4 Ways to Cultivate an Effective Direct Mail Experience

What direct mail experience do your customers and prospects get when they receive your mail pieces? The first moment when they touch and interact with your mail piece is the moment when you either get a second look or get tossed into the trash.

What direct mail experience do your customers and prospects get when they receive your mail pieces? The first moment when they touch and interact with your mail piece is the moment when you either get a second look or get tossed into the trash.

How many of your pieces are going into the trash? Probably more than you think, especially if you are sending to prospects who do not have a history with you. How can you turn your direct mail into a positive experience for prospects and customers?

4 Ways to Improve the Direct Mail Experience

  1. Personalization — This is more than just using a name: your offer, images, and copy should all be tailored to each individual and their needs. This means your data is crucial to get personalization right. You need to capture as much information about customers as possible, beyond just purchases.
  2. Touch — Direct mail is a great way to engage people with touch. There are so many options to add texture. Now, you can really make paper feel like just about anything you want it to. Tactile experiences are powerful, so take full advantage of them: Because other marketing channels are unable to give that experience.
  3. Visual — This is more than just images, it is your color scheme, and layout, too. You want to draw attention and keep it consistent with your messaging. If you are unsure of what the colors mean and how best to use them in marketing, refer to our post on colors. You can now include special effects inks to really get a pop in visual appeal.
  4. Something Different — People crave unique experiences. When you can provide something new and build curiosity around it, you have natural engagement. Get creative here! This can be augmented reality, video, die cuts, special folds, or anything you can think of.

Keep in mind that creating an experience with your mail piece is not all about entertainment, it is about engagement. The longer they spend interacting with your mail piece, the more your message resonates and gets acted upon. It is also about enhancing your message, not distracting from it. Many times, we focus too much on snazzy concepts, which take away from the message, instead of using the concept to boost the message. When you are able to integrate the experience with your message, you drive an increase in response rates.

Be bold and try something new. It does not have to cost a lot of money, but it does need to drive engagement in order to work. To maximize your potential, try personalization along with one of the other three, you will see a lift in results. Are you ready to get started?

Smart Attribution Modeling

Depending on the size and scope of your advertising and marketing spend, you may have spent time and effort thinking about attribution modeling. Different organizations have very different approaches to attribution.

analyticsDepending on the size and scope of your advertising and marketing spend, you may have spent time and effort thinking about attribution modeling. Different organizations have very different approaches to attribution.

To this end, developing a valuable attribution model that serves your goals and your business can take many forms. Herein, I’ve put together some criteria that’ve been used effectively by a number of organizations we’ve worked with to inform decision-making and use of attribution methods and models.

First Things First: Determine Your End

The most important questions senior marketers need to ask going into an attribution initiative, at any level of investment, include:

  • “What is the purpose for attributing (estimating) media value?” You may be surprised how often that answer is ill-defined. Make sure you can answer, in simple business outcome terms, what the purpose of your attribution is. All else fails if this step is missed.
  • “How logical, defensible and credible is a potential attribution methodology?” While attribution, by its nature, is rarely deterministic, it is requisite that a methodology is credible and has robust basis, or a raison d’etre, if you will, if it is to add value. The understanding individuals often develop is an appreciation that the assumptions underpinning any attribution strategy are tenants of the strategy itself.

The right answers for any brand depend on keeping the end in mind and knowing the expected outcome. So the logical starting point is defining your purpose for attributing media value, as described in that context. For example, “to get the best ROI from our advertising investments.”

3 Strategic Attribution Model Levers

In the spirit of keeping it simple, we think in terms of three strategic attribution levers that an organization can benefit from. These strategic levers are used to inform both the attribution model selection and the weighting of channels. They are as follows:

  • Engagement: Measures a customer’s depth of interaction and potentially, the relationship with the brand.
  • Recency: The amount of time lapsed since the last touch. For example, all other things being equal, a touch yesterday is more valuable than a touch 45 days prior.
  • Intent: Identifies a need the user has or information the user is seeking. Intent is specifically valuable in search, and sometimes in social media. Lead generation programs demonstrate intent, as well. The point of considering “intent” is that it prequalifies traffic in a meaningful way. If the consumer exhibits intent-driven behavior — that should be weighted heavier in your attribution thought process.

