Category Archives: Response Improvements

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:

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

Sales Reps Won’t Make Your Calls

Unless Your sales team meets all or most of these conditions

  • Is very junior
  • Has nothing better to do
  • Is only paid by salary
  • Is not held to quotas
  • Is actually a customer service group in disguise

Your sales team is about as likely to spend their time conscientiously making your event recruitment or other marketing program calls as they are to be updating database information.

That’s not to say it will never happen. After all,  database information can be updated when the rep finds a phone number is out of date and has a new one readily available. Similarly, knowing that a conference or demo that could open a conversation is available to someone they’ve been wanting to reach  is actually very useful information for a sales rep. But, if they do manage to get that person on the phone they’ll quickly drop your registration priorities and move the conversation in their own direction.  It’s what they’re paid to do.

Even when your sales team is making invitation calls to support an event, you cannot assume that the calls will be made on your timetable, that ALL the calls will be made, that accounts that don’t look important to the rep won’t get skipped and you can’t guarantee the wording of the message.

If your plan for driving event registrations or reminders or promoting content offers, specifies that “sales will make the calls”, please step back a minute and consider what you’re asking.

Often your marketing lists will be big enough to require that if the sales team is going deliver the support you need, they’ll have to drop other work. Even the reps who want to help you are not going to blow out half their week making 150 calls to secure registrants. If they work on commission only, they cannot support you.

Often small businesses will use (abuse) their sales team by assuming that marketing support calls are part of the sales job, which they are not.  They usually reach that conclusion on the mistaken assumption that having sales make calls doesn’t cost anything, while in truth you are not only paying out too high a salary for a very low-level job, you’re also paying the huge penalty of lost revenue when sales is pulled off their real job.

If you are required to expect that you are getting support from your sales callers for any kind of marketing program, the only way to protect yourself and your program is to realistically look at what support you’re really going to get from the sales team and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Timing and Event Invitations

When do you start to promote an event?  More specifically, when is “too soon” to promote a free event and how long do you have before your unaided conversion of registrants to attendees bottoms out?

A few years ago I was working with a publisher who, in addition to their periodicals also offered webinars as an advertising vehicle. It’s was a brilliant product extension for a magazine publisher since one of their most abundant assets is a massive database that costs them peanuts to reach out to.

But, the size of the base and the negligible costs associated with emailing are a license to abuseIthink . When that happens the response rates fall. There are many ways you can deal with falling response rates, but in this instance, caught between the P&L and certain attendance commitments made to the advertisers, the company elected to simply extend the invitation process over a longer period of time and keep hitting their market until the registration commitments were met.  The average invitation campaign ran for 10 weeks up to the webinar.

But, when only about 70 of 1000 registrants actually convert into attendees, its pretty obvious something is not working. To address that problem the client chose to add voicemail event reminders and it was effective in boosting the average conversions, quite significantly. In fact, the average percentage climbed from 7% to 17%.

While it was a huge improvement, the numbers were still pretty pathetic when compared to an average unaided conversion ( at that time) of 35-50% and aided ( with voicemail ) of 50-70%.

The root problem was timing.

What we found was not at all surprising. The earliest registrants, i.e. those who registered more than 8 weeks ahead of the event converted at less than half a percent unaided and given the very low number to start with, it wasn’t possible to measure the improvement a voicemail delivered.

In fact, any registration on the free webinars that was more than a month old was virtually useless. Registrants who were less than a week old converted well above the average and a strategy that concentrated the voicemail reminders to registrations that were 1-4 weeks old yielded the best return.

For many companies, particularly those using the raw registrations to drop into the top of their funnel, attendance might not be the most important consideration, but promoting a free webinar too far ahead of the date will artificially depress your conversions and reduce the apparent value of what might otherwise be very good leads.

Take the Time to Segment Your Messages

No one doubts the importance of personalization in both consumer and business to business marketing.  In fact, it seems to me that with the use of event triggered emails and entire nurturing programs that are created to provide just the right content for an individual during their B2B buying journey, our ability to customize content is pretty exceptional.

So why do so many companies fail to take even the partial  leap from one-size-fits-all to message segmentation by title or department, when they are doing outbound marketing?

A few years ago I was working with a client and as is often the case, the actual execution of their campaign was delegated to a relatively junior person.

Quick aside – This is something I don’t understand and see all the time. The development of the strategy is hummed and hawed over by Directors and VP’s and the new managers are then stranded with the details. Ideas are a dime a dozen – I have a million of them, just give me a call – but a brilliant execution is solid gold.

