How to improve your b2b marketing results?

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Although we usually focus on a combination of online and offline marketing approaches, most of the work we actually get involved with clients in b2b land, is still very focussed on more traditional methods of marketing fundamentally involving b2b data as their foundation. We constantly receive requests for advice about improving results and conversion from b2b marketing activity, so this blog is about the KnowledgeBank 6 step Approach which will show you some real world ideas about how to achieve this. Here goes: –

1. Start with your existing data

Most b2b marketing starts with data – a huge benefit of a data driven marketing approach, is that unlike many offline methods, you can actually select your targets before you deliver the campaign. There are a number of ways to profile your targets by turnover, employee number, sector, geo-demographics and so on. It is also possible to analyse your data by spend, profit, recency, frequency and value amongst other variables and get quite scientific, though in many cases this may not influence your response and conversion enough to warrant the cost of doing it. If you are now thinking, “but we don’t have that information on my customer data”, you have a few choices: –

a) contact your customers and prospects and ask them for the information (this is expensive and difficult)

b) add this information to your data from another data source (we have more than 70 sources for example, which we can append all of the above information from)

2. Analyse your existing customers

If you have enough customers, you can perform basic analysis of your existing customer base quite simply. Many companies work on the basis of ‘assumption based profiling’ – also known as educated guesswork. If you are thinking ‘hey, that’s us’ you may have frequently heard the words “we have always done well with … kind of companies” mentioned in meetings. This is a not a bad place to start, but an old adage is that if you target those you are already aware of and already do well with, you will struggle to find any new sectors and prospects, so this eventually leads to a diminishing return on investment.

If you can analyse your existing customers, you may be able to find new sectors or companies which prove interesting, but don’t dominate your customer base. If you notice a recent trend towards a new sector in your customer base, this may be driven by something that is going on in that particular industry and this suddenly opens a wider opportunity. This could also be due to new legislation, regulation or a change in technology. If you are performing regular analysis, even at a basic level you can pick these trends up quickly and change your marketing accordingly. Our ProspectCloud solution was designed to enable this for our clients and there are also many other possibilities out there for you.

3. Use the Results of the Analysis to choose new prospects

Often the best potential prospects for our products and services look a lot like our existing customers. This may seem obvious, but in many cases, although we know who they are likely to be, we are unable to find all of the potential prospects that match this profile. This is where a b2b data company like KnowledgeBank and others can offer advice. We currently work with almost every major provider of b2b data to find the best potential lists for our clients and this very much depends on what the client is looking to do. With more than 70 different b2b list sources, we tend to use different sources every time we work with a client. Obviously, if you are only looking for a one off list or even a years supply of data, it is highly unlikely that :-

a) You will chance upon or guess the best provider of data your particular campaign requires.

b) A single source of data will be suitable for all of your marketing purposes.

In addition to us, there a couple of others out there in the b2b space who can help and literally tens or hundreds of b2c data intermediaries, who also do this – find one you are comfortable with, who knows what they are talking about – ask lots of questions and you’ll soon figure out who is suitable. If you want a local one, try asking around or having a look on LinkedIn – often you can also get a testimonial directly on there to make sure you are happy.

4. Test out different channels and use sufficient budget!

We always tell clients to avoid doing ‘half a test’. Often it is tempting to try different marketing approaches such as direct mail, email marketing, telemarketing and so on, in a small way initially, though having been involved in more than 3,000 client b2b marketing campaigns for almost every major company in the UK during the last 10 years, the most common reason for a marketing test failing, is that the quantity of activity was too small to statistically assess the results. If you do a mailing campaign with 250 records and a typical response rate is 1%, this means an average of 2.5 responses from the campaign. So, what happens if you get 10 responses – did it work amazingly? Should you increase the budget tenfold?

Equally, what happens if you get no response, should you give up and write it off as a dead channel. Statistically, the initial quantity of data in this case is actually too low to make any judgement of results at all, so in other words it was a pointless test. Worse still, you can’t gain any meaningful results to plan a way forward and therefore the investment has been wasted – you still had to spend time designing, sending, measuring and so on. In this scenario, our recommendation would be to make your mind up what you want to do and send 1,000 or ideally 10,000.

With direct mail, it is always better to send as many as you are able to initially, assess the results and then refine and reduce the activity to the best performing segments of the data.

When doing email marketing campaigns, by sending more emails you typically also benefit from lower sending costs, so it makes sense to start wide and reduce based on response and conversion.

5. Track the results

If you are able to track all the way from the data selection stage to conversion to a new customer, or even in holy grail land, an estimated lifetime value, even if this is just a cost/yield ratio, you have probably cracked b2b marketing. I still never forget meeting a tiny client many years ago, who had each of his marketing channels mapped to the level of £1 spent to £X return on investment. They would vary the mixture of marketing activity by assessing when a channel was saturated and then have a league table of which method got the most initial investment and return. Every time they tested something new, a bit like the Top Gear “Star in a reasonably priced car” challenge, they could put it on the list and decide whether to invest more or less and also when they had exhausted a channel.

6. Use the results and learning from the previous activity to choose the next prospects

One major difference between online and offline marketing is that with online, you are often pulling potential prospects in, by placing your ad, blog, tweet, banner, etc in the right places, where people who are looking to buy are likely to visit. In the offline world, you can make a suggestion to a prospect. You can select prospects who may not currently have a fully formed requirement, and tell them they could buy something, they knew nothing about, from you. If we bear in mind that based on Google’s estimates, only 17 percent of spend is online, to not use this approach means missing out on most of the potential revenue for your company.

In summary, marketing can be a complex animal, with lots of competing channels, though at then end of it all is a simple calculation – investment v return. As long as you take each of the above steps, even if a marketing campaign doesn’t work, you will gain the knowledge to try something else or to change the campaign to make it work. In addition, it can help if a channel that has worked for years, suddenly seems to be reducing in effectiveness ( this is a common complaint with SEO and PPC campaigns at the moment) as you can vary the types of activity to restore the effectiveness of the overall marketing activity.

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About the Author:

KnowledgeBank work with Companies to develop their data driven marketing solutions to generate profitable new customer relationships. We also deliver social media training, consultancy and strategy to hundreds of businesses across the UK. If you would like further information about how you can develop your own marketing activity or social media, please contact us on 01772 978 101.