Today’s B-to-B Marketing: It’s a Lot Like Shark Tank

As a marketer, I understand the challenge of reaching business decision makers like me in a fresh and meaningful way, but I will tell you that as a focus group of one, I despise the direction marketers seem to be headed:

As a marketer, I understand the challenge of reaching business decision makers like me in a fresh and meaningful way, but I will tell you that as a focus group of one, I despise the direction marketers seem to be headed:

  • My LinkedIn inbox is now overflowing with invitations to connect to people I don’t know and now choose NOT to connect to because I know they’re going to simply try and sell me something based on their job description/profile.
  • To download a whitepaper of interest requires me to complete a form that includes my phone number, which means dealing with unwanted calls from a bored sales rep.
  • My regular inbox is stuffed with offers from strangers that want to set up meetings, desperate attempts to sell me data from unknown sources, demands that I click links to view the video about revolutionary new technology that will “change the way I do business.”
  • If I express any interest at all in a product (attend a webinar, visit a tradeshow booth, download a spec sheet), I am relentlessly mobbed by emails and phone calls.

I get that sales folks have a job to do, so what’s the answer?

It’s called Lead Nurturing.

An organized and systematic way of building a relationship that will, over time, help turn a cold prospect into a warm prospect… and from a warm prospect into a hot prospect… and ultimately to a sale.

But excellence in lead nurturing seems to be a lost art form as I haven’t been exposed to many companies that are doing it—let alone doing it well.

Best practices suggest that the marketer try to ask just a few questions at the outset of the relationship to try and determine the prospects pain point (the reason for their download or visit to your website or tradeshow booth), and the role the individual plays in the purchase process (influencer, part of a decision making team, final decision maker).

Based on the answers to these and perhaps one or two other pertinent questions that would help you define your lead nurturing strategy (for example, industry or job title/function), leads should be scored and placed into an appropriate lead nurturing system that will help the marketer deliver ongoing content that will be most relevant to that prospect.

Best practices do NOT include asking questions about intent to purchase timeframes (God forbid you answer “in the near future” as that will guarantee an instant follow up call), budget size (really? Do you think I’ll reveal that I have earmarked$100K on a form?).

Lead nurturing programs should include:

  • Additional assets that can be distributed via email: Content can include a competitive review, an article that’s relevant to the prospects vertical industry, research findings, videos that demonstrate how a product works, etc. These should NOT be sales literature but rather help the company position itself as an expert in their field. This in turn, helps build credibility and trust (key components in a B-to-B purchase).
  • Invitations to webinars where a particular topic is explored. Webinars should include speakers from OUTSIDE the sponsoring organization to give the topic value and ensure the attendee isn’t just signing up for a sales pitch.
  • Invitations to breakfast or luncheon roundtable discussions: Bring in a speaker of interest and discuss a topic that is most relevant to your audience (especially if it’s industry specific).

Over the course of time, you’ll be able to ask additional questions / gain additional insights into your prospect pool that will help you become more familiar with them and the problem they’re trying to solve.

After all, don’t we all want to do business with people we know and like? The reality is, it is highly unlikely that I’m ready to buy after one simple download, so stop treating me like a piece of meat that has fallen into a tank full of hungry sharks.

When Is EDDM Right for You?

EDDM (every door direct mail) has gained in popularity. EDDM, as defined by the USPS, is designed to help you reach every home, every address, every time. You can map out a target area, use demographic data (e.g. age, household income, and size) to select a delivery route, choose a mailing drop off date, and pay online—all from your computer. And, you can create your mailings up to 30 days before you plan to mail them. Simply enter an address, zip code or city and state for your target area to get started. Sounds great right? So how do you know if EDDM is right for you?

EDDM (every door direct mail) has gained in popularity. EDDM, as defined by the USPS, is designed to help you reach every home, every address, every time. You can map out a target area, use demographic data (e.g., age, household income, and size) to select a delivery route, choose a mailing drop off date, and pay online—all from your computer. And, you can create your mailings up to 30 days before you plan to mail them. Simply enter an address, zip code or city and state for your target area to get started. Sounds great right? So how do you know if EDDM is right for you?