As is often the case, this campaign was to promote an event and happily, this client elected to run a total of three messaging waves to their invitation list of 2,000 contacts.  The list was targeted to a single vertical, but covered both managers and directors in Marketing, Sales, IT and Finance.  Both the voicemail and email messages were, as is often the case, a bland mix of easily communicated logistical information (please someone explain to me why registrants care about what you call your event) and a fairly generic attendance benefit.

Responses were very poor. They had under 10 registrations for the event.

Taking another look at the list, we talked about the differences in the contacts they were reaching out to. Although the event featured sessions that specifically addressed issues of importance to Marketing/Sales, IT and Finance/Management, our vanilla messaging wasn’t honing in on what really mattered to any one group.  The client was not convinced that unique messaging was required since the briefing from which she was working did not specify that as one of the deliverables.  And so, the second wave of messaging went by and 10 more (I’m guessing rather reluctant) registrants signed up.

With failure looming on the not-at-all distant horizon, the manager took the briefing back to her boss, with a suggestion that responses might improve if they highlighted technical value to IT, profit implications to Finance and workload oriented benefits to their Marketing peers.

Long story short (too late for that you say?) The final wave of messaging was delayed for a few days while the list was split by departments and three recordings replaced the original one.  When the final wave of messaging ran, the value of this extra bit of work and expense was clear.  Registrations climbed from 20 to 81 for a total of almost 6% from the deliverable names on the list. they even had the opportunity to start to measure the relative appeal of the event against each of their target audiences.

The point is, people with different levels of responsibility respond to different benefits. No business challenge looks the same from every department and each has a unique perspective. Business people will only respond best to benefits (or pain points) that are meaningful to them as individuals. A single homogenous message is milk toast to everyone.

It might have worked in the past where the novelty of voicemail and email messaging alone could help to drive responses, but homogenized messages don’t cut it anymore.  Segmenting your lists into departmental and seniority clusters is not all that difficult or time-consuming to do.  But it is necessary if you want to give anyone a good enough reason to respond to your offer.

Terror of the Freebie Queen

No one in business is under the illusion that everything runs smoothly, all the time.  We do our best, but now and then things go wrong.  Sometimes it’s because we’ve messed up and sometimes the client messes up and sometimes everything goes to hell in a handbasket and neither side is at fault.

I’ve worked on hundreds of campaigns over the last ten years, thousands if I think of my whole working life and none of them were as miserable as the Tale of the Freebie Queen.

I had just secured this new client after about a year of trying and we were running their first campaign.  It was a decent size for a first campaign – around 3,000 records as I recall.  The name of the client?  Well I likely wouldn’t tell you if remembered, but honestly I don’t recall. I’ve blocked it out.

It looked like a great relationship was starting.  The client was pleasant and very professional.  They recorded a solid message and their list was a thing of beauty, (and even on time) which was really nice since it was actually a list that they had rented specifically to promote a special event.  It was a webinar, promoting a new product ( I think). The plan called for first an email invitation then a voicemail followed up by another email, followed up with another voicemail. To help promote registrations, they were offering a $10.00 Starbucks gift card to registrants. IT Directors and VP dominated the list.

We ran the campaign and the delivery rate was excellent, about 80%. Everything was looking good. The follow-up email and second voicemail ran and about 2 days after that I heard back from an ecstatic client.  Their response rate was at 15% and looking to get even better.  Which it did. The world was a wonderful place!

Problem was, the registration rate continued to climb, crossing 25%, starting to look questionable and – given the card redemption – a little pricey.  The client started looking more closely at the registrants and found a list bearing little – (actually no) resemblance to the invitation list. And now it got ugly as the only reasonable explanation that the client could come up with was that we had messaged the wrong list.

But that was not the case.  We tore through the call logs, looked at every single delivery and there were no mistakes. So, what happened?

Thanks to the magic of Google (now there’s a phrase I haven’t used in a very long time) we searched the event name, and date and found that this event had been posted on some freebie sites, promoted as “Get $10 worth of free Starbucks Coffee!” and the redemptions were hitting the site fast and furious.

With a little more digging we also uncovered that this posting was courtesy of a bottom feeding witch who will forever remain burned in my memory as Kimmie the Freebie Queen.  Looking back over the list originally provided by the client we found an IT Director – Kimberly McQueen.  Looked pretty suspicious.  Both identities listed the same smallish town as home and the original freebie posting occurred within an hour of receiving her first email.

