Entries Tagged as 'B2B marketing tools'

A creative director’s take on marketing strategy and tactics

This is one of a series of occasional interviews with top practitioners on topics of interest to B2B lead generation, marketing and new business development professionals. 

Lead generation is a top objective of B2B marketers. Yet when it comes to messaging, offers, and the tactics for generating those leads, marketers are not always as specific as their agencies need them to be.

Peter AltschulerPeter Altschuler is the Creative Director at AcquireB2B, an agency that specializes in generating, nurturing, and qualifying leads – transforming them from people who are “just looking” into prospects who are “ready to buy.” As creative director, Peter turns business and sales objectives into provocative, compelling, and highly focused lead generation campaigns.

Mac asked Peter about his approach to developing creative strategies and tactics for the agency’s clients, and what follows is taken from their discussion about the essential information that leads to creative brilliance.

Mac: Clients give us all sorts of input, right?

Peter: “All sorts” is a good way to describe it.

But it’s rarely in the form of a brief that you and I rely on to understand what a client expects from any given project.

But we can take their input to create a brief – which I think is vital – just so that we’re all working from a common set of parameters and expectations.

And we do that a lot. But from the creative end, which is your focus, what do you consider the bare essentials that clients have to provide to be sure they get what they want?

And what they need.

Right.

There are ten basic elements and, though they seem pretty straightforward, each one should be, as Einstein said, as simple as possible but not simpler. In other words, as the term “brief” implies, the information should be reduced to its most concise… and precise… form without leaving out anything that’s vital to know.

I want you to give me an example, but first tell me the ten basic elements.

O.K. Number one is the product and, in B2B, that may be the physical item or the core service, or it may include installation, upgrades, maintenance, consulting, training, and warranties. So the product has to be described very specifically.

Two is the objective, and the objective is never to sell more stuff.

I thought it kinda is.

Ultimately, sure, but getting to that point requires intermediate steps. Like increasing or establishing awareness in a particular industry vertical, generating qualified leads from companies of a certain size or location, attracting more visitors to a product offer page, persuading existing customers to purchase a complementary product or add-on, or using a discount to attract more prospects who are ready to buy.

Each of those seems to have two parts.

They do because, otherwise, they’re too generic. They’re simpler than possible, to go back to Einstein. Without the second part, there’s not enough focus. It would be like an ad for Coke that says, “It’s refreshing,” but doesn’t have an image that indicates who finds it refreshing – a family at the beach, for instance; describes how it’s refreshing, like poured over ice or drunk through a straw; or suggests when it’s refreshing by showing a guy wiping his brow as he takes a gulp.

Got it.

Number three is the audience, which makes the objective even more precise.

How so?

By clarifying exactly who you want to reach. If you’re selling office supplies in bulk, the office or purchasing manager is a better target than the head of finance, even if the message involves cost savings. That’s because the finance executive doesn’t buy supplies. He or she probably doesn’t even get them from the supply room. The executive’s assistant does that. But…

But?

But if you’re introducing a new product like, I don’t know… digital paper that transfers what you write into text in a software application, then you probably want to target the end user. If the user wants it, they’ll ask the office or purchasing manager to stock it – an item the manager would never consider buying if there wasn’t a demand from employees.

Makes sense. But how to do reach those users?

You’re a step ahead. That’s number four. The media. Once you know the audience, you have to pick the best way to reach it. That could be email, postal direct mail, digital or print ads in specific publications, video (which could be part of an email campaign), or billboards.

Billboards? For B2B?

Sure. Like between a convention venue and the main hotel to attract attendees to a tradeshow booth. Spot TV can do the same thing. Or maybe Apple wants to persuade public transit commuters to read the Times or the Post on iPads and uses busboards and subway posters.

But there are nuances.

Aren’t there always?

Yeah. If the medium is email, what other medium matters?

The device?

Yes! It’s essential to know where the email will be read – on a phone, tablet, laptop, desktop – so that the creative can be modified appropriately. There was an interesting study released in August of 2015 that showed that desktop views of email increased and mobile views decreased in B2B categories. But in fashion, a B2C category, the opposite happened.

So the media have secondary considerations just like objectives and audience.

What’s five?

