Website Marketing How-To: The Secret to Building a Successful B2B Website

What if I told you that there really is one secret — a silver bullet — that all but guarantees your B2B website marketing will be successful? And by successful, I mean it will generate a positive ROI, differentiate your products, and move your target audience to act. Not only does this silver bullet exist, I can sum the secret up in one word: Listen.

What if I told you that there really is one secret — a silver bullet — that all but guarantees your B2B website marketing will be successful? And by successful, I mean it will generate a positive ROI, differentiate your products, and move your target audience to act.

Not only does this silver bullet exist, I can sum the secret up in one word: Listen.

Listen

To your clients.

To your prospects.

To your sales team.

To your customer service reps.

Sounds easy, but as I’m sure you already know, it takes some doing.

Who Should You Listen To?

Let’s start with the groups outside of your organization: prospects and clients. These folks are likely to be a bit guarded, particularly prospects since you haven’t earned their trust. As with any focus group-type activity, you also run the risk of having people tell you want they think you want to hear. So you have to create space that allows them to be less defensive.

You might do this by couching your inquiry in a way that is helpful to them. For example, rather than inquiring about what they loved about your product x, get them talking about how they’d like to see you improve product x. The difference may seem subtle, but asking about what they want rather than what you want is much more likely to get you honest, helpful feedback.

The situation is similar but not identical with your internal audiences. You once again are much better served by asking what improvements would make their lives easier, but you also have to be even more communicative about whatever changes you implement. (If you keep asking and they keep not seeing any changes being made that benefit them, they’re not going to engage.) You won’t ever make 100% of the people happy 100% of the time, of course, but you have to show you’re trying – and you have to offer solid reasons if you can’t implement an improvement that has popular support.

All of this is no guarantee that your site is going to look great, or work with every browser under the sun. It doesn’t even mean it’s going to attract visitors. (That’s another discussion entirely.)

Address Your Audience’s Concerns

But it does mean that the audience you do attract will engage because you are addressing their concerns. Remember, nobody is coming to your website looking to kill a few minutes between meetings. They’re on your site because they have a problem that they think you may be able to help them solve.

Show that you understand their problem, provide them with materials that helps them understand their problem better, and they’ll grant you permission to illustrate that you have experience and expertise to solve their problem with them.

That should be the primary focus of everything you publish on your website and every call to action and lead magnet you create.

If you talk to your prospects and clients they’ll tell you their pain, and that’s the information you need to build a website marketing plan that works.

Mounting Dysfunction in the B2B Buying Process

Everyone is aware B2B buying is complex. But new research from Gartner suggests that things are even worse these days. It’s buying gridlock. I interviewed Brent Adamson, author of The Challenger Customer and The Challenger Sale, and got the skinny. He also has a set of good ideas for how “prescriptive selling” can help us get out of this mess.

How do you sell when your buyers can’t buy?

Everyone is aware that the B2B buying process is complex. It involves multiple parties over long decision-making cycles. In large enterprise, this can take months, if not years, and involve dozens of individuals in the buying circle.

But new research from CEB, now Gartner, suggests that things are even worse these days. It’s buying gridlock.

I interviewed Brent Adamson, sales principal executive advisor on sales, marketing & communications — also author of The Challenger Customer and The Challenger Sale — and got the skinny. He also has a set of good ideas for how “prescriptive selling” can help us get out of this mess.

Q. Your Research Found a Lot of Dysfunction in the B2B Purchase Process. Please Explain.

At CEB, now Gartner, we’ve been studying sales and marketing for years, which means that we have deep insights into the challenges within these functions. But interestingly, what we’ve been seeing is that it’s become difficult for customers to buy today. It’s certainly hard to sell, but when you look at it from the other side, it is actually harder for customers to make purchase decisions.

