Strategies are the use of plans and methods needed to achieve a specific program objective. Direct sale strategies have a single goal – to make a straight sale with no support from the sales staff. Sales support performance marketing strategies, however, are only one part of the selling process where salespeople actually make the sale.
Performance marketing strategies are, in effect, the marketing and sales strategies for direct sale objectives. In sales support, they complement the general marketing and sales strategies.
Marketing Strategies for B2B Direct Sales or Immediate, Non-Complex Sales
When you choose direct sales as a channel of selling (e.g. via an order form on a landing page or via ecommerce means) you have to prepare to commit to a long-range strategic plan. You have to commit time and resources, often for one or two years before your operation becomes profitable.
Each direct sales promotion has sales goals that become more and more specific as the early stages of testing evolve into a mature operation. These performance marketing strategies continue over the life of a specific sales plan for each of your products. And when a plan changes, strategies usually change also.
Launching a B2B direct sales operation requires long-range planning, marketing planning, and creative planning. These are the major strategies and tactics most commonly followed by today’s successful business-to-business ecommerce companies:
- Investigate fully with a feasibility study before launching a new B2B ecommerce operation. Look for a niche to fill.
- Offer market-driven products.
- Build a long-term customer, not a one-time sale.
- Employ customer development techniques.
- Position the B2B ecommerce with a unique image in the market to be served.
- Organize B2B ecommerce operation as a separate cost center business unit with a solid financial plan.
- Build a B2B customer database.
- Organize an entrepreneurial management team committed to the B2B ecommerce / direct sales operation.
- Staff with experienced customer service personnel.
- Establish marketing orientation in back-end operation, especially financial.
- Use market research to reduce risk.
- Explore available audience and traffic sources for best combinations of target markets.
- Target several markets with different offers to each.
- Concentrate on one or a few narrow market segments only if the budget is limited.
- Do not limit sales to items you presently produce or distribute.
- Do not limit sales to your present customer base.
- Seek opportunities to create separate “spin-off” ventures for selected segments of customer list.
- Provide high-profit, market-responsive products.
- Do not depend on price alone as the main selling strategy.
- Feature products that fit a specified image. The more exclusive or unique, the better.
- Choose products that have a definable and accessible market.
- Choose products that have reasonable shipping and handling costs.
- Choose products that can lead to future sales of supplies, accessories, replacements, paid support, consulting or training.
- Trade on winners; forget losers.
- Write to the specific audience only. Speak the audience’s language. Be brief.
- Look for special reasons why the audience should buy from your B2B ecommerce.
- Highlight benefit copy first, then features and functions for each product or service.
- Use headlines to tell benefits of one product, a group of products, or related products.
- Make it easy to determine what the product will do for the reader.
- Replace editorial puffery with hard-sell editorial.
- Match copy and graphics with your image.
- Understand B2B prospect’s tendency to view pictures first, price second, and text third.
- Get closer to the customer with involvement techniques.
- Convince the prospect that doing business with your ecommerce is fast, easy, and risk-free.
a. Repeat the toll-free 800 number as well as “order now” call-to-actions often.
b. Repeat the guarantee near the order form.
c. Include personal bank card payment, bill-me-later and invoice options .
d. Keep the shipping rates simple.
- Maximize the value of prime readership pages and their parts (home page, header, the first screen).
- Employ a graphic design concept to the entire ecommerce site.
- Group individual photos of products by customer use.
- Use graphic symbols to identify product groupings.
- Take advantage of attention-getting value of photography and graphic dominance.
- Vary layout and color to fit the product,
- Keep font large.
- Give every product in the ecommerce site an opportunity to do its selling job.
- Do not oversell the site or products.
You can maximize chances of reaching your goals and ensure long-term marketing success by using these proven direct sales strategies. Six of these strategies deserve special attention.
B2B Marketing Strategy: Offer Market-Driven Products
Business-to-business ecommerce marketers find that a market-driven product strategy is best for long-term growth. Products selected should meet the needs of your niche markets. You can get customers to tell you which products should be carried in your ecommerce site by using creative approaches.
