Category Archives: B2B marketing

Numbers Can Lie

Did you ever play “Telephone” when you were little?  Remember what happened to that whispered message passed through 10 kids and how easily “Strawberry Jam” turned into “I am a banana”? It was funny then.

Research findings, passed via content marketing and social media are a lot like “Telephone” because once a number is repeated often enough, small changes in the interpretation can create a very different story. Even worse, every time something is repeated, it takes on a greater authority – even if it’s questionable to begin with.

Here is a finding from the CEB, MLC Customer Purchase Research Survey, 2011 which is quoted extensively by subject matter experts and in other reports including “The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing” among others.

It states that:

On average, customers progress nearly 60% of the way through the purchase decision- making process before engaging a sales rep.

This finding – fine tuned in an included chart in the report to show that almost 60 is actually 57% has surfaced, over and over and over in countless discussions and B2B studies. An additional comment about the response distribution indicates an upper limit of 70% so that number shows up quite frequently as well.

  • 57% being close to 60% is frequently represented as two thirds- once it hits 2/3’s  well, that’s  “almost 70%”
  • 70% – well that’s pretty darned close to three quarters, which is almost 80%

I’ve seen all of these numbers passed on as absolute fact.  I’ve also seen it written as 2/3-3/4  of companies have made the decision before calling in the vendor. (Just a little slant on the interpretation – It’s a “Telephone” thing)

But even the original number isn’t telling the whole truth.

In a direct quote from the Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing, about how this number came to be it states:

” To understand the scope of this issue in the B2B context, CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council (MLC) surveyed more than 1,500 customer contacts (decision makers and influencers in a recent major business purchase) for 22 large B2B organizations (spanning all major NAICS categories and 10 industries)….”

1500 contacts involved in a recent major business purchase sounds pretty impressive, but 22 companies?   What that means is the “recent major business purchase” involved an average of 68 decision makers and influencers. (1500/22=68.18)  A distribution chart in the original report clarifies that yes, indeed we are talking about only 22 companies, or a total of 22 purchases.

For 22 major purchases, each involving an average of 68 decision makers and influencers (and I’ll stick my neck out here to also suggest literally millions of dollars) the customers delayed engaging with sales reps until they were 57% through the process. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the first 50% of the process was about figuring out what each of the obviously many involved departments required- not to mention whose budget would be taking the hit. It’s hardly what I would describe as a “striking finding” – more like a bit of a snore. But look at the fuss that number has caused.

So, for most the the B2B vendors out there who are wondering what to do with your apparently antiquated sales team, may I suggest – “Turn them loose.”

Think of it like this – Does 68 decision makers and millions of dollars look like a representative B2B sale?

More to the point – does it look like one of yours?

B2B – Back to Basics But Better

In its heyday outbound marketing even in B2B embraced a huge list of media options. In addition to email we had:

  • Direct mail – in regular letter, postcard and dimensional versions
  • Voicemail
  • Online Advertising
  • Newspaper, Business Magazine and even Outdoor Advertising
  • Telemarketing
  • Radio
  • TV

While not everyone could afford all the arrows in the outbound quiver, there was a widely used mix of options.

But, there were some big issues with B2B outbound marketing . Personally, I don’t consider that those issues were either that they were interruptive a.k.a. intrusive ( which used to be considered a good thing) or that they attempted to force the dreaded sales presence on not quite ready to buy prospects.  Rather, the issues were that Outbound was not well targeted and most of the options cost too much. Looking back, its easy to see that in many cases the issue of cost would have been easily addressed if we had done a better job targeting the messages.

But, that was the Heyday.

Right now, B2B Outbound is in a sorry state. In an effort to correct the problems of the past, and because the shiny new automation tools pushed us that way, we’ve thrown too many  eggs into one basket – email.

Let’s face it, email is (relatively speaking) cheap, fast and easy. It’s the darling child of the automation platforms and hence the darling child of social media, which in many areas is manipulated by the staff and content farms selling us inbound marketing and marketing automation software and services.

Oh yes……and it is brutally over used.

Check out this report. “The State of B2B Lead Nurturing” produced by Bizo (about to be aquired by LinkedIn) in association with Oracle Marketing Cloud. Two conclusions drawn in this report are:

1. “Email marketing is widely used, but does not reach a significant proportion of known contacts. On average, 79 percent of marketers say their email open rates don’t exceed 20 percent.”