Based on CEB’s latest observations, here is a summary highlighting the dysfunction in the B2B purchasing process:

  • Bigger, increasingly diversified buying groups.
    It was only 2.5 years ago that we found the average buying group consisted of 5.4 stakeholders. This number is up 26 percent to 6.8 today, and the average buying group now consists of 3.4 different functions. Diversity also means different tiers within the corporate hierarchy, different geos and different teams. In many cases, these stakeholders have never worked together. Alarmingly, we’re seeing more and more purchases where the customer doesn’t even know who ultimately will be in the decision-making group.
  • Dysfunction runs rampant.
    As customer buying group diversity goes up, so does stakeholder dysfunction. They are having clear disagreements, avoiding key issues, and reporting that they weren’t being heard.
  • Decision-making takes longer than expected.
    A full 84 percent of customers report their purchase process took longer than expected — by nearly double.
  • Even indecision takes forever.
    The average purchase decision now takes 4.9 months, but shockingly, the average “no purchase” decision takes 4.7 months. So whether your average sales cycle is three months or three years, “doing nothing” takes just as long to decide as “doing something.”

Q. Why Do You Think B2B Buying Has Developed in This Way?

The world that we operate in — selling or buying — it’s a world of “more”: more information, more options, and frankly, just more people involved in a purchase decision.

Many observers wrongly conclude that all this “more” empowers customers. The problem our studies have uncovered is that this “more” is causing decision paralysis.

Q. What Can a Sales Team Do About It?

Sales teams often think they need to be more reactive. As customers demand more, they need to respond more completely and quicker than their competitors. So it’s a race to become the most responsive supplier.

However, if sales teams respond to all their customer’s demands and requests for more, when the customer is already suffering from information overload, this only makes things worse.

Analyze Your Target’s Buying Process for Greater Marketing Efficiency

B2B selling is a complicated affair, but you can simplify your marketing strategies dramatically with buying process analysis. This means that you lay out your prospect’s buying process, stage by stage, and then develop a selling process that maps to it. Voila. Your marketing investments will become much more efficient,

B2B selling is a complicated affair, but you can simplify your marketing strategies dramatically with buying process analysis. This means that you lay out your prospect’s buying process, stage by stage, and then develop a selling process that maps to it. Voila. Your marketing investments will become much more efficient, being applied to their best use. And you’ll also be more effective, since each element is targeted to a specific goal. Let’s look at how this works.

Here’s a typical B-to-B large enterprise buying process, broken down into its logical stages.

Buying Process StagesThe stages are pretty obvious —any marketer can create such a list on the back of a cocktail napkin. But you may find that the buying process will vary by segment, so you may need more than one.

The next step is to clarify your marketing objective at each stage. Simply put, your objective is to help move the prospect along his buying journey, stage by stage, in your favor. But you can get more granular. At the stage when the prospect begins researching solutions, your objective is to be among the consideration set. At the next stage, you want to be selected for the short list. When they are soliciting proposals, you want to submit a winning bid. And so on.

Now, your marketing activities can be directed toward supporting this process. Consider which media make the most sense at each stage. When you are trying to become known to researchers, media relations and trade shows can be the most effective tools. When the prospect is reviewing proposals, you may decide that a webinar is a good method for educating them on your capabilities. Once you’ve won the business and they are beginning to use your product or service, you might invite them to a user group.

The same thinking can be applied to other areas of the marketing communications mix. What content do you need to move the prospect from one stage to the next? What data elements are required at each stage? What motivational offers will be most effective?

I am fond of this approach to B-to-B marketing, especially in the account-based marketing context, because it helps us get very focused, and reduces what you might call random acts of marketing communication.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

The Case for Customer Reactivation

The facts are clear: It costs far less to reactivate a dormant customer than to acquire an entirely new one; recent activity is a powerful indicator of customer lifetime value; and investments in retention marketing deliver the highest ROI of any strategy. But some marketers may still be missing out on some of today’s best practices in reactivation marketing.

As marketing advances, most professionals are well aware by now of the importance of retention and reactivation in optimizing the value of the customer base. The facts are clear: We know that it costs far less to reactivate a dormant customer than to acquire an entirely new one; we know that recent activity is a powerful indicator of customer lifetime value; and we know that investments in retention marketing deliver the highest ROI of any strategy.

But some marketers may still be missing out on some of today’s best practices in reactivation marketing. Let’s review the strategies that are most effective in stimulating a renewed relationship with your dormant customers, and reducing customer defection and churn.

