By now, you should be on a lot of different lists. When you request information on a product or service you are interested in, you generally get put on a list. Similarly, when you buy, especially a subscription-based product or service (or one you need to reorder constantly) and cancel or do not renew, you also get put on a follow-up list.
And your analysis of how hundreds of others who are responding to information requests follow-up can help you substantially improve your own follow-up program.
In a nutshell, whether you are selling improved widgets or B2B subscriptions of any kind, you can borrow techniques for follow-up from a wide range of marketing operations. Your study of what is mailed to you in response to your requests for free reports, free webinars, or any free sales literature doubtless will prove that most marketers make a lot of errors that you should – and can – avoid.
But most of those errors can be summed up in two basic categories:
- Not being of sufficient immediacy.
- Not providing enough information.
Immediacy should be obvious.
But the information aspect, today, is a vital consideration. In addition to telling me where and how to go about buying from you or your distributor or your dealer, recognize that today many decisions in the B2B field are made by committees. Groups of executives review proposed purchases in order to control expenses in a tight economy.
Appeal to B2B Decision-Makers
This means that your performance marketing efforts must be helpful, informative and meaningful… from three points of view:
- The view of the purchasing agent who shops for competitive price,
- The view of the ultimate user who shops for performance ease,
- The view of the corporate leader who shops for production gains.
All three may decide whether to buy your product or service – and they need a full-information presentation to help them reach a decision.
You must present your message in a way that leads each of them to understand it within the framework of his or her particular job function and particular corporate of institutional role. Each one must clearly see the benefits of your value proposition, your products, your services, in use at their business.
You may wish to not describe every detail in your follow-up mailing (I mean both emails and direct mail, i.e., print materials), leaving your salesperson something to present. That does not mean that your mailing cannot be exciting, meaningful, helpful, and informative.
For instance, in a follow-up mailing for an enterprise-grade SaaS solution or hardware, you could deliver vital data on how to compare input and output goals. You could discuss the relative merits of each version or model you market.
But you might withhold a method of comparing those models for the inquirer’s particular business, suggesting in an accompanying personalized letter that the salesperson can better prepare a “customized” recommendation after visiting to learn the prospect’s specific needs.
However, if the salesperson does not have to visit, if a purchasing decision is to be made based only on information you supply…then, your mailing must present all necessary facts and product benefits.
For instance, except in rare instances, just about any businessperson should be able to make a decision about office supplies, replacement parts, or non-premium-priced solutions, without having a salesperson make a presentation – once your copy spells out the unique benefits of your products.
Getting Orders from Sales Lead Follow-Ups
To get direct orders from your sales lead follow-up mailings, consider each of these important points:
- Send full information on how and where to buy the product or sign up for the service.
- Be sure to enclose a cover letter with your printed literature. Letters work. They also show that you care, and that you are treating your prospect like an individual worthy of consideration.
- Please, pretty please, put your home office name, address, and telephone number on every piece of material in a follow-up mailing, regardless of whether it is online or includes print matter.
- Your home office telephone number should be listed prominently in several places, with instructions for the prospect to call a well-informed contact in your firm. You may subsequently have your local rep follow-up your mailing with a telephone contact, but many prospects will want to pick up the phone immediately to do business.
- When you want them to contact a local rep, or dealer, or distributor, give them the name and phone number of that person. This is easy online but in print if you are worried about turnover in reps or rep personnel, print that data on a separate enclosure so that you can update it inexpensively.
- Each of your prospects is an individual, even when they respond from a business address. Use personalization where possible.
- Two mailings will work better than just one follow-up. And maybe you will need more than two, plus telephone follow-ups. Test different approaches. Depending on your B2B product, its pricing and image, you may want to have as many as 30 or more follow-ups scheduled for automatic mailing, depending on the prospect’s behavior.
- Always show photos of your product or service in action. Put appropriate people in these photos. Do not just send out a photo of your industrial bags or containerboards. Show the prospect how easy it is to use them, with machines and employees doing the work.
- Follow up instantly. Insist that your regional people do the same. Do not let them tell you “I know how to handle these leads.” They do not. You do.
- Plain-text emails and plain print letters are okay for certain pieces in follow-up efforts. But please avoid promotion pieces that look awful because you saved $1,000 for design work.
- You steer the prospect to another source when you forget to reveal the basic price of your product or service. Do give at least an inkling of the price. Then support the reasons why the price is reasonable.
- Present your mailings neatly; do not send your prospect to a 80%-OFF-TODAY-ONLY-ACT-NOW-screaming landing page or do not mail a jumble of little papers as you might in a consumer direct mailing. You are selling a business proposition to business-minded people. Your online and offline promotional pieces are your spokespersons.
- Have and order form online and enclose an order form in print pieces. Even if you expect a purchase order or a requisition, the inclusion of an order form gives a visual command to think about ordering.
- Always state clearly that you will answer any further questions. Many questions may be answered in your literature, but most people feel comforted if they know you will respond when queried.
- Always remind the prospect that you will be happy to customize a product or service, or create additional service, for his or her particular needs. No one likes strictly “shelf” items. All prospects may buy “shelf” items, but they want to think that they can get customized units.
MIT Sloan’s Follow-Up Mailing Sequence
MIT Sloan School of Management employs in its B2B performance marketing efforts superlong follow-up sequences. One of them, concerning their Digital Business Strategy online short course, took 41 steps and 1 year and 5 months to complete.
Now, take a look at your current sales lead follow-up mailings… and another look at those from your competitors and other non-competing B2B firms. Run down the checklist above.
How do your follow-ups stack up? What should you do to revitalize your performance marketing efforts? A few dollars invested now can keep paying off for years to come.
- Effective follow-up is important for B2B sales leads in both online and print formats.
- Immediacy and sufficient information are key considerations in follow-up efforts.
- Different perspectives of purchasing agents, ultimate users, and corporate leaders should be considered in the decision-making process.
- Assumptions about the prospect’s knowledge should be avoided.
- Testing and analyzing the effectiveness of different follow-up strategies is important.