Is Your B2B Firm REALLY Marketing, Or Simply Making Tactical Soup?

Many B2B firms invest significant dollars and hours maintaining a broad range of marketing tactics that may or may not demonstrate economic value. Often, the value of marketing activity gets measured in tactical terms-such as volume of media exposure, website traffic, webinar attendance, email click-through rates, awards for civic participation and social media “Likes” and “Followers,” rather than by tangible business outcomes such as lead generation, conversion rates, acceptance of new service offerings among existing clients, or revenue per associate.

When this situation exists, a B2B firm is not marketing; it’s simply making Tactical Soup.

Here are 3 steps to get out of the soup kitchen, or to avoid it altogether:

1. Put every marketing tactic under the microscope. If there’s no tangible connection between a current marketing tactic and bona fide business results, throw it out. Be ruthless in your tactical assessment and focus on marketing initiatives that demonstrate a direct correlation between activity and a measurable business outcomes.

2. Calculate the value received from the marketing activity. Press releases and related media exposure is a good example of marketing activity that is often overrated in terms of effort vs. tangible outcome. Unless your firm has accomplished something truly noteworthy-like discovering your profession’s equivalent of cold fusion-then the likelihood of your clients, prospects and referral sources actually noticing the media exposure and doing something about it, such as visiting your firm’s website or requesting an introductory meeting, is probably low. Exposure that’s largely based on a firm’s achievements delivers little practical benefit to existing clients and may leave them wondering if such self-promotion will result in higher client rates and fees.

3. Schedule ongoing maintenance of the activity. Unfortunately, many B2B marketing tactics are often one-off or plug-and-play solutions. Blogs and newsletters demand original, timely content; not canned information. White papers and case studies become quickly outdated. Website effectiveness requires ongoing attention to visitor traffic analytics and search engine optimization. Webinars and public forums entail lead qualification and follow-up with prospects.Email and direct mail campaign accuracy depends on a reliable and accessible database. LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook must be updated regularly to stay relevant. Before embarking on these activities, make sure you have the time and resources to dedicate to their maintenance.

THE PAYOFF

B2B firms can avoid the pitfalls of tactical soup by being selective in the type and volume of marketing tactics they apply. Most importantly, they must identify a specific and measurable strategic outcome in advance of any tactic’s design or application. For example, a 25-person CPA firm with an emerging practice among medium-size, privately held businesses sought to add a pharmaceutical company to its client list. Leveraging the life science industry background of one of its senior partners, the firm proposed and published a bylined article on Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) revenue-recognition compliance-a supply chain issue of great interest and value to pharmaceutical industry executives-in a leading life science publication with more than 35,000 print subscribers and an even greater number of online readers.

Instead of simply posting the bylined article on its website and adding article reprints to its marketing kit, this firm understood three important considerations regarding the real value of media placement as a marketing tactic:

  • The article’s content was not as valuable as the firm’s indirect affiliation with a respected pharmaceutical industry publication.
  • On its own, publication of the article was unlikely to generate any viable, near-term new business prospects.
  • For the firm to benefit from the credibility associated with publication of its partner’s life sciences expertise, it would need to proactively merchandise this inherent 3rd party endorsement.

Now that its marketing toolbox contained validation of the senior partner’s intellectual capital in a leading vertical trade magazine, the firm leveraged the value of that exposure. It used the article reprint as the cornerstone of a direct mail campaign designed to raise awareness of the firm and to initiate substantive conversations with CFOs at pharmaceutical firms matching the criteria of prospective clients it had targeted-in terms of geography, ownership, revenue growth, number of employees and apparent levels of sophistication.

The firm’s mailing included a hard copy, personalized cover letter to those targets, offering to provide a pro bono analysis of the prospect’s SOX exposure, which was followed by a courtesy phone call designed to measure levels of interest and to schedule an introductory meeting. Over the course of this six-month campaign, which effectively combined two marketing tactics-media exposure and direct mail-this accounting firm netted two new pharmaceutical industry clients.

Instead of generating marketing activity for its own sake, this B2B firm effectively applied specific marketing tactics to yield a predetermined business outcome.

Tactical Soup was not on this B2B firm’s marketing menu, and it has no rightful place on yours.

Speak Directly to Your Customers

Whether you are a small or large business owner, direct marketing through the mail can be a very effective way to catch the attention of potential customers. After all, everyone checks their mail on a regular basis and, since it usually contains everything from the bills that they need to pay to packages, coupons and an occasional letter, they also need to sort through it.

If direct marketing through the mail is such an effective way to get your ads into the hands of interested customers though, why don’t more business owners take advantage of it? Well, first of all, they need a direct marketing list of people who live within their service area and who may be interested in the product or service that they want to sell. And, if you have ever tried to compile a list of addresses for a party, Christmas cards, or a large event like a wedding, you must know that this is no easy task. That is why many business owners turn to professional direct marketing companies who already have the addresses and interest groups on hand along with the ability to generate and mail out your advertisement products.

