Tag Archives: small business marketing ideas

B2B search leads: Quality over quantity

When it comes to most things in life, opting for quality over quantity is typically the best way to go. The same goes for your business to business marketing efforts.

Judging a marketing program by the quantity of leads produced rather than the quality can be a disastrous tactic, according to the latest research from Marketing Sherpa.

Their most recent weekly chart aims to outline the quality and quantity of leads generated by search sources.

B2B search leads: Quality over quantity

B2B search leads: Quality over quantity

Every organization’s lead quality to quantity ratio will differ from one to the other. Too many leads and you’re overwhelmed. Too few and you’re not reaching any goals.

Here’s some of the Sherpas’ advice on finding an ideal equilibrium:

Search has become an ideal solution to balancing lead flow because, in many cases, the spigot can simply be opened or closed to control volume. The more complex challenge is controlling lead quality. This requires a much more strategic approach to optimizing not only web pages for SEO but, in the case of paid search, carefully aligning the context of PPC keywords with ad listings and landing pages.

Marketers who are optimistic about the months ahead and said they will be focused on sales growth resulting from an economic rebound, understand that higher quality leads will convert to more revenue in less time, and are addressing the challenge of generating them now.

Boost conversions with simple registration changes

The thought of testing big new campaign strategies may be as scary to businesses as an eight year old watching “Friday the 13th” – both can give you nightmares.

Instead of sticking their neck out with a new marketing idea right now, many companies are switching the focus to improving successful tactics that have lived up to their investment year after year.

The content registration form is one of those most proven tactics – and it’s a place where simple changes can make a big difference in your conversion rates.

The gurus at Marketing Sherpa recently dug through all of their best past case studies and B2B marketing research to find the most effective registration form tweaks that deliver the best results.

Here are some of the most simple ways B2B marketers have improved conversion rates of their registration forms:

Keeping it short. Long registration forms = higher abandon rates. Yes, you want to get as much information as possible, but you could be scaring prospects away with your long form. Instead, focus the questions on the information that’s most essential. Keep it basic, but add a follow-up communication strategy to collect more data once the prospect shows added interest.

Make it voluntary. Give prospects the information they want, whether it’s a product demo or white paper, then ask them for personal information. Strategically positioning voluntary registration forms alongside online demonstrations, and telling visitors that it was voluntary, has the potential to deliver “impressive” conversion rates.

Use secondary offers carefully. It’s usually best to limit landing pages to a single call to action, but in some cases, giving prospects a second option can boost conversions. If prospects aren’t ready to give you all of their contact information, but have the option to download a white paper, for instance, it could significantly improve your conversions.

Pre-populated fields work. If you have the advantage of knowing some of the prospect’s key information, pre-populate fields on the registration form to make it easier for them. One company found an almost 95% conversion rate increase after they started using pre-populated fields.

Take the “reset” button out. “Reset” or “clear form” buttons are a lingering, old-fashioned registration form trend that has worn out its welcome. You don’t want prospects to make it to the end of the form and accidentally hit “reset” instead of “submit.” Chances are, they’ll leave your site before the go back and fill in everything again.

What other tips do you have for improving registration form conversions? Please leave a comment and share what works for your company.

Taking direct marketing back to the future

While many marketers continue their search for the next-best, latest-and-greatest media tactic to get the word out about their product or service, others are holding their ground and staying true to traditional methods.

Direct marketing is making a comeback and now considered the “new black” in the marketing world, despite the opportunity new marketing methods like social media may bring to the table.

In a recent column at BtoB Magazine, Scott Hornstein, president of marketing, Hornstein Associates, and CMO, Wired Assets Data Corp., shares his expert insight as to why you should be putting what’s left of your budget into direct marketing.

“These are the times that try marketers’ souls. On the other hand, this is not the time to hide or be timid. It is the time to be effective, and to redeploy the majority of what’s left of your marketing budget into direct marketing for one very good reason: The strategy is, at its core, measurable and ROI-driven.”

He says there are six critical factors that will lead to direct marketing success:

  1. Integrating direct marketing into your overall media mix. Your customers don’t all hang out in the same place, so reinforce your message across a variety of media tools.
  2. Integrating a healthy dose of customer care. “Our carefully crafted brands can be blown up in three minutes of poor customer care.”
  3. Invest in database quality. The success of your marketing is only as good as your list.
  4. Account for everything, but report only key metrics. Pay attention to what matters most.
  5. Measure performance and set aggressive standards. “Each direct marketing effort should achieve at least a 10% response rate.”
  6. Measure the expense to revenue ratio. If it’s over 25% you’re spending too much, go back and fix your process.