EDDM is right when:

  1. Your Business can Appeal to a Large Number of People:
    In other words, since you are selecting a geographic area that has a wide variety of people in it, you will need to be offering a product or service that most of them want or need. A few examples of broad appeal are dry cleaners, restaurants, general stores, delis, lawyers and other small business in local neighborhoods.
  2. Small Business:
    The reason that this works better for small businesses is because they do not have marketing departments or people who can handle more complex direct mail campaigns, nor do they have the budgets for them. Small businesses benefit from the ease of use and low cost of postage with EDDM

So, if EDDM is right for you, you have a couple of choices. EDDM Retail is designed for the small business to do it all themselves, while EDDM for BMEU is for a commercial mail service provider to do it for the small business. The benefit of having a mail service provider is that you can mail more than 5000 pieces per day and they can help you avoid problems with design, paper stock and any other issues you encounter. If you need help finding a provider you can visit https://mymailconnection.com/ to find one.

One of the key benefits of EDDM is all the space you have on the mailer to put your compelling message, add coupons and drum up interest in your business. You only need to leave enough room to fit the Postal Customer info and the indicia. This means on an 8.5 x 11 sheet you get to use almost all of the 11 inches. Take full advantage of the space with great graphic design. Make sure that your offer is clear and concise so that it is effective. Coupons are a great way to introduce people to your business and an easy way to track your responses. Even with EDDM you need to know what is working, so finding ways to track who is responding and with what coupons is very important. The only way to continue to improve your response rates is to know what works and what does not.

EDDM can be a great way to get into direct mail for small businesses. It is not cost prohibitive, can be done by the business if they wish to without too much trouble and allows for more room to advertise. Take advantage of EDDM and find a cost effective way to market your small business to potential customers near you. If you need any help with design, copy or have questions about EDDM a mail service provider near you can help.

List-building 2.0: 7 Tips for Using ‘Power’ Polls For Prospecting

Most people know Web 2.0 is simply the evolution of the Internet into an environment of interactivity, reader participation and usability. Web 2.0 opens up the dialog between user and website or blog. This connection can help generate traffic and a viral buzz.

Most people know Web 2.0 is simply the evolution of the Internet into an environment of interactivity, reader participation and usability. Web 2.0 opens up the dialog between user and website or blog. This connection can help generate traffic and a viral buzz.

But from a search engine marketing (SEM) standpoint, the benefits are clear and measurable: More traffic and frequent interactivity (or posts) equal better organic (free) rankings in search engine results. Getting good organic rankings is a powerful way to find qualified prospective customers.

So what online tactic encourages Web 2.0 principles as well as helps with search engine results page rank, visibility and listing-building efforts? Targeted online prospecting polls, also known as “acquisition” or “lead generation” polls.

Based on the specificity of your poll question, online acquisition polls can help you: collect relevant names and email addresses; gauge general market (or subscriber) sentiment; and generate sales (via a redirect to a synergistic promotional page). Polls also allow for interactivity, where participants can sound off about a hot topic.

I’ve been including strategic acquisition polls in my online marketing strategy for nearly a decade now and have rarely been disappointed with the results. Some websites, like surveymonkey.com, allow members to set up free or low-cost surveys and polls. However, it may not allow you to include a name-collection component or a redirect to a promotional or “thank you” webpage, which is essential for a success.

If that’s the case, either ask your Webmaster to build you a proprietary poll platform or use a poll script. You can find examples at hotscripts.com, ballot-box.net/faq.php, and micropoll.com.

Here are seven ways to help create a winning prospecting poll campaign:

1. Engage. Your poll question should engage the reader, encourage participation, pique interest and tie into a current event. And be sure to have a “comments” field where people can make additional remarks. Sample topics: politics, the economy, health, consumer breakthroughs, the stock market, foreign affairs.