Reactivation marketing applies to all kind of product and services categories, from consumer to business markets. The tactics and tools have been developed and refined to a fine art in the area of subscriptions and replenishment types of marketing. Let us learn from these trailblazers.

If you need backup to justify your investment in customer reactivation, here are some useful stats:

  • A five-point decrease in defections can lift per-customer profit by 25 percent to 85 percnt (Reichheld, The Loyalty Effect)
  • Retaining an additional 2 percent of customers has the same effect as cutting costs 10 percent (Davidow & Malone, The Virtual Corporation)
  • It is 4.8 times cheaper to sell to a pre-existing inquirer than to generate a new lead (Aberdeen Group research)

Reactivation can be viewed as a subset of retention marketing. If a customer has stopped interacting with you, this is very likely an early indicator of upcoming customer loss, or defection. So, it’s essential to identify the signals early, and set up intervention activity to prevent the customer from moving further away.

4 Key Reactivation Questions

Before you can plan your best intervention tactics, you need to develop answers to several key questions:

  1. How should you determine the definition of inactivity in your business? For many, the end result of inactivity is known as “churn.” The churn rate is derived from dividing the number of customers lost in the period by the number of customers you had at the beginning of the period. But the path to purchase differs with each business. Buying a new car is very different from replenishing your supply of moisturizer. This means identifying the interim metrics that you need to keep an eye on. A car dealer may look at oil changes as an indicator of engagement. A department store will look at the such indicators as product purchase frequency and timing, with interim metrics like email open and click through rates.
  2. What are the reasons for customer dormancy? It may be that your customers had a problem with your product or service. In which case, you must strive to fix the problem. It may be that they no longer have a need. In which case, you need to determine whether there’s another way to serve them profitably. Or it may be that they have left for a competitor. In which case, you must institute a winback effort. There are many possible reasons. A quick survey by email or phone will help you identify them Each will likely require a different strategic approach.
  3. Is the customer worth reactivating? Some customers simply cannot be served profitably. For them, it may be a better strategy to let go, instead of investing more in re-engagement. Thus, an assessment of projected customer value will help you determine the appropriate amount of reactivation investment, if any.
  4. How will you know success when you see it? For many companies, reactivation is measured by conversion to repurchase. A useful metric is the winback rate, calculated as the number of reactivated customers divided by the number of inactives at the beginning of the period. For your business, the success metric may be something different. The point is to identify the most appropriate metric in advance, and track the results of your reactivation program over time.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, and was excerpted from the white paper “How to Reactivate Dormant Customers.”

The Killer App in B-to-B Marketing? Face-to-Face Events

Of all tactics in the B-to-B marketing toolkit, the most valued, the most used and the most effective is face-to-face events. It’s not digital, except tangentially. But, year after year, events like conferences and trade shows consistently show up at the top of the list. Why, and what does that mean for us marketers?

I was teaching B-to-B digital marketing in Buenos Aires this month, and found some of my students to be dismayed by one data point that came up again and again in the course: Of all tactics in the B-to-B marketing toolkit, the most valued, the most used and the most effective is face-to-face events. It’s not digital, except tangentially. But, year after year, events like conferences and trade shows consistently show up at the top of the list. Why, and what does that mean for us marketers?

Interestingly, my savvier students got it immediately. They intuitively understood the power of face-to-face events in B-to-B marketing. “Business buying is done through relationships,” said one. Bingo.

It’s all about personal connections. Business buyers buy from people they know and trust. Business buying is based on people as much as it is on specifications and product requirements. Even when we are buying on behalf of our companies, we are social animals, and we want to look the seller in the eye before signing a big contract.

We need a conversation. Events are very efficient at conversations. Hundreds of qualified prospects have flown in, to talk with you, under one roof, in an intensely productive series of days.

Some people argue that business events are dead, or dying. Trade shows certainly suffered after 9/11, and the comeback has been slow. But to paraphrase Mark Twain, “Reports of my death are exaggerated.” This is still a $12.2 billion industry in the U.S. alone.

