Live From MeritDirect: 9 Best Practices for B-to-B

White Plains, NY–In his 15 years in sales and 25 years as a database marketer, John M. Coe has seen business-to-business marketing patterns grow and shift.

Coe, president of Scottsdale, AZ-based consultancy Sales & Marketing Institute, said Thursday at the MeritDirect Business Mailers Co-op and Conference that b-to-b database marketing is fast becoming the primary marketing strategy. And that’s not only for lead generation, but also for developing new and more productive sales coverage models.

A problem, Coe said, is that few people have been educated and trained to perform this complex strategy. So in the spirit of educating and training, Coe outlined his nine best practices for database marketing:

1) It’s all about the data. Great campaigns sent to a lousy list will not do as well as a lousy campaign sent to a great list. According to Coe’s figures, 30% of b-to-b names change companies each year, while 66% change companies and/or job function annually. If you’re unsure of your list’s accuracy, pick up the phone and verify the names.

2) Segment until you can speak clearly. Micro-segmentation sets the platform for relevancy of the message, offer, and timing. Segment until the group has something in common, and then speak to those with shared attributes or behaviors.

3) Brand response is not an oxymoron. Direct response is measurable, but Coe said that many brand agencies–particularly the creative people–are uneasy with direct marketing. Take the ad campaign and do a redesign determined by the blend of brand and response desired.

4) Inquiries are not even close to being leads. An inquiry is someone who responded to something. But a lead is a company that possesses the demographic attributes desired and agreed to with sales. And a qualified lead is a company with attributes combined with the knowledge of need, budget, and authority of the individual you are talking to.

5) Lead development doubles lead rates. Coe has two studies that indicate 20% to 40% of all inquiries will buy within 18 to 24 months. But determining the message and offer for each communication to keep the lead alive is the biggest challenge.

6) Digital isn’t the answer to everything. Relying too much on digital marketing will lose sales. Coe said search inquiries have not proven to be equal to the hype, or the ROI, and e-mailing too frequently will turn off even those who opted in.

7) Test or fail. Testing is so rare in b-to-b because of the small size of market, and because control groups are not popular. Coe suggests testing four elements – list, offer, sequence and frequency, and creative – an A/B split, testing by territory, and even digital.

8) Do the math. Analytics is dependent on accurate and complete data sets. You need to be careful, but you also need to do it to determine the cost per inquiry and cost per lead and/or sales opportunity.

9) Integrate sales coverage. There’s a need to increase our sales and marketing productivity, and that means freeing up sales people to make higher-value calls. The result will be an increase in revenue, which Coe says is the real driver.

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