So, in other words 79% of marketers who are actually measuring their opens know perfectly well that 80% of the people they need to message – aren’t reading their messages. Now, I ask you, “Does this sound like effective, affordable outbound?” Nope – I don’t think so either. So it’s pretty hard to disagree with the second conclusion.

“In order to help fill the sales pipeline, marketing must embrace a truly multi-channel lead nurturing strategy that goes beyond traditional email marketing strategies.”

It would seem like a good time to re-invent B2B outbound marketing and take advantage of the lessons we have learned.

Lesson # 1 – No more blasting out one size fits all messaging. Not only is it wasting your money, even worse, it’s wasting your influence. Even though many of you have databases that are in (kindly) a semi-sorry state, you can at least segment company and contact information to the extent that you can produce messaging that fits the priorities of the people you can talk to.

Lesson # 2 – Embrace a multi-media outbound lead nurturing strategy. You’re missing too many opportunities with email. For lead nurturing opt first for choices where you can target your messages.  Voicemail, live voice, text messaging, direct mail are choices that offer control, cost efficiency, speed of deployment, timeliness of messaging and a degree of automated delivery.

 

 

 

Your Best Voicemail Campaign

Voicemail marketing has evolved since 2001 when I first started  working with clients to help them create successful campaigns. Honestly, I miss the way it used to be when all it took was a reasonably natural sounding message, a half decent offer and a list that wasn’t total garbage. We routinely drove double digit response rates. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. Fun to sell and lots of happy, happy clients with an awesome ROI even when bumped up against a (really pointless) measurement like cost per lead.

It’s not so easy anymore. Changing markets, escalating workloads, too much automated marketing thrown against the wall of poorly discriminated targets and too many supposed lead lists from completely unqualified inbound responses. All these factors have combined to take response rates for email, direct mail, telemarketing and just about every type of lead generation campaign and caused them to basically TANK, compared to what they used to be.

But this is the new reality. Like most other marketing tools that have been around for a while, voicemail does still work, but it works differently than it used to and one of the differences is that it needs to be executed well. With a few rare exceptions, there are 5 MUST HAVE elements for a successful voicemail campaign execution. They are:

    • Natural Sounding Message – While there are a few people who naturally do this well, I’ve found for the most part that too many clients don’t give this consideration the respect it deserves and that’s almost a crime because please, be assured that the instant a busy decision maker realizes that they are listening to a recording- they’re gone. We all get those lousy canned recordings both at work and at home- do YOU listen to them? I don’t. Natural – takes work in both the scripting and the recording.
    • Kick Ass Opening – Have you ever noticed how much testing, is applied to email subject lines? Naturally, you appreciate that weak subject lines mean email messages lost in the clutter. Never Opened. Never read. Ineffective. Take this principle and start applying it to your voicemail messages. I think – in the interest of simple human courtesy you still get a “Hi – sorry I missed you”, but if you follow that up with some irrelevant blather about your company and who you are and what you do and how successful, blah, blah, blah you’ve been – you’ve just squandered a rare opportunity.  Push your punch line to the front of your message.
    • List Quality-Part 1 Cleaning the Data – The B2B marketing community has given lip service to the issue of data quality for years now, so why do we still see such crappy lists? Hmmm, let me think – probably we see crappy lists because not enough people are picking up the phone and verifying that the information is up to date, that titles are accurate, that phone numbers actually relate to where that person can be found and not just the head office number that many computerized search tools default to. I fully concede that software list services have come a very long way, and there are some good ones out there, but without verifying the information, you are investing your efforts and your money against an assumption. Of course, if all you’re doing is slamming out cheap emails, maybe you don’t care.
  • List Quality – Part 2- Stop the Carpet Bombing – Here is how I see this problem. Cheap email and marketing automation controlled by workflows that are written with the analytical discretion of a 5 year old have turned so called sophisticated marketers into carpet bombers. Reacting to declining response rates, our solution has been to reach out more frequently to expanded lists without truly considering who we should we reaching – and then reaching out to everyone with the same vanilla message. Of course, if all you’re doing is slamming out cheap emails, maybe you don’t care. (Deja vu).

Guided voicemail is not bulk email, please target responsibly!

  • Campaign Integration – One Hit Wonders are not marketing campaigns – Use your guided voicemail as one element of an integrated campaign, by which I mean support it with email follow ups, build a coherent message strategy, generate some level of voicemail messaging frequency and measure your success within the overall structure of your campaign. I still talk to too many people who talk about “Sending out a voicemail blast” and think they’ll solve all their problems. This is not where the smart money is. In this instance, the hesitancy of many to engage with sales reps really works against them. No one knows more about putting together a good campaign (in any medium) than someone with loads of experience, success and peer expertise to draw on.