While the decision to “attribute” always means judgment is incorporated, the credibility of the attribution is higher when media touches are evaluated within the three strategic levers and should always be based on the nature of the interaction — or lack thereof. If a user did not engage with an ad, then the amount of interaction is lower or even zero.

The following chart breaks out major channels and how you might evaluate each of the strategic levers discussed above.

Ferranti display ad chart

Ferranti display ad chart part two

The ‘Bonus’ Lever: Measurability

Measurability is the “fourth” strategic lever, and can be considered optional for very large brands utilizing traditional non-digital channels extensively. A channel that has evidence associated with its performance is one that can be weighted accordingly. When a channel is measurable, the weighting in the attribution model can be scaled to leverage the predictability of that channel; thereby, improving the efficacy of the attribution. It is a reality that some channels however, will have hard measures, while others require more assumptions and inferences.

Brands should give thoughtful consideration to not inadvertently “reward” a channel, simply because it is hard to measure — and, by the same token, not unnecessarily punish them, either.

Over- or under-weighting channels that have weak evidence of conversion value can actually reduce the performance of the overall media mix.

Viewability and Display-Weighting

While reach, frequency and targeting are hallmarks of display advertising, it has the widely known challenge of “viewability.” Viewability is when an ad is served (and paid for) but a consumer does not see it.

When the objective is to improve the ROI of the media mix, ads that are never seen (un-viewable) should be accounted for in the attributed value of the channel.

One way marketers simplify account viewability concerns is by deducting the percentage of ads that can never be seen on a percentage basis when weighting online display in the model. Bear in mind, “viewable” generally means that only part of the ad was viewable for 1 second. Specific viewability metrics should be discussed and negotiated with media outlets or networks you work with.

How Much Is Viewable or Unviewable?

A recent study done by Google identifies that many display ads are never viewed; therefore, the weighting of display ads should consider this reality (opens as a PDF).

Here are some of the issues with viewability that should influence the weighting of display.

  • 1 percent of all impressions measured are not seen, but the average publisher viewability is 50.2 percent.
  • The most viewable ad sizes are vertical units. Above the fold is not always viewable … Worth considering when weighting display.
  • Page position isn’t always the best indicator of viewability.
  • Viewability varies across industries. While it ranges across content verticals and industries, content that holds a user’s attention has the highest viewability.
  • The most important thing is to give viewability consideration and weight based on your own experience.

Frequently Used Attribution Models

Let’s summarize the most popular attribution models in order of frequency of use, and as based on field experience. There are many more models you may consider, and this list is not intended to be exhaustive.

  • Last Click: 100 percent of the sale is credited to the last click, given its immediacy in driving the sale.
  • Linear Attribution: Equal weighting is given to all touchpoints, regardless of when they occurred. Its strength and weakness is in its simplicity. Not every touch is equal and for good reasons that we’ll describe in some detail below.
  • Time-Decay Models: The media touchpoint closest to conversion gets most of the credit, and the touchpoint prior to that will get less credit. This is the best of the simple approaches. It does not, however, account for brand discovery.
  • Position Model: Position model utilizes intuition and assumption to spread the weights of touches over time, heavying up the first and last touches, and considering the middle touches to spread the difference evenly across them. To be clear, this model presupposes “zero” brand awareness — and, therefore, that every customer “discovered” the brand from a (display/banner) ad impression, for example. Blanketing an audience in advertisements can provide great reach and frequency. It also sets a lot of cookies, which can be used to set the first “position.”

Pointers for Getting Started

The closer you can get to individualized attribution vs. broadcast attribution, the stronger the returns. For example, attribution by segment can provide insights you miss when measuring the aggregate.

Channel measurability should be weighted accordingly. Non-measurable channels should be measured by depth of observable engagement.

The Time-Decay model is widely considered a good place for brands to use when getting started in media attribution. Brands can simply insert logical and evidence-based assumptions and customize the half-life of decay based on the Three Strategic Levers described above.

Follow-up discussion and analysis can refine your thinking and allow you to provide a rationale that helps achieve the most credible, logical and valuable attribution capability.

