How COVID-19 Is Changing B2B Marketing

The global pandemic continues to affect every area of our lives and our businesses. To discuss what should be top of mind for marketers, Ruth Stevens talked with Roger McDonald, a seasoned sales and marketing executive to gather his views on what’s going on with B2B marketing and offer insights.

The global pandemic continues to affect every area of our lives and our businesses today. I reached out to my longtime colleague and friend Roger McDonald, a seasoned sales and marketing executive and thoughtful observer of things related to B2B marketing, to gather up his views on what’s going on, and how B2B marketers should be thinking.

How do you see COVID-19 changing the nature of B2B sales and marketing going forward?

I see it as another in a long line of disruptions in the buying and selling process. COVID-19 is a shock to the system. Such disruptions are fertile ground for innovation.

This one is unusual because it affects aspects of the business that marketing does not always touch. We must ask ourselves, “What is this crisis communicating to my customers and stakeholders? And what are my behaviors saying?”

This is a good time for what I call an “everything communicates” audit.

What’s that? 

Like a marketing audit, but recognizing that there is a message in everything a company does. So, you examine not just the product, or features, or messaging, or value proposition. You look at every customer touchpoint, to ensure consistency and excellence. With the pandemic, the customer will be judging you on different criteria. Is your supply chain flawless? If you’ve had a breakdown in delivery, how have you communicated that to your customers? Do your customer-facing employees practice good hygiene?

Where is there an opportunity to innovate in a crisis like this?

If you can innovate through the crisis, and show customers superior performance, it will have a lasting effect on the customer relationship. Of paramount importance is how you make them feel when they are struggling.

Much of it comes down to speed and agility, and the ability to change how you interact with existing customers. Consider this: One of my clients reorganized — in just 48 hours — the way they deliver customer service. They set up a service system combining virtual and on-site processes, which reduced service call times from nearly 2 hours to 28 minutes. More importantly, the new system addressed their customer’s desire to reduce non-essential physical contact.

How has the role of marketing changed?

The roles of both sales and marketing have been changing for a while. COVID-19 is just the latest iteration.

B2B sales was historically a matter of face to face, physical contact. The past 30 years have seen enormous change, what with building security concerns in the 1970s, and then with 9/11.

Technology accelerated the change, with databases, email, social networks, digital advertising, online RFP price bid systems, all dramatically impacting the nature of customer engagement — and increasing the importance of marketing and IT. Marketing is no longer just about advertising, brand, and leads. It is involved in every stage of the customer relationship.

So, where is this heading? 

As you see, there had already been major change in recent decades. I believe COVID-19 will drive further change. We already see upticks in virtual engagement, AI-driven programs for both lead generation and point-of-contact engagement. Will the sales person function disappear?  Or will sales people morph into project managers? No matter what, it’s easy to see sales people moving from two-to-three sales calls to more like four-to-seven productive calls a day.

Here are some other examples:

  • Benefits statements and value propositions will have new or altered components. Think supply chain security and business continuity programs.
  • In your interview with Steve Gershik, he discussed the “funnel beyond the funnel,” which he described as “the systems, processes and technologies to drive value” once a customer has moved to the buying stage. This is exactly why Covid-19 has spawned the phrase: “Retention is the new acquisition.”
  • We are now full circle back to Peter Drucker’s famous words: “Business has only two functions, marketing and innovation. These produce revenues. All others are costs.” As we know, most B2B companies still look at marketing as an expense that “might” produce revenue. Perhaps we are at a tipping point where senior management will move beyond metrics of lead generation, to nurture marketing’s evolving role as organizer of systems, IT initiatives, and sales person engagement for both acquisition and retention. I recommend  “Beyond Advertising,” which in 2016 envisioned a new role of CMO in an agile and innovative organization. Marketing will have a wider span of influence.

Any last words, Roger?

