Six Ways to Avoid B-to-B Marketing Irrelevance
by Bob Hacker
In the January 18, 1999 issue of Advertising Age I ran across this chilling statement by Editor in Chief Rance Crain, "Advertising's failure to produce results is reaching epic proportions … advertising can't be counted on to deliver upward sales momentum when it's most needed."
I was reminded of a session I attended at an AdWeek seminar. I sneaked into a new business development seminar for general advertising agency principals. The seminar leader started with the following question, "Do your clients still think advertising works?" The agency presidents agreed that their clients still believed in advertising. His next line was, "Good, then I won't have to change my presentation this session."
My personal response in both cases was, "Thank God I'm in direct marketing, not advertising." We still take responsibility for helping our clients make sales and hit their ROI expectations. But I fear the same mindset that infected advertising may be creeping into direct marketing. If we fall prey to the same fey cult, we risk the same irrelevance they face now.
B-to-b direct marketers can continue to make direct marketing relevant to the bottom line by adhering to six simple tenets.
1. Direct marketing is a selling process, not an entertainment event. We must never lose our sense of purpose: to start or facilitate the selling process. Our job is not to brand, position, entertain or enlighten.
2. Build your plan around hitting the ROI goal. Focus on changing behavior, not mindset. Only action—generating a lead or making a sale—can directly contribute to ROI. If you don't hit your ROI target, budget won't be allocated for it. If budget isn't allocated, you become irrelevant. By focusing on ROI, you will also force yourself to establish proper performance standards for every campaign element.
Most of the questions required to build an ROI plan are not included in most marketing and communication plans. Typically you must set the following targets before creative is begun:
• Revenue and unit sales targets;
• Closing rate targets;
• Drop quantities and/or call targets;
• Response rate targets;
• Lead quantity, allowable cost-per-lead;
• Sales volume, allowable cost-per-sale;
• Budget targets; and
• System constraints.
3. Create test hypotheses based on the key metrics established above. You must get to the point where the program is objectively measured, not subjectively judged.
4. Use the "Nobody Cares" rule in all program development. Product development and marketing and communication groups often project a level of anticipation and excitement in the market that isn't there. Truth is, the prospect usually doesn't care. Build your copy platforms around the following rules:
• They don't care about your company.
• They don't care about your products and services.
• They don't care about anything you have to tell or sell them.
When you create programs using these assumptions, you still bring in the early adopters and truly desperate. But more important, you'll also bring in the fence sitters. Bringing in the marginal buyer is where the direct marketing battle is won or lost.
5. Make your copy platforms, appeals and offers personal and emotional. Build your programs around the emotional arguments that drive all of us: greed, fear, guilt, anger, exclusivity and salvation. Can you save your prospects time or money? Can you make their jobs easier? Remember: They don't care what your product does—they care what your product does for them.
6. Test all hypotheses. The biggest sin committed in direct marketing today is the lack of testing. It's bad in consumer direct. It's even worse in the b-to-b world since the marketing team is virtually never a qualified buyer. How many marketing managers at IBM, for example, buy $5 million hardware solutions?
The buyer will tell you how they want to buy; all you have to do is test.
The cumulative effect of making a series of wrong decisions will render direct marketing impotent, and finally, irrelevant. Testing smart and testing often is the best way to avoid earning similar mention in a future Rance Crain column.
Bob Hacker is president of The Hacker Group Ltd., a Seattle-based direct marketing agency. For a free white paper on his PowerTest! methodology, call (425) 454-8556 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.