What do you think? Should we take another look at the tried-and-true marketing methods like direct marketing because they are so measurable and ROI-driven? Are economic tough times forcing your organization to trend this way?

Please leave a comment and let us know.

More B2B buyers using Web 2.0 to decide

B2B marketers who dismiss social trends in buying as a strictly consumer trend are wrong, very wrong according to the latest research.

Forrester Research recently surveyed business buyers to discover more about their social activity, with special interest in how business buyers use social media in their purchase decisions.

The survey of more than 1,200 technology buyers in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany and the U.K. with 100 employees or more in seven major industries, resulted in findings that may surprise some business to business marketers.

Key findings include:

  • 69% are “Spectators”—they read blogs, watch user-generated videos and participate in other social media for business purposes.
  • 37% are “Critics”—they contribute comments or react to content they see in social formats. This is the next most common behavior after reading and watching.
  • 29% are “Collectors”—they use social technology to collect information and stay on top of trends.
  • 29% join social networks (“Joiners”).
  • Only 5% are nonparticipants (“Inactives”).

Though they do take peers’ opinions in to account to make decisions, buyers who use social technology don’t rate it highly in terms of its influence on their buying decisions.

“If you’re a b-to-b marketer and you’re not using social technologies in your marketing, now is the time to start. Because many blogs, communities and other social outreach from firms that sell to business are less than mature, it is a perfect way to stand out.”

For B2B marketers interested in integrating social technologies into their marketing mix, Forrester researchers suggest:

  • First, understand your audience. How does your audience like to communicate and where do they go to share ideas?
  • Integrate social applications into other marketing. Don’t keep your social media separate, but a part of your overall marketing goal.
  • Learn from others. How are your peers using social media? Find articles, webinars and networking events to learn how others are finding success in social media.

Stop wasting marketing dollars and start getting creative

To get a clear picture of how much money marketers waste each week all most people have to do is simply take out the trash.

Every week marketers send out thousands upon thousands of pieces of direct mail. If they’re lucky, some will get a quick second look by their recipients before they end up in the garbage or recycling bin. Along with the money, marketers time and effort are also being taken out with the trash.

When most people find direct mail in their inboxes, the immediately classify it as “junk” and quickly dispose of it. To really catch your audience’s attention, you have to find a creative way to get noticed and make people take a second look.

Because we all receive multiple pieces of junk mail daily, it takes a truly creative approach to stand out from the crowd. Will V. at The Better Response Blog recently tacked the issue and shared some ingenious examples of direct marketing that isn’t a waste of money.

Two dollar bill DM campaign, The Better Response Blog

Two dollar bill DM campaign, The Better Response Blog

The first example is of a piece by the Seattle Art Museum to promote the Life Liberty and Pusuit of Happiness exhibit. The marketing piece took the form of a two dollar bill, something most people don’t see everyday. Will admitted he’d likely read it before throwing it away. At least it’s a step up from landing directly in the trash, without so much as a slight glance.

“The point I am trying to make is we should always try to create a piece that no one else is creating. Part of marketing is to stand out and not be typical. Being typical will not catch any attention and is a waste of money. This may be a thought that is always in the back of our minds, but we don’t always factor it into our marketing initiatives,” Will says.

Will showed another good example of a direct mail campaign that not only stood out from the crowd, but was “highly personalized.” As part of a sensory-based direct mail campaign, Proximity London crafted a letter made entirely out of chocolate. Yes, real chocolate.

I don’t know about you, but receiving a chocolate letter in the mail would catch my attention close to 100% of the time. Before I devoured it, you could bet that I would also be spreading the message and showing the piece to everyone in the office.

We’re not expecting you to go out and print your next direct mail piece on chocolate, but if you do just make sure I’m on the mailing list. What we’re saying is that it’s time to start getting really creative with your marketing.

“Do not send out postcards because your competitors are sending out postcards. Send out something you know your competitors will not be sending out. Remember, you are not just competing with your competitors’ pieces, but with the 50 gazillion other pieces who are not even from the same industry,” Will adds.

Ask yourself truthfully if you would stop and read what your company is mailing out. If you think it’s going to land in the trash, it’s time to rethink your idea. Stop wasting your marketing dollars and start grabbing people’s attention.

What creative techniques have you used recently in your marketing to grab your audience’s attention? Or, have you been the recipient of a cool piece of direct marketing? Let us know about it …

Low-cost, peer-to-peer sales training ideas

How often does your sales team go through training? Once a quarter, every other month?

