B2B sales lead generation is easy: Four rights will get you there.

B2B sales lead generation is easy: Four rights will get you there.

  1. The right prospects to target
    The companies and people at those companies, who appear most likely to buy your products or services.
  2. The right offers
    Compelling calls-to-action designed to generate inquiries that, when qualified, become sales leads. A suite of offers designed to appeal to prospects at all stages of their buying process, from awareness to inquiry to consideration to purchase.
  3. The right media
    Lead generating media like direct mail, email and telemarketing. (letting brand and awareness come along for the ride.) And websites optimized both for the search engines (so yours gets found when prospects are searching) and for engaging the people who visit (generating leads, not just fly by visitors).
  4. The right timing
    Using ongoing, multi-touch campaigns designed to make sure your products and services are in-sight and in-mind when your prospects are thinking about the pains their problems are causing, or are already searching for pain-relief.

I think B2B lead generation is easy.  The hard part is generating more qualified, sales-ready leads, faster and at the lowest possible cost. That’s where real expertise is required.

What do you think?

 

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 marketing 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.

 

True Marketing Maxims

As I’ve climbed– occasionally stumbling– up the path in my marketing career, I’ve collected some helpful maxims along the way: pithy sayings that have proven truth in them.

Some have inspired me. Others have helped guide me to the next level of knowledge, skill and career. I thought I’d share a few of them and let you know how I try to apply them.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

This maxim is attributed tothe late Steven R. Covey; the well-known author of a number of best-selling books, the most famous of which is probably The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People-a book well worth reading (or re-reading for that matter.)

I use this particular saying to remind the clients I work with, and myself, to keep marketing strategies and tactics tightly focused on driving sales leads.

I strongly believe that all other marketing objectives are secondary, especially for marketers with limited budgets who don’t have a lot of money to waste. These secondary objectives should come along for the ride while you are focusing your marketing activities on trying to convince potential buyers to raise their hands and express interest in your products or services.

Just do it.

In my Marketing for Leads and SalesTM seminars and workshops, I like to quote Nike’s slogan: Just do it.

In other words, when it comes to marketing, stop thinking about it and get it done and get it on its way to prospects. Marketing that never leaves the drawing board doesn’t help you build your business.

Measure twice. Cut once.

A Web search found more than a million webpages featuring this gem. It was probably said first by some wise old carpenter who didn’t have a board stretcher handy!

When it comes to marketing, I believe this motto means you should think things through carefully before you act. Pay special attention to the Domino Effect, where one thing leads to another. For example, if you make an offer on your website, do you have the requested information or materials ready to go? Or, if you invite someone to a webinar, what will your follow up activities be?

Good enough is good enough.

I think I came up with this one on my own, specifically to avoid getting stuck in the “tweek it again”  mode. However, a web search shows that even marketing guru Seth Goodin, the best-selling author of marketing books like Purple Cow, is thinking about good enough too. So I must be on to something.

I have to admit that I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I could easily find myself fiddling with my marketing communications plans, campaigns or materials for months.

Instead, I’ve had to teach myself, and my clients, to aim for the best results instead of aiming for perfection when it comes to marketing.

Your brand is the promise that you keep, not the one you make.

Kristin Zhivago, my friend and author of Rivers or Revenue, coined this phrase a few years back.

What this means to me is that all the brand marketing in the world doesn’t matter if the experience the prospect (or someone they know) has with your company is bad.

Want to build a great brand for your company? Instead of investing a bundle financing a snazzy new logo or wasting a truckload of money on brand advertising, invest in making sure that all the touch points your company has with its prospects and customers are enhancing the brand rather than hurting it.

And then some.

I heard this saying early in my career. Sadly I can’t remember who said it. However, it has become one of my mottos for customer service.

In other words, try to do everything your clients expect, and then some. The “and then some” might be an offer to provide some follow-up consulting by phone at no additional charge. (As a bonus in my case, these follow-up consultations often lead to additional projects.) Or, an unexpected gift basket as a “thank you” for their business.

I suggest you try “and then some” on for size. See if it fits. If it does it might just help you build your brand.

Do you have any additional marketing maxims to share? If so, please send me an email about them to . If I think I can use them (with proper attribution of course) in future articles or seminars, I’ll send you a bright yellow “Marketing Genius” t-shirt.

 

How To Handle 3 Challenges Of Multiple Marketing Channels

B2B multichannel marketingBeing in the right place is playing a larger role than ever in driving B2B leads and sales. Multiple marketing and sales channels can lower costs and provide faster leads and sales, but how do you handle the challenges? Here are some ideas.

How to handle channel conflict

If your’re selling direct and online, and your resellers are as well, there’s a tendency for all involved to feel cut out. So first focus on the customer: make it easy for them to research and purchase the way they want to.

Then, rather than hope to eliminate channel conflict, try to minimize it by making openness a priority. Communicate early and often to anticipate and resolve issues.

How to handle pricing

Help prospective customers get to pricing info quickly and easily. Requiring users to hand over detailed information first or making technical specs tough to find will just hamper their decision-making process.

So now that they know the cost early on, don’t lose the sale on price alone. Make sure to integrate the key advantages of your solution to fit their needs with the pricing.

How to handle branding

Keep key design and brand messaging consistent across all channels with guidelines and procedures for your marketing and sales communications. When these are clear, accessible, and branding is kept top-of-mind, everyone involved will know how and why to stay on track.

Remember, it’s the relationship that prospects have with your company that delivers the strongest impression, and what will lead to growing sales by word-of-mouth–if it’s a good one.

 
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