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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?

Bad execution means poor results

One thing that has always puzzled me in business is that once someone gets good at something, they probably stop doing it.

For instance, (while its not the best practice) successful sales people are often moved up to management where they don’t do any more selling.  Great buyers get promoted so they don’t have to do the buying anymore.

The higher up you move the more likely you are to plan and the less likely you are to actually “do” and while that might be just dandy for career tracking and personal development, it means that the dirty end of the stick- the work- the executions- are handled by the least experienced and sadly often least capable people.

Am I the only one who has a problem with that?

Selling a business service, we make sales calls, hold meetings and promise benefits to Directors and VP’s, but when push comes to shove the actual campaign work is most often executed by a comparatively junior person with precious little oversight.  And that’s what there needs to be more of, oversight and supervision on those seemingly insignificant, but truly deal breaking details.

Ideas are a dime a dozen guys. What separates brilliant from mediocre is all execution.

Stop Throwing Leads Away

Generating quality leads is – according to some very sensible sources- the #1 priority for marketing and with priorities come expenses!  So just how much of your lead generation expense is being tossed out the window when your painfully generated leads don’t get timely follow up?

When research shows that 35-50% of the sales go to the vendor who responds first it makes sense that 61% of B2B marketers will send leads directly to sales.  But,  is your sales team following up on every lead in a timely fashion?  Sadly, probably not and one of the major contributing factors is the difficultly experienced by B2B callers when it comes to reaching leads, responders and even current customers live on the phone.

But, when it comes to:

  • qualifying new leads,
  • staying in touch with current customers  and
  • intelligently deciding which contacts stay with sales and which go to automated nurturing

 

There is no substitute for a live conversation.

  • Email might communicate some features
  • Voicemail can draw attention to your message
  • Downloads and web responses can hint at interest levels

But only a dialogue with someone in your company can INSTANTLY ask and answer the questions to identify which leads should demand your immediate attention.

If you are not talking with every person that your marketing programs are identifying as a lead, then why are you spending the money on lead generation?

There is a low cost, very simple way that Boxpilot can help your callers talk more and dial less. Click here to ask about it.

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.

Website Leads and Your Inside Sales Team

How quickly do your inside sales team follow up on web leads?  I’ll bet that the answer is “Not fast enough”.  According to the B2B Buyer Behavior Report, from Software Advice your chance of qualifying a lead is 29% better if you call within 5 seconds rather than lounging around for 5 minutes before making the call.

Check out some of the other interesting findings in this research:

Want Renewals? Step 2- Customer Nurturing – Think Negative Churn

It would be nice to believe that your customers are loyal; that their relationship with you is valued, and they will give you a chance to respond to any claims or promises made by your competitors. Yes, it would be nice to believe that but not too bright.  Even though you can assume that a certain percentage of your customers will renew their agreements with you, on a case by case basis, it risks the health of your business to look at any one account and assume their continued business.

Until that renewal agreement is closed and the next period is paid, your customers are really not much more than warm leads. Until it’s time to close that next payment, you might want to think about the advantages of keeping those leads warmed up with a customer nurturing program.

“But wait!” you say.  You have an account management and/or customer service/satisfaction team assigned to existing accounts and this is part of that job.  You’re totally correct, your account management/ customer satisfaction team has that objective firmly on their plate. But, this type of customer nurturing is NOT based on building satisfaction for the current state of affairs. This customer nurturing program is truly a sales initiative with three distinct goals.

  • Reinforce your competitive preference
  • Introduce and build interest in cross sell possibilities
  • Introduce and build interest in upsell possibilities.

In terms of a communications plan, what does this look like?

Look at a quarterly message that’s distinct from your newsletter or other easily ignored (sorry, but its true) email communications.  Woo them, just like you did before they became your customers, with invitations to events, demonstrations and webinars.  Feed them a generous diet of market and issue oriented content that’s genuinely useful to them.  Don’t bombard them with your specifically self-serving propaganda. Believe me, that gets boring very quickly and will damage your share of ear. Instead, stay within your market niche and offer content on issues, trends & problems relevant to their business.  That kind of information gets read…. and remembered…. and valued.

Naturally, you’ll want that content to also illuminate the opportunities and dazzling benefits presented by your cross and upsell products and services. Afterall, this is a business you’re running, not a library. When it comes time for your renewal sales team to close the business, set them up with a reasonable chance to actually grow your YOY revenue. Without upsells and cross sells, your business has nowhere to go but down. Think negative churn.

Want Renewals? Step 1- Reach Out from Customer Service

Everybody knows that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and your customer service or account management staff are brutally well aware of that simple axiom.  They deal with squeaky wheels every day, slathering on the grease until problems are solved, questions are answered, information is provided and clients are purring with satisfaction.

