Monthly Archives: March 2010

B2B Marketing Principles 10: Ultimately, think consumer!

The driving force behind this blog series has been to expose the common challenges that affect and afflict B2B marketing. It is clear that planning is critical to succeeding with a B2B marketing campaign.

You must, as a B2B marketer, understand your target audience, understand what they need rather than what you have to sell them, understand the complexity of selling to specifiers as well as users, create a value proposition to differentiate yourself from other providers, use all data you have as fully as possible, create ways of measuring how your business and its brand is performing, use eye catching, interest-grabbing creative campaigns and adopt the latest, and most relevant digital and online marketing techniques.

Interestingly, this often means rethinking your complicated marketplace and your complicated customer with their complicated needs and complicated multi influencer, multi specifier team dynamics, and your complicated product/service solution. But that’s unnerving so we tend not to.

Maybe we should ignore everything that has come before on this blog about why B2B is different to B2C and approach your challenge from a different perspective. As mentioned right off the bat in B2B Principles 2, we are entering the people-to-people era of business communications.

Approach it from a consumer perspective. You are a human being working within a team providing solutions to another human being or a team. Regardless of what it is you’re promoting, rethink the value proposition you give to this person or team. Are you the fastest, the widest choice, the most customised, the expert, the biggest, the specialist, the best quality, the best service, the best after sales care?

It would be great to hear what you think. Please leave your feedback on the blog, contact me on Twitter @renepower to engage further.

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A positive Budget for business?

Millions of words have already been written on the subject of the 2010 Budget. What we know in business is that we have been in the deepest recession in sixty years; one which has left a large number of skilled people unemployed, many companies out of business and an economy that is barely growing.

There was probably more hope than expectation in the run up to yesterday’s Budget statement. Remember, on the back of a grim recent economic period, we are about to enter into a General Election. If we’re honest we knew there would be little in the form of stimulus or giveaway with a huge blackhole in our national accounts to somehow fill.

That said, there were reasons to be cheerful. The cut in business rates will have a positive effect on scores of businesses and may even allow a significant number to continue trading and keep people in employment. Entrepreneurs have been incentivised to continue investing in UK PLC with a doubling of their capital gains tax relief. A new body will look to reduce the administrative burden associated with setting up and running a business. And there are a number of new investment initiatives, not least in manufacturing, which will provide some stimulus too.

It was a budget perhaps designed to appease business, and yes secure some additional Labour votes. It was inevitably thin on the deficit, and thin on the details on cuts required. From a business perspective it could have been worse, and better.

But, I think the best thing we can do is look ahead positively, focus on what we do well and do more of it, target our activity to our best and most profitable customers, and wait and see how takes on the reins of Government in May.

B2B Marketing Principles 9: ROI unmeasured despite being a primary driver

Do you measure return on investment (ROI)? For all the talk of measurement and evaluation, ROI is proven to be the only credible barometer of marketing success but is rarely done well.

Being able to attribute sales to specific promotional activity is critical whether you have a large marketing budget or a small one. Why? Simple. Spending on activities that make little impact and conversely not spending sufficiently on activities that could reap dividends ultimately risks the long term profitability of your business.

But where do you start? The good news is that even the most basic elements of the marketing mix such as advertising, direct marketing and PR can be tracked with varying degrees of accuracy. Advertising can be evaluated against reader enquiry, direct marketing against post card, email and telephone response, PR against advertising equivalent value (AEV) and any onward PR – for example, from regional to national or local press to headline news.

Taking it to a second level, specific telephone numbers, email addresses, post boxes and website landing pages can be deployed inexpensively to support the evaluation of these marketing methods.

But only when you utilise digital marketing do you bring your marketing to life.

Advances in website, email and advertisement design mean you can run alternate versions of your website, ensure recipient mailing lists receive different versions of email messages, and run different advertisement designs on different websites. This allows you to constantly innovate, test, see what works, continue to gain permission and get a greater insight into what your customers and prospects are really interested in.