I recently came across a practical idea over at the B2B Lead Blog to train your sales team more frequently, without involving any additional costs or resources.

In the post, Lauren Kincke, Marketing and Sales Operations Manager at ReachForce, shared how frequent, peer-to-peer training has helped their sales team to reach and exceed their goals.

Here’s part of their story:

Our typical training regime used to be comprised solely of a full-day quarterly kickoff.  During that time we would run through a few “sales” skills specific sessions, some background on our industry, and a piece on what we do and how we do it (for newbies).   Part team-building, part skills training, it was an exhausting day and by the end of it some of our more ADD inclined employees had mentally checked out.  Recently we decided to make some changes.

First, instead of only hosting training sessions on a once a quarter basis, each of our weekly sales meetings would be host to a mini-session led by a sales rep.  Second, our quarterly sales training meeting would be shortened to a little over half a day.

During their weekly sales meetings, employees were assigned and presented topics ranging from overcoming customer objections, to managing your time effectively to advice on how to prepare for a first call.

There’s no set format for how employees can present the material. Some have found success using PowerPoint presentations and others have simply discussed the topics in front of the class.

“I can’t say that we’ve measured our results, but I can say that our reps have been able to put these things into practice as quickly as they are being taught.  One of the greatest things about this training is that it is led in a peer to peer setting.”

It’s an interesting training idea that gets everyone involved in the process. Apart from learning how to be more efficient at work, the peer-to-peer sales training strengthens the bonds between coworkers and improves engagement across the board.

Moreover, the training method helps businesses save money by eliminating the need to bring in outside training providers and lessening the time employees spend away from their work. When combined with a formal sales training program, the peer-to-peer method has the potential to bring success to almost any business.

Do you think a training method like this could work in you organization? What benefits does peer-to-peer sales training offer that traditional training can’t deliver?

Taking terrible customer service to the Internet

Thirty years ago, when a customer was upset with a company over their poor customer service they could spread the word by calling friends on the phone, sending a complaint letter, or could possibly go as far as to write an editorial in their local newspaper.

Today, letting others know about shoddy customer service is as simple as pressing the power button on your computer.

Case in point, this disgruntled customer and author at Gaebler.com:

If you are doing business these days, you have to recognize that the world has changed. As consumers, we expect good customer service. If we don’t get it, we don’t just forgive and forget. We never buy from you again. We tell our friends not to buy from you. We tell the world not to buy from you.

That’s right. In the days of blogs and search engines, customers have the final word. That’s why you need to bend over backward to keep them happy. Because the happy customers stay quiet. It’s the angry customers who speak up, and deter others from doing business with you.

After a terrible experience with a major computer manufacturer, this customer made it his “new hobby” to let everyone know about it. He’s estimated that his tactics could potentially move $500,000 in sales away from the company by not buying their product for his organizations and compelling others to do the same.

Whether he hit his goal or not will continue to be a mystery, but it still shows the lengths to which an angry customer will go in order to get their voice heard.

Training customer service representative to resolve customer complaints is essential to the success of your business. As soon as a customer feels like they have been mistreated, they can quickly get online to start telling all of their friends and online connections about it.

Always remember the tried-and-true formula that a happy customer will tell one of their friends, but an unhappy customer will tell three. If that unhappy customer is active in social media, they may be able to quickly spread their story to 300,000 of their friends in just a matter of minutes.

Technology is forcing customer service to reach new levels of satisfaction. Representatives must be aware that the customer on the other end of the phone can easily spread the word about their experience just minutes after the call is over.

But it doesn’t have to be all gloom and doom. When a disgruntled customer vents about their problem on the internet, it could give your company a second chance to resolve their problem that you may have initially overlooked.

Say you come across a blog post from a customer who recently had a terrible experience with your company, what’s the best thing you should do?

For starters, you could leave a comment on their blog as a representative of your company. Tell the customer that you’d personally like to help with their problem.

If you can’t personally do anything to remedy the problem, continue to work with the customer until they are satisfied. Connect them with someone else in your organization that could help and remember to follow up to see if their issue was resolved.

Listen to what customers are saying about you online with tools like Google Alerts. If what they have to say is positive, tell them ‘thank you’ for their kind words. If their words aren’t so kind, ask them how you can help.

When customers share their opinions about your company on the Internet it can either be good or bad (sometimes, really bad). It’s up to you to determine how to handle the comments once they’re made.