 

Direct Mail: Reach Out and Touch

Direct mail can take advantage of one aspect that no digital channel can ever use — touch. As human beings, our brains are hard-wired with the need for touch. It plays a huge role in our everyday lives. When we are able to harness the power of touch with direct mail, we are able to create an experience that recipients will not forget and may even share with others.

direct mail postalDirect mail can take advantage of one aspect that no digital channel can ever use — touch. As human beings, our brains are hard-wired with the need for touch. It plays a huge role in our everyday lives. When we are able to harness the power of touch with direct mail, we are able to create an experience that recipients will not forget and may even share with others.

Our hands are very sensitive and designed to touch. They have the greatest density of tactile receptors on our bodies. Let’s take advantage of that with our direct mail pieces. Touching the mail piece is required as one gets the mail from the mail box and sorts through the mail. Grab attention immediately with a unique feel.

Consider using these five elements in your direct mail to enhance touch.

1. Paper Stock
Instead of choosing your paper stock by what is on sale or the cheapest one, consider choosing a heavier nicer feeling stock. The lasting impression you give to recipients will help them not only to remember you better, but trust you as well.

2. Coatings
Now, there are many coating choices. Consider how each one could work with your design and pick the best fit. One that is really popular right now is a soft touch coating. When you are able to match the feel of the piece with the message, you have a greater impact on the recipient.

3. Emboss/Deboss
Consider how you can incorporate an emboss or a deboss into your design to add a more 3D look and feel. What could you emboss or deboss that would draw attention?

4. Engraving
This not only adds beauty — it really enhances the feel. Think of all the ways a design can include engraving. You could outline key points or draw attention to parts of images that help to showcase your product or service.

5. Raised Ink
This can be a fun way to add a dimension and appeal to the touch need. You can do it for lettering and images. Get creative!

Adding touchable elements to your direct mail not only enhances the recipient’s experience, but it can drive their decision to buy from you. People make subconscious reactions and decisions all of the time based on what they touch. We can therefore influence people in our direct mail through touch. For instance, when you use a thicker paper stock and a soft touch coating, your product or service is viewed as trustworthy and your company as knowledgeable. Think of how you can influence with touch knowing that what we touch shapes what we feel and perceive.

The crucial point is to add touch elements so they enhance your direct mail, not draw attention away from your message. The elements should work with your message to give it more power. If you just add elements without planning on how they work together with your design and messaging, you are wasting your money and confusing recipients. This will have the exact opposite effect on your ROI than what you are aiming for.

When you have put together your plan, meet with a couple of your top customers to show them your idea. See what they think and if they understand it the way you intended them to. Make sure to get their opinions before you explain what you were trying to do. You want to see if your recipients will get the right message because you won’t be there to explain it to them.

Try to exploit the sense of touch in your next direct mail campaign.

6 Thorny Data Problems That Vex B-to-B Marketers, and How to Solve Them

B-to-B marketers are plagued by data problems. Business data is complex and fast-changing. Customers interact with us through a variety of channels, and often provide us with conflicting information. Our legacy databases are not as robust as we need. New tools and technologies emerge and must be evaluated. It’s a never-ending battle. To shed some light on B-to-B data problems, Bernice Grossman and I compiled a working list of problems and solutions. Here are some of the thorniest.

B-to-B marketers are plagued by data problems. Business data is complex and fast-changing. Customers interact with us through a variety of channels, and often provide us with conflicting information. Our legacy databases are not as robust as we need. New tools and technologies emerge and must be evaluated. It’s a never-ending battle. To shed some light on B-to-B data problems, Bernice Grossman and I compiled a working list of problems and solutions. Here are some of the thorniest.

  1. Data entered by our sales people ends up as mush. They don’t follow the rules; or there are no rules. That may be okay for the rep, but it’s not okay for the company.
    Here’s the best practice: Create a centralized data input group. Train and motivate them well. Give them objective rules to follow. Develop a simple method for testing the accuracy from this group as an ongoing practice. If this group cannot follow the rules, then the rules should be re-evaluated.