And you now use more sophisticated ‘attribution’ models and software to track even more accurately which activities really impact the sale. This becomes more important if you operate a multi strand, multi channel marketing program where customers could come into contact with you because of in-store promotion, online and trade press advertising, after receiving direct or email marketing, by searching for you on the Internet or because they read a feature about you. These products help you allocate the percentage of a sale to each element that supported the sale, and provides you with a more comprehensive view of what worked, rather than simply allocating the sale to the last element or using an ‘average’ score.

If you’re interested in attribution modelling, check this blog which was inspired by the Econsultancy session on attribution at TFM&A 2010.

There will also be an entire blog series on the topic of return on investment and evaluation in April as this topic is amongst the most read on The Marketing Assassin blog since the blog launched in June 2009.

My final observation. The best investment you can make in good marketing is not cost, but rather your time. If you are going to spend ANY money on marketing and promotion, ensure you have set objectives in place from the outset. Objectives act as your safety net. When adhered to, they drive activity selection and give you a benchmark to evaluate success against.

Image from http://buzzcanuck.typepad.com

20 steps to a successful event

Been to some interesting events over recent months and have managed a fair share myself.

If you’re considering using seminars, conferences and networking events as a tool in your promotional mix, don’t sour your reputation by putting on a poor show.

Follow this guide to plan, promote and deliver impact events.

Pre event

1. Consider your audience, their needs and where they are.

2. Offer an interesting, relevant topic, ideally with business cases and not academic related.

3. Book an engaging, passionate speaker

4. Select an interesting venue (it’s part of the draw – but not a bar!) i.e. business schools, museums, town halls, football grounds, new business premises etc with optional tours.
5. Offer online booking

6. Offer early bird, group and recommendation discounts.

7. Provide real time attendee information – so people can see who else is attending.

8. Use Linkedin groups to promote your event to your audience.

9. Consider partnering / sponsorship opportunities to cover costs and maximize exposure.

At the event

9. Offer drinks and nibbles.

10.  Provide sufficient time for networking pre & post, especially if a presentation is involved.

11. Consider building in some structure if it is a solely networking event i.e. regular 5 minutes with whoever is stood to your left.

12. Circulate a delegate list on the day

13. Give delegates large, readable name badges with their name, company and title/interest.

14. Provide sufficient time for Q&A if a presentation is involved.

15. Remember to thank sponsors, venue, caterers.

16. Ask for feedback on the night via feedback forms.

Post event

17. Make speaker notes available to all attendees.

18. Give additional opportunity to feedback.

19. Send out a press release and post feedback on your website & social networks.

20. Start planning your next event.

B2B Marketing Principles 8: Slow uptake of digital marketing techniques

The debate has raged in the business press about the merits of digital marketing techniques in B2B.

B2B companies predominantly sell product and operating a sales driven approach, so it is not a surprise that some if not most continue to use unsophisticated marketing methods to drive interest, stimulate enquiry, convert, and remain in long term dialogue with their customers.

Sales teams want material that supports their presentation of the business, positions the product, helps handle objections, compares with competitor products and closes the sale. This in itself gives some context for why communication problems are created when companies try and introduce a marketing led approach to a sales focused business. Marketing techniques, including digital, are aimed to drive enquiry, work 24-7 and when done well keep your sales teams busy.

Companies in B2B can be slow to adapt digital marketing techniques for several reasons.

1/ Information skills gaps mean there isn’t always someone who sufficiently understands the technology or is able to argue the case for its use at a senior level, contributing to a general reluctance within the business to embrace it.

2/ The fear and cost of change (including the cost of hardware, software, training, resource and maintenance and upgrades) puts some companies off.

3/ The challenge of converting from legacy paper based systems to digital can be process obstacle to overcome.

4/ The bewildering selection of database, CRM, eCRM, types and styles of website can put off important decisions.

5/ The emergence of social media and with it an era of direct communication and engagement frankly scares many companies. They have also spent years building lucrative distribution relationships to secure market penetration and don’t want to risk upsetting business partners by entering into it.

So where does this leave us? Most B2B companies operate limited database and communications systems, do not maximise customer relationships, do not leverage prospects, have underperforming websites and limited awareness online.

But the benefits of embracing digital marketing techniques are vast (and will be covered in an entire series on digital marketing in April 2010). Every click, enquiry, visit, recommendation, connection, friend, fan, follow, email, advertisement can be tracked, measured and evaluated in ways offline marketing techniques can only dream of.

