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.

1 thought on “Declining Response Rates – Stop Shooting the Messenger”

  1. Pingback: New Uses for Voicemail in B2B | Boxpilot

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