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Recognising the different stages in the b2b sales process can help you gain new leads and convert them into business....

1. B2B Prospects

A prospect is a company which could buy your product or service, but that you’ve never contacted before. This doesn’t mean every other business in the country is a prospect – just the ones which might actually have the need for your product or service, and the resources to pay for it. Prospects should be the target of your direct marketing and field sales activities. They can be identified and gathered in a number of ways, and are usually managed in a prospect list or database.

2. B2B Leads

A lead is often confused with a prospect, but is in fact a prospect that you have had some contact with – either by them contacting you, or you approaching them directly using field sales, telemarketing, or direct mail. Leads are often managed by the sales team, whose job it is to try and convert the lead into a customer as soon as possible.

3. B2B Customers

The most important conversion your sales process needs to achieve is from Lead to Customer. It may only be a small one off or sample order, but they are still a customer, and your relationship with them has changed forever. Now you can focus on building a relationship through your customer service team, and regular communication using direct marketing, service calls and newsletters. You also need to get the valuable second and third repeat orders which are the sign of growing customer loyalty.

4. B2B Clients

Clients are customers who buy your product exclusively from you, and not from anyone else. In other words you have become the sole supplier. For some businesses such as accountants and banks it’s normal for customers to become clients from the start. For others, converting a customer into a client can take much longer. But it can be worth the wait. Clients will usually buy more frequently and are also a great source of recommendations, referrals and testimonials.

Carried out in isolation, marketing activities just don’t have the same impact with the target audience. Here are some examples of how you could use direct mail alongside, before or after other marketing communication activities to achieve a greater effect...

  • Before you exhibit at an event or exhibition, send out targeted invites to your stand to your own list of contacts and prospects, or rent a mailing list of previous visitors from the event organisers.

  • After you come back from the event, use direct mail to follow up on your new list of stand visitors, leads and prospects.

  • Push new traffic to your website by mailing a list of prospects, without having to worry about losing potential visitors to natural or paid search listings of your competitors. This strategy works equally well for gaining b2b leads online as it does for gaining b2c ecommerce sales.

  • Use direct mail to follow up on inbound telephone enquiries you may have received as a result of above the line promotional activities such as press advertising or public relations.

  • When you are running a sales promotion or incentive campaign, make sure you also promote it with a mailing to potential or previous customers as well.

  • Before you start a field marketing or telemarketing campaign, do a mailing first to soften up your prospects, open doors, and also give them a chance to decline receiving a sales call.

  • Likewise, after your telemarketing or direct selling campaign is over, follow up on lukewarm prospects with another mailing.

Any marketer would do well to remember the AIDA mnemonic:

A= Attract; Attract your target with colours image or words

I = Interest; Engage your target by capturing and maintain his interest

D= Desire; Make him want your product or service

A = Action: Tell him what he needs to do to get it

Remember AIDA - it will serve you well!

If you use direct mail, you can reduce the environmental impact of your mailings and make them greener, by following some of these tips:

Check Lists Against the Mailing Preference Service

The Mailing Preference Service (MPS) allows consumers and businesses to register their wish to limit the amount of direct mail they receive.  Simply checking your data lists will ensure that you do not mail those who have opted into the MPS, and so avoid unnecessary wastage.

Clean Your Mailing Lists Regularly

Cleansing your list will ensure that you are targeting a more specific audience.  Improved targeting reduces the risk of “Junk Mail”.  No business wants their mailings to be perceived as “junk”, and a targeted approach can reduce unnecessary costs to your business and an unnecessary waste of resources.

Review the Format and Design of Your Mailings

Could you mailings be simplified? It is important to review your mailings and consider whether your message is being sent in a powerful yet environmentally friendly way.  Pages and pages of information are often preventable, and can actually deter the recipient from reading the mailing. Similarly, are you sending information that includes avoidable inserts? Regularly reviewing the content of mailings can both minimise the environmental impact and also ensure that your business is producing effective content.

Recycled or Recyclable?

Can your mailings be sent on recycled paper, it is important to remember that “recycled paper” can mean anything from 100% recycled to 1% recycled! If this is not something that you could consider, can your mailings be recycled? A small proportion of mailings are not recyclable.  Staples are acceptable for recycling, but some glues used in binding for example, mean that the whole mailing will be rejected for recycling.

