B-to-b marketers can learn successful tips from marketers who sell to consumers, just as marketers selling to the consumer market can also learn from b-to-b marketers.
For a long time, b-to-b marketers were leery of the success consumer marketers were having with personalized offers. Were business customers really going to be more likely to buy an expensive and technical product when addressed by their individual names? As usual, the answer turns out to be: It depends. You have to test.
Of course, today, personalization for both consumer and b-to-b marketers is much more accepted, widespread and goes beyond just addressing a person by his or her first name. Personalization appears on envelopes and letters but also on web sites, landing pages and on all the channels.
Regardless of the channel used, personalization can be highly effective. So here are four tips to make personalization work for business to business marketing:
1. Make sure the data you are using is clean
It does not matter whether the data is yours or you have purchased it, you need to know how it was cleaned, how often and you need to look at the data itself. Many people assume, incorrectly, that b-to-b data changes less frequently than consumer data. That used to be the case but no longer.
As we all know, there has been tremendous churn in the business world, buying and selling of companies, downsizing, etc. Sometimes money to invest in updating data to reflect all these changes was not easy to justify. Therefore, you need to go beyond looking at the data. You need to test it extensively, pulling from the actual data field you will be using. Your data may even be clean but you are pulling it incorrectly!!
2. Go beyond simply addressing business prospects by their individual or company names and use database driven personalization.
For example, examine the purchase history of individuals or cumulative history for their companies (sites). If you are selling multiple products, you should start seeing patterns emerge. Some products or product categories are often purchased together (coincident purchase) or purchased after another product or product category (subsequent purchases).
By learning this pattern, you, like the revered merchants of yore, can offer specific products to specific individuals and business that anticipate or solve their specific problems, adding tremendous value to your brand. You can even select offer copy based on customer needs, e.g. if a company only buys clearance items, you can offer reduces prices and stress price.
3. Make it easy.
Business professionals, like all of us, are extremely busy and receiving an overwhelmingly amount of information through an overwhelming number of channels. Some web sites are growing larger and more complex, making navigation challenging. You can personalize landing pages that will take business buyers directly to content and products that are relevant for them, delivering in one click what might have taken time and caused frustration previously.
For clients who buy a lot or who have a long and complicated purchasing process, requiring multiple forms to be completed, you can create a personalized web site for that company with partially completed forms stored. In b-to-b where products are often expensive , technical and even customized (built to order), you can even personalize content to a customer or prospect’s needs and interests.
4. Make personalization secure and let customers know their privacy concerns have been addresses. This requires a commitment to continual cleaning of your data. Bad personalization raises questions. Because of the potential to backfire, if you have never used personalization, start slowly. Set up well designed tests to evaluate the cost versus the response.
Study the impact on individuals and companies (sites). Above all, ask customers and prospects what they think – and listen to what they say! It’s their turn to get personal!
Mary Ann Kleinfelteris president and owner of marketing consultancy Marketing Solutions Today.