For b-to-b success, don't think big

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Kevin Akerman
Dir. of mktg, Experian Marketing Information 

On the surface, businesses can look very similar – and too often, direct marketers assume they share identical needs. Marketing campaigns take a one-size-fits-all approach with the expecta­tion that responses and behaviors will be the same among companies.

Many marketers use a different strat­egy in their b-to-c campaigns, knowing that consumers behave and respond differently to offers. They know the one-size-fits-all marketing campaign is not the most effective approach and that consumers respond more favorably when the offer is tailored and addresses their actual versus perceived needs.

Most b-to-b marketers have yet to adopt similar strategies. But keep in mind that behind every business is a business owner, and behind every busi­ness owner is a consumer.

For example, look at two businesses in the home construction industry: Both have less than 10 employees, have been in business for more than five years and have a good commercial credit his­tory. What would seem to be the ideal approach is to market similar products to both businesses – on the surface, they are identical. But what is overlooked are the differences between the business owners and the consumer markets they serve.

Amore in-depth look may reveal that one business caters to a wealthy clientele and builds customized luxury homes with mortgages averaging $700,000 while the other primarily constructs low-income housing developments.

An even greater look at the business owners may reveal that the luxury home builder has an annual income of more than $250,000 while the other construc­tion business owner is a renter with a $50,000 annual income. Therefore, it's clear that there are vast differences between the two and a customized mar­keting approach may be necessary.

For marketing campaigns to be suc­cessful and maximize ROI, it is critical that b-to-b marketers have a complete picture and understanding of the busi­nesses and owners they are marketing to in order to reach them with the most appropriate offers.

THE TAKEAWAY
Customize for the varied clientele and leadership of small businesses

 

Mark Amtower
Founding partner, Amtower & Co. 

Reaching small business owners and midsize business CEOs present dif­ferent challenges and different solutions. For entrepreneurs and small business owners, you need to get into the entre­preneurial mind. They like challenges, so offering them a short quiz or a teaser question on the envelope/subject line works well.

Surveys also work well, especially if you offer to share the results with people that participate. My impression is that entrepreneurs and small business owners still look at most things as a challenge and therefore respond well to quizzes. Small business owners are also hungrier for information than others, which is where surveys come in. However, the bigger the business, the less likely it is that that technique will work.

As companies get bigger, CEOs seem to have less time for quizzes and the like. Midsize business CEOs respond better to white papers, especially the CEO synop­sis version of longer white papers, where information is presented in small, useful chunks, or put into a Top 10 list form. You can use the survey information that you might have developed for a small business owner, but just use the results to create a white paper or Top 10 list.

Require an e-mail address in exchange for downloading a white paper or tip sheet. People will not download this unless they are interested in the topic.

The bottom line is that information, especially information that is not easy to come by, is what will get these people to open the envelope or e-mail. Informa­tion is also a great way to capture quali­fied leads on your Web site.

THE TAKEAWAY
Providing relevant information is a good way to generate b-to-b leads

 

JoAnn M. Laing
President/CEO, Information Strategies

Direct mail is still one of the most efficient channels to reach small business decision makers. The keys to a successful campaign are concentrated in three areas.

First, get to the right person. Unlike large corporations, small firms have few gatekeepers and usually concentrate their buying decisions at the highest lev­els. Owners and presidents are the pre­ferred targets, with a companion piece going to the functional managers.

Next, lead off with the benefits of your product or service in the first 20 words and concentrate on getting your message across as quickly as possible. Also, remember to emphasize how your product or service will fit in with mini­mal functional dislocation.

Lastly, offer a cost/benefit analysis and demonstrate how it has worked in other organizations in the same sector or size. Testimonials from other small business managers about their success should be included as much as possible.

In creating the direct mail package, keep in mind that many buying deci­sions are made after hours. In fact, our studies have shown that significant por­tions of purchase decisions for less than $5000 occur after 5 p.m.

Make sure your package is easily por­table and can be picked out of a mass of papers on a desk or briefcase. Sum up your message in the first 100 words and repeat the main arguments in a bullet-point presentation.

Always have an incentive for an immediate call to action and suggest that they contact a person rather than a Web site or mail in a card. If you have a Web site, make sure it is personalized.

THE TAKEAWAY
Send bright, eye-pleasing direct mail packages to the highest-level executives

 

Tony Ellison
Founder/CEO, Shoplet.com

In reaching today's small to midsize businesses, leveraging multiple touch points to reach clients in a mean­ingful fashion is a categorical imperative – not just for acquisition, but also for cultivating long lasting relationships. For these companies, brand loyalty is only as permanent as competitive pric­ing can be.

For an online office supply business like ours, which depends on customer acquisition and retention to determine profitability, we balance our marketing spend across numerous mediums. First, we use target identification and data mining to acquire the addresses (both physical and e-mail) of the companies and individuals who are most likely in a purchasing level decision making posi­tion. We leverage our physical catalog as a branding point of introduction to these individuals, letting them know who we are. From there, we use e-mail targeting to reinforce brand name identity and place us as top of mind. This combina­tion of print and online is the acquisition model on our known targets.

Ultimately, no matter how precise, data mining does not always reach the correct targets. For this, our spend for small and midsize business is on cus­tomer identification, to move them into our known targets model. We use a combination of search engine optimiza­tion and social media optimization to grab the attention of the person in a decision-making position using specific product terms rather than broad-based search terms.

Once the first order is placed, it's the customer service that leads to retention and reordering and ultimately profitabil­ity. Our team calls and follows up with the decision maker to make a one-time Shoplet customer a consistent and ongo­ing one.

Our midsize business customers are able to be successful because of the personal relationships they make with their clients and, as difficult as it is for an online entity to personalize itself, we do the same.

THE TAKEAWAY
Leverage multiple touchpoints to target small and midsize businesses

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