Don’t ask whether we will ever get back to normal. Innovation drives forward motion. Ramp up your virtual relationships. Grab the opportunity to change your practices, your processes and your metrics.  Instead of setting quotas around topline revenue, look at retention metrics. Change the compensation system. Develop new infrastructure. Maybe you need new leadership.

Wow, great food for thought — and action — for B2B marketers!  Thank you, Roger.

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

 

 

 

 

The 10 Most Fascinating People in B2B Marketing in 2019

I’m back with my roundup of brilliant B2B marketers whom I’ve encountered this year. With a tip of the hat to those on my previous lists, it is my pleasure to introduce these fascinating colleagues to you. Our B2B marketing field has thrived in recent decades.

I’m back with my roundup of brilliant B2B marketers whom I’ve encountered this year. With a tip of the hat to those on my lists last year, and in 2017, 2016, and 2015, it is my pleasure to introduce these fascinating colleagues to you. Our B2B marketing field has thrived in recent decades, as new technologies and strategies emerged to help us reach target audiences and generate sales conversations.

But now, as we enter a new decade where challenges loom — data privacy, ad fraud, fake posts, ever-longer sales cycles — we need all of the talent we can get.

  1. Nancy Harhut is the Energizer Bunny of B2B copywriting. After a long career at Boston-area agencies, she has formed her own firm, and is creating bang-up campaigns for clients based on new insights from behavioral science. Catch her informative keynotes at B2B marketing conferences here and abroad.
  2. Valerie Bowling co-founded The Conference Forum to serve the pharmaceutical clinical-trials industry. With programs on such cutting-edge fields as immuno-oncology and “patients as partners,” she’s responsible not only for recruiting top-notch industry speakers, but also for driving attendance. As such, Bowling is an avid follower of B2B marketing methods, to fill the seats and keep attendees coming year after year.
  3. Sean Campbell is CEO of Cascade Insights, a Portland, Ore.-based tech market research firm. On the content side, Campbell hosts the “B2B Revealed” podcast, where I was a recent guest. It was the best interview I’ve ever had. He was prepared — actually read my book! He asked thoughtful, important questions, but also managed to steer the interview into a real conversation. Thanks, Sean, for a great experience.
  4. Elle Woulfe, VP of growth marketing at the product design platform InVision, is one of the most coherent thought leaders in the B2B realm. Find wisdom in her article about new ways to think about lead qualification and her three keys to sales and marketing alignment.
  5. I’ve known Chris Jeffers for years, but 2019 saw his major move. Jeffers founded NetFactor, the first service to automate B2B visitor IP address identification, in 2003. In 2017, he sold the company to Bombora, and decided to “retire.” All eyes are on his next step. I know he’ll come up with a winner.
  6. Vinay Mehendi is one of those rare data scientists who easily bridges to the business world. His company, amusingly named OceanFrogs, offers a wide range of B2B data services, like data enrichment and hygiene, persona development, technographic data, and lookalike modeling. But he has also developed some interesting B2B data innovations, like target account prioritization models, partner prospecting services, and a way to identify the “champion” in your target account buying group.
  7. I have to laugh when I run across a B2B sales executive with a stand-up comedy side gig. Check out Vincent Pietrafesa, Stirista’s intrepid VP of B2B products by day, who moonlights as Vincent James at comedy spots in the NY area. Who said B2B couldn’t be funny?
  8. I am a big fan of Jill Konrath, a sales expert who really gets B2B marketing. Having reconnected with her this year to get help crafting cold prospecting emails, I benefited from her superb Prospecting Tool Kit. She knows what she’s talking about, explains things clearly and tells the truth: “What percent of your prospects want to spend time with a salesperson? Zero.”
  9. When I worked at IBM in the 1990s, I noticed that our Canadian colleagues were way ahead in B2B marketing strategy and execution. So I am not surprised to see the same today in marketing services and technology. One example is Mike Couch, Toronto-based martech systems integrator whose agency helps firms like Bloomberg and ADP make their new purchases hum. When asked who should own the martech stack: marketing, sales or IT, Mike says the answer is “your customer.” Indeed.
  10. Bernice Grossman is one of the early lights in B2B data management, who saw long before most the essential value of complete, clean, and well-organized customer information to the success of B2B marketers everywhere. I was honored to partner with her on a series of research reports on B2B data-driven marketing over the years. After 37 years running DMRS Group, she holds the fascinating record.

