Category Archives: Best Practices

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.

 

 

 

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.

Attn B2B Sales – Pick Up The Phone!

Are are tired of reading about how a typical B2B sale is 50 -60-70% complete before the prospect engages with a sales rep?  I am.  And that’s because that “finding”  which might be true with some mature product/service categories does not apply to what I sell.

It doesn’t apply to what most of my clients sell either. But it seems that their marketing teams are too enamored with the content they’re finding online, which co-incidentally supports ever increasing expenditures on marketing automation software and just about every possible idea to find, nurture and score potential prospects without every actually talking to them. And this is insane, because –

There is NO substitute for a live conversation.None. Nadda. Zip. Zero. Zilch! (Did I make the point?)

But the whole trend towards online, email and demand driven content- which will move your potential sales along a predictable path of their own choosing, is also supported by two simple facts.

  • The first is that most people (and here I’m talking about anyone from a business owner who needs to drum up their own new customers to a seasoned sales executive) really don’t want to  make cold calls. Often they don’t even want to make warm calls either.
  • The second fact is that it’s so hard to reach people live on the phone that calling – while it might actually be the only reasonable alternative available to many companies- demands too much time, too much frustration and a level of dogged determination that’s a drain on most people.

Frankly, there’s another problem with cold calling, too and here – sigh- I speak from experience. When you make calls to countless prospects, and end up leaving voicemail after voicemail, that odd person who actually picks up their phone can stop you dead in you tracks.  You’ve repeated the same spiel so many times that your brain shuts down and you blow the call. This is not good. It kills the immediate opportunity and feeds call reluctance.

Then of course there is the issue of incomplete and/or out of date data – another huge time waster.

Then there’s following up each voicemail with an email message- which is necessary, but also the wrong kind of mental activity for a sales person who will normally be at their best when reaching outside of themselves to connect with another human being versus sending an email, updating a database or – dare I add- writing a post for the company blog 😉

But a sales conversation, a real dialogue with a potential customer can leapfrog over 6 months of marketing’ s measured lead generation or nurturing efforts. (hah- I’ll make a lot of friends with that comment!) But, that doesn’t change the fact that its true.

Voicemail messages are important. They will only rarely get a returned call, but are the best “Passive” means available to cut through all the clutter and start (repeat start) to build you case. And they’re the inevitable outcome of many of the dials that are made, so it stands to reason to make the most of the opportunity.

Email messages are important. They fill in information gaps, point people to useful information and offer an easier (more passive) means for a prospect to either tell you that they’re maybe a little interested, or ask you to get lost.

But nothing trumps a conversation. When want to make more sales- you need to have more conversations. (Do I really need to qualify here that you are having these conversations with the right people in the right kinds of companies???)

Here comes the sales message –

With this simple principle in mind, Boxpilot has put together a sales support service that utilizes our guided voicemail, synchronized email,  desk alert and database cleaning capabilities.  T understand how we can help you and/or your sales team have more live conversations with fewer dials, leave voicemail and email  messages that say the right things and clean up your data – just send a message to Sales@Boxpilot.com and we’ll get back to you.

Stop the Summer Sales Slump

It a sure sign that summer’s here: Sun is shining, birds are chirping, kids are playing, sales are slumping (?!?!?).

What was that? you say.  Sales slumping?  That’s right, 68% of businesses report a drop in sales over the summer months.  Now, I can buy that some of those businesses may actually be seasonal, but 68%?  Surely not.

But if you think about it, summer is full of productivity killing (but certainly fun!) distractions: vacations, beaches, backyards, patios, etc.  And, if productivity is down, sales are sure to follow.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  As a manager, I’ve been faced with this obstacle myself, and have come up with a few ways to overcome this challenge.

1) Intelligently stream responsibility:

  • Forget about a vacation “out of office” message
  • Make sure people who reach out to you in your absence are handled appropriately, whether that’s with an autoresponder or a live call— delegate a human to make this assessment.

2) Set up a predictable lead nurture program ahead of time for your active pipeline.

  • Work with your marketing department (or services like Boxpilot 🙂 ) to make sure you have a preset contact stream going out.
  • Schedule emails and/or calls with targeted messages to go out on a preset schedule.

3) Keep your cold outreach going out—your funnel will thank you.

  • Work with marketing to have daily calls and emails scheduled so that it’s like you are not gone.
  • People worry about not being there to accept response, but the fact is, response rates are low, and lower still are the number of people who are ready to buy after that first response.
  • Have cold outreach responses fed to a auto responder campaign or a live call (see #1 above).

It may seem beastly to administer, but without it, sales slump.  The best place to start is by having Sales and Marketing sit down together to lay out responsibility.  Utilizing external support from a service provider, may be the best option to solving this problem without headaches—let the 3rd party enable coverage.

Putting effort into building a great system will not only make a difference this summer, but any slump period your business typically has.

 

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.

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.

 

 

 

Boost Your Sales Ratios

I’ve had to cold call through too many recessions not to recognize that while it might be irreplaceable, it’s terribly inefficient. I resent how it wastes my precious time and I suspect that anyone who shares at least part of the responsibility to generate their own leads knows exactly how I feel.