Once the intensity of the on boarding process is a distant memory, its easy to assume that a quiet client is a happy client. Sadly that is not always the case. A quiet client could also be apathetic, profoundly disappointed, lending their ear to your competition or simply taking your service for granted. All of these options are possible. None of them are good.  And every one of them is made worse by your own ignorance of the situation.

Unless you have a lot of account management/customer service talent to spare, it’s not likely that you can guarantee that your quiet clients are hearing from them directly and regularly.  But that’s what you need to do.

One way to solve this problem is to put into a play a quarterly communications outreach on behalf of your customer satisfaction team. What can you accomplish with this program? A couple of things actually and every one of them is important to smooth your upcoming renewal period.

First off, you simply need to stay top of mind, reminding your customers of the benefits they are (or should be) gaining from your service. You can’t have them forgetting about you, and in doing so allowing (where applicable) your adoption and usage levels to drop.  Would you be rushing to renew a service you’re not using?  Not likely.

Secondly, you need to look for problems. Seriously. As much as pushing problems under the rug can make for short-term comfort, unaddressed issues will come back to bite you when it’s time to renew.  Worst of all, it’s almost impossible to project with any accuracy what you’re renewal rate will be unless you know how your company stacks up on the key performance indicators.  Do you know what they are for your service?

Once again it comes down to using communications to measure and manage the metrics that will affect your renewals.  If your silent majority of customers isn’t making it easy for you to keep that communications door open so you can evaluate how your performance stacks up, its in your own best interests to proactively push your foot in the door and open it up.

Do it regularly and do it quarterly.  Less frequent communications will make your efforts entirely too forgettable.  More frequent communications will probably cost too much in time, effort and cash to maintain.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons to Use Voicemail to Reach the B2B Buyer

With all the choices available, finding a way to connect with B2B buyers has never been more challenging.  Traditional offline choices such as business publications, trade shows and direct mail are expensive media choices and (other than direct mail) not targeted enough for most needs. Online choices like email, PPC and search engine marketing are highly cluttered. Social marketing is extraordinarily time-consuming and so far just about impossible for most companies to measure and content marketing,  the newest darling on the block is extremely difficult and expensive to develop.  Beyond blogging, content creation is out of reach for the vast majority of companies and even maintaining an up-to-date blog is more than most businesses can manage.

So, this is a good time to take another look at your old friend the telephone and seriously consider ways to integrate voicemail messaging with your programs this fall.

Here are 5 Reasons Why Voicemail Will Work:

  1. Voicemail is totally targeted and a proven response booster. Your messages are delivered only to the exact people you want to reach with exactly the right message for them. There is no spill into outside audiences and no waste on contacts who will never care about your message. That precise targeting is just one of the reasons why voicemail can be added to your direct mail, email or web activity and boost your response rates by an average of 25-40%.
  2. Voicemail offers outstanding timing flexibility. It can be planned strategically and when needed deployed tactically. Short lead times, fast market coverage and the ability to almost instantly switch gears (and messages) when the need arises makes voicemail a brilliantly versatile tool.
  3. Voicemail creative is fast and easy to produce and virtually free.  All you need is a script and a person to say it.  And, just for the record, scripting help is as close as your Boxpilot Client Service Director and the best voices to use are the real people in your company. No writers, researchers, graphics, videos or endless content meetings.
  4. Voicemail builds real human rapport.  The emotional power of the human voice, like a smile, is a powerful tool to communicate excitement and enthusiasm. Like eye contact, a voice has the power to communicate belief and believability. That emotional delivery means that voicemail plays beautifully with other methods like email or direct mail, which deliver facts, stats and logical proof.
  5. Voicemail is the least cluttered media environment.  Yes, it’s a media choice, no different from email, on or offline advertising, broadcast or social messaging, with one big difference, it’s nowhere near as cluttered. In fact, it’s a pretty safe bet that when contacts are listening to your message, you have their full attention.

Not as sexy as social, as tech savvy as marketing automation nor loaded with the bragging rights of video content, voicemail is still a fast, easy, direct and persuasive way to communicate with the B2B buyer.

5 Problems that are Killing Your Results

This is about hidden or ignored problems that are killing your results..

Why is our campaign failing?

There are lots of reasons why a marketing campaign can fail to deliver the intended responses from a business audience. But over the last ten years, working with B2B companies on literally hundreds of event registration, lead generation and sales support programs, I’ve found that there are some incredibly easily resolved mistakes that continue to dominate the  “Duh.Whatever were we thinking?” list.

What makes these mistakes stand out? A few things.

  • They are brutally common.
  • Most clients are aware of these problems but underestimate the impact.
  • They’re easy to make and relatively easy to fix.
  • One of them stands out because it totally blindsided everyone.

So, here are links to 5 posts that talk about things that can easily be sitting in the background and killing your marketing efforts.

  1. Ignoring Bad Data is Very Expensive
  2. Your Premium Can Turn into a Nightmare
  3. Forgetting that Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder
  4. Sales Reps are Not Making The Calls For You
  5. Your Campaign is Running for Too Long