For instance, one of my consulting clients, a leader in the highly competitive business training field, solicited new product ideas with a contest and received 450 new ideas. Then, 12 months later, it followed up with a questionnaire to its customers, requesting more new product ideas along with demographic information.
See more on product and service advanced concept testing here: How To Choose The Winning Product Ideas for Your B2C or B2B Business (And It’s Not About the Obvious Wet Testing or Lean Method).
Some innovative B2B ecommerce ventures sponsor monthly focus group sessions with customers to improve site’s content and service. Because a large portion of the profit, if not all of it, comes from existing customers, it pays for the B2B marketer to get customer input and continually analyze the variety of products and services offered.
B2B Marketing Strategy: Develop a Long-term Customer, Not a One-Time Sale
The cost of getting a new customer often exceeds the gross income received from the first sale made to that customer. It is a common strategy in business-to-business direct sales performance marketing that you invest in new customers at an initial loss, since it is the lifetime value of the customer that determines your customer’s ultimate profitability. And even though business buyers tend to be more loyal than their consumer counterparts, they cannot be neglected.
Your customer database should produce three or four times more orders than could be generated from well-targeted and segmented outside prospect databases. For instance, a client of mine, a B2B ecommerce specialized in selling optical equipment to engineers, expects six repeat orders from every new customer secured. Building this profitable long-term relationship with potential customers means you mail, call and “touch” them by a multitude of channels and media frequently.
B2B Marketing Strategy: Employ Customer Development Techniques
Making every customer contact positive is a solid step in your customer development program. Solo mailings (both emails and direct mail) serve as cordial contacts between new product releases and your usual promotional campaigns. Keeping your customers educated by webinars, whitepapers, how-to guides, as well as informed about credit, billing, complaint procedures, and delivery provides quality service before, during, and after each purchase.
Order confirmation by phone is appreciated by customers and gives you a reason to sell benefits of quantity purchases and explore possible customer needs for accessory items, supplies, training or consulting work. Combinations of email, retargeting, direct mail and telemarketing promotions encourage increased order size, purchase of additional products, and more frequent purchases.
B2B Marketing Strategy: Establish a Unique Image in the Market Served
Product differentiation is one of the best contributors to the unique image you need for B2B ecommerce success. Of course, to capitalize on the uniqueness, each of your promotions must highlight the special feature. For instance, a policy of offering dramatic prices can make a big difference in how you are perceived by the marketplace.
Also a policy of providing special customer service, such as getting an order to the prospect in 12 hours instead of in 48 hours, or selling products on a bill-me-later basis when your competitors require prepayment, can identify you as special. This kind of service can distance you from competitors.
B2B Marketing Strategy: Provide High-Profit, Market-Responsive Products
The most profitable products are those that have features not readily available in other products, reasonable shipping and handling costs, and high-interest turnover (i.e., are purchased fairly often) and are products that lead to additional sales of accessory items, supplies, replacements, and training.
Of course, these products must have real value to the person and company making the purchase. It is a tall order, but if you are an innovative marketer and can find products that fit the mold, you can build customer loyalty, making it very difficult for competition to move in.
B2B Marketing Strategy: Target Several Markets with Different Offers to Each
More conversions result when your campaigns speak directly to the interest of each market segment rather than to the larger marketplace as a whole. Personalized promotional pieces can highlight high-interest products targeted to narrow markets.
Using different copy approaches for different markets, while the product line and product benefits are the same for all markets, may be a successful technique for you. One of my B2B clients has used 25 different offers among various segments in only one campaign.
Marketing Strategies for B2B Sales Support or Assisting in Complex-Sales
In sales support performance marketing the strategies are normally related to and developed within the major use categories that include research, building awareness, generating leads and reinforcing a planned sales call. It is within the context of your individual uses and your specific objectives to be met where you develop your strategies.