As a minimum, consider putting in place the following:

– A hosted database/eCRM package – like Project Sales Achiever.

– A website with a contact form, news and email opt in subscription and RSS feed.

– Encourage (and incentivise) 1-2 passionate employees to start blogs about what you do.

– Register an email address with Google and set up the following

– Google Reader – to keep on top of industry news without increasing the amount of email you receive

– Google Analytics – to monitor traffic to each and every page of your website

– Google Adwords – even if only £5 a month, create a presence in customer searches

– Have an expert assess the SEO functionality of your site, these guys are my pick www.latitudegroup.com

– Create a Linkedin profile for yourself, join relevant groups and create a company profile and encourage your staff to join it

These are small steps but they will give you additional exposure on the web, raise your profile and give your credibility a shot in the arm.

B2B Marketing Principles 7: Poor creative

B2B marketing is often epitomised by lazy and tired creative. I’m not talking about high end bespoke photography or clever five word slogans, I’m talking about the basics.

But if we assume that there hasn’t been the attention to details like targeting, the specifier or an effective value proposition, it’s not a surprise.

Like adverts aimed at equipment buyers in the oil & gas sector with – you guessed it – an oil rig in the background and a product shot in the foreground!  Flick through whichever sector specific trade magazine you like (I recommend Oil & Gas Engineer) and you’ll find at least ten clichéd advertisements.

Or like brochures that rely on over-used stock photography like this I talked about in a previous blog.

Or the use of flamboyant, over the top and ultimately undeliverable benefits.

What do they have in common? They were probably designed in isolation with little consideration of the environment in which they would be seen, with little appreciation of the requirements of the customer or an understanding of the competition and how they are positioning themselves.

To their credit, IAS B2B produced a great piece of direct mail in 2008 when they created 101 B2B Cliches. If you missed it, check the site out here.

And if you’re sick of lightbulbs, targets and handshakes representing what you do, challenge yourself to look at what everyone else is doing and do the opposite.

Image from Flickr

Secrets to better email conversion

This blog reflects on the Econsultancy seminar on advanced email marketing at Technology for Marketing & Advertising, 2010. More can be found at www.econsultancy.com.

If you want successful outcomes from your email marketing campaigns, you need to think about conversion and deal with all the possible barriers to getting them to open it, read it, click through and do something when they hit your website. Yes, all the metrics around email marketing are useful, but they won’t keep your business ticking over if they don’t effect action.

As eConsultancy advocate, ‘think beyond the click’.

1. Start simple. Simple techniques might involve posing a question in the title, placing a big action button in the email and generally giving them enough but not too much so they have to click through for more.

2. Avoid averages. Some ‘experts’ always mention averages when discussing metrics on successful email marketing conversion. But with 2% of prospects opening your email, versus 10% of your customers, an average of 5% gives a false impression of what is happening and what is working.

3. Segment. As a bare minimum, your email marketing should talk to customers and prospects differently. Customer emails need to engage and bind and can be personalised taking into account past behaviour and preferences. You can target customers who have abandoned baskets, failed to complete a download etc. Prospect emails need to be propositioned slightly differently, set out to solve a problem, inform and encourage trial.

4. Create value. Think about the value exchange in both cases, understanding that developing new customers is harder and more involved than up selling and cross selling existing or lapsed customers. Ultimately, know what is in it for them. For customers understand and tap into recency, frequency and value data and build a profile of your most profitable customers. The masters Amazon use expensive collaborative filtering engines to establish what you bought and viewed in order to make similar recommendations. For prospects, offer a service like Hotel Chocolat’s reminder service for anniversaries and birthdays that gives you permission to make contact in the future. All are designed to keep you front of mind.

5. Personalisation. Get your salutations right. Have you deserved the right to use a first name? Conditional content – where certain areas of email (like images and personalised content) can be tailored within an established framework – is now becoming the norm. You can effectively mail merge using data in an Excel – even using what if scenarios.

Above all, keep it readable and keep it credible. Imagine your email without the images – the message and who it is coming from should still be clearly understood.

Image from http://www.theweblog.be