As an element of the B-to-B marketing toolkit, business events are actually thriving, even in a digital era. Let’s look at some numbers.

  • Year after year, events and trade shows clock in as the single largest line item in B-to-B budgets. 20 percent on average, according to Forrester. I’ve seen companies that devote as much as 60 percent of their spend to face to face.
  • Events are also at the top of the heap based on lead generation effectiveness. A 2015 study showed events way ahead of other media channels — online or offline — at 84 percent. Events ranked higher than even the company website, at 81 percent.
  • Even in content marketing, where digital and social are the darlings, events are named the most effective content tactic in this year’s study from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. It was the same for the last two studies, too.

3 Ways to Improve Your Face-to-Face Events Marketing Results

Okay, so you are convinced. But how do you get the most value from face-to-face events? I have three ideas for where some extra focus can drive vast improvements in the productivity of your event marketing spend.

  1. Put the event to its best use — meaning a place to have efficient and productive interactions. Know why you are there. Select metrics consistent with your objectives, and put them in writing, so you can’t cheat. And don’t forget: If your objective is to have lots of conversations with prospects — which for most people it is — encourage your teammates to make appointments in advance. This extremely effective technique is often overlooked.
  2. In face to face, your teammates are the medium at the event. And the message. So make sure your people are trained up on how to engage — and disengage. These are not sales conversations. But they can be learned. A bit of pre-event training can dramatically improve your productivity at the event.
  3. Put the event in its larger context. Post event is where the real revenue-driving activity happens. So make sure you focus on how you will capture contact information, and make a record of what happened during the conversation, and what your team should do to follow up. If you don’t have a solid lead management process in your company, don’t spend a penny on events.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

The Best Sales Touchpoint Email Cadence

The words “sales email” and “touchpoints” are evil — pure evil — because of the context in which “touchpoint” is used. Managers feel pressure to see reps making “X” number of contact attempts per week.

EmailThe words “sales email” and “touchpoints” are evil — pure evil — because of the context in which “touchpoint” is used. Managers feel pressure to see reps making “X” number of contact attempts per week.

“How many new touchpoints have you made in total?”

“How many times did you attempt/touch each prospect on your list?”

This kind of requirement leads reps to type, “What is the best sales email cadence?” into Google.

The results can be disastrous.

Accountability for Spamming

Most sales managers hold reps accountable for spamming. You can call it volume of outbound attempts at new customers. And, yes, it’s vital to aggressively prospect using email, LinkedIn/social and telephone. All channels.

But are sellers being held accountable for spamming?

My experience working with reps proves: 99.5 percent of the time “you need X touchpoints per week” encourages good reps (who know better) to start spamming.

It also forces reps who don’t know better to start spamming … and to fail as sales professionals. Habit formation is key. Bad habit formation is deadly to the individual and organization.

Worse, I see top-performing reps who know a mass, templated, “touchpoint” approach won’t work still doing it. Because they need to follow orders, and unfortunately have very little freedom to explore what works.

The Freedom Box

The last thing you want to do with great reps (and reps who have the potential to be great) is to micro-manage their activities. Instead, manage their activities and keep them moving full steam ahead. But also out of trouble as they find their way forward. So how to balance? Freedom.

Forbes contributor, Jim Keenan created the “freedom box” several years ago.

“If the results are there the employee has all the freedom they want. They can do anything they feel is necessary to be successful,” says Keenan.

The box is big with lots of options. Reps have lots of freedom to innovate on what works.

“They can attack their job in any fashion they see fit, leveraging any approach they want. They have full autonomy,” says Keenan.

“Keenan’s ‘freedom box’ shrinks as a function of bottom line results for each rep and gravitates towards activity management as the freedoms (and the results) decline,” says sales manager coach David Masover.

“In other words, there is a reciprocal relationship between freedom and results.”

Accidentally Forcing Reps to Spam?

By not allowing reps enough freedom to experiment, fail and learn from failure we all lose. Including customers who need our products/services. Sellers end up spamming, failing and developing failing habits.

“Let’s be clear — you can’t manage results. You can only manage activities that lead to results,” says Masover.