The fifth essential is the primary message. What’s the one thing, more than anything else, that you want the audience to receive? Or let me rephrase that. What’s the one very specific thing that you want the audience to “get.”

I did a campaign years ago for a company that used a knowledge base, which is like a database on 3-D multi-media steroids. A database can hold alphanumeric data in tables. A knowledge base can incorporate audio, video, graphics, as well as text and numbers and store it in an unstructured repository. Don’t look so worried. That’s as technical as this gets.

Good.

To get across the point that databases were limited, the first ad showed a picture of Bo Diddley’s trademark cigar box guitar, and underneath it was the headline “Databases don’t know diddley.”

Clever. I like that.

And it worked great. The first two sentences of the very short body copy established the difference between data and knowledge bases, and the inquiries poured in.

The client, to be honest, thought the appeal was too narrow. They wanted to make a big, blue sky statement about the future of information management, but we pointed to examples from earlier campaigns that fell flat, and that I had nothing to do with, by the way…

Of course. I assumed that.

… and that helped us talk them out of it. What’s kind of interesting is that item six, a unique selling proposition or USP, was incorporated into that primary message.

Their USP was that their technology could store and retrieve any type of information – this was a few years before Google – and no one else could claim that at the time. But, even if someone could, it wouldn’t matter if my client claimed it first.

I’m not sure I follow.

There’s a classic story about a beer brand that gave a tour to its agency’s creative team, and the copywriter was fascinated by the process they used to sterilize bottles using steam. The writer wanted to focus on that as a differentiator, but the brewery said that everyone sterilized their bottles the same way. Didn’t matter, the copywriter said, because the brand’s customers didn’t know that bottles were sterilized or that it was a common practice. So the agency promoted the beer as cleaner and healthier because the bottles were sterilized, and sales went up.

But couldn’t every other brand make the same claim?

Yes, but if they were the second or third or fourth, they’d look guilty of me-too-ism and might be perceived as copying from the now higher profile brand, instead of coming up with something better of their own.

Understood.

From there, creatives need to know the benefits and then the corresponding features – items seven and eight. The benefits tend to be more important to the people who want a solution to a problem; the ones who want to know if it will be more efficient, cost-effective, durable, and so on.

Purchase initiators, short listers, recommenders, and decision makers would be in that group. For researchers, evaluators, and influencers – the people who want to know how it works, whether it will integrate with or replace other components, and so on – the features are probably more important.

For copy and art teams, though, both are important if they’re creating materials for all of those different individuals. The need to know what to say and what to show based on who’s expected to read, watch, or listen to the information.

The content?

Yeah, that’s the current catchall name for what used to be called collateral or sales aids or marketing literature, depending on your generation, and it’s all been used in B2B marketing and sales for more than a hundred years. It’s only since the Internet put buyers in charge of obtaining all that information, instead of having marketing and sales departments dole it out, that it’s now seen as something new. The media and formats are new, but the relevance and variety of the information – content – hasn’t changed much.

OK. Is there anything else? I think we’re only up to number eight.

Nine is competitive information. We need to know what other vendors are saying and doing to be sure that we don’t wind up with me-too-ism, that we don’t just do a better job of saying and doing the same thing as the other guys, and that we understand what the competition thinks is important to the market so that we can find an area they’re ignoring or aren’t tapping into very well. If we know all that, we can create something that stands apart and endures for as long as the market stays stable.

What do you mean by “stable”?

These days, new products and services appear much faster than they used to. They could be disruptive entrants that offer something entirely new or improvements to existing offerings or more aggressive pricing of those offerings. Or even new regulations from government that affect how a product can be used or if it can still be used at all. Government isn’t a competitor, but it can have a pretty big impact.

So the creative strategy should incorporate a plan B and, probably, C and D to anticipate potential what-if situations and be ready with an alternate approach that can be launched in close to real time.

Like real time marketing in B2C – the kind that responds to things like a blackout during the Super Bowl using Twitter.

That’s a great example, though B2B may not need to respond quite that fast. But B2B does use marketing automation to respond immediately in other ways like sending instant replies to website inquiries or email responses. And that kind of responsiveness itself can be a competitive advantage or part of a company’s brand USP.

And we’ve done that kind of thing for clients for years now. It’s a great way to motivate companies to create repositories of messages, offers, and content that can be distributed as soon as a response or inquiry is submitted.