Here’s to another great year in B2B marketing. Happy new decade to all!

 

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

Where Is B2B Marketing Headed in 2020? 7 Predictions

Forecasting the future is a dangerous but irresistible practice for observers like myself. So let me plunge ahead with seven bets on likely new developments in the world of B2B marketing.

Forecasting the future is a dangerous but irresistible practice for observers like myself. So let me plunge ahead with seven bets on likely new developments in the world of B2B marketing.

Just don’t look at my predictions from last year to check my record for accuracy, please.

“My crystal ball is on back order,” as B2B database expert Bernice Grossman is fond of saying.

This year, my predictions range from retention to robots. I welcome your feedback!

A Move From the ‘Funnel’ to the ‘Relationship’

B2B marketers are expanding their roles from just cranking out lead generation campaigns to stepping in as managers of the prospect and customer relationship, in partnership with their sales counterparts. As business buying becomes more complex, with larger buying groups and longer buy cycles, marketers will continue to embrace the contributions they can make in market coverage, sales enablement, and ABM.

Voice Search Takes Hold in B2B Buying, for Real

Business buyers are already using their Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant (“Hey, Google!”), and Cortana devices to identify potential vendors. And CPQ technology that enables configure/price/quote on more complex products is coming up quickly. So, the table is set. We marketers need to get ready by adding structured data, beefing up our FAQs, and mobile-enabling our websites to get the best advantage.

Messaging Apps Go Enterprise

As messaging app usage soars, leading providers Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) offer business solutions. The top application, so far, is customer service to solve problems quickly. But marketers are dipping their toes into product introductions, company news, promotions, and even purchasing with business customers. Of course, the granddaddy of business messaging, LinkedIn, is still the place to test the waters with these new channels.

Employee Advocacy Becomes Mainstream

Companies are realizing that they can harness their employees for customer acquisition, customer development, and HR recruitment.

Typical tactics:

  • Encourage employees to share company posts on social media.
  • Ask employees to recommend your company and its products to their friends and colleagues.
  • Provide them with logo merchandises to use and wear.

Here are some tips for how to get started.

Content Creation by Robots

It’s here. Still mostly in data-heavy fields like financial services. But as artificial intelligence tools improve, certain auto-generated copy applications are bound to follow. My guess is that some types of B2B social media posts are ripe for automation. But while I’m on the subject, let me refer you to Janneke Ritchie, who explains how robots will soon be taking on B2B tasks in areas like inside sales, customer service, and marketing operations. Yikes.

GDPR, CCPA Will Be Clarified for B2B

This is my fervent hope, anyway. Most enterprises have taken significant steps toward GDPR compliance, and are now investigating what needs to be done in the face of Jan. 1’s California Consumer Privacy Act. But what we really need is some action by regulators that will help us understand how regulatory concerns really apply to B2B vs. consumer marketing. And we also need action at the federal level here in the U.S., to simplify the current mishmash of state-level privacy legislation that is in the works.

B2B Marketers Embrace Current-Customer Marketing

Another fervent hope, but one that seems to be trending in the right direction. The new push is coming from the world of SaaS, where marketers realize that real profitability comes from attention to renewals, and defection prevention — the meat and potatoes of subscription marketing. For years, we’ve seen lead generation named as the top goal of B2B marketers, and typically a mere 15% of marketing budgets being devoted to retention activities. But when I hear software executives preaching about retention marketing, I think my hope may be justified. Customer penetration and expansion is a key source of profitable growth.

 

Happy 2020 to us all.

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

12 Marketing Tips for Successful B2B Lead Qualification

B2B marketers understand the importance of qualifying a lead before it goes to a salesperson, but sometimes the lead qualification process can get tricky. Today, most established companies assign the qualification role to an SDR.