If you don’t want your direct marketing add to go straight into the garbage, the fireplace, or the litter box, here’s another helpful tip for success. Send your customers an ad that is part of something that they can actually use; like a bookmark or a magnet. Then your chances of staying in the house, in mind, and in the market are much higher than they would be on a flimsy piece of paper that only clutters up the counter.

Here’s My Promise to You – This Direct Mail Letter Will Always Work For You

Here’s my promise to you:

When you are finished reading this article, you will be able to write a direct mail letter that gets your readers to do whatever you want them to do.

That’s a big promise. And I can back it up. If YOU do YOUR part.

Your part assumes you actually have something worthwhile to offer. And you have to be offering it to the right people. You can’t sell fruit juice to people who hate fruit juice.

So I am going to assume two things: Your product is worthwhile and you know who will buy it.

But how are you going to sell it to them? Let’s write your letter, right now…

Your Opening Line

There are many ways to open. You could use a variety of human motivations — like fear, greed, guilt, hope, frustration, etc. They can all work.

But in my 22 years writing direct mail, here is the best opening I’ve ever written…

“Here’s my promise to you:”

That opening absolutely forces you to start strong with your letter. And it force communicates a benefit-oriented message to your readers that they will not ignore.

Immediately follow the line with bullet points of your promise. So, for example, here’s what an opening for a music school would look like:

Dear Ms. Jones:

Here’s my promise to you:

  • In one week, you will be able to play “Moonlight Sonata” on the piano
  • It will cost you nothing to try
  • And I will send you a FREE music book — “The World’s Greatest Love Songs” — just for saying “YES!” to my offer today

Now, if Ms. Jones is in your target market, this opening will hook her.

So use “Here’s my promise to you” and back it up with benefit oriented statements. Make sure you concentrate on the reader’s self-interest. Examples of other bullets are:

*You will save $2,000 when you buy your next car from us *You will lose 30 pounds in 30 days *Your business will gain a new client by next weekend

See what I mean? If you know what your prospects want, all you have to do is dangle it in front of them. Be specific, make your promises, prove you can deliver, and they will respond.

How a Client of Mine Wasted Money

I recently wrote a direct mail fundraising letter for a new client of mine. It was written to donors who had given the previous year, and the letter asked them to give again.

Here was my opening:

“It’s amazing what you’ve done.”

The letter went on to explain all the good the donor’s previous gift did in the lives of the children this particular organization helped.

But here’s what the client changed it to:

“It’s amazing what we’ve done.”

Then they went on to pat themselves on the back about all the things they did for the under served children of the community.

And that self-reward was the only reward they got — because the mailing bombed.

No wonder. People give money to organizations to feel good about what their money is doing for causes they care about. And the cause is not the organization. The cause is the benefit that results from the effort. In this case, the well-being of children.

Don’t make the same mistake.

So – Now – Back to You and Your Letter

You’ve got your opening and your bullet promises. Follow that up with a statement of how other people have tried your product or service and have experienced great results. So, to our example prospect Ms. Jones, we would say something like:

Thousands of people – people just like you and me – who have tried and failed to learn a musical instrument – have started playing their first song within seven days. Their secret? Our new “How to Play the Piano Super Study Course.”

I’m making another assumption here: You plan on telling the truth. Don’t make up a bunch of baloney. You know your product or service. Use the truth and sell it well.

Okay, we’ve hooked Ms. Jones – now reel her in. Use this transition:

Here’s What You’ll Get

“Here’s what you’ll get” is one of the all-time great lines – if not THE all-time great. Because that’s what everybody wants to know – what do I get?

It never gets old and will outlive the cockroach.

Again, back it up with bullet points. So our example continues:

Here’s what you’ll get:

  • The secrets to reading music in minutes
  • The one trick professionals use to play a song they’ve never seen before
  • How to build your muscle memory to get your fingers to play the keyboard as you read the sheet music

And so on.

Apply this formula to your product or service. You have something to sell – so sell it!

How to Get Your Readers to do What You Want Them to Do

If you’re talking to the right people… and you are making them the right offer… THEY WILL WANT TO DO WHAT YOU WANT THEM TO DO.

So just tell them what that is:

Remind them of your main benefits. Sweeten the offer and give them a deadline. Urge immediate action and promise a quick response. Like this:

Return the enclosed postage-free reply card by January 16 and you’ll get an additional free booklet, ‘Learn the Piano While Working, Playing, Relaxing, or Resting.’ All orders are processed the day they are received — but supplies are limited, so act now.

Tell them what to do, and if you’ve done your job early in the letter, they’ll do it.

Direct Mail is You

It’s one-on-one. You’re not competing with eight other commercials. There aren’t a dozen other ads on the page. There’s not another web site to click away to.

Right now they hold YOU in their hands, just you.

Now’s your chance. Write it. Send it out. And let me know how well you do.