Make the Most of Your Social Media Fans

Most brands and companies today have some sort of social media presence. Even in industrial and technical sectors, Twitter and Facebook have proved themselves to be lively venues for engagement, sharing and conversation.

Social mediaMost brands and companies today have some sort of social media presence. Even in industrial and technical sectors, Twitter and Facebook have proved themselves to be lively venues for engagement, sharing and conversation.

But here’s a new development: The San Antonio based data company Stirista now can turn your social media followers — a portion of them, at least — into an instant marketing database, ready for communications through any channel you like. To me, this sounds like the next big thing in the rapid progression of social media marketing.

The way this works is pretty straightforward, albeit a bit geeky. In a process known as “reverse append,” the social media handles are matched to a vast database of consumers and business people (Stirista’s contains over 120 million names), many of whose records include social media handles. If there’s a hit, the entire record — name, address, phone, email, and demographics — is connected to that social media account. According to Ajay Gupta, Stirista CEO, the best results can be produced for the “big three” networks, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The match rate averages around 10 percent.

So, with this technique, marketers who have built up sizable social media followings can enrich the relationship. Here are some of the applications that come to mind:

  • Deepen those relationships by communicating through other media channels.
  • Identify customer service problems. Searching on telltale hashtags like #tmobilesucks or #sprintrules, and contact the follower directly to resolve the issue.
  • Market research. Do a demographic analysis of your fan base to gain insights into their nature and needs.
  • Conduct competitive research. GoToMeeting might see who’s following WebExpress, for example. Or Hillary could look at Bernie followers.

Best of all, the reverse append process is inexpensive, and fast.

I learned about the capability a few months ago, when Ajay Gupta brought me in for some consulting help. To launch the service, Stirista came up with a pretty nifty PR idea: They reverse appended consumer data onto the millions of Twitter followers of @realDonaldTrump and @HillaryClinton. They then matched those names against another Stirista product—a voter file—and analyzed the nature and political behavior of the followers of the two presumptive presidential candidates.

The results contained some fascinating facts, which we wrote up in a report, and hired a PR professional with political experience to pitch to journalists. (Does it surprise you that a third of Trump followers turn out to be registered Democrats?)

On the launch day, we were pleased to see a flurry of press attention from outlets like Politico and the Wall Street Journal. As B-to-B PR strategies go, this was a hit.

But to marketers, the big news is this new technique, which takes the value of your social media asset to a new level. Just think of the possibilities if you can instantly add a complete record of 10 percent of your social media followers to your marketing database. Wow.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

11 Proven B-to-B Copy Platforms

To motivate business buyers, especially in digital, it helps to base your message on powerful, proven B-to-B copy platforms that encapsulate the key benefit to the prospect. They answer the questions, “Why should I care?” and “What’s in it for me?”

Drawing Great Copy PlatformsTo motivate business buyers — especially in digital channels, where you have just a few seconds to catch their interest — it helps to base your message on powerful, proven copy platforms.

A copy platform encapsulates the key benefit to the prospect. It answers the questions, “Why should I care?” and “What’s in it for me?” Business people are people, but in their buying roles, they represent their companies. So marketers must appeal to them in terms that are meaningful to both the individual and the interests of their businesses.

I’ve been collecting effective B-to-B copy platforms over the years from such authoritative sources as Susan K. Jones, Nancy Harhut and Bob Hacker. You can use these to kick off your strategic messaging. They also make the basis of great email headlines and SEM ad copy. Here’s the list.

11 Proven B-to-B Copy Platforms

  1. Save time. Get to market quicker.
  2. Save money. Sell more. Spend less.
  3. Reduce risk. Stay out of regulatory trouble.
  4. Grow the business. Penetrate new markets.
  5. Find new customers. Sell them more.
  6. Job security. Help you look good in your job.
  7. Increase efficiency or productivity. Do more with less.
  8. Exclusivity. Be part of an elite group.
  9. Greed. Make money. Increase sales. Increase profits.
  10. Make your job easier. Avoid stress or hardship. Get the help you need.
  11. Fear of the unknown, or regulators, loss, or failure.