    Then, develop a very simple process by which reps pass their data to this group. Dedicate particular group members to certain reps, so the input person builds experience about rep’s behavior and communication style. The bonus: these two parties will team, build a valuable relationship, work together well, and improve data quality.

    Consider enabling the data input group with a real-time interface with a database services provider to prompt the standard company name and address. This can be an expensive, but very helpful, tool.


  2. How do I match and de-duplicate customer records effectively?
    Some approaches to consider:
    • Establish—and enforce—data governing rules to improve data entry, which will keep your matching problems under some semblance of control.
    • Find a solid software vendor with a tool specifically designed to parse, cleanse and otherwise do the matching for you. Test a few vendors to find the one that works best with your data.
    • Create a custom matching algorithm. As a place to start, ask several match/merge companies to show you examples of the results of their algorithm against your data.
  3. When data elements conflict in my house file, how do I decide which is the “truth”?
    The short answer is: by date. The most recent data is the one you should default to.

    But also keep in mind when importing data to enhance your records that appended data will always have its limitations, and is best viewed as directional, versus real “truth.” Be careful not to build targeting or segmentation processes that are primarily dependent on appended data.

    You could consider conducting an audit to validate the quality of your various append sources. (This is usually done by telephone, and it’s not cheap.) Then you can add a score to each appended element, based on its source, to manage the risk of relying on any particular element.

  4. Which corporate address should I put in my database? There’s the legal address and the financial (banking) address, which may be different. Or there may be a street address and a P.O. box address. Equifax and D&B often supply the financial address. The address to receive proxies is different from the address to receive advertising mail. How should I sort all this out?
    As a marketer, your concern is delivery. You care about a bill to and a ship to. Focus on the address where mail and packages are delivered.
  5. Measuring the impact of each touch in our omnichannel world is driving us nuts. Any ideas?
    The attribution problem has heated up recently, fueled by the rise of digital marketing. But it’s really nothing new. The traditional attribution methods of assigning the credit have long been either the first touch (the inquiry source medium) or the last touch (the channel through which the lead was either qualified or converted to a sale). Marketers are in general agreement today as to the deficiencies of either of these traditional methods.

    Digital marketers are experimenting with various approaches to the attribution problem, like weighting touches based on stage or role in the buying process, or by the type of touch—attending a two-hour seminar being weighted more heavily than a content download.

  6. How should I handle unstructured data, like social media content. All this “big data” stuff is getting bigger, and meaner, every day.
    User-generated social media content may offer valuable insights into customer needs and issues. But marketers first must think through how they will use the information to drive business results. First you must develop a use case. Then, you must develop a way to attribute the information to a record. For example, one method to allow the match is collecting multiple cookies to find an email address or other identifier. There may be situations where you want to track sentiment without attributing it to a particular customer but to a group, like large companies versus small. In either case, we suggest that you test the value of the data before you put a lot of time and money into capturing it in your marketing database.

You can find more thorny data issues and solutions in our new whitepaper, available for free download. Please submit your issues in the comments section here, and we’ll be happy to suggest some solutions.

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

B-to-B Marketers Still Struggle With Lead Nurturing

I thought it was widely understood by now that staying in touch with a prospect who has shown some interest in your product or service can triple, even quadruple, lead-to-sales conversion rates. But a new study from Bizo and Oracle Marketing Cloud suggests that business marketers are still struggling to get the most value from lead nurturing programs. Disappointing, since the value of lead nurturing was clearly demonstrated years ago…

I thought it was widely understood by now that staying in touch with a prospect who has shown some interest in your product or service can triple, even quadruple, lead-to-sales conversion rates. But a new study from Bizo and Oracle Marketing Cloud suggests that business marketers are still struggling to get the most value from lead nurturing programs. Disappointing, since the value of lead nurturing was clearly demonstrated years ago, when James Obermayer coined the Rule of 45, which says 45 percent of business inquirers will eventually buy in that category, so if you don’t stay in touch, you’ll likely lose the sale to your competition.

The Bizo study reveals some intriguing issues for marketers today. I was struck by the mere 35 percent of responders who say nurturing is essential to their businesses. The majority (53 percent) said “It’s somewhat important; we have a few nurturing campaigns running.” Granted, these words were put in their mouths by Bizo researchers, but it’s troubling that the power of lead nurturing still seems to be under appreciated.