So, of course there is always more, but to very quickly summarize- if you want to create a successful voicemail campaign: Create a natural sounding message, grab attention quickly, clean up your list, Select your contacts carefully and integrate voicemail with everything else you do.

Canada’s Anti-Spam Regulations -CASL- July 2014

If you are selling, doing lead or demand generation to any company or individual employee located in Canada – you need to pay attention to CASL coming into effect on July 1, 2014 because my friends, this could be very ugly.

1- Make no mistake that this legislation applies only to messages sent to consumers – It applies equally to B2B communications.

2- Unlike the US regulations that require (quite reasonably) that companies honor opt-out requests, this law ONLY permits you to send commercial emails – like lead generation, sales approaches, download and event invitations to organizations with whom you already have a relationship OR who have specifically opted IN to your messaging.

3- The legislation will not only impose very severe penalties for violators, it also opens up both companies and individuals to Private Right of Action – which- loosely interpreted means that you can be sued as well as fined.

Here is a link to a copy of the actual legislation:

CASL – The Act

While email will no longer be an option – and this act also applies to text messages sent to a phone – voicemail messages are specifically excluded from the act.

Expectations – A Painful Wake-Up in a Tough Market

Managing a potential customers expectations is only important if you want to make more than a single sale. Buyers beware. The company that promises more than you have a reasonable right to expect might not be looking at anything more than this month’s revenue.

The biggest problem with managing expectations with integrity is that it will easily and often cost you the business, when a realistic expectation is not what your prospect is willing to hear.  The painful part is that money from companies with head-in-the sand expectations goes just as far to pay the bills.

Do you have any idea just how much it hurts when a sales rep is forced to take your lofty expectations and smash them (probably along with the sale) on the jagged rocks of reality?  Do you thank them for it? Probably not. In fact, judging from past experience, you probably give your business to the other guys- the ones who told you that “Absolutely. We can do that.”  But it didn’t work out that way did it?  And now, you’ll just stay away from that type of service because it doesn’t work.

Let me illustrate:

One of our reps recently spoke with a company and here is how it went:

  • Prospect – A Director of Sales & Marketing for a small software company
  • Target – CEO, CFO, CIO/CTO – Manufacturers
  • List – 2,000 names from inbound leads collected within the last two years
  • Contact Success – Average of 3 attempts – one voicemail and two email follow ups -without a response
  • Campaign Objective – Send one voicemail + email message with a free demo offer to the list to revitalize it with budget of $10.00 per response.

To many, this looks like a reasonable expectation, but it’s not. So, what’s wrong with this picture?

1- For starters, how can you tempt a CEO, a CFO and a CIO to leap from basically no interest to responding to a demo offer with the same message? They are, after all, working with some different priorities. As a starting point you must begin with at least three different message approaches.

2- If the list of 2000 names has been collected at an even rate over the past two years, given that the average rate of decay in a B2B list is at least 2% a month. You can expect that 500 of these records are no longer valid.

3- If the combined cost to reach your list of 2000 contacts is $2/name and you (should) already know that only 1,500 are likely even there to reach, at your budgeted cost per lead of $10.00 you need to get 400 responses. Off a maximum base of 1500 names assuming total delivery  that’s a response rate of 26%.

Usually, it is considered that the fault of the numbers lies in the fact that the cost per name is two dollars when the expectation was that it should be around twenty cents, but if you were making those calls with your own sales team, what would they cost you? – Let me give you a hint – @ 50 calls a day that’s 12 weeks of work for one person.

There is a solution, which involves, stripping down the list, focusing on a single audience, building a case over repeated contacts and setting up these prospects to be contacted by a real sales rep to get that demo trial, which is, a significantly higher quality lead than a $10 click-through-to-an-article download.

The sales environment has changed and the smart money is with those who can change their expectations and approaches to match it.

 

 

 

2014 B2B Lead Generation Trends from MarketingProfs

According to a recently released Infographic from MarketingProfs, Inside Sales, immediately followed by; Executive Events, Telemarketing and Tradeshows are the four most effective ways to generate B2B Sales Leads.