Just as long as everything is coordinated in terms of style which, conveniently, is the tenth and final item on my list. If we don’t understand the look and sound and feel that conveys the brand’s or product’s character, we risk confusing the audience.

It’s hard to think of a B2B example that everyone’s familiar with, so I’ll cheat a little and use two B2C firms – T-Mobile and Apple. T-Mobile blares at you with bright magenta color schemes, attacks on competitors’ pricing and contracts, and outrageous and often profane statements from its CEO. Apple relies on visual minimalism using an abundance of white space, it acts as if it has no competition, and its public statements are either well-planned in advance or, under Tim Cook, very measured when the company has to respond to situations like the bending iPhone 6 Plus.

If we created an Apple campaign full of multi-colored backgrounds crammed with products and long blocks of text, the reactions from each Apple user on the planet would be massive. And if we did a T-Mobile campaign that veered toward Apple’s style, well… people might think that the CEO was sacked or that the company was sold to Cupertino.

Or the account was given to another agency.

That, too.

Peter, thanks so much for taking the time to elaborate on the ten essential elements of a productive marketing brief.

It was my pleasure.

Readers, join the conversation!

Please add your comments by clicking on the word “comments” in the line below the Share button.
 

 

B2B e-newsletters: Three bits of advice

A client just asked me, "What are the three best pieces of advice to give to companies that embark on an e-newsletter for the first time?"

Here’s my answer:Woman reading laptop

  1. Useful, relevant content is essential to get readership, and to avoid opt-outs. (I recommend aiming for 80 percent or more useful content and 20 percent or less promotional content.)
  2. Make sure compelling copy is visible in the upper left corner. (When viewed as HTML with graphics shut off, as well as when viewed as a text email or via a PDA/phone.)
  3. Including fewer, shorter articles in more frequent e-newsletters is usually gets better results than including more, longer articles in less frequent e-newsletters. (E-newsletters with fewer, shorter articles are easier to get completed and sent out, and more frequent newsletters help keep your company and its products or services in sight and in mind.)

What best advice would you give your fellow B2B marketers about e-newsletters?

Please add your recommendations by clicking on the word “Comments” in the line below the Share button.

If you are reading this as an e-mail or via an RSS feed, please use this link to add your comments:
http://sales-lead-insights.com/2010/b2b-e-newsletters-advice/

 

B2B Email Marketing: Interview with Stephanie Miller

This is one of a series of occasional interviews with top practitioners on topics of interest to B2B lead generation, marketing and new business development professionals.

Stephanie Miller

My guest today is Stephanie Miller, email expert and co-author of Sign me up! A Marketer’s Guide To Email Newsletters That Build Relationships and Boost Sales.

Stephanie describes herself as a customer advocate who, through her work with email performance company Return Path, helps marketers reach the inbox and connect with prospects and customers via email and social marketing.

Recent research sponsored by Google and Forbes found that on average 27.6 percent – more than one in four email messages – never reach the businesspeople they were sent to. Stephanie, why is this happening and what should this blog’s readers do about it?

This study tracks with Return Path’s Deliverability Benchmark Report on the first half of 2009, which is based on the data Return Path manages for ISPs and corporate system administrators.

It found that about 28% of B2B marketing email never reaches the inbox, which is higher than B2C email (20% of that gets blocked). This is true for even the best of marketers.

Remember too that it is not always the same 28% – you will sometimes reach the inbox of a particular subscriber and sometimes not. So you can count on the fact that some portion of your audience is not seeing every email. Witness your own Junk folder. You will see lots of stuff in there you sometimes see in your inbox.

Why?

Put simply, email marketing messages get blocked because they are sent in bulk, which makes them look like spam. This is bad because marketers can get trapped by the same systems put in place to stop spam by the postmasters at ISPs like Yahoo!, Gmail and Hotmail, and by small business and corporate system administrators.

The way to avoid being blocked is to improve the reputation of your domain as well as the engagement of your subscribers.

The good news: This also optimizes response and revenue. Engage and delight your email recipients and they will respond with clicks, downloads, sharing to their networks and longer session lengths.

The bad news: It’s not about content – so changing words like "Free" or "Click here" won’t make much of a difference.