Further, marketers seem to be using little other than email as their nurturing medium. This is a mistake. Worse, these emails are simply not getting through: Nurturing email open rates are less than 20 percent, according to most (79 percent) of the 500 marketers surveyed.

So let me offer some success factors in lead nurturing, which I hope will help marketers up their nurturing game:

  • Set up a triggered sequence of nurturing messages, using a variety of media channels, with the objective of keeping in touch with inquirers until they meet your qualification criteria and are ready to be handed to your sales team. See the chart in the media player at right for an example. The point here is that a nurture program needs to be continuous, steady and responsive.
  • Tailor the nurturing stream to key variables in the prospect’s profile, like buying role, job description, industry and company size.
  • The tone of the messaging needs to be informative and helpful, instead of sales-y. Your objective is to deepen the relationship and move prospects along the buying journey, not hit them over the head.
  • Use a wide variety of media and messaging types to keep the recipient interested. Adding to the mix options like an event invitation, press release, tweets, infographic, podcast, a survey or questionnaire, video, a newsletter—the possibilities go on. Bizo itself is offering a retargeting program that permits cookie-based nurturing of prospects whose email has not yet been collected.
  • Get creative, for example, with a peer-to-peer letter from a counterpart executive in your company, or a birthday card.
  • Ask for a response to collect additional information and feedback, always moving toward that qualification stage. Create dedicated landing pages, where you can pose profiling questions and continue the educational content.

It’s all about staying in touch with prospects to deepen the relationship and increase the chance of converting them to customers.

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

Writing Effective InMail and Sales Emails: Don’t Ask for the Appointment

Here’s my best tip on writing effective sales emails or LinkedIn InMail messages: Don’t ask for the appointment. Instead, earn permission for a discussion. Then, execute it (via email) in a way that creates an urge in the prospect to ask you for the appointment. Sound crazy? Sound too difficult? It’s not. I’ll even give you a template.

Here’s my best tip on writing effective sales emails or LinkedIn InMail messages: Don’t ask for the appointment. Instead, earn permission for a discussion. Then, execute it (via email) in a way that creates an urge in the prospect to ask you for the appointment.

Sound crazy? Sound too difficult? It’s not. I’ll even give you a template.

Asking for Appointments Destroys Response Rates
“Any time you begin your sale with an attempt to get an appointment, you are being rejected by approximately 90 percent to 97 percent of perfectly good prospects,” said Sharon Drew Morgen, inventor of the Buying Facilitation method.

That’s because most buyers don’t know exactly what they need. Or they do have a need but aren’t ready to buy yet. Other buyers have not yet assembled the decision-making team.

Setting an appointment with a seller will happen—but not with you.

Because you asked for it (too early).

The Goal of Your Email or InMail Is Permission
The goal of your “first touch” message is to earn the right to have a discussion. Nothing else. It’s exactly like an effective cold call.

It’s a LinkedIn InMail best practice most sales reps don’t know about. It also works with standard email and is surprisingly simple.

Start writing in a way that gets buyers

  1. affirming (“yes, I will be acting on this”) and eventually
  2. inquiring (“can you tell me more about that?”)

The goal of your email or InMail is to earn the right to step up to the plate—not swing for the wall.

Slow Down Your ‘First Touch’
I recently diagnosed and treated an ineffective InMail message example on recent DMIQ Brunch & Learn webinar, “How to Write Effective Email and LinkedIn Messages that Boost Response.”

In the message, the sales rep is going for the kill. Big mistake. He sent me an InMail message asking me to:

  • Validate the idea of a discussion about his solution
  • Invest time in learning about his service
  • Understand his competitive advantage
  • Refer him to the best decision-maker
  • Consider a “free analysis” (a proposal for his services)
  • Invest time on the phone with him

This is a common (yet ineffective) approach to writing LinkedIn InMail messages.

A Better Approach
The goal of an effective InMail message is NOT to get a meeting or any of the above bullets. If you try to force these you’ll fail. This is what kills your LinkedIn InMail response rate.

