One-to-One Marketing Builds Sales

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For many business-to-business marketers, the idea of obtaining and then using relevant data to build relationships with individual prospects - data such as purchasing authority, product or technology interest, budget constraints, purchasing cycles and preferred communication channel - is logical and attractive.


Sales and marketing leaders often have a clear vision of how one-to-one marketing can benefit their prospective customers, their sales force and their bottom line. So why aren't they implementing one-to-one marketing for themselves? Or, if they have, why do results seldom measure up to the vision?


Customer relationship management is the business strategy of systematically acquiring and sustaining long-term profitable customer relationships. One-to-one marketing - using data to drive increasingly personalized interactions with prospects - is the engine that can make the "acquisition" part of the strategy much more effective.


For most companies, a measurable gap exists between one-to-one marketing's potential and the results.


One-to-one marketing must operate consistent with the sales approach of the best BTB account manager, scaled to address an entire market and/or geographic segment. Just like a personal database a BTB account manager uses to remember client demographics and attributes, the one-to-one marketing foundation is a marketing database.


And, like the sales methodology that guides the actions of a BTB account manager, effective one-to-one must follow a clear set of principles. One way to look at the one-to-one marketing relationship is as a dialogue between prospect and BTB marketer, with principles and practices that engage and advance that dialogue.


The marketing database. The following steps are essential to building a quality marketing database:


· Merge and normalize data sources, creating an integrated database.


· Extend the database to include the complete target universe (sites/companies, decision makers).


· Organize the sites/companies into accurate hierarchies.


Merge and normalize data sources. When the process of implementing a one-to-one program begins, the marketing team often finds itself staring at reams of raw data from disparate sources.


The first step in making the data consistent is to merge and normalize it, seeking to arrive at one set of accounts and one set of customer locations (defined here as "sites"), with each unique contact name linked to a site and account. Several types of data issues must be addressed in this step, including:


· Invalid addresses, based on either Coding Accuracy Support System or the National Change of Address system.


· Duplicate records.


· Invalid company, based on an inability to match to a valid DUNS number (a D&B service that assigns a unique, nine-digit identifier for individual sites, including a relational hierarchy to other corporate entities).


· Competitor. A typical example is a database initially holding 150,000 records, spread over 10 to 15 data sources. This process outlined may yield 50,000 usable records. This result might be considered disappointing, but it is better to focus investment in 50,000 known valid records than to spread it over 150,000 records, wasting two-thirds of the investment.


This initial step transforms an unstructured set of data into a usable database, with a single format, in which all relationships are connected and each "usable" record verified to offer a high probability of sales success.


Extend the marketing database. The data are now well structured and consistent. It is safe to presume, however, that the database remains incomplete, both in terms of prospect sites and decision-maker contact information. Sites in a BTB enterprise's marketing database usually represent only 25 percent to 40 percent of the potential sites in its target universe, and only 10 percent to 15 percent of those sites are populated with useful contact information.


This suggests two steps, each with several important activities. First, marketing and sales teams identify the highest-priority segments. These segments must be ones expected to drive future revenue, based on past success or future strategy. And they must be ones the sales organization is set up to address. Leads that result from marketing programs that are not actionable by sales are not useful.


Second, marketing acquires, using third-party sources, complete lists of sites/companies corresponding to the identified priority segments. At this point, the universe of sites is well-defined, but we sell to people, not sites. Therefore, the final activities here are to identify the titles of those functions important in the buying process, then systematically acquire contact names for individuals occupying those functions at the target sites.


Achieving 80 percent to 90 percent key player coverage of priority segments is neither a one-step, nor short-term, process. Fortunately, only critical mass is required to initiate program activity, while ongoing database population work can proceed as a background task.


Upon completion of these steps, the marketing database has quality data, data that correspond to the entire target universe and data aligned with the sales force's interests. It is time to take action with the data.


Building relationships with prospective customers. A dialogue-driven approach to one-to-one marketing borrows from BTB sales methodology and is based on the following principles, using the database as the main information source:


1. Marketing must know the stage of the relationship with the prospects before trying to advance the relationship. Though every situation differs, sites may be grouped generally as follows:


· No existing relationship (site/company is known to exist, but no valid contact has been identified).


· No existing key player relationship (site/company is known to exist, but no valid key player contact has been identified).


Key player relationship (site/company is known to exist and at least one key player contact has been identified).


· Dialogue relationship (site/company is known to exist, at least one key player contact has been identified and at least one dialogue response has been received).


· Sales relationship (relationship has advanced to being transferred from marketing to sales).


2. Knowledge of the stage of the relationship with each company/site in the database - and knowledge of the distribution of the companies/sites in the database by relationship - indicates the next appropriate marketing action. If most companies/sites are in the key player relationship grouping, the next step is to initiate a dialogue with those key players.


3. Dialogue relationships occur once a key player is identified and communication starts. There are three definable dialogue relationship categories:


· Early dialogue. This stage is indicated by prospect willingness to provide information on purchase interests, project status and to opt in to future communication.


· Mid-dialogue, indicated by prospect interest in investigating solution information, often through visits to Web-based resource pages.


· Late dialogue, indicated by prospect interest in receiving specific product information, including through conversations with sales representatives.


If the database indicates very few companies/sites are at the mid-dialogue stage, then product-centric communication is not appropriate. Trying to advance the relationships too fast - for example, by skipping steps - results in poor response rates.


4. Each prospect response must be stored in the database, the "one-to-one memory," to make future interactions more effective.


5. Use the correct media at the right time. Each media choice - direct mail, telemarketing, e-mail, Web - has strengths and weaknesses. Taking a small step, like address verification, across a broad segment is a good use of direct mail, while taking a critical step, like gaining opt ins, could call for telemarketing.


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