Good Lists Lead to BTB Success

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In an era of decreasing response rates and massive increases in business-to-business mail volume, targeting the exact people your products and services benefit has never been more important. BTB direct marketing of complex, hi-tech business solutions is the most challenging marketing arena in which to build very targeted lists.


You may have heard that the list you market to will usually influence up to 60 percent of your results in any direct response marketing campaign. Send a compelling offer to the decision-makers that have a burning business need for your product or solution, and the rest will take care of itself.


However, that does not seem to be quite enough these days, especially if you are marketing business solutions or services to Global 1000 companies with constantly reorganized divisions, multiple sites, job titles that change every few months and regular mergers and acquisitions. Most BTB marketers soon realize that there are more issues than initially anticipated in finding the right list.


If the business solution or service you are marketing involves multiple decision-makers and influencers who do not conveniently fit into standard titles, functions or roles, finding the right list for a mailing and building a marketing database can become an ugly project.


Or maybe you have had this experience: You developed a killer offer, your agency came up with a creative approach that rivaled a Bud Light commercial during the Super Bowl, you mailed to a list that your agency felt confident would be your exact target market and now you are trying to explain to your boss why a tenth of a percent response rate is not really that bad, considering ...


Here are some proven approaches to combining internal and external marketing lists and building a marketing database of contacts who are the decision-makers and influencers that drive purchasing decisions for your business products, solutions and services:


The mailing list. Several approaches can be effective on their own or in combination. However, every industry, solution and target audience will create unique list requirements, determining which combination of industry publication and directory lists, compiled lists or internal lists will be the most effective. As you test different list sources, you will learn more about the best places to go to reach your target audience. Each subsequent mailing then will become more focused, yielding better returns on your marketing expenses.


Always look internally first. If your sales force is willing or can be induced to provide key contacts it already has in the companies it targets, snatch these up as quickly as you can. If your marketing efforts uncover or create qualified opportunities in the very accounts your sales force is trying to penetrate, you will obtain hero status with your sales force in short order.


When salespeople realize they can leverage the marketing budget to create awareness and uncover opportunities in their accounts, they can be quite cooperative, provided they are made aware of the communications you plan to send their prospects and have the right to suppress prospects they may be in sensitive negotiations with.


Give the salespeople visibility and some control over what goes into their accounts, and they will feel much more comfortable handing you their Rolodexes. You now have the most important segment of your mailing list and marketing database. However, you will still need to supplement this list to find additional prospects that your sales team has yet to discover.


Compiled lists. These business lists are built from many sources and compiled into one database that can be segmented many ways to find the right targets. Sometimes the owners of these databases clean this contact data and add new contacts by phoning these organizations as frequently as every 90 days. If not updated regularly, this contact information can become outdated. It is important to inquire about deliverability guarantees when renting compiled lists.


The nice thing about many compiled lists is that you can rent a segment for a one-time mailing, then after testing the compiled data source, you can subscribe to portions of the data for unlimited usage, which can be an effective way to build a marketing database quickly.


Publications and directories. Next it is time to find a list broker or specialist in list research to help you locate industry publication and directory lists where you will find additional target prospects. Your direct marketing agency may provide these services internally, or it may work with a specialist. Publications and industry directories often segment their subscribers by company size, what types of solutions or products the subscriber makes purchasing decisions about, the department or role of the subscriber in the organization, level of position and other factors.


Often these lists or segments of them will outperform popular compiled lists. New lists come on the market all the time, and someone who works with a variety of clients will have insight into past performance of specific lists for companies or solutions similar to yours.


Industry publication and directory lists are wonderful for finding nontypical contacts that compiled lists seldom have available in the standard selects, but there are limitations. Usually these lists are rented for a one-time usage. However, with any one-time list rental, you will have access only to the actual contact information you collect from those that respond to your campaign. Almost always, the mailing list is sent to a bonded third-party mail house, and you never see the contact data before the mailing. Collecting contact information from responders can be a slow method of building a marketing database but will definitely contribute many of your most qualified prospects over time.


Building a database of marketing prospects is a more complex problem, requiring a more strategic and long-term solution. Though responders to rented lists will slowly increase the size of your database, how can you build a database of targeted prospects that can be available for marketing in 30 to 90 days? Many companies simply subscribe to databases from a traditional data supplier. Sometimes this may be sufficient, but quite often when marketing complex solutions and services to large corporations, response rates from these sources are subpar.


There are times when subscriptions to compiled data sources will provide you with 90 percent of your target audience. However, if the people you are trying to reach are not the CEO, chief information officer, vice president of marketing or director of business development, the typical compiled list contacts available will not be your target audience. Quite probably, many of your targets will not fall within the standard functional roles or levels. Worse yet, the titles that relate to the specific responsibilities that you are looking for will vary radically among enterprises, subsidiaries of the same company, divisions of the same subsidiary and often sites within the same divisions.


There are three approaches to building a prospecting database, two of which were referred to earlier: obtaining key contacts from your sales force and purchasing subscriptions to compiled lists for unlimited usage. The third approach is more expensive but will yield contact information for the specific types of individuals you are looking for, across many of your different target companies. Telemarketing into companies that fit your target market or target company size, with a list of the types of contacts or roles you are looking for enables you to uncover the exact contacts you need.


Typically, a combination of these three methods will allow you to create the most targeted prospecting database.


You will likely continue supplementing your marketing database constantly with external lists to find new prospects and test the most responsive lists available. Once you have a sizable database of the exact people you want to approach, you can start to implement more personalized and focused one-to-one marketing communication plans, building actual interactive relationships with customers and prospects.


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