Whether you are sending thousands of emails or mass-produced print mailing pieces at one time, or one-by-one personalized communications, your business-to-business marketing efforts will be much more effective if you take the time – up front – to tailor the various parts of your performance marketing program to fit the exact needs of the recipient.
The experts all tell us that there is still nothing more effective in opening an executive-suite door than a personal business letter. Yet very few of us have the time (or stamina) to compose, and aim, these letters on a truly individual basis, while we effectively cover the market of our customers and prospects.
The answer lies in a combination of mass-produced, preferably printed, pieces and individualized follow-up pieces – each carefully tuned to the type of company or operation, and to the interests and concerns of the particular type of decision-maker you are reaching.
Preparing Your Database for Personalization
Before you can even begin to create the pieces that you will test, you must first be very certain that the lists with which you are working are both complete and segmentable. The old “Name, Company, Title, Address, City, State, ZIP” just will not do any more, although that is what most business prospect files still look like.
You will have to find some way within your CRM (not too difficult unless you store customer information in multiple, not integrated databases) to encode every bit of pertinent information on the entire range of decision-makers within your target prospect’s organization.
You will generally want to know:
- the SIC code or similar, specific to your country’s industry classification system code,
- whether this is a main office or a branch or distribution outlet,
- the number of employees,
- the amount it spent on products or services like yours every year (if available – if not, rate it as an A/B/C/D prospect),
- past purchasing history with your firm (again you can use a graduated scale),
- different departments within the organization that can use your products or services,
- various levels of decision-making and influence,
- and the name and title of each executive, ranked according to importance in making the decision to specify, purchase, or approve your product or service.
A tall order? Of course. But with the aid of your sales force, recourse to customer database enhancement services, reference to past sales histories, and some assistance (if necessary) from a good list compiler, you should be in business within just a few weeks or months.
Once you have encoded this information in a way that you can easily access it for mass-produced communications, you are ready to tailor your pieces to reach your target prospects most effectively, breaking down the barriers of resistance at every level.
Each separate code should be selectable so you can tailor your mail to all appropriate decision-makers, and to those who can influence the purchase of your product or service.
TIP: Remember that even if an individual has not risen within a company, the longer a person has held a particular job, the more likely it is that he or she has attained additional purchasing influence within your prospect company.
Maximize Sales Potential by Sending More Relevant Messages
The more individual buying authorities, the more company divisions that can use your products or services, the more mail you must dispatch to that company to maximize your sales potential. It is incorrect to believe that because you perceive selling only one $29,000 forklift to my company that you need only one $5 mailing piece and one email follow-up for my company.
In some instances, I intentionally send two dozen or more mailing pieces to people at distinct levels of authority within one company at one time to achieve a single high-dollar sale. In other instances, I intentionally send duplicate messages (on separate days) to the same group of selected individuals to achieve that one sale.
And for other marketing situations, I dispatch a series of mailings to several persons within a single company to achieve one sale. All of this is possible when you properly categorize and code each record in your database at the outset.
None of this is waste. You are reaching people who influence each other.
You should also select and tailor within categories:
Let’s say that you are selling a janitorial product to factories (category). Certain messages can go to janitors (selection) only, talking about how easy the product is to use (tailor), while other messages tell the purchasing agent (selection) how competitively priced your product is (tailor). In mailing to institutions (category), you might retain your price copy (tailor) to purchasing agents (selection), but stress effectiveness on rubber-marred floors (tailor) to janitors (selection).
That way, the janitor recommends the product to a purchasing agent who already knows your product is appropriately priced… and you have increased your sales possibility.
Similarly, if your product has one application for one division of a company, and other applications for a second division, your performance marketing efforts to selected names would talk about the specific advantages for the specific division being reached.
Tailor to Specific Job Functions to Achieve Maximum Impact
Now, your message will be so much more meaningful. And when you tailor your efforts to be meaningful to specific job functions, instead of being just a mass promotion, your message gets to the right person and is read.
Seek competent counsel concerning the initial setup of your database – which has now become a group of smaller ‘lists’, or segments, within one file – as you plan the campaign.
Then, when you are ready, you may want to send a mass initial campaign telling all names how terrific your product or service is, followed by several tailored messages that zero in on the importance of your product to specific people within the prospect company.
The reasons why tailored follow-up messages work so well to businesses are:
- They get through bulk email blindness, and gatekeepers (for print messages) pass them to the proper people because they are recognized as messages that the boss should read.
- Your competition is probably cutting pennies from its promotions by sending mass materials, so your tailored campaigns stand out, creating the impression that your company goes a bit further in servicing its customers.
Do Not Use Personalization So Much That You Turn Your Prospects Away
The capacity to customize messaging is a critical component of performance marketing, whether it is done online or through print media. Not only can you target extremely precise groups for focused advertisements, but you can also address them in a way that emphasizes conviction that the product or service you are selling is uniquely suited to each individual who receives the message. And this may be quite effective.
Addressing a person by their first and last name is an obvious example, and it may take the form of anything from a basic email salutation to simulated handwriting on printed invitations.
That janitor wants to know that you understand his on-the-job concerns, but he does not want you to call him “Mr. Smith” in every paragraph – especially since he’s “Joe” to the world and only “Mr. Smith” to bill collectors.
Similarly, the purchasing agent does not want “The ABC Company will save” in every paragraph. But tell the janitor that your scrubber-dubber saves him hours of bending. Tell the purchasing agent that the scrubber-dubber has long life.
It is far more successful when personalization is embedded into the design of the message itself.
- Using the address of the addressee as a starting point, you may talk about the kind of clients you are looking for and their characteristics.
- You could list names of companies you do business within the same or nearby cities.
- You could refer to the industry type or sales volume or number of employees, as indicated by commercially available databases.
A promotion of one of my consulting clients for industrial equipment used not only name personalization in both online and print efforts, but 12 versions and modifications on the landing page and print brochure to highlight how the equipment might be used in certain sectors in several industries.
For the landing page, only the header and a couple of paragraphs changed, but the message became more relevant when the recipient’s industry was boldly displayed. “How this new product can save time and money for advertising agencies (or engineering firms, or law offices)” is much more likely to be read than any general appeal.
Today, the novelty of seeing one’s own name in an online ad, email and print piece is often perceived as a mere gimmick. When it comes to personalization, it is important not just to use the prospect’s name frequently but also to use it effectively and with as much relevance as available data, technology, privacy regulations, and good taste allow.