I think the final registration count pushed to almost 1000 freebie hunters. The marketing team was so overwhelmed with the instant barrage of “where’s my gift card?” emails after the event, that the few qualified registrants got lost in the shuffle.  I think at one point they made noises about lawsuit, but while the results of our investigation into the actions of the (I still think) despicable Freebie Queen made the lawsuit noises go away, we absolutely lost a promising client.  I think the marketing manager got fired, which just wasn’t fair either, but neither is life, or business, sometimes.

Moral of the story  – “Be very careful that the value of your premium isn’t too attractive to the wrong audience and always stipulate that it’s ONLY offered to QUALIFIED participants.”




Exactly How Bad is Your Data?

Underestimating the damage caused by an out of date and duplicate riddled database is the most frequently made and damaging mistake.   If I had ten bucks for every time I’ve heard a client admit that their database is lousy, I probably wouldn’t quite be able to retire yet, but I’d sure have a lot more money than I do right now.

When I ask the question -“Just how bad is it? ” the average answer is that about 10-20% of the records are probably out of date and the reason it can’t be fixed is that there just isn’t the time, the money or the directive from senior management to do the clean up.  I can only guess that they have decided  the data is better than it really is and that it’s not important enough to worry about. That really needs to change.

Databases require constant, relentless maintenance. A database is – in my occasionally humble opinion, the greatest example of entropy that exists in the modern business universe. A database is constantly degrading. It doesn’t take a vacation from falling apart and it becomes virtually useless long before it reaches the point where it can’t get any worse.

A database is an asset which when left alone turns into a liability.  Would you tolerate a furnace or air conditioner in your home that only ever delivered half of what you were paying for? Would you put up with a car that only EVER got you half way home or an elevator in your office that never made it up to your floor?  Then what is the logic of taking something as vital to your business as your customer and prospect universe and ignore the fact that 20% of the records are no good?

You really have no idea just how bad it is.  That 10-20% out of date is probably a lot worse.  It’s probably more like 30-40% out of date and even that wouldn’t be quite so disastrous if you could tag and isolate which records are no good, but even that hasn’t happened in many cases.

Your sales team is NOT cleaning and updating your database as they make their calls. How can anyone actually expect that their sales team is cleaning up the database? Really.  I don’t understand if this is a case of completely underestimating the true value of sales time, if its just a pathetic excuse for ignoring the problem or its something that actually might apply to companies who do not have a real sales team, just a bunch of telephone order takers who are perfectly suited to take the role of overpaid inaccurate data entry staff. But if you have a real sales team, making real sales calls, with real sales quotas you expect to be achieved, don’t believe for a split second that they are expending one minute of precious time updating the database. It’s not happening.

So what is it costing you?  The short answer is a larger small fortune that you might think. Your marketing team is working with budgets that will often limit the number of contacts messaged with any given type of campaign. Simplistically, you could say that if 30% of your data is our of date, you’re throwing away 30% of every campaign investment, but it’s not quite that simple. Since contacts are usually pulled based on different criteria  the bad records will be scattered randomly throughout any list. No two will be the same, which means that there is no way to provide a consistent value for either the built in wasted money or the response failures due to bad data.

That means you can’t even accurately measure your responses. So you cannot test or at some point improve ANYTHING.  You cannot measure your creative, you can’t evaluate your offers, you can’t accurately benchmark a single metric.

Your marketing team looks incompetent because your response levels are always going to be lower than they should be (or really are) and you can’t improve them through any mechanism beyond dumb luck.  You will throw away bad ideas without ever understanding why they’re bad and you’ll throw away brilliant ideas because you never figured out they’re any good. One  of the most important tasks a CMO faces is to deliver a measurable and improving ROI on marketing investment and demonstrate a contribution to revenue and the bottom line.  Just how bad do you look as a CMO when everything your measured on is based on immeasurable data?

No one using your database will care about entering more junky information which gives your sales reps the prefect excuse not to keep their notes for client information up to date and will probably mean that not only will your customers not receive any new sales or marketing information, they’ll also miss your administrative updates.

Licensing and maintenance renewals will be lost or late and your A/R results will be similarly affected. If you add up all the ways that your company can lose revenue opportunities and incur unnecessary expenses all because of databases that are out of date.

There are many companies offering software and services that will allow you to evaluate your data and some fixes are more easily secured than others, like address, telephone and email information.

