B-to-B: Love Your List
Most B-to-B marketers are drawn to practices that are simple and proven to work. In a deadline-driven, fast-paced world, marketers need to rely on proven techniques to avoid paths that might cause them to stumble. This is especially true when it comes to building a direct marketing list, whether it is for a calling campaign, direct mail or email.
B-to-B marketers who have witnessed the digital revolution firsthand know how difficult it can be to acquire quality contact lists. Part of the challenge is wading through the explosion of communication vehicles to find good lists. Subscription-based websites, social media and blogs all have the potential to generate good lists, but the business market is slower to adopt newer channels. So these sources often don't produce the volume of names needed for a significant campaign. Thus, many are finding that partnerships with media publishers are still the most valuable in B-to-B.
1. Media Lists
In-house and agency communicators are using concentrated subscription lists for lead gen. During the digital revolution, publications were forced to either evolve or die. Only the strong survived, adapting quickly to the online landscape—so-called "media Darwinism."
While many marketers cried at this loss, it had value. Because only the most relevant and reader-valued publications survived, the lists have become distilled. The remaining loyal readership is smaller but more committed. Their focus is more refined, and their interest in the topic more pronounced. This makes for lists that are more likely to yield positive results for direct marketing campaigns.
Publishers rely on their lists far more than B-to-B marketers do; maintaining an up-to-date database and providing relevant content are crucial to the publication's ability to keep a strong connection with its readers and grow its base. What results is a strength that we, as communicators, can tap into.
Smart B-to-B marketers also understand that a broad reach doesn't necessarily mean bigger and better results. The beauty of a distilled list is you are far more likely to reach the right people.
2. Media and Organization Partnerships
Trust is the core of relationships between marketers and the media. Just as publications trust marketers will provide valuable content through their public relations and content marketing efforts, marketers trust the media will connect their content with an interested audience.
As a B-to-B marketer, it is important to understand what the strong publications are in your target industries and develop ongoing relationships with them. If you're just buying a sub list, you're missing out on many other benefits. Most publishing companies can offer creative input for ways to use the list more effectively. They can also offer vehicles across alternative channels that you may not have identified on your own. This could open up a whole new audience for your marketing. Include them in your next direct campaign; their lists could be the key to stimulating leads.
Partnerships with professional and trade organizations are another valuable resource for executing successful direct marketing campaigns. Membership rosters are sometimes available to marketers for purchase. Lists of trade show and conference attendees are also valuable. Like publishers, these event producers can be valuable partners.
In an effort to protect members or attendees from marketing "spam," associations and conference operators often have rules that stymie marketers' efforts to obtain their lists. They frequently limit list sales to members or event participants. However, marketers who are able to succeed will have a very targeted, and very salient, pool for outreach.
3. Content Marketing
Purchasing lists isn't the only way to get your marketing content in front of your audience and build your list. Content syndication can be a valuable source for list generation.
One of the best parts about content syndication is that even though you don't perform the actual outreach, you are still able to build owned lists from the responses. Because building owned lists can take time, successful B-to-B marketers must understand a few things about the process to ensure a worthwhile outcome.
Owned lists are built from a series of purchased lists and prior syndications. All of the responses from those direct marketing campaigns should be saved and will become your owned list. However, responses don't just happen; they are a product of valuable content. Marketers earn leads by creating strong, relevant content the recipients actually want. By creating materials tailored to your audience, you prove your value in the marketplace and people will respond to your efforts.
4. In-house Resources
In the search for the perfect list, it's easy for marketers to overlook the list-building resources they already have in-house. All of those free white papers you've offered, the social media following you've developed, the website visitors you've tracked—they should all be integrated into your list building. These lists are already vetted and have displayed interest in your brand. Not reaching out to them is a marketing travesty.
Reach out beyond your initial point of contact and get the most out of these "earned" lists. For example, consider email drip campaigns that send a series of messages that build on each other over time. With each touchpoint, you have an opportunity to compel prospects to take further action, to continue investing time and interest in your brand.
If You Own It, They Will Come
The golden egg for any B-to-B marketer is the owned list. The owned list combines leads generated via purchased media lists and syndication, as well as those derived from in-house activities. It's not enough to say marketers should nurture these lists; they need to cherish them. These resources are not static products, but living, growing, evolving entities.
Owned lists do more than offer marketers contact information. They provide the best view into an audience's persona. B-to-B marketers should understand the interdependence of their list and their message. As your owned list evolves and you understand more about the audience, your message should evolve with it to complement their wants and needs or solve their problems. Just as a list is a living, evolving entity, so is the persona of your target audience.
Keep It Simple
Great B-to-B marketers keep things simple and do what works. They don't worry about being fancy or trendy. Acquiring contact lists from media publications, performing content syndication and using in-house resources are proven to work. These aren't new breakthroughs in DM list strategy; they are tried and true methods for building lists that generate sales leads.
Rich Carango is president of Downingtown, Pa.-based B-to-B advertising agency Schubert Communications. Reach him at email@example.com.