At the DMA Annual: B-to-Bers Face More Than ‘Anthrax Anxiety’

Chicago–Anthrax in the mailstream is frightening enough, but how’s this for scary: According to an ongoing study by Scottsdale, AZ-based Database Marketing Associates, 72% of businesspeople have had at least one change made to their business address information in the past year. Those changes include new titles, new company names, and new business addresses. The rapidity and frequency of such changes makes the task of business-to-business marketers that much more challenging. Database Marketing Associates president John Coe raised the point during his four-part session, “The Fundamentals of B-to-B Database and Direct Marketing,” at the DMA Annual Conference’s Business-to-Business Weekend here at McCormick Place on Oct. 28.

Other challenges unique to b-to-b mailers, said Coe, include the growth of supply chain management among larger corporations. With this model, the success of maintaining a relationship with a client depends more on the vendor’s customer service team than on the sales force. Then there’s what Coe dubbed “anthrax anxiety,” which is causing disruptions in corporate mailrooms nationwide. “The mailroom will be empowered even more to throw out mail now,” Coe said.

But while e-mail may be an option to postal contact with customers, Coe noted that “51% of all e-mail that is not recognized is not opened, and that going to go up.”

What’s a b-to-b marketer to do? Among Coe’s suggestions:

* When gathering customer and prospect data, include the start date of companies’ fiscal years along with the standard information such as the size of the company, its Standard Industrial Code (SIC), and its locations. Coe estimated that about 20% of companies have a fiscal year that does not correspond to the calendar year. These companies would therefore have different buying cycles, especially for capital equipment.

* Seek relational demographic information–data that would help you tailor your sales pitch or marketing strategy. Coe cited the example of a chip manufacturer that determined whether customers and prospects used 16-bit, 32-bit, or 64-bit technology. Companies using the older, 16-bit technology would receive different offers and messages than those using the most recent, 64-bit technology.

* Have your customer service and technical service staff collect and record information about the calls they receive. Such data often lead to upsells and cross-sells, Coe said. Clients calling about compatability issues with their new software and their older hardware, for instance, may be prime prospects for new hardware sales.

* E-mail customers periodically to update the information on your house file. It’s cheaper than mailing them postcards requesting updated information, and recipients can act upon it more quickly and easily.

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