing Best Practices

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.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

Mini-quiz on how to avoid a B2B marketing iceberg.


It’s a sad piece of history we are remembering this week with the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912. When there are public tragedies, there’s an immediate call for who or what to blame. In the case of the Titanic, however, there was only one cause — human hubris, the “overestimation of one’s own competence or capabilities.”

Hubris is a dangerous state of mind in any walk of life. B2B marketing is no exception. Hubris in marketing is not likely to cause the death of 1514 souls, but it can cost the job of a CEO, CMO, marketing VP, director or manager, product manager, or other player. In the case of a private B2B company, even the owner is hurt, as poor marketing decisions can reduce market share and the bottom line.

I’ve formulated this simple 10-question mini-quiz to help B2B marketers determine whether they may be suffering from the kind of hubris that would mean a bad outcome of their marketing, and possibly their future. Any “yes” answers are a sign that there may be an iceberg in their path.

1. We do not track cost per lead and cost per sale on every campaign.

2. We don’t believe in testing — we know what our customers want.

3. I personally like what we’re doing, so it must be good.

4. I personally don’t like what we’re doing, so it must be bad.

5. Our competition is doing it, so we need to do it, too.

6. As long as my boss likes what we’re doing, my job is safe.

7. We don’t need a strong offer — the product will sell itself.

8. The message makes sense to me, so our customers will understand it.

9. Nobody reads long copy anymore.

10. Direct mail is dead. Everything we need to do can be done online.

11. Everyone’s talking about social media, so we should dedicate a lot of resources to it.

Share

Two B2B marketing rules that cross all forms of communication.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Share

What’s missing from your B2B marketing strategy?


Not long ago every invitation I received to every Webinar and marketing event focused on social media. Now the hot topic seems to be mobile marketing. These are just two new channels that expand the options in the world of integrated B2B marketing. They have become part of the fundamentals that successful B2B businesses must implement.

The sad part is that many B2B marketers haven’t yet incorporated some of the basics that have been — and continue to be — necessary for a successful marketing outcome.

Bob Apollo, writing a guest post for My Venture Pad, alerted me to the “B2B Marketing Manifesto” created by Velocity Partners in the UK.

He points out what we all know — B2B buyers have more options than ever before for finding solutions to their business challenges. Because of that, it’s more essential than ever to follow these fundamentals outlined by Velocity Partners.

  • Content Marketing: converting your insight into campaigns that change people’s minds
  • Analytics: measuring everything that moves in your marketing (and the stuff that doesn’t)
  • A/B Testing: backing your hunches with real-life data — and responding accordingly
  • Lead Nurturing: cultivating your prospects until they are ready to take the next step in their buying journey with you
  • Search: getting found using the terms your prospects use when they go looking for answers
  • Community: hanging out (and contributing) in the places where your prospects go for trusted advice

Although many of today’s B2B marketers are using content, it’s surprising how many are not and are simply just trying to sell product. These days, only companies with no competition can afford to do that. In regards to analytics, online click-thrus may be counted, but how many B2B marketers are tracking the lead and lead source all the way to a sale? How many are tracking cost-per-lead and cost-per-sale, both critical marketing measurement tools.

Now is the time to be planning for 2012. When marketers are putting together their plan for the next year, they should build it around these six key essentials.

Share

Hat’s off to the B2B marketer behind this effort.


I love marketing offers. In B2B marketing (or any kind, for that matter), offers are what you give someone for doing something you want them to do.

Content is an offer. Offering content in outbound B2B marketing is basically saying:

“By accepting this offer you are showing that you have interest in learning about this topic. Tell me who you are and how to reach you and, in exchange, I’ll give you this white paper or this assessment or this guide or these case studies, etc.”

How often should a B2B marketer make an offer in outbound marketing efforts? The answer is ALWAYS.

When we B2B marketers invite prospects and clients to a Webinar, we see the Webinar as the offer. It has value and is educational. That’s why I was surprised and delighted to get this email invite.

Not only do InformationWeek and the event sponsors Syncsort and NetApp invite me to a Webinar, but they offer me the opportunity to win something if I attend.

So I asked myself, “What is their strategy in doing this?

I’m not sure I’m correct, but when I read the “contest rules” I discovered two possible answers. Here is the section of the Contest Rules I found revealing:

“To enter, each potential entrant must become a registered user of the Web Site and truthfully and accurately provide all information required by the registration process and view the “Virtualize without Compromise: Understanding VM Backup and Recovery” Webcast in its entirety prior to 2 p.m. EDT on July 26, 2011. The eligible prize winner(s) will be selected at random from all eligible entrants who view the Webcast in its entirety.”

It’s possible that two of the reasons this offer is being made are:
1. To make sure the registration is complete and accurate, and
2. To ensure that attendees don’t leave the Webcast early.

This offer makes the invitation stand out from dozens passing through a typical inbox. The subject line of “Win [50] $10 Starbucks gift cards: Understanding VM Backup and Recovery” puts the offer up front.