Most strategies for sales support performance marketing require more than a “one-shot” mailing piece, landing page visit or phone call to get the job done. Campaigns designed to penetrate key accounts, keep present customers sold, and help build customer loyalty need several touches in a series to make an impact.
You need to maintain continuity of contact with appropriate messages in order to build customer and prospect awareness to meaningful levels. This process of educating involves the principle of repetition through a series of messages to each buying influencer.
In most cases, lead generation mailings should also be scheduled for more than one mailing during a campaign or a plan period. Actually, as long as responses result and can be profitably processed, additional mailings should continue for extended periods.
Many lead generation specialists will schedule waves of three mailings, all with the same offer, spaced weekly or biweekly. On an average, the first mailing of a three-piece lead generation mailing series to business and industrial universes, mailed two weeks apart, each with the same information offer but not the same benefits message, will receive about 45 percent of the total of all inquiries received from all three mailings. Thirty-five percent of responses result from the second mailing and 20 percent from the third.
There are many strategies in the various categories of sales support performance marketing. Here is the list of the major strategies and tactics in use today by leading business-to-business sales support performance marketing users:
Long-Term Strategic Planning
- Institutionalize direct mail, email, LinkedIn ads and inMails, content marketing, retargeting and telemarketing as an integral part of the marketing mix.
- Build responsibility and accountability for sales support performance marketing into communication division’s charter.
- Build a customer and key prospect database.
- Establish resources knowledgeable in business-to-business sales support performance marketing techniques.
- Position the company and its products with a unique image in the market to be served.
- Help build long-term customers.
- Merchandise strategic benefits of performance marketing sales support programs to inside sales and field sales force.
- Bring prospects closer to the company and its salespeople.
- Measure all leads against qualification criteria.
- Test audience and traffic segments, offer options, and creative approaches continually as a by-product of making a scheduled campaign.
- Build measurement yardstick into every indirect response campaign.
- Spell out measurable objectives for every performance marketing promotion.
- Conduct a continuing internal “seminar” with marketing and sales management on advanced principles and procedures of sales support performance marketing.
- Explore key audience and traffic sources for best prospect markets to target.
- Create opportunities to contact selected segments of the marketplace.
- Target only definable and accessible markets.
- Maintain continuing communications with the B2B customer.
- Concentrate on promoting to market segments according to a value hierarchy.
- Provide a continuous flow of sales leads to the sales force.
- Establish customer-development performance marketing programs.
- Use the toll-free 800 number on all promotions.
- Establish instant turnaround on all lead fulfillment. This includes PDF- or online video-based content as well as print whitepapers, live consultations, etc.
- Build rapport with your B2B reader.
- Match all elements of performance marketing with corporate image.
- Design campaigns to appeal to a non-consumer audience.
- Think like a buyer, not like a seller.
- Speak the language of the business audience.
- Spell out messages in terms of what the reader wants to hear.
- Maximize the value of personalization.
- Use reader involvement techniques.
- Tell the truth – no embellishments, no overselling.
- Use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs.
- Grab attention with unique presentations.
- Back-up proof convinces cautious business prospects.
- Stress money-back guarantees.
How these strategies can apply within the major performance marketing uses is reviewed next for two main objectives of the business-to-business marketer:
- breaking into a new market with a current product, and
- entering a new product into a current market.
Sales Objective: Breaking into a New Market with a Current Product
The marketing mix designed to build new marketplaces normally includes many programs, campaigns, events, and activities that involve personnel, equipment, facilities, sales training, advertising, and promotional support tools. All must be coordinated if the program is to succeed.
Research: General B2B Marketing Strategies
When expanding into new markets with an existing product, a seasoned marketer has the advantage of past experience in selling the product with the same or similar marketing mix. Where the new market is simply a geographical extension of the present market, no research may be necessary.
But where markets are different, the profile of the “best customer” may be different, dictating a change in the marketing mix and tactical implementation of the performance marketing strategies. Research can help you set direction for the new promotion.