In spite of the buzz around inbound and social, the old tricks are not old hat. According to MarketingProfs ..“figuring out the most effective methods for generating B2B sales leads should be top of mind for companies looking to connect ROI to their marketing efforts. That will ensure that you’re feeding the sales machine, and, as every marketer knows, that means more support for the equally crucial but longer-term marketing activities that are harder to attach to a quarterly goal.”

Read more: http://www.marketingprofs.com/chirp/2013/12161/b2b-lead-generation-trends-for-2014-whats-hot-and-whats-not#ixzz2rF0Yyff2

Marketing+Sales=Better Lead Prospecting

Marketing calls it lead generation, sales calls it prospecting.  If we call it “lead prospecting” and I promise that you can do a better job,can we agree to work together?

Because I have no doubt that combining the strengths of the two teams will:

  1. Drive more leads into the revenue funnel
  2. Improve the quality of those leads
  3. Shorten the sales cycle  ……and what more could you possibly want?

So with that in mind,  here are 5 ways for sales and marketing to work together to create a telephone prospecting system.  But first, why the phone?

  • Because it’s the best way to gain account specific answers
  • Because when sales reps need leads they don’t initiate SEO, PPC or advertising campaigns. They don’t design complex autoresponders or build landing pages and webforms. That’s what marketing does. Sales reps pick up the phone. That’s where marketing can lend a few strengths and help them get better results. Everybody wins.

How Can Marketing Help Sales Increase Teleprospecting Success

Build, Update and Clean Data  — What is your ideal customer profile?  What are the MINIMUM number of accurate and updated fields you need to build into your database to direct future lead prospecting.  If exact industry, revenue or number of employees is genuinely relevant commit to having that data accurately included. Just don’t ask the sales team to update that kind of information.  It is however to everyone’s benefit if sales is empowered and required to flag missing critical data.

Record, Measure and Learn from your Metrics –When you engage in any dialogue with a company it will either move a potential sale forward, push it to the future, disqualify it, or worst of all – tell you nothing. To avoid that terrible “tell nothing ” result,  arm your sales team (via the CRM or however you work)  with an “if all else fails” list.  They might just be simple closed end qualifying questions to round out your data when a conversation goes south.  Given that even with your best efforts, it’s likely that your database will have gaps, filling them will  build a clearer picture of who your best prospects really are and how they might be changing over time.  Track the results of every call, match it to you profiles and use that information to fine tune your future targeting.

Bury the Elevator Speech! –Too many sales people use the elevator speech “Who we are and what we do”  as the basis of their messaging and it is an utter waste of a precious opportunity.  This is where marketing can offer the most valuable help – give your reps value based messaging to leave.  Create a sequence of messages, voicemails with their email follow ups that talk about your value proposition and will gradually, by virtue of repetition, build some awareness of the problems you can solve and interest in talking with your company.  The hardest part of this step is to gain the support of the sales management, because many of the reps will resist accepting alternative messages.

Never Give Up  — I know of a company that literally makes millions of calls a year to engage and qualify prospects on behalf of many different B2B vendors.  Their average number of dials to make a live connection is 22 calls.  Most sales people still give up after 3 attempts.  What sales needs are calling campaigns not individual one-off attempts.  Without the structure of a planned, consistent campaign you will never make enough calls.  Marketing plans campaigns much better than sales teams can.  This is probably the single biggest reason that many companies have moved teleprospecting totally out of the sales group, but that hasn’t happened everywhere yet.

Open the Door to Your Nurtured Lists –Some companies have structured outbound sales calling but far more have sales teams who would rather not be making these dreaded calls, but have to because they simply don’t have enough qualified (or not)  leads to follow-up with.  When your sales team is doing their own prospecting calls, be sure that they have a view of the leads that are in your lead nurturing program and a free hand to call into that list at their discretion.

Some marketing teams will resist the idea of letting sales reps call leads being nurtured on the grounds that they are pulling them along a carefully designed path and a ham handed sales rep could make a mess of all their hard work.  It’s true. It can happen, but in the spirit of two teams genuinely working together to improve their results, it needs to happen.  If you need the sales team to trust you enough to take ownership of your messaging, the trust will have to move both ways.

 

 

 

Renewal Revenue Goals Need a Communications Plan

As more companies take advantage of new online business opportunities and models, the importance of a segmented communications program to support contract renewals is more critical than ever.  With some companies, maintenance agreement and support contract renewals are almost treated as an afterthought, but that is changing. There is simply too much money at stake.