B2B marketers understand the importance of qualifying a lead before it goes to a salesperson, but sometimes the lead qualification process can get tricky. Today, most established companies assign the qualification role to an SDR, or sales development rep — a dedicated function that has one foot in sales and one in marketing.

But it’s all part of a fairly complicated process. To establish process effectively, follow these tips.

First, set your qualification criteria in concert with your sales counterparts. Think well beyond the simple score generated by your marketing automation system. Then, set up your process. As you plan, here are 12 key points to guide B2B marketers in improving their results:

Prepare Your Web Form

Direct your campaign inquiries to a web-based response form for their preliminary qualification, especially in a high-volume environment. Self-reporting on the web saves money for you and time for your prospect. Adding qualification questions to your form is going to reduce campaign response rates, but pays off in efficient lead-handling.

Start With Email

For outbound inquiry qualification, email is today’s preferred medium. Design your emails to link to a web-based qualification form. Make sure it’s mobile-friendly. Your emails and web forms should also offer several other response media options, including email, phone, and social media. Try adding a “call me now” feature.

Be Realistic About Tele-qualifying

Today’s businesspeople are rarely at their desks. Even if they are, they’re likely to let their calls go to voice mail as screener. Expect tele-qualification to require between eight and 12 attempts. Be sure to have a script ready when the phone call goes to voice mail.

Mix Your Marketing Channels

Set up an alternating qualification message series, by medium. If email doesn’t work, try the phone; or, if the phone doesn’t work, try postal mail. Include LinkedIn as part of the mix.

Prepare Your Talking Points

If you’re using the phone to qualify, make sure your script is more about prospects and their needs and less about your company and your products.

Set Your Maximum Number of Touches

Set them in advance, and base them on a reasonable number of contacts. For instance, if the prospect is unreachable after five phone calls and five emails, you may want to call it quits. But keep testing the cadence and frequency, for continuous improvement. The ROI on a customer relationship can be sizable enough to justify a long series of attempts.

Have a Nurturing Program in Place

Have the program in place as your Plan B. Some inquirers are in the earliest stages of research, and nowhere near ready to talk to a salesperson. But they may be eventually. If qualification outreach fails, move them to nurturing, which is a series of communications designed to keep the relationship going until the prospect is ready for the next step.

Determine When to Quit

If nurturing goes nowhere, put the name back in the marketing database for re-promotion and flag the record accordingly. If the prospect shows interest again, follow the process.

Adjust the Process to the Customer’s Situation

You can’t force customers to be ready, but you can — and must — be there when they become ready.

Manage Inquiries on a First-In-First-Out Basis

Do this so that no lead gets cold while waiting to go to sales.

Make Sure Your Qualifiers Concentrate on Qualifying

This might seem obvious, but especially on the phone, it can be tempting to move into a sales conversation. Their only job — a hugely important one — should be to qualify, and set appointments on behalf of a salesperson.

Customize Your Outbound Channel to the Incoming Medium

Respondents through digital channels expect fast — instant — response. So, use the tools needed to deliver; whether it’s autoresponders, chatbots, or 24-hour call centers.

 

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

Prospect Experience Marketing: Find the Gold in Your Lead Generation Program

I recently caught up with Dan McDade, a longtime B2B practitioner in lead qualification and nurturing. I’ve been a fan of his for years. Here, we talk about prospect experience marketing.

I recently caught up with Dan McDade, a longtime B2B practitioner in lead qualification and nurturing. I’ve been a fan of his for years. Here, we talk about prospect experience marketing.

Prospect Experience Marketing
Dan McDade

Having sold his call center business to a colleague, and started a new venture, McDade offered me some fresh ways of thinking about how to treat top prospects. His new business is called Prospect Experience.

Ruth P. Stevens: You’ve been involved in the lead generation world for a long time. How has it changed?