Market research will also reduce the risks usually associated with a new market launch and will help you determine if this objective is even attainable. Sophisticated market research techniques may be unaffordable for some companies, but even the smallest marketer can conduct opinion surveys using a strategy of combining the quantitative advantage of the email questionnaire with a qualitative in-depth sample survey by phone.
Two essentials are:
- having the surveys directed to a representative cross-section of the potential new market and
- getting answers to the right series of questions relating to past and present product usage, brand or supplier loyalty, and decision-maker buying behavior.
Even though the product is the same as the one sold successfully in established markets, a brand new market may require different sales support program implementation approaches. If the product has different applications, you may need email and phone surveys to position the promotional program that will best support the launch.
This research will help you determine the new “best market” profile, offers, and on-target creative techniques you could use. The value of the research expenditure is weighed against the risks of investing many dollars on hiring new salespeople, and furnishing offices and warehouses, equipment, samples, and demonstration products for perhaps a 12-month period.
Awareness: General B2B Marketing Strategies
Any entry into a new market raises the question of how you will get prospects who will become buyers. Advertise and publicize, of course! Yet, when a new market may consist of a small geographical entity, there may be few cost-effective media in which to place product releases or announcement ads.
Regional versions of business publications (online or offline) are rare, broadcast is inefficient for most business-to-business marketers, and local club and association newsletters, if exist, do not have nearly the reach or impact that new launches require.
Awareness direct mail has become a workhorse for getting the B2B marketer’s message across to highly selective groups of prospects not only geographically but demographically. Also, for those marketers who find it practical to have an awareness advertising program in trade and business publications, online portals or LinkedIn, these direct mail campaigns can provide added impact.
This strategy not only generates high-quality readership from selected influencers and key decision makers in the top 5, 10, or 20 percent of the marketplace, but also provides it during the specific time periods most suitable to the marketing plan.
Building the prospect’s awareness of your expertise in a product or service in a new marketplace will not get accomplished with one or only a few contacts. Since most trade publications are issued monthly, relying on print advertising support alone to prepare the way for the sales effort can be a mistake.
Email inboxes are flooded with day-to-day “work” emails and promotional matter. LinkedIn feeds, even if carefully examined, are flooded as well. Direct mail advertising with its innate ability to generate individual reader rapport can dramatically change customers’ and prospects’ opinions about a marketer or a product in as little as four months.
The initial task of an awareness campaign is short term for this particular sales objective. Its aim is to rapidly establish a mind-share in a specific segment of the new marketplace in preparation for your direct response promotional activities that will lead to face-to-face sales calls.
Frequency and timing of awareness campaign is critical to the success of the next stage in the selling plan that includes more mail, phone contacts, custom audience Facebook and Google Ads targeting, and personal sales calls. Generally, the more message contacts your prospects are exposed to within a prescribed time period, the more they will remember your message.
However, you should anticipate that a very pronounced drop-off in recall after your awareness campaign can negate much of its value. This can be minimized by beginning the next series of prospect contacts within two or four weeks after the awareness campaign ends.
There are four problem areas where marketers, in their eagerness to enter a new marketplace, have trouble using awareness campaigns.
Awareness Campaign Problem #1
The first concerns reach – the number of people who should be covered by the campaign. Marketers tend to include too many nonprospects on the “to contact” list. Awareness campaigns should never be used to blanket broad market universes (generally speaking, rarely more than 5,000). Its higher cost (especially if it is direct mail-based) cannot compete with other media in getting mass advertising impressions.
Your past experience in other marketplaces and research into the new marketplace should pinpoint, at least generally, the high-, the medium-, and the low-profit potential prospect groups. Singling out only the high-profit group to receive the awareness campaign can be the most cost-effective strategy.
Awareness Campaign Problem #2
The second concern involves promotion frequency. When breaking into a new market where the company name is not well known, if known at all, more awareness touches will be needed to capture enough mind-share for future lead generation efforts to pay off. But the number of advertising impressions is only part of the story since you have to count impact as well.
For instance, too few mailings in the awareness series can fail to make the needed impact. Mailing frequency depends on how complex, detailed, or technical the message must be. Awareness applications for some products require the use of different creative strategies to make a strong impression.