Other, potentially more important updates like finding the correct contact names might require a more individual form of intervention like the Boxpilot’s Data Filler Service





Declining Response Rates – Stop Shooting the Messenger

The most visible and important measure of success delivered to any company by any B2B marketing campaign is the direct response.  It blows awareness out of the water.  A direct response is more valuable than any measure of brand preference or image because it opens a dialogue for more marketing, it opens a door to sales revenue (heck- it might even be a sale) and it’s the only sure way to ever directly evaluate ROI.  You put out a message and a selection of your contacts put up their hands and ask for more.   Marketers love responses and responders…..almost as much as their colleagues in sales. And that’s why the media that can deliver the most direct responses is always the “darling du jour” of B2B marketers.

The challenge that is vexing so many of us now is that real responses are hard to come by…and getting harder. It seems that many people feel this is happening  because the tools we use to drive responses – direct mail, email, voicemail, telemarketing – are losing their effectiveness.  And so, the rush to social media marketing is fueled by the hope that it will somehow fill the void and drive a host of new responders into our waiting (hungry) arms (jaws).

Good luck with that plan.

If you’re serious about improving response rates, the first step is to accept responsibility for your messages and stop blaming the messengers, even though its true that when, for example – email, voicemail, direct mail were the shiny new toys on the block, generating responses was like shooting fish in a barrel.

In the early days, your messages were automatically novel, unexpected and an original approach. The response rates were terrific. But as messages like yours proliferated and dulled those shiny new communications channels, they all moved down the continuum from unique and special, to fairly common but frequently useful, to more of the same old junk.

But, the solution will not necessarily be found with a new messenger. I think what we need to do is take a good look at our messages and figure out why no one can be bothered to answer them.  So, because we all love lists, here are my

Top Seven Reasons Why I Didn’t Get Enough Responses….In No Particular Order

  1. The message was never received.  (Bad data)  If you fail to invest in your data,  you will throw money away on every campaign you execute in every medium with messages that can’t be delivered to people with missing, incomplete or incorrect contact information.  In some ways, this is the worst possible mistake because you’re making the same mistake over and over.  It messes up all your metrics. An undelivered message is like a golf putt that doesn’t make it to the hole. Each has a 100% chance of failure.
  2. The message was unclear. (Bad writing)In order to grab a persons attention you must be direct and crystal clear.  Messages that are filled with jargon, that use a senders “company speak”, that ramble and are simply jumbled and poorly organized don’t drive a response.
  3. The message was not compelling.  (Weak Offer) Was there anything that said “read and act, now?” Don’t list a bunch of features that your engineers think are cool, highlight a benefit that your reader needs (preferably desperately) and if can’t communicate a sense of urgency, why will someone interupt an already busy day and respond?
  4. The message was not relevant. (Bad Targeting)  You sent your message to the wrong person. Either you were completely off base and your product/service and offer were of no interest to the individual or company you sent it to, or you matched the wrong benefit to the title.  As a rule of thumb, you’ll get better responses offering Executives benefits that are relevant to their responsibilities, so why are so many campaigns structured with a single benefit statement offered to all job titles in a company?
  5. The message didn’t speak to current priorities. (Wrong time)  Unless your campaigns are themselves in response to specific triggers, timing can be a matter of luck.  There is only one solution when everything else looks right and that is to keep on trying.
  6. Your message was lost or forgotten before action was taken. (No follow up) You can’t rely on a one time message to communicate any campaign because while rare, it is possible that you’ll strike the right chord, with the right person and they’ll be interrupted before they can take action.  Events can quickly overtake even the most interested potential response, even one that could easily turn into a sale.  So, it’s imperative to make more than one attempt to get an action executed.
  7. The campaign parameters never defined “enough”. (Weak objectives) It’s entirely possible that if you don’t run through the numbers and work with a realistic expectation of what you’re responses should be, you can spend your money without a hope of driving a positive ROI.  For example, I can’t think of a universe where a list of 1000 CEO’s will deliver 100 attendees to anything but the most exceptional business event.

To deal with your declining response rates is a challenge that will require your skill, your hard work, your resourcefulness and a careful but adequate allocation of your budget.  I admit that this doesn’t sound all that encouraging, because it isn’t easy.  But unlike pinning your hopes on the next marketing discovery, if you focus on a brilliant message and stop expecting the messenger to do the work for you, (like in the good old days) you will have a shot at improvement.