Any others to contribute?

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

How to Follow-Up on Webinar Leads: Don’t

The best follow-up to your webinar is no follow-up. Today’s most successful webinars are moving the lead from warm to warmer — right on the webinar. From that moment forward there is no need for 95 percent of what we see today, i.e., follow-up email techniques that are ineffective and just plain awful.

The best follow-up to your webinar is no follow-up. Today’s most successful webinars are moving the lead from warm to warmer — right on the webinar. From that moment forward there is no need for 95 percent of what we see today, i.e., follow-up email techniques that are ineffective and just plain awful.

Jordan Barta of Paychex puts it this way in a recent blog post.

Prospects don’t have “time for you to ask them about their strategy, or if they have questions about your product. They want solutions and innovative ideas.”

So do you even need email follow-up?

What If Your Webinar Did This?

Imagine your webinar closing the prospects. Not on a sale, but instead, on a pre-sale first step that connects with their buying journeys. A step that moves them forward on making the eventual purchase commitment.

What can you literally do for a prospect, right now, that will prove your most costly, comprehensive solution is worth it?

Can you provide a few results in advance of purchase?

Depending on what you’re selling, following-up with webinar leads can be on an “as needed” basis. Because the webinar itself can close prospects on:

  • A low-cost, easy to afford starter product that makes taking action irresistible
  • A “next step” free offer that provides small but immediate, tangible benefits

Coming at the end of your webinar, your “next logical step” may come in paid or free form. The idea is to get customers investing in themselves — in a way that delivers results in advance of a larger purchase commitment.

Thus, your offer (paid or free) should produce near-term gratification. Proof that considering a larger investment is worth it.

Educating Your Prospect Is Not the Goal

Educating your prospect is a weak goal for your webinar. Instead, make your No. 1 goal to provoke action. Encourage prospects to act on a promotion designed to prove you:

  1. understand their problems or goals
  2. have a different approach to solving/reaching them
  3. are more qualified to help than the competition

What’s your unfair advantage? Let them taste it via the webinar and, afterward, a promotional first step. (bringing them toward their goal)

Your webinar’s goal isn’t to educate potential buyers. It’s to show them the better way, make it seem 110 percent do-able. Give them confidence in your better way and in themselves.

Talking Baseball … and Direct Mail?

They’re not exactly two things that you would think go together, but when I got a postcard from my hometown Philadelphia Phillies in the mail, I knew it would make for a good story. Or maybe two.

They’re not exactly two things that you would think go together, but when I got a postcard from my hometown Philadelphia Phillies in the mail, I knew it would make for a good story. Or maybe two.

So here’s the deal.

For a couple of months, I’ve been providing direct mail pieces from Who’s Mailing What! to my colleague, Ashley Roberts of Printing Impressions (a sister brand of Target Marketing) for use in her video series on PI XChange. The only requirement is that they demonstrate an interesting printing technique.

Phillies_01This postcard jumped out at me for several reasons.

First, it came from the Phillies, my favorite team. I’ve always been a fan, even if it sometimes has meant a lot of time waiting for them to jell into a pennant contender again.

Second, the printing. I love the spot gloss that was applied in spots on the front.

Third, the clever messaging. It’s promoting game tickets to a business audience. Yes, business and pleasure are two things that definitely go together.

Anyway, long story short: I showed this mailer to Ashley, and we agreed that both the printing and marketing audiences of our brands might be interested in learning more. She did all of the legwork, getting all of the important information on who designed it, who printed it, and how.

Last week, we and our great video production crew were privileged to be guests of the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia. We talked with Tina Urban, the team’s Director, Graphic Production, and got more insight, as well as the nitty-gritty details about both aspects of this mail piece. And we got to wear our Phillies gear!

Please check out the video for much more. And, as always, any comments, etc., are welcome!

[brightcove videoplayer=”4922766702001″ playerid=”4057790005001″ playerkey=”AQ~~,AAAB3F0Fgjk~,iLMUk1o09xryy1Ypo80LdwzRrrPX3phQ” width=”480″ height=”270″ autostart=”false”]