In direct mail dimensionals (“lumpy mail”) and in online efforts video-based showmanship campaigns can do this job. For instance, a series of 6 blockbuster mailings may well outperform 12 plain, personalized letters or 50 plain emails.
Awareness Campaign Problem #3
Confusing the objectives of an awareness campaign with those of a lead generation campaign is another commonly made mistake. Some marketers believe that all campaigns should always include a reason for the recipient to respond. This is, of course, fallacious.
The function of an awareness effort is to get greater reader mind-share. If a direct response request is added, it alters the meaning and the reader’s perception of the entire communication and, in effect, negates the strategy.
Awareness Campaign Problem #4
The fourth concern relates to the natural tendency of optimistic and enthusiastic marketers to overstate the case for the product in promotional materials, and in awareness campaigns in particular. So-called brag-and-boast copy is pawned off as awareness copy.
There is nothing wrong with a creative strategy that sells the strengths of your product and your company. An awareness campaign can focus on many different objectives depending on the level of understanding the new market may already have of your company’s expertise, specialty, quality of service, or other factors that establish a company’s credibility. But your copy must be creatively written in ways that readers find extraordinarily interesting and helpful.
Some marketers are able to plan to enter a new marketplace well enough in advance to have a 6- or 12-month awareness conditioning program precede a formal aggressive sales thrust. This strategy can reflect very positively on the end results.
Lead Generation: General B2B Marketing Strategies
New marketplaces need sales coverage from the start. But most business-to-business marketing managers know that a sales force blitz of a new market territory with cold canvass calls is no longer practical. The high cost of maintaining an inside- or field-selling organization has mandated that you seek only the most effective ways to identify prospects. Identifying the most qualified prospects through response advertising and promotion media is usually the only practical strategy.
Leads generated from LinkedIn, well-targeted Facebook or Google Ads, keyword-based search ads, print publication advertising, product publicity, and online or offline trade show efforts can be an important part of any new market launch.
However, the most selective, versatile, and personal tool for identifying higher-quality prospects in a new marketplace is direct mail with email follow-up and constant retargeting provided by every possible ad network. Outbound telemarketing also can help identify prospects but is used on a more limited basis because of the higher costs.
For a new market launch of any magnitude the B2B marketer hires and trains new salespeople at considerable cost. A strategy of furnishing these salespeople with a continuing flow of qualified sales leads, starting with their first week in the field, helps protect that marketer’s initial investment in these new hires by making them more productive sooner. It also reduces salesperson turnover.
Using telephone marketing to qualify all raw B2B leads is one of the better strategies that helps guarantee that these new salespeople follow up only the more interested prospects. There are few things that turn off a new hire in field sales more than a batch of raw inquiries that are purported to be “live” leads while these are just freeloaders willing to get the newest “special report” or a free “how-to guide”.
The time and cost for a salesperson to track down 15 inquiries to find the one prospect close to making a purchase can be grossly unprofitable and cause imminent conflict between marketing and sales departments.
The Case Against (Overcomplicated) Lead Scoring and for Telemarketing Use
Proponents of complex “lead scoring” systems would tell you that telemarketing is too expensive to use on all your leads and that you should score them on their online behavior basis by implementing tens or hundreds of interactions (e.g. , a multitude of surveys, free downloads, free webinars, free articles for each lead) which would help sift through the collected database of names.
While this may work for superlarge organizations (with superlarge markets to promote to) willing to spend, effectively, hundreds of thousands of dollars on unqualified leads each quarter and wait years to hope to recoup their investment, qualifying by telemarketing is still the way to go for most small, medium and large B2B companies.
If using live agents to qualify your leads seems impractical, too expensive or the qualification rate is low, it is possible your volume is too high and that you are actually collecting raw names and emails instead of real leads. If this is the case, scale back your promotional campaigns and create appropriate, self-qualifying lead generation offers as described here.