Dan McDade: The big changes have been in the use of marketing technology. Certainly, technology lets us deliver more leads to sales, faster than ever before. But just as often, these are bad leads. Lead generation success rests on quality — not quantity, and not speed.

Stevens: What are the top challenges that still vex B2B marketers today?

McDade: Companies tend to market too broadly. Messaging is overly focused on features and functions, or what some people call bits and bytes. Narrowing down the target universe, creating a differentiating message and delivering that message with the right media at the right time are all critically important requirements that elude many, if not most, marketers today.

Stevens: What’s working in lead gen and lead development? Your advice, please!

McDade: It is all about balance. We used to say that multi-touch, multi-media and multi-cycle marketing multiplied results. That is now called the “cadence,” and it works. The secret is in mixing up the media. You can’t depend entirely on email. You need balance. Use phone calls, voicemails, emails, and even some direct mail to invite prospects into a dialogue.

In my opinion, too much of the prospecting is being handled by a black box. Not enough marketing is truly one-to-one. For every prospect universe, something like 30 to 40% of those prospects should not be included in marketing automation campaigns, at all. These prospects are just too important to risk with a one-to-many approach. Senior executives don’t want to be treated like a pinball, where they only get your attention after they have hit the right bumpers and scored enough points.

Stevens: I see. That’s a very interesting and important point. How do you suggest marketers identify those high-value prospects early, so they can pull them out of the automated campaigns and treat them differently?

McDade: At the beginning, you need to use your knowledge of the market, and some intuition, to segment the market into logical homogenous groups. Once market outreach begins, you segment and re-segment the targets based on variables like industry, firmographics, and sales history. Let me suggest this article to your readers for more detail.

Stevens: And how, specifically, to you recommend marketers treat these top prospects? Not via email, I gather!

McDade: Email can, in fact, be a part of the equation. But it must be personalized — for real. It can’t be what some folks call “personalization, at scale.” As I said, it is necessary to use cadences to mix up the media, tell the story, and convert the prospect. Using all of the tools available — phone, voicemail, email, direct mail, and social media — is critical to success. You need to be persistent, patient, and professional.

Stevens: You mentioned that you see the keys to success in what you call the Three M’s. What’s that?

McDade: When something is “off” on a program, the first place we look is by analyzing the market, message, and media. On the market, for example, if you start with a bad list, it is very difficult to recover.

The message breaks down into two components: value statements and differentiators.  It takes a lot of time and effort to get these right. And the work is never done. You are constantly testing against the control, or the original message, to fine-tune and improve your story.

Finally, the media issue can be as simple as two different sales development reps producing different results. We have had situations where the difference was just the luck of the draw. But more likely, it turns out that one rep is following instructions, with success, and the other refuses to follow the rules and is losing.

Stevens: What is your new company, Prospect Experience, all about?

McDade: The goal for Prospect Experience is to humanize the process of converting prospects to customers. Prospects today are called by pushy appointment setters, or being read tedious scripts by low-level telemarketers, or being barraged with email. Frankly, prospects are treated like dirt.

Maybe that is why less than half of the salespeople out there are making quota. With the right approach, marketers can convert more prospects to customers for less money than they are currently spending. I developed a process called the “12-Point Prospect-Experience Transformation” to help companies perfect their prospecting and enhance the prospect experience

Stevens: How can people get in touch with you to learn more?

McDade: I am happy to field emails or calls at dan.mcdade@prospect-experience.com, or 770-262-9021. I also encourage people to visit https://www.prospect-experience.com/insights to sign up for our blog.

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

The 10 Most Fascinating People in B2B Marketing

The top reason I love my work is the fascinating people I have the privilege to meet. I’ve always thought B2B marketing attracts unusually interesting professionals. People who see the potential, embrace the complexity and relish the challenges of our field.

B2B marketing
Credit: Getty Images by pagadesign

The top reason I love my work is the fascinating people I have the privilege to meet. I’ve always thought B2B marketing attracts unusually interesting professionals. People who see the potential, embrace the complexity and relish the challenges of our field.