More bad news: There is a whole gauntlet of filters between "Send" and inbox. There is hardware at the receiving gateway; there is software on those machines; there are reputation-based filtering services like Postini and Cloudmark; and then there are filters in software such as Outlook 2007. Yikes!

What can B2B marketers do?

  1. Track your sender reputation. Use a service like Return Path, directly or via your ESP. If you don’t see actual inbox placement data, then ask for it. Inbox placement is a new number – the number representing the difference between what gets reported as "delivered" or "accepted" by your service provider and the open rate. You can get a quick overview of your sender reputation free at www.senderscore.org or dnsstuff.com.
     
  2. Map your domain footprint. Know which domains are most important to you. If you have a large percentage of web-based domains on your file or if you market to small businesses you will see a large number of Yahoo!, Gmail and Hotmail addresses in your file. That is good – because data on inbox placement to those ISPs is readily available and is a good proxy for how the corporate administrators handle your email. We have done this analysis for global marketers and identified the top 20 companies on their file – and then we reach out to each of those companies and find out what sort of filtering is happening and try to become whitelisted. This is a manual but very effective strategy.
     
  3. Build your confidence. When a CEO or one of your brand managers says, "Our message went to Junk," or a subscriber says, "I’m not getting your event invites," many B2B marketers feel as if they have been hung out to dry. It’s hard to know how to address that. However, by tracking your ability to get past such filters as Postini, Cloudmark and Outlook 2007, you can say, "Yes, I know the message didn’t reach your particular inbox, but the data shows that we are reaching about xx% of all the inboxes at businesses we target."
     
  4. Watch rendering. Be sure to know how your message renders – with and without images! – in the various versions of Outlook and on mobile devices. Lotus Notes breaks nearly everything, but it’s worth tracking that too, especially if you have a lot of subscribers at companies that use that system. Be sure to create versions specific to the email clients that are most important to you. A publisher may want to optimize for the lower capabilities of mobile, while a technology company might want to optimize for Outlook.

Stephanie, what tools are available for increasing the deliverability of email and which will make the most difference?

Tracking of inbox placement and rendering. Get this data directly, or ask your ESP to provide it. Also, lots of data can be gained when marketers become certified and placed on various whitelists. This last option is available to only the best senders who qualify.

Can you share some email best practices that B2B marketers should be following?

Here is a quick checklist. See how you rank on all these, and use the results to develop a plan to refresh and update your email program. You’ll quickly see higher results.
 

  1. Focus on the subscriber. Mail less frequently but with more value in each message. Tailor messages to the behavior (e.g. recent download) or demographics.
     
  2. Track your sender reputation and inbox placement rate. If you don’t get this data from your ESP today, ask for it.
     
  3. Make it easy to see what the call to action is.
     
  4. Keep it simple – no one has time to read a lengthy newsletter, even if the content is interesting. Break it up into shorter, pithier messages and guide subscribers to the website.
     
  5. Get permission and actively engage to ensure that subscribers still want to be in your file.
     
  6. Use a Preference Center to give subscribers choices, then communicate that they can visit the Preference Center frequently as their needs change.
     
  7. Treat prospects differently from customers. Use unique content and a slower pace.
     
  8. Highlight and nurture your most active and most socially networked subscribers. Email and social marketing are natural allies. Use them together to build relationships and encourage dialog.
     
  9. Carefully vet the sources of your email file – e.g. are some partners sending data that turns out to be unresponsive?
     
  10. Include links to your LinkedIn profile and other social network sites, and encourage subscribers to "Share this" by providing auto-status update links at each article or call to action.

Are there email practices that our readers should avoid?

Avoid high frequency. Avoid all image-HTML messages (your subscribers will see a big gray box instead of your call to action). Avoid lots of links and images if you think your audience is reading email on mobile devices. Avoid generic messages. Avoid sharing lists between brands or companies – treat the permission grant with respect.

The Golden Rule of email marketing is to treat your subscribers the way you would like to be treated – only sending them information that is relevant, timely and helpful.

Stephanie, is B2B lead generation a good application for email? How about lead nurturing and qualification?