Promoting aggressively at the start of the launch with predetermined tight lead qualification parameters can ensure that only the most highly qualified leads will get into the hands of the new sales people. Costs for these qualified leads may be higher at the start but this form of encouragement is vital to the success of the launch.
Once a high level of sales activity has been established, the lead quality level and accompanying costs can be effectively lowered to more reasonable levels.
Lead Generation Volume Problems
The number of leads a salesperson can handle in a given week will vary depending on the complexity of the product, the salesperson’s workload, quality of effort, and other vagaries of selling. A specific quantity of leads to be generated should be established as a weekly goal for each new salesperson.
Five to ten leads per week may not be excessive during the early stages of the launch, except for very high-ticket products.
Initial sales goals and budget limitations may warrant lead generation targeting to only representative portions or selected segments of a new marketplace. This strategy – popular with marketers short on time or research dollars and under pressure to produce results – uses initial lead generation campaigns with telemarketing follow-up as “research.”
This way you can learn specifically who will respond to a specific offer in the new marketplace. Until your research reports are in and a decision is made to hire new salespeople, leads developed from such methods are handled by your sales personnel on special assignment from the current sales force. The main strategy here, however, is that you use the response as an indication of market interest.
A marketing mix designed to build a share in a new market would normally use all available media to generate leads. If the new marketplace is large enough to permit the use of advertising and product publicity programs in business publications online and offline, additional inquiries will be generated from SEO and keyword-based search ads.
Valuable sales leads can result from these efforts but you should proceed cautiously against treating all leads alike. Qualifying this particular type of leads by telemarketing or further email follow-up before passing it on to a salesperson is mandatory.
Penetrating a new market with a long-term commitment upfront gives you an opportunity to establish a lead generation program that will provide a continuous flow of qualified leads for sales force follow-up week by week, month by month, throughout the year.
If the program is tentative, however, pending market acceptance of your product, the lead generation emphasis should be on maximum lead production per se rather than on the long-term commitment that involves testing and fine-tuning for optimal results.
But in either instance, cost of a qualified sales lead will usually be higher when canvassing in a new marketplace, because there has not been time for determining the most cost-effective qualified lead.
Sales Objective: Introducing a New B2B Product in the Current Marketplace
The launch of any new product can succeed or fail because the product itself does or does not meet the needs of a major segment of your marketplace. Presuming it does, the burden falls on the tools of marketing and the sales force to get it introduced, accepted, and a specific quantity sold within a given time period. Speed of entry into the market is always important, but especially with products that have short life cycles.
The opportunity for performance marketing to contribute to a successful launch is sizable. There are five major groups of performance marketing strategies that help business-to-business new product introductions to succeed.
- Research is one. By using email questionnaires and phone surveys you can find out if the product is acceptable by the marketplace or how it can better meet its needs.
- Awareness campaigning is the second that paves the way for more productive subsequent direct response efforts and sales activities.
- The third and fourth groups involve strategies that provide sales leads through lead generation and qualified prospect penetration (or door opener) programs (see this article). These identify the best prospects from universes of suspects to bring key prospects and salespeople into face-to-face selling situations.
- The fifth group involves reinforced selling strategies (which I described in detail here).
Telemarketing and all online and offline marketing efforts working together can get prospect inquiries answered rapidly, and can provide valuable input to the product launch manager helping the program move forward.
Telemarketing not only qualifies all leads received but also helps build a permanent prospect database around your new product. It especially speeds communications among all principals in the launch program and helps close the loop between prospects and the sales force.
New product promotions should be preceded by releases to the trade and business publications allowing publicity pick-up while the product is still news. To accomplish this, most product launches use a multimedia communications mix.
Of course, maximum market impact can result if you arrange a new product release during the week of the industry’s national or international trade show, niche conference or congress. To capitalize on the impact value of a new product release, all your campaigns should be ready to go on schedule at the time you make a “go” decision.
Immediately identifying and qualifying good sales leads that come from all the publicity and promotions will get the sales organization off to a fast start.