In addition, this offer gives me a very positive perception of the publication and the event sponsors. They are making a $500 investment in the hope that this Webcast will generate X number of leads and X number of new customers and potential revenue that justifies the investment.

It’s a strategically and financially sound B2B marketing strategy.

Share

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.

Share

Fun with B2B marketing


Ninety-percent of the B2B marketing copy I write is serious stuff. It addresses a business prospect’s biggest pains and challenges, then offers content or a product solution that shows the path to meeting those challenges and ending that pain.

Hopefully, my messages have energy and enthusiasm, are fun and are easy to read. But the subjects and the purpose are all very serious. In my world, it’s hard to imagine that the fun things B2C marketers do to engage consumers translate very well into the B2B marketing world.

Then I received an invite from Information Week to participate in the Great IT Security Challenge. It came from United Business Media’s TechWeb. It’s designed to test “your knowledge of IT security and lets you compete against peers in the IT market for visibility, community opportunities and a chance to win a contest prize.”

The contest is composed of possible IT security terms and a multiple choice of three possible definitions. It’s filled with a number of red herrings. The term Nimda, for instance, is simply admin spelled backwards.

The contest’s purpose, of course, is to incent the IT market to return to the UBM site every day. Not only are the trivia questions a lot of fun, but the system keeps track of points. I did pretty well for not being an IT person. Yet, when I got a question wrong, I still got 10 points just for trying.

This contest is classic social media. But, in this case, since it’s designed to drive daily traffic to the UBM TechWeb site, it’s also B2B direct marketing. The purpose of direct marketing is to change behavior. That’s what this contest does: it affects behavior.

Here is how they pick a winner:

“The specific point system is defined within the gaming interface. But in a general sense, you are rewarded for the following types of activities: returning to the game daily; answering the daily quiz; answering the daily quiz correctly; downloading content from our family of websites; and so on. The person with the most points at the end of the game wins. We have a tie-breaker system developed in the event two people have the same point totals.”

UBM even has fun describing what a participant could win:

“Fame. Peer recognition. Professional stature like you’ve never before experienced. A whole new set of online friends. And a white-hot, superthin, superlight notebook computer (we can’t say the name of it for reasons we don’t fully understand, but we think you’ll be impressed).”

What does a game like this reveal? That even the prospective buyers of IT products and services can be engaged in something fun. This information technology publisher positions itself as a resource for IT information and gets its market to interact with it on a daily basis.

I’ve always cautioned clients to be careful about using humor in B2B marketing. When someone is considering a technology solution costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, using humor incorrectly can backfire. This Great IT Security Challenge has opened my eyes to many opportunities for B2B marketers to engage their prospects and make B2B marketing fun.

Share

Where B2B marketing still grabs attention in today’s communication overload.


A short business trip last week put me back in front of a copy of USA Today that had been left on my hotel doorstep. The “Money” section featured an excellent article by John Swartz about the high cost of today’s communications overload that is reducing productivity and increasing business employee errors.

It reports, “People are drowning in a deluge of data. Corporate users received about 110 messages a day in 2010, says market researcher Radicati Group. There are 110 million tweets a day, Twitter says. Researcher Basex has pegged business productivity losses due to the ‘cost of unnecessary interruptions’ at $650 billion back in 2007.”

The article mentions Brad McCarty as an example. “As an Editor of tech blog The Next Web, he routinely has 10 online conversations at once: Skype, Twitter, Google™, instant messaging, e-mail, chat and texting.”

As the USA Today article clearly shows, getting seen in that environment is pretty difficult. Even if a B2B company’s tweet, Facebook listing or Web site is seen, how many seconds of the prospect’s time is spent on it?

Being in the business of contributing to that overload and wanting to reach prospects in these environments, I realized that getting the attention of today’s business decision-makers and influencers is a far greater challenge than it’s ever been before.

For me, with my earlier marketing years spent doing direct mail, meeting that challenge is easy. That’s because there is one time of day that these B2B prospects take their eyes away from their computer screens and their mobile devices and stop for a moment. It’s when they sort their mail.

That’s the moment B2B marketers can capture attention in a prospect’s crowded day.

Many of today’s B2B marketers have avoided or abandoned the direct mail channel for two reasons: cost and the assumption that, since everyone does everything online, they can’t be reached effectively offline.

However, B2B marketers continue to use direct mail in their marketing mix because they know that it is not only effective, it is cost-effective. The additional cost involved — with paper, envelopes, printing, and postage — is well worth it.

It pays off in its ability to better target B2B leads based on industry, title, company size and other demographics that are typically available in mailing lists but not in email lists. Better targeting generates respondents who are more qualified as well.

Also, messages are read in a momentary calm in the chaotic sea of information, when people take time out of their day to sort their mail.

When correctly used (right lists and offer) direct mail is still a proven B2B communication tool. It’s not as sexy right now as social media, but it is a steady and consistent performer and an important channel for successful B2B marketers.

Share

WordPress Themes