Yes and yes. Email is the first and still most widely utilized dialog channel! Email is great for customizing the "storyboard” – aka: sending drip marketing campaigns. For prospecting, keep it very simple and offer a compelling call to action that has a low bar of commitment. “Download a whitepaper” is certainly simple, but may be too ordinary to break through. “Submit three questions to our expert and we’ll provide custom answers in two days” is more compelling.

Email is also great for moving prospects through a sales cycle. Again, customize. For free trial downloaders, send a series that guides them through getting started and then to exploring cool features that you know help close a deal. As the free trial ends, segment by those who have actually opened the software vs. those who did not. Later in the cycle, focus messaging around making a business case for the product purchase, since most B2B expenditures have to be approved by some committee or some executive.

If that sounds like a lot of work, remember that you create this series of messages once and then use it over and over again.

Are there any tips you can give for selecting the right email service provider?

There are so many providers, and it has become a commodity business so you won’t find many big differences between them all. (Note: My employer is NOT in this business, but we do partner with the best ESPs to provide inbox deliverability data.)

My recommendation is to start with an audit of your own needs – is segmentation the most important thing? Data integration? HTML templates? Then seek out four to five of the ESPs who best serve marketers with your size lists and ask them to show you how they would address that most important requirement. They need to be able to show you how they can do the whole service, too, but frankly, almost every one of them can check off every box in your RFP. If you focus on the one factor that drives your email marketing success, you will then have a point of differentiation.

Another deciding factor is to meet the person who will be your internal advocate – both account service and executive levels.

There is lots of buzz about video email. What are your thoughts about it?

I love the idea, but honestly, the only way video in email can be used for any significant reach is via an animated GIF that mimics video and links to a web page for the full experience. Technically, it’s not that cool, but it can be very effective if done well.

Don’t use video just to use it, however. Without it being central to the call to action, you will find that video can distract subscribers and actually reduce response. Instead, use it when it helps tell your story and close the conversion. Then it can be powerful.

To wrap things up Stephanie, are there any final thoughts about B2B email that you want to share with our readers?

Don’t put your email on autopilot. It’s too important to your revenue and customer engagement and nurturing efforts. Just because it’s easy to hit send and it’s cheap to broadcast, please, please, please don’t neglect your subscribers’ interests. These are your customers! Take the time to engage them. Help them be smarter and more productive, earn more revenue, and look good in front of their boss and they will reward you with more response and revenue.

Stephanie, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview!

Thank you so much for having me as your guest! Please tell your readers to email me at stephanie DOT miller @ returnpath DOT net, or to reach out to me at @StephanieSAM on Twitter.

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The B2B Lead Generation Benchmark Study Report: Useful data and advice

Are you looking for data to help justify a bigger budget or more resources for your B2B lead generation programs?

Are you looking for advice you can use to make your B2B lead generation programs as productive as they can be?

Get the 2009 B2B Lead Generation Benchmark Study Report.

2009 B2B lead generation benchmark study report

It provides metrics and best practices for B2B lead generation.

Please ask yourself these questions:

  • Would it be useful to show senior management the big impact that lead generation has on the sales pipelines of other companies that sell their products and services to businesses, institutions or the government?
  • Are you interested in knowing how your lead generation budget, tactics and results compare to those of other companies that sell products and servcicesto businesses, institutions or the government?
  • Are you wondering what results your B2B lead generation peers are getting from telemarketing, email, their websites, online marketing, social media and other tactics?
  • Do you know which lead generation activities your peers are now finding to be the most productive?
  • Do you know how your B2B lead generation, follow up, nurturing and qualification processes compare to those of your peers?
  • Would you pay only $159, with a money-back satisfaction guarantee, to get these answers and more?

If your answer to the last question was "Yes", click here to buy and immediately download the information-packed 2009 B2B Lead Generation Benchmark Study Report.

If you’re still not convinced, consider this…

The 2009 B2B Lead Generation Benchmark Study Report gives you the information you need to justify and improve your lead generation programs:

  • It shares the lead generation best practices that are now getting the best results for your peers at other companies that sell products or services to businesses, institutions or the government.
  • It also includes a detailed recommendations section written by two B2B lead generation experts. (Yes, I’m one of them!)

Please take a look at the Table of Contents.

2010 is just around the corner…

There are only a few months left to generate leads and close sales before the end of 2009. This report will help you figure out what you can do to boost your short term leads and sales results before the year is over.