Research: General B2B Marketing Strategies
Research is vital to a successful product launch, especially if your markets are large and heterogeneous. For minor new-product releases where there may be less at risk, your research efforts may simply consist of making a small test mailing to the marketplace, offering an informative guide or report and then analyzing the responses.
For large companies, before the launch, a strategy of focus group sessions and a questionnaire supplemented by a phone survey can determine the potential market’s acceptance of the product and any appearance of hurdles to overcome. Surveys can also help you determine the best promotion strategies and single out the major segments of the marketplace to pinpoint.
Research explores the current market and new markets along with specific applications for the new product. You should schedule the research phase to allow enough time in advance of the product release date to be able to analyze and react to the data received so it can impact positively on the performance marketing campaign strategy. Yet, if conducted too early, results may soften.
Although most research efforts in new product launches have mostly short-term benefits, they also have long-term value in that they provide a benchmark from which to compare changes in market attitudes toward the product and the marketer over time. You should make benchmark studies frequently during the first two years, then annually or biannually until the product cycles out of the market.
Awareness: General B2B Marketing Strategies
A major strategy in the use of awareness efforts in a new product launch is to reach major decision makers and influencers in key segments of the market with informative materials that build their interest and understanding of the new product to high levels. Awareness campaigns help make sure the important segments of your market know the product has proven value and has industry acceptance in preliminary trials and tests.
An awareness program has greater scope when the product is a major release in the industry. It is very often used to support all marketing efforts for the new product in selected high-priority audience segments. Preprints of new product announcement ads sent in advance of the ad’s appearance in media tie together the two promotion efforts.
However, even the smallest of companies can use this type of promotion. For many business-to-business marketers the key segment of the marketplace may not consist of more than 12, 50, or 100 prime prospects. This is true especially for high-ticket, high-tech industrial or commercial systems or products.
Many direct mail awareness programs designed to reach “the important few” get 100 percent attention and readership and set the stage for response that can go to well above 50 percent. The goal is to prepare the most important present and potential revenue-producing accounts for a later door-opener prequalified prospect penetration campaign.
Small, key-prospect mailings for new product launches often involve a creative strategy employing relevant dimensional mailings (“lumpy mail”) coordinated with carefully scripted phone interviews.
Awareness programs are most effective at the beginning stages of the launch when interest and excitement about your new product is greatest. Chances are good that these programs can keep prospect interest and enthusiasm at a high level. However, after early promotional efforts have subsided, awareness levels can drop considerably, necessitating not only more awareness programs to key prospects but use of multiple media to broader prospect audiences as well.
Awareness efforts scheduled to precede a new product release can materially increase responses to your lead generation efforts that follow. However, campaigns made before the official release of the product will not be scheduled too often in most large companies since product managers normally maintain tight control over any efforts to prerelease a new product, system, or service.
Lead Generation: General B2B Marketing Strategies
Lead generation programs are designed to get immediate responses from all your appropriate market segments, and to stimulate and motivate the sales organization to sell enough of your new product during the plan period to meet or exceed the sales objective.
These campaigns begin a few days or a week after the official announcement of the new product in the marketplace. Markets are often segmented by SIC code and size of business. The most productive segment in terms of leads generated could be three or four times higher than the least productive (but still profitable) segment.
Present customer accounts or users having obvious applications for the new product may be defined as prequalified and targeted to receive an awareness campaign followed by a prequalified prospect-penetration response campaign.
However, for those customer accounts where the profile shows that a new product application is not readily apparent, a lead generation campaign may be more appropriate. Accounts who have not purchased in 12 months may be worth canvassing by email, direct mail, or phone to identify those that justify further follow-up.
Case in Point: Identifying Different Classes of B2B Prospects
One basic objective of this performance marketing strategy is to identify different classes of prospects – the high, medium, and low. Another is to find out who among your present customer and prospect database have the best applications for your product and have the most interest in it.
The goal is to end up with quality sales leads for inside and field salespeople to personally follow up. This general goal becomes specific when you look at the individual market segments.