Instead, use an InMail message to provoke a “Can you tell me more?” response from a potential buyer. Use the chance to push on a pain—or surface an unknown fact—that the entire decision-making team will applaud you for.

Get on the radar of all decision-makers by asking for permission to facilitate, not discuss need.

Remember, the idea is to present information (content) that helps groups of decision-makers set aside differences, identifies common ground and prioritizes next steps (in the decision-making process).

An Effective InMail Template Example
Here is an effective InMail template for you to try. Let me know how it works for you? Seriously, let me know. Get in touch in comments or email me.

Hi, Sam.

How are you adding new capability to your ______________ [insert area of business your product/services addresses] at any time soon or in future? I work with organizations like ____ [prospect’s business] to make sure ________ [goal].

Would you like to quickly explore, via email, if a larger conversation makes sense? Please let me know what you decide, Sam?

Thanks for considering,
Jeff

Remember, be creative. You don’t need to stick with this template verbatim. Make the tone sound like you. Adjust it. Please get in touch in comments or email me with the results this approach produces for you!

Marketing ROI in B-to-B: Why Is It So Hard, and What Can We Do About It?

The other day, I had the pleasure of discussing the challenges of marketing ROI with Jim Obermayer, CEO and executive director of the Sales Lead Management Association, on his Internet radio show. Our conversation got me thinking: Why is the Holy Grail of marketing ROI so tough to achieve in business markets? And what can we do about it?

The other day, I had the pleasure of discussing the challenges of marketing ROI with Jim Obermayer, CEO and executive director of the Sales Lead Management Association, on his Internet radio show. Our conversation got me thinking: Why is the Holy Grail of marketing ROI so tough to achieve in business markets? And what can we do about it?

The “why” part is pretty clear: Business buying cycles tend to be long, and involve multiple parties at either end. Marketers produce campaigns to generate an inquiry, and then qualify that interest with a series of outbound communications, and finally pass the qualified lead to a sales rep for follow up. From that point, it can take more than a year to close, and involve a slew of people on the customer side, from purchasing agents, to technical specifiers, to decision-makers.

The sales process is also complex, involving not only the face-to-face account rep, but sales engineers, inside sales people, and others who help get all the buyers’ questions answered, negotiate the terms, deliver, install and trouble-shoot the product, and whatever else needs to be done to satisfy the customer’s needs.

So, consider the difficulty of establishing the numbers that go into an ROI calculation in this kind of situation. Just to put a definition behind the concept: ROI, meaning return on investment, subtracts the marketing expense from the revenue generated, and then divides by the expense, resulting in a percentage that shows how much net return was produced by the investment.

But in this lengthy, multi-party, multi-touch selling situation, the “investment” part can be pretty tough to get at. Frankly, it’s a bit of a cost accounting nightmare, assigning an expense number to each sales and marketing touch that resulted in a particular closed deal. This brings up issues of variable versus fixed costs, marketing touch attribution—the list goes on and on.

Worse, the “return” part presents its own challenges. First problem is connecting a particular lead to a particular piece of revenue, which means carefully tracking a lead over its multi-month process toward closure.

Further, if a third-party distributor or agent is working the lead, it’s very likely that revenue results reporting is not part of the deal. With good reason: The distributor considers the relationship with the end-customer as his, and none of the manufacturer’s business. So the marketer who generated the lead often has no visibility into the associated revenue. Even if the deal was closed by a house rep, you’re looking at the endless squabble between sales and marketing about who gets the credit.

You can’t blame B-to-B marketers for throwing up their hands and relying on interim metrics like response rate and cost per lead. Especially when marketing staffers come and go, and may not even be in the job when the lead generated a while ago finally converts to a sale.

This is why I was so pleased at the arrival of the new book by Debbie Qaqish, The Rise of the Revenue Marketer, where she urges marketers to raise consciousness of their role in driving revenue results. “The revenue marketer uses the language of business,” she says. Examples of the metrics she recommends for revenue marketers include funnel velocity, sales conversion rates, pipeline revenue and campaign ROI.