Today, I am happy to introduce 10 of the many fascinating people I’ve interacted with during my adventures in 2018. All of them are high-energy contributors to the advancement of our field. And I’ve included a look-back shout-out to my fascinating contacts from 2017, 2016 and 2015.

  1. I’ve known Christopher Ryan, founder and CEO of Fusion Marketing Partners, for years, but this one is a standout. Check out his new book, “The Expert’s B2B Revenue Growth Playbook.” It’s practical and action-oriented, with a zillion tips on how to build sales — enhance your website, choose your key metrics, develop compelling content and more. Chris even offers a free PDF copy.
  2. Samantha Stone’s energy and good humor seem single-handedly to keep the wheels of B2B marketing going. She’s everywhere, providing advisory services to marketers who are grappling with how to go to market in an increasingly complex world. Her website offers a treasure trove of resources to help the rest of us get a head start.
  3. Every year, Scott Brinker brings our attention to the growth of martech, with his famous Marketing Technology Landscape graphic — now clocking in at over 6,800 point solutions. He’s the insightful blogger of ChiefMarTech and program chair of the informative conferences. Great work, Scott!
  4. Shane Schick’s Toronto-based B2B News Network is a top source for up-to-the-minute news in our industry. In this world of disappeared media, Shane deserves a lot of credit for running a successful publishing business. I find his daily email newsletter one of the best around. Somehow, Shane also finds the time to blog for Cision.
  5. A few years ago, Dan Konstantinovsky took the reins at R.H. Blake, a small Cleveland agency serving the manufacturing industry. Since then, he has taken the lead in converting traditional industrial marketing into a modern marketing powerhouse.
  6. Talk about high energy. Sangram Vajre, co-founder of Terminus and FlipMyFunnel, takes the cake. I was pleased to be invited to cover the conference this year, and shared a bunch of great ideas I picked up about ABM. With all that going on, how does Sangram also produce a daily podcast, I wonder?
  7. Jill Rowley, longtime martech sales leader (Salesforce, Marketo) and pioneer in the field of social selling, shared a big idea at the FlipMyFunnel conference. She envisions a day when B2B sales are transacted entirely through e-commerce, and the sales role will evolve to subject matter experts to buyers. “I have eliminated the word prospect from my vocabulary.” She says. Intriguing.
  8. Olle Leckne, a Stockholm-based LinkedIn advisor, has created a clever lead generation process for appointment-setting with highly refined audience targeting. His breakthrough: Measuring the time invested in generating and converting a lead, instead of response rates and media cost. The goal is to get a lead from hours down to minutes to set an appointment. The icing on the cake? Using GetAccept to track proposals as they make their way along the purchase path inside the prospective customer organization.
  9. Seattle-based Howard Sewell, president of Spear Marketing Group, consistently produces some of the best B2B marketing advice in the world. I am a subscriber to The Point, and recommend it to all my colleagues for its wisdom, clear thinking and actionable tips.
  10. Most B2B marketers already know Bob Bly, prolific author and sought-after copywriter. But this year, I am extra admiring of Bob because of his unique approach to Facebook. Instead of the throwaway comments the rest of us post, Bob uses the forum for thoughtful discussion of important and — dare I say, fascinating — topics. Always a joy to read and discuss.

Another great year in B2B marketing. Happy new year to all!

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

Emotions Matter — Why Your B2B Marketing Must Connect Before It Can Convert

Have you ever walked into a store or restaurant and thought to yourself, “Yes! This just feels right.” If so, then the rest of this article won’t come as any surprise to you; though if you’re like many marketers, your B2B marketing may be overlooking the value and importance of that “it just feels right” moment.

Have you ever walked into a store or restaurant and thought to yourself, “Yes! This just feels right.”

If so, then the rest of this article won’t come as any surprise to you; though if you’re like many marketers, your B2B marketing may be overlooking the value and importance of that “it just feels right” moment.