For instance, one strategy may be to reach Fortune 500 companies who could purchase the product in multiple units or licenses. Another may be to reach medium-size companies or divisions of large companies who may purchase one or two product units at a time.
Still a third segment may be smaller companies of 50 employees or less who are prospects for their dealer network selling channel. For one marketer there may be any number of individual lead development campaign efforts running in these different segments simultaneously.
Lead development programs work best when a product, system, or service is new and when prospects can use it in or on the job or it is something that they have not considered before. This is why more leads can be generated during new product introductions than after your product has been established in the marketplace.
Lead generation campaigns can be integrated into trade show and conference activities. You can send mailings to prospective show visitors, suggesting they attend the new product demonstration at the booth or a private suite. VIP lists get custom treatment that often include special incentives to promote attendance.
Lead development mailings also are sent to selected prospects who do not visit the exhibit, offering them another chance to learn from the new product demonstration, this time at the local sales office or online via a live webinar.
One tactic used by some lead generation managers to get high quantities of inquiries is to offer, previous to its public release, detailed information about the new product. This mailing normally consists of a plain letter with a simple call to action.
It indicates to readers they could be the first to receive this information when the product is released if they act promptly and call the toll-free 800 number or fill out the form on the “secret” or “private” landing page. When qualified through telemarketing, results from such promotions usually contain very acceptable numbers of high- and medium-level prospects.
Lead Generation Volume Problems
You should set a goal to generate a specific number of qualified sales leads each week. To accomplish this, however, a large number of inquiries may have to be identified and screened. Because of the economic necessity of getting the new product off the ground quickly, marketers have a tendency to generate too many leads in too short a period of time.
This can short-circuit the lead handling system. Directing lead generation campaigns only to sections of your market at one time can prevent this problem. You have to take steps to keep the system working. When targeting fairly large markets during a product introduction, you should structure the offer so it is not interesting or valuable to those in the target audience who would not be qualified prospects.
Once your product has proved successful in the marketplace, you should establish a long-term continuing lead generation program, using tests of hardener and softener techniques to fine-tune promotional campaigns for optimum results. (More on hardening and softening in this article.)
Prequalified Prospect Penetration: General B2B Marketing Strategies
A percentage of your current customers may have applications for the new product. These may fall in the prequalified category along with screened leads resulting from lead development campaigns promoting your new product. Yet there can be a troublesome gap between identifying good prospects from a market universe and physically getting these prospects and salespeople together in a buying/selling environment.
The prequalified prospect penetration strategy is designed to close that gap. A series of highly specific messages personalized in the interest of the prospect dovetail with high-impact communication vehicles to motivate and persuade selected prospects to meet with salespeople to learn more about the new product offering.
Reinforced Selling: General B2B Marketing Strategies
Reinforced selling campaigns and telemarketing follow-up are especially valuable when the selling objectives emphasize the need to educate the marketplace about a new product. This strategy sends product release promotional materials specifically to the 15 or 20 prospects a salesperson is presently concentrating on.
These programs incorporate messages that reinforce in the minds of the prospects those sales points brought up during a sales call. Telephone scripts are also provided to be used by the salespeople or sales office live agents in concert with the mailings, retargeting messages, search campaigns, etc.
- Performance marketing strategies for direct sales of non-complex products and services are different from strategies involved in sales support performance marketing dedicated to complex sales.
- Direct sales strategies relate to the organizational and operational aspects of running a business, as well as to the marketing aspects. The main strategic concerns here include the offering of market-driven products, the concept of the long-term customer, the customer development techniques, the establishment of a unique image, the provision of high-profit market-responsive products, the targeting of several markets with different offers, and the exploration of key audience and traffic sources for best combinations of target markets.
- Strategies for sales support objectives emanate from within the major performance marketing use categories of research, building awareness, generating leads, and reinforcing a planned sales call. Performance marketing efforts for most objectives should consist of more than a “one-shot” campaign. Many performance marketing strategies support sales activities during a marketplace expansion and a product introduction.