2. Relevance. Your poll question should also be related to your product, free e-newsletter editorial, or free bonus report (which can be used as incentive). This will greatly improve your conversion rate. Let’s say your free offer is a sign-up to a stock market e-newsletter and the upsell is a redirect landing page promotion to a paid gold investment newsletter for $39/yr. In that case, your poll question should be tied with the editorial copy and product, something like “Where is gold headed in 2013?” Investors who favor gold (your target audience), will respond to this question … and engage. You are gaining these qualified prospects as leads and perhaps buying customers.

3. Incentive. After people take your poll, tell them that to thank them for their participation, you’re automatically signing them up for your quality, free e-newsletter or e-alerts … which they can opt out of at any time. To reduce the number of bogus email addresses you get, offer an extra incentive free “must-read” report, too. And assuming it’s your policy not to sell or rent email names to third parties (and it should be, based on email best practices), indicate your privacy/anti-spam policy next to the sign-up button on your email sign up form. This will immediately reassure people that it’s safe and worry-free to give you their email addresses.

4. Flag. Having your poll question somehow tie into your product makes the names you collect extremely qualified for future offers. Each name should be flagged by your database folks according to the answer they gave by topic category. You can create buckets for each product segment. Using our investing e-newsletter example, categories could be gold, oil, income, equities, etc. Segmenting the names into such categories will make it easier for you to send targeted offers later.

5. Results. Use the poll feedback for new initiatives. In addition to collecting names, online polls will help you gauge general market opinion—and could help you come up with new products.

6. Bonding. Strengthen your new relationships. You need to reinforce the connection between the poll people just participated in and your e-newsletter. So make sure each name that comes in gets an immediate “thank you” for taking the poll. This could be via autoresponder or redirect “thank you” page. On your “thank you” page/email, can be a link for the downloadable, free e-report you promised. Consider sending a series of informational, warm and fuzzy editorial autoresponders to help new subscribers get to know who you are, what you do and how your e-newsletter will benefit them. This will help improve their lifetime customer value.

7. Results. Gratify participants with the results. Don’t just leave poll participants hanging. Make sure you tell them the results will be published in your free e-newsletter or on your website (to encourage them to check it regularly), and then upload the results, as well as some of your best, most engaging comments. This is great editorial fodder, as well as helpful to increasing website readership and traffic.

Marketers have used polls internally (on their own company websites) for years. But now more than ever, with its cost effectiveness and efficiency, polls can be used to collect targeted leads and interact with prospects.

Polls aren’t just for finding leads, either. They are also great for measuring market sentiment, doing competitor analysis and new product development; which, in turn, can help customer retention, customer service and sales.

Mobile Isn’t Just About Marketing

When we talk about mobile, it’s often about how we can leverage it to market offers that connect with our customers and drive engagement or sales. … You need to determine what you’re trying to accomplish and then see if mobile could help you achieve that goal. Mobile may not always be the answer. Yes, the mobile guy just said that mobile will not always be the answer.

When we talk about mobile, it’s often about how we can leverage it to market offers that connect with our customers and drive engagement or sales.

The other day, I had someone call me for advice and he was interested in leveraging mobile in his business-to-business-focused company that optimized shipping/boxing for small- to medium-sized companies.

He was unclear on how to use mobile to market to other businesses that might be interested in his company’s services and was sort of skeptical that mobile really could even work for B-to-B companies.

I asked him a simple question: “What problem are you trying to solve or are you using mobile for mobile’s sake?”

He was sort of confused for a second and asked if I could clarify. I explained that he gave off the impression that he didn’t really know why he was interested in using mobile in his business other than that people are talking about it.

You see, just like this gentleman, you need to determine what you’re trying to accomplish and then see if mobile could help you achieve that goal. Mobile may not always be the answer. Yes, the mobile guy just said that mobile will not always be the answer.

The most unique aspect of mobile is its utility. When it comes down to it, mobile can do, and be, a lot for your business that doesn’t involve marketing. You just have to approach it strategically and not tactically to start to see it this way.

Don’t jump to tactics. Trust me, you won’t find success that way.

