B2B Marketing

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fresh experiences on marketing topics for the B2B enterprises and more

Don’t forget to invest in marketing these days…

…even if you’re quite busy dealing with the mighty crisis! J Which is perfectly understandable, since the CRISIS is everywhere on the news and in the papers, as if it were another self for the business people. Seriously now, it seems like the only preoccupation of the media and of the business environment is to offer us tips & tricks on how to fight/escape/overcome this downward spiral of our economic state. „Cut the marketing budget” seems to be one of people’s favourite tunes these days.

Sad to say, but they forgot to tell us something even more important: no matter waht we do, the crisis will not go away only by using reactive methods to fight it. We need to get proactive for a change, and, instead of cutting your marketing budget (which is one of the first mistakes businesses make during times of economic crisis), spend your money in a more intelligent manner to bring results.

Use all your flair, skills and knowledge to find out what people really need and want these days, and go for it! It works both for b2c, and for b2b. The secret is to view your marketing spending as an investment not an expense. Use the customer knowledge that you already have and implement intelligent marketing strategies during these times of financial distress. Some crucial tips are to:

  • Have a rock-solid strategy
  • Research your customer more thoroughly than ever
  • Maintain market spend

This is not the first crisis economy has ever gone through, and it will certainly not be the last. Don’t be surprised to find out that companies have survived difficult times and have come out strong. Procter & Gamble, Intel or Wal-Mart are only a few companies that launched well-positioned companies during difficult times  and were successful with them. Why? Because they took marketing seriously during times of crisis more than ever.

Of course, you’ll have to adapt to all the fast changes the crisis has brought upon us: know who the customers are, what they think, what they dream of and how the crisis affects them. Revise your entire product line if necessary. Look at developing lower cost solutions, if possible. Be flexible, but at the same time be aware and always assessing.

Maybe I should have mentioned this at the very beginning, but the fact is obvious: if you cut your marketing budget, how will your potential consumers find you?!

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Filed under: Best Practices, General, Internal Marketing, Marketing Accountability, Marketing Planning, Marketing Results, Marketing ROI, objectives, Strategy, , , , ,

9 steps to a successful direct mailing campaign

It has become common knowledge that the success of a direct mail campaign can be broken down into three primary components:

· The mailing list or target audience

· The offer or incentive for the customer to buy the product

· The creative package or communication message conveyed in the overall package

Experts in the field of direct mail have even established the ratio in which these elements affect the success of the campaign:

· 40% is driven by the mailing list,

· 40% by the offer,

· 20% from the creative package.

This is all true from a big picture point of view. But when going into details, you have 9 key strategic factors to consider:

The List

Knowing the customer or decision maker for your product/service is instrumental in developing a successful direct mail campaign.

No matter what criteria you use to organize your mailing list, it is critical to understand your intended buyer/customer and select a mailing list within an appropriate and useful target audience.

The Offer

Every direct communication should include an offer or incentive for the customer to buy your product/service. A general rule is that money tends to produce the best results. But be careful, you don’t want to give away too much – a lucrative offer such as 50% off might generate a wonderful response rate, but it might be an expensive proposition.

Message & Copy (Creative Package – part 1)

What is your product? What are its benefits? Why does your audience need it? Where does the reader sign up, and by when? These are examples of the critical messages that need to be clear, concise, and even repeated several times in your communications. If your readers are confused, they will not buy.

When developing copy, assume your reader has a short attention span. It is best to use short sentences, bullet points and headlines that can be read quickly. Finally, while grammar is important, your English teacher is not grading your letter. Feel free to take creative license.

Format & Graphics (Creative Package – part 2)

Using different type styles such as bold, underline and ALL CAPITAL letters can be used to draw your reader’s eye to key messages. Headlines and/or changes in font sizes can do the same thing. However, be judicious in your use of these techniques, as over use will lessen the impact.

Consider highlighting your offer, call to action, and response date, while using headlines as an opportunity to state benefit messages throughout your communication piece.

Call to Action

The bottom line with any direct mail piece is to generate action or sales. You have to be very clear as to the action you want the recipient of the message to do. Do you want your prospect to fill out an application or do you want them to call for more information?

Testing Multiple Variables

The greatest benefit of using direct mailing is the fact it generates immediate response. The results can easily be measured, but the problem is you can’t tell which of the elements you used attracted the client, and determined the positive response.