And if you are starting to plan and budget for next year’s B2B lead generation programs and campaigns, the report will help guide your decisions on how to get the best results in 2010.

Also consider that you might pay thousands in consulting fees for the same advice. Or think about the wasted time, money and the risks you face trying to figure it all out using trial-and error approaches.

Instead you pay only $159 to get this essential information.

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If you are not fully satisfied with the B2B Lead Generation Benchmark Report all you have to do is return it within 30 days and we’ll give you full refund!

Click here to buy and download your copy of the 2009 B2B Lead Generation Benchmark Study Report today.

 

Marketing-for-Leads Guide: Step 6 – How many inquiries needed?

Step 6: Determine how many new inquiries or responses are needed to generate enough qualified sales leads to meet your goals.

Blog Post of the Week Boost Your Company's Sales with Marketing The Sales Lead Calculator will help you determine how many new inquiries you need to generate enough qualified sales leads to meet your sales revenue goals. (See Step 5.)

Research conducted on B2B sales lead conversion across industries shows that, of those who buy:

  • One in four buys within six months.
  • Another one in four buys within the next six months.
  • Another one in four buys within the third six months.
  • The final one in four buys after eighteen months.

Simply said, three out of four sales opportunities are from the longer-term leads. So even though it may be tempting to create an occasional, dramatic marketing program that drums up a large number of new leads—so you can skim the ones that are ready to buy now—you are actually better off investing in an ongoing series of marketing-for-leads programs.

To download the complete guide as a PDF, visit B2B Marketing-for-Leads Guide.

To get those additional three out of four sales opportunities, use direct marketing to nurture your longer-term sales opportunities until they are sales-ready. Consider creating a series of marketing messages that rotate through, say, the three biggest benefits of your products or services and related offers or calls-to-action. Send them to prospects monthly—one, two, three, repeat—effectively staying in-sight and top-of-mind as prospects move from awareness to inquiry, then from inquiry to consideration and purchase.

 

Marketing-for-Leads Guide: Step 5 – Calculate how many qualified sales leads will you need

Step 5: Determine how many qualified sales leads are needed to meet your sales revenue goals.

Boost Your Company's Sales with MarketingTo calculate what you will need, consider using my “Sales Lead Calculator”.

This interactive spreadsheet was designed specifically for B2B marketers. It automatically performs a series of calculations based on information you provide about your company’s sales revenue targets, average close rate, sales price and so forth, giving you a realistic number of leads needed to meet your sales objectives.

Using the dollar figures and percentages you enter, the spreadsheet will automatically calculate the following for you:

  • Revenue needed from marketing leads this fiscal year
  • New customers needed this fiscal year
  • Qualified leads needed
  • Total inquiries needed
  • Total marketing contacts you need to “touch” in order to meet your goals
  • Lead-generation budget
  • Lead-generation budget as a percentage of sales
  • Average cost per inquiry
  • Average cost per qualified lead
  • Average cost per sale
  • Inquiries needed per salesperson this fiscal year
  • Qualified leads needed per salesperson this fiscal year
  • Qualified leads needed per salesperson per month

The Sales Lead Calculator not only gives you the total number of contact touches you require to meet your sales goal, it also gives you the number of contact touches needed per quarter and per month. Why? Because contacting 1,000 people twelve times a year will get you more qualified leads than contacting 12,000 people once.

To download the complete Marketing-for-Leads Guide as a PDF, visit B2B Marketing-for-Leads Guide.

A final consideration about the Sales Lead Calculator is the length of time it takes to close a sale. For example, if you have a six-month sales cycle, you should aim for twice as many leads as the calculator suggests. Why? Because if it takes six months to close a sale to a lead, half the leads you will get this year will close too late to affect the current year’s sales goal.

Consider using the Sales Lead Calculator in a meeting with your top sales and finance executives.

Use it to answer questions like these:

  • What lead generation budget will we need to meet our sales revenue goals?
  • What impact will spending more per touch have on our lead generation budget?
  • How will our average response rate affect our overall results?
  • How will the numbers change if we increase our average order size?
 
Need help with B2B lead generation, marketing and sales?
For more information, please call Mac McIntosh at +1-401-294-7730, send him email at or visit www.sales-lead-experts.com