The most successful uses of mobile are ones that are so seamless that your customers even forget they are using a mobile device.

Because mobile threads through all of our daily experiences, you should look to use mobile to help solve a business problem or eliminate inefficiencies.

I wanted to share three ways mobile can impact your business that aren’t directly tied to a marketing initiative.

Solve an Operational Problem

Not too long ago, I interviewed the head of mobile for Yamaha. We chatted about how they’ve slowly integrated mobile into their operations over the last two to five years. Yamaha originally thought it’d leverage mobile to connect with customers. But, little to their surprise, their dealers and dealer staff began leveraging the tablet application to sell on the floor.

Boats are expensive … As a dealer, you can’t afford to have every single model with every single feature on the showroom floor. So, Yamaha’s sales teams used the app to show customers what a specific product may look like or cost by using their consumer-facing tablet application.

Yamaha realized this was creating a more efficient system to deliver the latest and greatest content to the dealers and make sure everyone was showcasing the most up-to-date materials.

Shortly thereafter, they eliminated delivering printed materials for dealers and equipped them all with tablets and can now deliver the latest product information on the fly.

At the end of the day, the dealers were able to engage with customers and showcase products that would never have to be on the floor to help close deals and give the best customer experience. Oh, and they even saved money from their continual printing costs.

So, if you have a sales or business development team, think about leveraging mobile to enable them to do their job better, more efficiently and always be equipped with the knowledge they need out in the field.

Your Product or Service Can Be Mobile

Have you ever used the app Hotel Tonight or Uber? If you haven’t, you should check them out as both of these businesses rely on the mobile device to deliver amazing customer experiences. Their apps drive their business by delivering a utility to their customer.

Hotel Tonight lets you find last-minute specials on hotel rooms in the city you’re in. When you open the app, the latest room rates will display around midday and you can book for that evening.

They don’t let you book hotels in advance … only that day and that day alone.

Uber is an application that lets you request a private driver based on your location. You can order a taxi, a black car or even a nice SUV. When you need a ride, you open the app and you can see all the vehicles in your proximity. When you request a driver, the app notifies all drivers in the near proximity that you’d like a ride.

Shortly thereafter, you see which driver is coming to pick you up and the time it will take for them to get to your pick up destination. The whole business is powered via this app. Your credit card is on file, so you never even exchange any cash. The tip is included and you pay a slight premium for the service, but it’s amazing.

I was just in San Francisco for five days and used it frequently to get around. I never had to flag a cab on the corner—I just pulled out my phone and, in minutes, I was on my way.

You see, both Uber and Hotel Tonight generate business by offering their customers an easy-to-use tool right on their phones to accomplish tasks that were once a pain to complete.

These are two great examples of leveraging mobility AS your business.

Mobile Can Be a Training or Education Tool

I follow two online marketers and business owners who recently launched their own apps as a part of their overall business. Now, they didn’t just go and repurpose their content from their site and put it in an app.

They wanted to deliver tremendous value that helped their customers.

Ramit Sethi, a blogger and best-selling author of “I Will Teach You To Be Rich,” teaches people how to earn money on the side and get their dream jobs.

Over the last few years of studies and research he was able to give his students word-for-word scripts to help them get a raise, get a job, work from home and much more.

He knows a lot of the situations he trains his students for don’t happen at home … they happen while they are out and about nowhere near a computer to refer to these resources.

So what did Ramit do?

He built an app called Negotiate It that includes scripts to help you negotiate just about anything. You can open the app and find scripts to use to lower your credit rate, lower your credit bill, get a raise at your job and a ton of other common situations. He even charged about $4 and turned it into a revenue-generating product that was solving a super-specific need for his students.

Then there is Grant Cardone. He is an amazing salesman and businessperson. He frequently trains people about how to better sell and sell “the right” way that can actually impact your business.

He decided to create a mobile app called CloseTheSale, which offered scripts of closing techniques for just about every single scenario you can think of. They all have clever names and you can refer to the app whenever you’re preparing for a big sales meeting or you want a quick selling strategy to learn.