As a result, consider creating “test cells” by mixing key variables of your campaign. For example, divide your mailing list into four parts and send:

Offer A with Copy X to 25%

Offer B with Copy X to 25%

Offer A with Copy Z to 25%

Offer B with Copy Z to 25%

Multi-Wave Mailings

Another testing opportunity is mailing a 2nd and possibly even 3rd letter to the same person approximately 1-4 weeks apart.

A general rule of advertising is that people do not really see and/or internally comprehend a marketing message the first time around. Using this rule of thumb, it might take your target market 2-3 “viewings” to open, comprehend and internalize your message enough to buy your product/service.

Creating Tracking Measures

Establishing accurate measurement tools such as promotion codes and/or coupons cannot be overlooked when designing your direct mail campaign.

For example, if you are selling newsletter subscriptions, ask your customer to mention the coupon or read a promotion code when they sign up. Keep track each time a customer mentions or reads the code so that you can be sure they were responding to your letter, versus signing up on their own.

Financial Success

The financial success for a campaign can be measured in many ways, for example Cost per new accounts (CPA) and return on investment (ROI). To calculate a CPA, take your total program expenses and divide by the number of new accounts acquired. A simple ROI equation takes the total program expense minus the additional money generated as a direct result of the campaign.

Direct mail can be a very important element of your marketing mix. When used correctly it allows for high target market selectivity, personalization, testing, and most importantly, it enables you to measure results. So, take the time to consider the details of a successful campaign.

Filed under: Best Practices, Business-to-Business, e-mail marketing, Marketing Accountability, Marketing Results, , , , , , , , ,

Objectives… or where are all marketing efforts supposed to be going?

Objectives and marketing objectives by excellence would easily make up for a whole new discipline, the discipline of “where is everything going” J. But really, where are all marketing efforts going?

If you read some of the posts in here you already must have understood I do not subscribe to “marketing is an art” but that it is in itself a science; an innovative one, yes, I agree. In this respect, when establishing new marketing strategies, policies, tactics or any other marketing-related needs, what are you actually paying for, are the expected results. In “before the execution” terms, you’re actually investing in meeting the objectives.

So, what can we and what should we use when setting up marketing objectives in business to business? And more than that what should we pay for?If benchmarking is a structured approach for identifying the best practices in a certain area, than the first thing that comes to mind is let’s target the industry benchmarks with our objectives.  But when there’s such a lack of data on B2B Benchmarks, how do you actually setup the marketing objectives in B2B?

Why is this such a challenge in our sector? This is simple; in b2b, you don’t have a “mass” to research upon, the clients are not that “many” as in b2c; not to mention that reaching to decision makers in b2b is a challenge in itself due to their usually specific individual habits. The actual studies in this area are not even performed on the clients, but the markets themselves are inquired to submit some numbers in order to draw conclusions (ie. about campaign results); so the process altogether is not that objective as in B2C where consumers are actually inquired. The only things that are better and better tracked from this perspective are the e-marketing campaigns in b2b but even there, there are many question marks before saying these can be benchmarked upon. The actual profile of the client is so specific with each business, and businesses are so careful to treat their clients in this respect, that I think there’s even a shyness into generalizing and benchmarking them into specific set of results, behaviors etc. (we’ll address this further into a future posting on market segmentation in b2b).

Before we go into the details of setting objectives, let’s see where do we start. We start form deriving marketing objectives from our business objectives. Here’s where most businesses fail at, since they don’t actually link the 2 and sometimes, they put marketing objectives without even looking at the business objectives. The worst is when the marketing manager is asked to come up with some proposals for marketing objectives,  and the management committee will not get involved. The easiest way to test that is when the marketing manager actually asks for the marketing budget and then everyone suddenly starts asking questions to understand what money will be spent on. So how do you actually derive these objectives? We already touched practical case examples on how to get to marketing goals from company objectives in our earlier post on “How do you design marketing systems that generate guaranteed sales results”.