I’m calling into a very competitive market, to a contact list who rarely answer their phone, are swamped with “sales approach” emails and when I can get them on the phone are skittish to the point of paranoia when it comes to giving a time commitment.  What I was seeing within the recent market is that booking a sales discussion – something I used to accomplish in less than 30 dials was now taking over 60.  I was not a happy girl.  Not only were my contact ratios down, but my close numbers were slipping, too – not for lead follow up – those numbers are steady, but my ability to book appointments on cold connections was down to a half of what it used to be.

Like many other reps, I tried different approaches (but that didn’t help) and I tried to compensate by boosting my outbound volume, which accomplished nothing tangible beyond further frustrating me and eventually burning me out.  I left sales.

And then I came back with a different tactic, one that I had the luxury to test and improve because I happen to sell guided voicemail for a living and one I can share with you.

I won’t speak with a contact until I have a reason to believe they already know who I am, what areas (that hopefully line up with their problems) I am calling about and hopefully have managed to grease the wheels just a little bit with some free information.  Using a combination of voicemail with an email follow up, I use several different messaging series, which are delivered to the contacts on my list before these precious little fingers of mine ever hit the dial.

  • I was disappointed at first with the terrible open rates on my emails, but a lot of headline work has improved that.
  • I was discouraged for a while with the limited number of direct responses to my messaging. But you know that just as much as the message – timing is everything (at least in this market) . My contacts are very focussed on today’s problems, not next month’s.
  • I was thoroughly pissed off that the contact numbers were at first, no better than before – averaging 16 attempts to make a connection: however by ensuring that my database was updated after the initial rounds of messaging, grouping different job titles and an increased calling frequency away from the mid morning/afternoon main meeting blocks, there has been a significant improvement down to an average of 12 attempts. It’s not terrific, but its a lot better.
  • As the different messaging series grew in length, I became encouraged with my improved ratios on booking appointments and getting referrals.

Another aspect of this project which cannot be ignored was the benefit I gained in developing the messages in the first place, really having to think about what an interested prospect could want from me and being more mindful of their needs when I did make that first contact.  Sadly, this isn’t a one size/one service fits all world, (wouldn’t our lives be easier if it was?) so sometimes the messaging doesn’t fit with their interests. But opt outs give me a chance to wait a while and come back from a different direction.

Here’s a look at how the numbers are tracking:

Connections to Dials:

  • 2009/2010 1:10
  • 2011  1:17
  • 2013 Fall 1:15
  • 2013 Fall/Winter 1:14
  • 2014 Winter 1:12

Meetings/Referrals to Connections:

  • 2009/2010- 1:2.5
  • 2011 – 1:3.5
  • 2013 Fall – 1:3.5 ( up to 2 delivered messages)
  • 2013 Fall/Winter 1:3.0 (3-4 delivered messages)
  • 2014 Winter 1:2.75 (5-6 delivered messages)

Meetings/Referrals to Dials

  • 2009/2010 1:25
  • 2011 1:60
  • 2013 Fall 1:53 (0-2 messages)
  • 2013 Fall/Winter 1:42 (3-4 messages)
  • 2014 Winter 1:33 (5-6 messages)

This is still a work in progress, but the results are looking pretty obvious, by using advanced messaging to not only clean up my list but warm up the contacts so that they are more likely to either be willing to give up some time or on the other hand, step forward and help to narrow down the subjects that might have appeal to them I am now  accomplishing in 33 dials what was taking as many as 60 before.

This is a good thing.

 

 

 

 

The Definitive Guide to Lead Generation

I think you need to be living under a rock not to be familiar with Marketo and so I expect a great number of people will be delighted to hear that they have just released their Definitive Guide to Lead Generation.

I haven’t read the entire report yet. At a hefty 160 pages that might take a while, but I was very gratified to note a section devoted to Telephone Based Lead Generation.

Considering the number of  people who seem to be of a mind that anything ouside of inbound and social marketing is a passé , it really says something when the company who many consider to represent the gold standard in online and inbound marketing so readily acknowledges that the telephone  and specifically telesales   “..provides the human interaction needed to turn your marketing leads into opportunities and sales.”

 

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.

 

 

 

Better Subject Lines for More Opened Emails

As you read this message, sit back and enjoy the knowledge that some of your competitor’s event marketing budgets are simply money flushed down the drain. Why? Because no one is reading their email invitations owing to their complete failure to avoid uninspiring, unmotivating and simply badly written subject lines.

But better subject lines are possible with help from some help from the experts:

Hubspot – Anatomy of a Five Star Subject Line 

Unbounce- Subject Line Strategies that increase your open rates

EConsultancy – 152 Killer Keywords for subject lines and 137 crappy ones – Adestra

Mail Chimp – Best Practices in writing email subject lines

Pardot – 12 Dos and Don’ts

Chiefmarketer – Crafting an Irresistible email subject line

Enjoy!