What makes a good communications plan even more important is that in the face of increasing competition and a relentless decline in customer loyalty, doing a great job of providing the service for which you were contracted is simply not enough to retain the business.

To make the most of your renewal revenue opportunities, here are four distinct tasks that a good communications plan will address:

  1. Search out hidden problems with the silent majority of customers.
  2. Nurture your current customers like they’re leads for the next sale.
  3. Communicate to promote a decision to renew well ahead of the renewal date.
  4. Create a sales plan that creates appointments to close, cross sell and up sell.

Regardless of whether your contracts renew annually or monthly, proactive communications will pre-empt your competitors, improve your ability to measure your key performance indicators and reduce the number and value of churning customers and contracts.

Renewal Revenue 4 Ways to Fail

According to Morgan Stanley, 30-40% of the revenue and over 50% of technology company profits come from recurring revenue- and that number is even higher for SaaS/XaaS organizations. From 2012-2014 “cloud billing” will grow by about 35%

Given it’s importance, one would expect that companies depending on recurring revenue would have that re-sell process firmly in hand. But if, like this writer, you have recently fielded a call from a supplier’s customer service or even billing department, awkwardly attempting to secure your contract renewal, its pretty obvious that this process is often very poorly managed.

There are so many ways to make a mess of this sales opportunity it was hard to pick my top four, but here they are:

4 Ways to Absolutely Suck at Making More Money on Renewals

1- Leave it in the hands of customer service, accounting or email campaigns.  We want renewal revenue to be as simple as just paying another bill- and so we get lazy. But making the most of your recurring revenue opportunities is a sales job.  Your salse reps know that not getting  a “NO” is not the same as getting to “YES”. You need to close those renewals.  And even more important?  You need to upsell, cross sell and prospect those customers for new opportunities and referrals.

And don’t think that the 27 emails you sent with the billing reminders are doing you all that much good.  Sorry to mention it but most of the emails you send to your customers will go unread. How else can you possibly explain that the number one reason cited by non-renewing customers is that “no one contacted me” which is absolute idiocy.

2- Use the wrong measurements to evaluate your performance.  There are distinct stages in the process that give you recurring revenue and you will never be able to manage or grow this foot-in-the-door income opportunity until you can measure the the performance of your organization and your sales effort against some meaningful benchmarks.  A simple year over year number might be good to look at but it’s doing absolutely nothing diagnostically to help.

You need your decision rate, which will tell you how many and what percentage of your customers acknowledged your efforts to renew their agreement and gave you any answer.  You need to know your churn stats and how your  sales team is performing relative to:

  • actually closing the people who didn’t say “get lost”
  • upselling and cross selling  (what and to which types of product/service)
  • uncovering new opportunities and referrals

And you need to see your overall performance vs YAG

3-Wait too long to get the show on the road

The decision as to whether or not to renew your offering will depend on a lot of things, the most important of which being- “Did the customer perceive that they experienced the benefit they bought you for?”  This is not only affected by the realities of adoption rates and usage, but also by not letting those new benefits and advantages slip out of mind and out of sight.  Ignoring these factors all year long and only establishing contact 60 or even 30 days out from the renewal, perhaps even then with nothing more than an annual bill, will send your revenue performance on a steep, downhill slide.

4- Use your sales team the wrong way.  They’re called your sales team, not your “calling to touch base and made sure you saw our invoice” team.  Nor are they your “calling to make sure you saw our latest webinar about the new release features”  or even your “calling to wish you Happy Birthday” team.  (although these calls are not a bad idea when you decide that you want the relationship to be owned by sales.  They are your SALES team.

Their job is to take the companies who are interested in renewing their agreements with you and close them down.  They are supposed to cross sell associated services or products that are a good fit for their needs.  They are supposed to make this year’s sales bigger and better than last year, which means go for the upsell.

Companies love recurring because its so profitable. Maybe the problem is that it’s a little too profitable because we just aren’t working either hard or smart enough to really take advantage of one of the few growing business opportunities.

 

 

 

 

5 B2B Top Fives You Need to Check Out

Looking for a round up of short, compelling summaries on what’s what in B2B?

Check out this list:

  1. Five B2B Digital marketing Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making
  2. Five B2B MarCom Strategies to Increase Sales Now
  3. 5 B2B Lead Generation Techniques that Actually Work
  4. 5 Reasons to Use Voicemail to Reach the B2B Buyer
  5. 5 Top Content Marketing Metrics