My conclusions from this investigation:

  • Begin with a deep conversation with your finance counterparts to get at the best way for marketing to serve your company’s financial interests, like:
    • The right approach to assigning sales and marketing expense.
    • Whether to calculate returns based on net sales or on gross margin.
    • Decide which expenses are fixed and which are variable.
    • How to attribute the contribution of sales and marketing touches across the sales cycle.
    • Setting the ROI “hurdle rate” needed to support your company’s profitability goals.
  • Figure out where to get the revenue and expense data—not everything will be in your CRM system. Your finance counterparts should be help you source the data you need.
    • If a distribution channel party is a roadblock to revenue visibility, conduct a “did you buy” survey into accounts to which qualified leads were passed.
    • If the account-based revenue is captured internally, try supplementing your CRM system with data match-back to connect campaigns to sales, circumventing the arduous process of following a lead along its complex conversion process.
  • Set clear objectives for each marketing expenditure, so you know how to declare ROI success when you see it.
  • Get inspiration from The Rise of the Revenue Marketer, Debbie Qaqish’s innovative thinking on the role of marketing in B-to-B.
  • Get an education from Jim Lenskold’s 2003 classic, Marketing ROI: The Path to Campaign, Customer and Corporate Profitability.
  • If to many obstacles are in the way, fall back and rely on “activity-based” metrics like cost per inquiry and cost per qualified lead, which tend to be pretty easy to calculate, being mostly within the purview of marketing.

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

Lights, Camera, Action: Video Helps You Stay in Touch With Customers

One problem that plagues B-to-B sales and marketing is coming up with relevant, timely messages for nurturing customer relationships. A territory-based sales rep may be trying to keep in touch with hundreds of contacts at a time, but struggles to find a steady supply of good-quality reasons to use to reach out—without being a pest. I recently ran across a particularly compelling solution to this problem: Personalized email that links to entertaining, but useful, videos.

One problem that plagues B-to-B sales and marketing is coming up with relevant, timely messages for nurturing customer relationships. A territory-based sales rep may be trying to keep in touch with hundreds of contacts at a time, but struggles to find a steady supply of good-quality reasons to use to reach out—without being a pest. I recently ran across a particularly compelling solution to this problem: Personalized email that links to entertaining, but useful, videos.

Here’s where I ran across this: Glenn Diehl, owner of the New York distributor of Skyline Exhibits, has a team of eight sales people selling custom trade show exhibits and portable displays to marketers and trade show managers in New York City and several northern counties. Diehl came up with a program whereby his reps can send to their contact lists emails embedded with a link to an informative video created by Mike Mraz, a trade show marketing expert with a creative knack for video production.

Mraz was already producing his “Today’s Trade Show Minute” videos every three weeks as a way to promote his own consulting and training services. His arrangement with Diehl includes access to fresh “Minute” videos twice a month, plus a custom landing page with a personal introduction from each rep.

Here’s a sample email (see the first image in the media player to the right) from Skyline rep Al Mercuro, who was the first at SkylineNY to adopt the program and make it part of his regular customer outreach. The cover note is in plain text, inviting customers to have a look at the latest “Minute” video.

Customers who click through find themselves at Mercuro’s dedicated landing page, which includes his friendly face, a short message, the “Today’s Trade Show Minute” video and a call to action (see the second image in the media player to the right).

There are three reasons why I like this program:

  1. The content is fresh, lively and relevant to both the recipient and the sales objective of the vendor. The videos deliver a useful trade show success tip in only 60 seconds.
  2. Outsourcing the video content to a third party like Mike Mraz ensures an ongoing supply of new material for Skyline’s customer communications. The relentless challenge of creating new content is one of the most common impediments (PDF) to long-term communications success for B-to-B marketers.
  3. The program is managed by marketing, but goes out over the name of the sales rep, providing tangible help in relationship building with the rep’s key contacts.

I learned from Skyline’s sales and marketing team leader, Frank Cavaluzzi, that the program is scheduled for some fine tuning this year. Currently, it’s up the sales reps to take the initiative to send out the email. Cavaluzzi is planning to streamline the process, make it more automated, so it’s a bit easier for both sales and marketing to execute.

How about you? Are you seeing productive new ways to keep in touch with customers and prospects?

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