We’re Not All Coolly Rational Consumers

We may like to think that B2B prospects are all like Mr. Spock — coolly rational and unswayed by their emotions, but research and our own experience disproves that at nearly every turn.

Like a Rock, Best-in-Class, or Ram Tough

Credit: Wikimedia Commons by Colin

Lets look for a moment at pickup trucks. There is a large group of buyers who would never consider a Ford pickup truck. And a similarly large group who wouldn’t be caught dead in a truck sporting a Chevrolet or GMC nameplate.

They can’t both be right about the superiority of their chosen brand; which, setting aside functional differences — like towing capacity being more important than torque or vice versa — leaves only the emotional component of the brand.

(My choice of pickups as an example isn’t random. Truck buyers are reputed to be among the most brand-loyal consumers on the planet, though there is some evidence that this is changing.)

Connecting Without Smothering

Back to B2B marketers: For us, the trick is in making an emotional connection without making your case emotionally. We can’t “chew the scenery,” so to speak. We simply don’t have an audience that is as passionate about our services as consumers are about trucks or chocolate or puppies and kittens in need of forever homes … But we do need to make sure we’re connecting with our audience on a level other than “just the facts, ma/am.”

Even with the necessity of a more restrained approach, we do need to create opportunities for our prospects to feel their decision rather than just think it. How do we do this?

Well, there are a lot of tools that can work. Developing personas for your buyers and doing market research into their needs can help you understand motivation and pain points around which emotional connections can be built. Also important are things like testimonials from existing clients and case studies about success stories from people “just like me” who have used your service to profitable effect.

Whose Language Are You Speaking?

Perhaps most importantly, it requires language and presentation that is comfortable to the prospect. Are you speaking their language? Have you met them where they live?

At some point, prospects will want to hear you geek out on the minutiae of your offering — the details and features that make it a better choice. But first, they want to feel the benefits. How does this benefit me? How does this reduce my risk? How is this preferable to doing nothing?

This isn’t an easy goal to achieve consistently, but one worth striving for. Because if you can bring that ever-so-subtle smile to your prospect’s face that says, “Yeah, this is going to work,” you’ve got a winning formula.

How to Select the Perfect B-to-B Data Vendor

Most B-to-B marketers rely on customer data from third party suppliers. But how do you choose among the myriad of data providers out there? Use this handy checklist of criteria, organized into three categories: the data product itself, the surrounding services that will help you get the most value from the data and the factors that suggest the vendor will be a satisfactory business partner for your company. To get started, you need to identify your business and marketing objectives. Let’s look at this process in detail.

Most B-to-B marketers rely on customer data from third-party suppliers. But how do you choose among the myriad of data providers out there?  Use this handy checklist of criteria, organized into three categories: the data product itself, the surrounding services that will help you get the most value from the data and the factors that suggest the vendor will be a satisfactory business partner for your company. To get started, you need to identify your business and marketing objectives. Let’s look at this process in detail.

First, clarify your marketing objectives for the data. If you are going for customer acquisition, your data needs will be different from those for retention goals. Here are some examples.

chart1Next, prepare a detailed analysis of each segment you are trying to understand or communicate with. This will allow you to assess your data needs with precision and avoid buying what you don’t really need. Most companies are targeting a variety of audience segments, based on variables such as customer product needs and customer profitability.

Criteria for Vendor Evaluation

Only you can determine which criteria are most important for your business. I suggest you pick a handful of primary criteria that you deem essential to your company and marketing objectives. Then pick a few secondary criteria that you might consider “nice to have.”

This list will help you ask vendor candidates the right questions to make sure they can meet your needs.

The Data Product

chart2

Services Surrounding the Data

chart3

Characteristics of the Vendor Company

chart4

The world of data vendors is a crowded one. Each vendor has its own strengths, specialization and culture. Your due diligence will pay off with a productive partnership that will take your marketing programs to the next level.

This article is excerpted from “How to Select a Data Vendor That is a Perfect Fit for Your Marketing Objectives,” a new white paper available from Infogroup.  A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.