B-to-B Insights: Even More Summer Reading
It’s that time of year once again. It’s time to get out in the sun, have some fun and maybe do a little reading, too. Most of America, of course, will be poring over a John Grisham legal thriller or immersing themselves in Khaled Hosseini’s successor to “The Kite Runner.”
But you are not most of America. You’re a dedicated direct marketer looking to build your skill set and, ultimately, your bank balance. And I’m here to help with my third annual listing of what—along with the sunscreen—you should stuff into your beach bag.
Since I finished compiling last summer’s reading list, I’ve come across great new direct marketing texts crammed with invaluable information and insights—everything from tips on improving performance to the how-tos of niche channels.
Then there are those titles that are so essential, I’ve included them on this summer’s list even though they also were on last summer’s list.
I Can’t Put This Down …
• “Customer Winback: How to Recaptue Lost Customers—And Keep Them Loyal” by Jill Griffin and Michael W. Lowenstein. I read this book at least once each year, because it’s crammed with eye-opening insights into the relationships between acquisition, retention and win-back marketing efforts.
For example, if your growth goals are ambitious to the point where your direct-acquisition campaigns are driving marginal-quality customers to your call center, then sure enough, within six to 12 months you’re going to see spikes in churn. Conversely, if you look at the data on the lifetime value of your best customers and use market research to determine why they stay with you, this combination of data and insight can be used to attract and retain more quality customers.
As for customer win-back, Griffin and Lowenstein do an excellent job of exploring and explaining the five major categories of customer loss: intentionally pushed away, pulled away, unintentionally pushed way, moved away and bought away.
Then they go on to provide strategic insights into how to design your marketing models and strategies to identify lost customers who have high “second” lifetime value and reel them back in.
• “The Customer Pyramid” by Michael W. Lowenstein. This volume deals with the systems, business rules and internal infrastructure of customer retention. It’s a more technical approach, which makes it a good companion volume to “Customer Winback.”
They Like You. They Like You Not. Here’s How to Tell.
• “The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth” by Fred Reicheld. This is my runner-up favorite on this summer’s list. Reicheld is the creator of the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which he claims is the most accurate predictor of customer satisfaction and loyalty. And how, you ask, do you go about deriving the NPS? Easy. Just ask the ultimate question:
On a scale of one to 10 (10 being “definitely!”), how likely are you to refer/recommend our company to a friend?
Reichheld’s research has found the more willing customers are to refer your company, its product offerings and service delivery to someone they know, the more certain you can be about the depth of those customers’ feelings and the durability of their loyalty. Reichheld suggests you ask two critical follow-up questions to obtain marketing insights that can help your operations and service managers improve your business: 1) “Why did you give us that score?” and 2) “What can we do to improve your rating of us in the future?”
Granted, loyalty measurement is not within the traditional domain of direct marketers, but the insights gained from this measurement methodology can’t help but improve your acquisition, retention and win-back efforts.
There’s Gold in Them There Leads!
• “Managing Sales Leads: Turning Cold Prospects into Hot Customers” by James Obermayer. This is a 2007 must-read book for B-to-B marketers. What Obermayer’s new book painfully points out to marketers is this: We’re willing to spend millions to acquire leads—going to trade shows, doing mailings, running all sorts of search and online campaigns—but we’re unwilling to give the same attention and resources to the handling of the high-value corporate asset that results from all this work. Namely, the sales lead!
From understanding the value of the sales lead—and its declining value over time—to rules for managing and fulfilling inquiries, and gaining the cooperation of the sales force in follow-up and disposition reporting, Obermayer provides practical insights and wisdom that run the gamut of the lead-management process.
What’s New in Your Niche?
I recommend you read the following niche marketing channel books because they’re relevant to rapidly-developing new media trends:
• “Mobile Marketing: Achieving Competitive Advantage Through Wireless Technology” by Alex Michael and Ben Salter.
• “What No One Ever Tells You About Blogging and Podcasting: Real-Life Advice from 101 People Who Successfully Leverage the Power of the Blogosphere” by Ted Demopoulos.
• “Marketing Through Search Optimization: How to be Found on the Web” by John Caples and Fred Hahn.
Oldies, but Goodies
I’m an avid promoter of rereading the classic texts of our industry. Each time I revisit one of these classic volumes, I generate new ideas that help me help my clients to achieve their goals. This is why I relentlessly recommend—to anyone entering the direct marketing business and to those who want to refresh and revitalize their store of marketing knowledge—the following titles:
• “Ogilvy on Advertising” by David Ogilvy.
• “Direct Marketing: Strategy, Planning and Execution” by Ed Nash.
• “Successful Direct Marketing Methods” by Bob Stone and Ron Jacobs.
• “Tested Advertising Methods” by John Caples and Fred Hahn.
• “2,239 Tested Secrets for Direct Marketing Success” by Denny Hatch and Don Jackson.
• “My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins.
• “How to Write a Good Advertisement: A Short Course
in Copywriting” by Victor O. Schwab.
Another set of classic marketing texts, written by Al Ries and Jack Trout, include:
• “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.”
• “Marketing Warfare.” In my opinion, this is one of the greatest books ever written on marketing.
• “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.”
By now, your beach bag should be getting pretty heavy, but don’t forget to include:
• “Bly on Direct Marketing: 258 Ways to Double Your Response—Based on a Quarter Century of Proven Results” by Robert Bly. This work from a master of B-to-B direct marketing covers such critical topics as: “Ten steps to online marketing success”; “Why branding and direct don’t mix”; “How to break into a prospect’s inner e-mail circle”; and “What goes on an outer envelope.”
• “B-to-B Direct Marketing,” also by Robert Bly. Not only is this book front and center in my library, but I give it to all my staff members.
And Now, for Something Completely Different
• “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” by Patrick Lencioni. Marketing is a team sport, which is why my final recommendation for this summer is not a marketing book. It’s a business leadership book that can be instrumental in helping you build a highly effective marketing team comprised of people who trust each other to deliver, who can discuss issues, and who are committed to delivering results and comfortable with accountability.
You Are What You Read
We’re lucky as an industry to have such a prolific community of professionals willing to share their knowledge and expertise, which is why it’s a shame so many marketers don’t read, effectively passing up the chance to learn from the grand masters. To those of you who apply yourselves, I almost can assure great things.
Russell Kern is president of The Kern Organization, a fully integrated offline and online direct marketing agency in Woodland Hills, Calif., and is the author of “S.U.R.E.-Fire Direct Response Marketing” (McGraw-Hill, 2001). He can be reached at (818) 703-8775 or via e-mail at email@example.com.