Both of these guys realized that creating an app would allow them to put so many valuable lessons in the palm of their customers’ hands to help them reach their own goals. Very specific use cases, but both demonstrate how mobile can be a training or educating tool for your customers.

As you can see, mobile doesn’t have to be a marketing tool. In some ways, these three examples indirectly affect your marketing. But their main purpose stems from something entirely different …

So, I challenge you to first ask yourself if you’re just doing mobile for mobile’s sake. If you are, you need to re-evaluate your “why” immediately.

If you’re about to get started using mobile in your business, be sure to have a problem you’re trying to solve, a process you’re trying to optimize or a product or service that could best be used by a consumer’s mobile device.

What are some non-marketing use cases you’ve seen with mobile?

Sales: That’s How Social Media Beats ‘Big Data’

The truth is your target market probably has five big objections you must overcome to win them over—to earn a new customer relationship or grow an account. If you’re a smart marketer (and I know you are) you’ve got to ask yourself: How will this new “big data” trend help me overcome these objections and sell more, more often? Can big data help you get the job done? Should you invest in it with this expectation?

The truth is your target market probably has five big objections you must overcome to win them over—to earn a new customer relationship or grow an account. If you’re a smart marketer (and I know you are) you’ve got to ask yourself: How will this new “big data” trend help me overcome these objections and sell more, more often?

Can big data help you get the job done? Should you invest in it with this expectation?

I’ve been the biggest social media skeptic I know. Yet, I’m living proof: Social media has the power to help a B-to-B brand create leads and sales like few other sales or marketing tools can—even better than big data which, at its core, amounts to educated guessing. I dare say the rush toward big data sometimes feels like another solution looking for a problem!

Social Rocks at Overcoming Objections of Customers
At risk of bursting your big data bubble … your customers likely have the below objections and your butt is on the line to get more prospects past them. Your prospective customer does not:

  • Understand your thing (product or service)
  • Want to value your thing
  • Believe YOU—that your thing will do what you claim
  • Think they can actually DO what you want them to take action on (use your thing to create the needed result)
  • Feel like they can afford it

What’s the common element that could solve the above problem? What’s the killer ingredient that changes everything for your prospect?

Confidence.

Confidence + Trust = Leads
The key to effective B-to-B selling has always been helping customers believe, not in the product, but in themselves—so much that they pull the trigger and buy. Social marketing offers powerful tools to:

  1. create irresistible curiosity in your product or service;
  2. help customers get confident—help them feel like they CAN get what they want, on time, without any heads rolling and even with a sense of joy and accomplishment.

Even more exciting, once customers believe in themselves, they trust the source of that confidence. That source can and should be you.

This is where a social selling expert not only shines but brings home the bacon!

Hire Social Selling Experts
Bottom line: What’s being called big data is a lot of hype, in my opinion. We’ve seen it before in the rise of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), for instance. The mad rush into ERP investment has been a huge bust for many businesses. The rush toward big data is dangerously similar. B-to-B marketers have many big data challenges to overcome—from privacy to the idea itself being proven out more substantially.

So you’ve got to ask yourself, “Where should we be investing precious budget dollars?”

If you’re a social media or content marketing believer like me, it’s probably time to do battle with big data. How?

Focus on leads and sales. Hire and/or become a social selling expert. Prove that combining LinkedIn with blogging, Facebook with blogging or YouTube with email can create that needed confidence, break down those barriers to selling stuff and identify precisely when and where customers need help in their lives—better than the unproven idea of big data can!

Realize and take action on how social media enables that critical transference of confidence that helps your target:

  • understand your product or service with total clarity;
  • develop meaningful appreciation for your thing through what you prove to them BEFORE they buy it;
  • trust you—that your product will do what you claim if they buy.

That’s what being a social selling expert is all about. What do you think? Are you a social selling expert?

Are You Buying ‘Smart Media?’

Media buying, or online advertising, is more than just a Web strategy to help grow your business. It’s both a science and an art. It involves a bit of finesse, competitive research, creativity and good negotiation skills.