From marketing goals it’s just one step further to the objectives, by adding a measurable to the goal, the expected result and a specific course of action. Ie:

  1. marketing goal: put a loyalty program/system in place translates into marketing objective: customer retention of “a”%
  2. marketing goal: lead generation of [y] translates into “re-active”(or prospects that come into the sales pipe without a sales effort) sales from marketing channels of “a”%  or a certain number
  3. marketing goal: build awareness into [this] market translates into a branding objective
  4. marketing goal: new product launch is a marketing goal of product branding, product success/market adoption or exposure metrics of “a” expected result
  5. marketing goal: analyze the market, develop a positioning on the market and research for new prospects base, lead generation etc. translates into research objectives, new market identification, development of an USP etc
  6. And many more… Other marketing objectives may derive from other business divisions; for example the need to employ qualified personnel and talent will require and employer branding program; or the change of some internal systems, processes and procedures might require corporate communications of change or development of own internal communications. Although some of this don’t directly fall into marketing, it should still employ marketing on the long run, and it’s best to keep marketing involved in any aspects of your business.

However, these, as you see are objectives specific to each business needs. If you’d like to generalize, although I am not a particular fan of this, throughout marketing planning there are certain “themes “ or “guidelines” that will come up within your marketing objectives; this will rarely be accurately and comfortably to set, especially if you never used to set them up before, but we will address methods for fixing this as well. Some of the themes are inherited from B2C and are disputable to work for us, others are the knife & bread for a B2B marketer.

  • Lead Generation – this is closest related to the business development and this I think should be the masters of all objectives into b2b marketing strategies. Finding new customers should not be left solely to sales. Actually, best marketing programs should produce so much lead generation that your sales force should be busy full-time with just bringing those sales “home”.
  • Development of own portofolio of products and services aka Product Marketing – is an objective that needs to be specific for your own business; do not leave it general but setup metrics for what you need to achieve, if you need to although a product, setup metrics of market adoption, if you need to sustain it than it’s market exposure. So identify what phase in the product lifecycle are you on and set a specific metric for that.
  • Branding – this is one of the inherited ones; some markets will argue that you can’t make it in b2b without a brand, some other will argue that in our sector, branding builds only organic, through referrals or good wom, and you cannot artificially push for building a brand; I agree with both J However, setting a branding objective into b2b is so challenging that I personally am not sure how other actually make it.  It’s not difficult to set it but to measure it will be your challenge. (we’ll expore on just this topic sometime soon)
  • Channel strategy development –since b2b channels are so complex, putting efforts into understanding, streamlining and developing those channels will just in itself pay off big time.
  • Developments within own Customer Base – although in B2C, especially in highly competitive environments this is an objective that tops the marketing programs, I see many businesses disregarding this objective in  b2b; since you already have a loyal customer why not sell him more, why not see what’s his other needs and meet them, why not get regular purchase? Quite recently we doubled a customer’s turnover just by promoting more intensively other service features and some new services in portofolio to the same customer base. So it would you like to gain more with less effort, work on your existing customer base.Advertising – there’s many ways in which you can promote yourself in b2b and other that just won’t work (see my view on tradeshows bellow).  Since this is a generous topic we’ll dedicate it a full post soon.
  • Communication objectives or PR objectives – are rarely targeted in our side of the industry, and they are usually part of a branding or new product launch. I agree to this, but I would like to suggest here a new approach to setting objectives in PR for b2b. Do it for sales. Make sure that when your sales guy gets his foot on a prospect’s door, that prospect already knows or heard about you in the last week. That will come in handy. Since PR is not even expansive, and it can also feed you with other valuable market information, do it right and you’ll get some results. Also, choose PR to generate good will or good wom on your potential employees, potential partners and suppliers and other business stakeholders.

With any marketing plan please setup between 3 to 5 maximum objectives that are specific to your priorities. You should go as a process from your company objectives o your marketing objectives. Since we mentioned lack of benchmarks we will start formulating objectives from company’s own marketing track record, consulting own personnel and  other similar programs up there; however since you started from your own marketing needs, coming up with measurable and expected results should not be a challenge.  It will be the mastery of your marketing team to make it and since there are not too many rules on out sector, there’s really little arguments why they shall not reach any objectives.

Before we step into the segmentation and market analysis, we’ll stop next onto a marketing audit of your own portfolio of services and products and you’ll notice how important it is to perform a thorough audit, when engaging into any marketing planning activity. As you’ll see by adjusting small things in what you already have, with little of no effort you’ll get more results than engaging into expansive new programs.

Filed under: b2b marketing, Business-to-Business, Marketing Accountability, Marketing Planning, objectives, Strategy

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