Media buying, or online advertising, is more than just a Web strategy to help grow your business. It’s both a science and an art. It involves a bit of finesse, competitive research, creativity and good negotiation skills.

Sadly, with most online advertising experiences, the lagging partner is typically the business owner by no real fault of his or her own … it’s simply from sheer lack of industry knowledge and media savoir-faire.

I’ve been buying online ad space for more than a decade. Here are my personal powerful and money saving tips to buying smart media. These are “must ask” questions that will help you get the most bang for your buck:

1. Competitive analysis—Find out what the typical industry rate is for that particular ad spot and placement in your niche. For instance, if you’re interested in running a 300×250 banner ad, do some research. Call some ad networks and find out what that ad unit costs on the home page and ‘”run of site” within your target niche. What ad units typically get the best clickthrough rates (also known as CTR)? Read some online e-zines or blogs and get an idea on average metrics so you have a benchmark to measure your campaign against.

2. Ad targeting—Find out if the publisher allows day parting (running ad during specific time periods). This can save you money on ad rates, especially using the CPM (cost per thousand) pricing model.

3. Dedicated email—Find out the size of the list you’re thinking of renting, the frequency the list goes out, and the average unit sale (AUS) per subscriber. Ask the publisher who’s mailing for you if there will there be a lift note (an introduction or implied endorsement). Lift notes help “warm up” the list (subscribers) and boost conversions.

4. Out clause—Ask your account executive if the media agreement has an out clause or termination right. This is important as if your campaign is not working, you don’t want to have to ride it out and waste money. You want the ability to end it and cut your losses. Also find out if you can pause your ad during a slow traffic times (i.e. summer, holidays) as not to waste impressions (CPM).

5. Reporting—Ask your account executive if you will be given daily/weekly reporting OR access to the online ad serving system. This will allow you real-time access to clickthrough rates and more to evaluate if creative (banner and landing page) is striking a chord with the target audience.

6. Seasonality—Each industry and niche has its highs and lows. But, generally speaking, it’s typical to see drops in website traffic during summer (June to Aug.) and around certain U.S. holidays. Research your industry and use consumer purchase behavior to your advantage. For instance, in some industries, the days around Thanksgiving are slower than usual. If you’re running a campaign that falls on this timeframe, ask about getting lower rates or pausing your ad during the slowdown. DoubleClick and ClickZ are great sources of information and often release quarterly consumer Web reports on buying patterns and traffic.

7. Exclusivity—Similar to economies of scale (where the more that’s produced, the cheaper the unit price), if your banner ad is sharing space with other advertisers for less “solo” time, you should be paying less. It’s important to ask whether your ad will get 100 percent of the rotations or sharing ad exposure. And if sharing, find out what percentage of exposure you are ultimately getting during your ad run. This is known as being “fixed ad placement” or “shared ad placement.” If you’re told you have shared placement, this is a great bartering tool to get a more competitive rate.

8. Site targeting—You’ve heard in real estate it’s always about location, location, location, right? Well, online real estate is no different. Find out if your ad will be run of site (ROS), run of channel (ROC) or on specific high-traffic pages. Typically, the further you drill down, the more you pay. It’s known as “site targeting.” Similarly, the higher you go up, the less you pay. ROS is the highest (most broad) level, so it’s usually the cheapest ad location. Next is usually ROC, whose ads appear on certain channels or sections of a website. Then there are also specific pages or demographic targeting. Your goals and budget will determine which placement is best for your needs.

9. Remnant space—Often the forgotten about query, remember to ask if remnant space is available. Remnant ads are those ad units that the publisher or ad network is having a difficult time selling for whatever reason. They can also be last-minute specials or units that are now available due to another deal falling through. With more popular, high-traffic websites, you can save a fortune buying remnant media. Just pay close attention to the terms and conditions in the insertion order, as with most special deals, there are usually restrictions and little leeway.

All of these factors will help determine the value of your ad space and, ultimately, the cost you’re willing to pay to access that audience. Good luck!