Implementing these simple steps can enable your business to minimise its environmental impact, reduce direct marketing costs, and improve the targeting of your mailings.

The Data Protection Act gives individuals in the UK the right to know what information is held about them, and sets out rules to make sure that this data is handled properly by organisations holding the information. If you hold any form of personal or marketing information about customers, prospects or staff – even just their name and address – then you could fall under the scope of the Data Protection Act, and should register as a Data Controller.

Data Controllers are then legally obliged to make sure the Personal Data they look after is:

  1. Fairly and lawfully processed
  2. Processed for limited purposes
  3. Adequate, relevant and not excessive
  4. Accurate and up to date
  5. Not kept for longer than is necessary
  6. Processed in line with an individuals rights
  7. Secure
  8. Not transferred to other countries without adequate protection

If you are registered as a Data Controller and don’t meet your obligations, individuals are entitled to make a complaint about you to the Information Commissioners Office.

Which direct marketing method is most effective: traditional direct mail campaigns, or next generation email marketing? Direct mail is sent to businesses and consumers every day by a very wide range of organisations. Email marketing using opt in data is less widely used, but growing more rapidly in popularity.

So what are the relative merits of each direct marketing method?

The Benefits of Email Marketing

  • Email marketing is direct marketing at its most impactful. Your message lands right in the inbox of your recipient, your message can be personalised, and even targeted to individual recipients.
  • Email marketing can be timed to the day, the hour and even minute, in order to reach consumers just when they are likely to make a buying decision.
  • Email marketing can also be tracked in detail, even to the amount of people who open and read your email, or who forward it to a friend.
  • Email marketing is more environmentally friendly, and has a far lower carbon footprint than other marketing methods.
  • Email marketing can be more cost effective as it does not need costly mailing houses, production, postage and so on. However data costs can be higher and email campaigns require a broadcasting partner.
  • Email marketing is highly effective in growing online sales for e-commerce sites – in just a few clicks the recipient can act on impulse and buy from your site.

The Benefits of Direct Mail

  • Direct mailshots are a tangible and physical representative of your brand, which can be held in the recipient’s hands. A mailer with high production values can say much about your brand, just through its size, feel and texture.
  • Direct mail is well established and proven as a marketing tool. Consumers and businesses are used to receiving marketing messages in the post, and are receptive to the message they convey.
  • Direct mail can also be used to increase your online sales from your website – increasing numbers of mail order companies are finding that their catalogues are becoming increasingly effective at driving consumers online to order, instead of by mail or phone.
  • Quality direct mail data is generally more affordable and more widespread, and does not come with fixed broadcast costs and fewer issues over the opt in procedure. The direct mail industry is also far more mature with a wider range of suppliers available.
  • Direct mail does not have to fight its way through complex spam and junk mail filters used in many email programs.
One fact is universal – any direct marketing campaign needs great quality data. For advice on sourcing the best list for your campaigns, contact Selectabase on 01304 382211.

Follow these simple guidelines, to ensure a fully compliant and effective data cleansing cycle is put in place for your business and consumer marketing lists, based on best practice guidelines issued by the Direct Marketing Association...

  • Your list of business or consumer addresses should be checked against the Mailing Preference Service (MPS) no more than 90 days before the list is used. If you use your list on an ongoing basis, then you need to check against the MPS every quarter to ensure you meet these obligations.
  • Your lists of business or consumer telephone numbers must be checked against the relevant Telephone Preference Service (TPS) for consumers or Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS) for businesses, before you or your telemarketing agency lift the receiver to make a call. Both the TPS and CTPS registers are being constantly updated, so your list should be screened no more than 28 days before it is called. If you have a telesales team calling all the time, then you need to check your list against the TPS or CTPS at least monthly.
  • Sending a marketing fax to a list has declined a little in popularity recently, but it’s still used by a large number of businesses. Because of abuse of fax marketing, it is absolutely essential that you check your list of fax numbers against the Fax Preference Service (FPS) list no more than 28 days before your broadcast. Once again, if you are faxing frequently, then check your list on a monthly cycle.
  • Although it is a specialist sector, if you are planning a consumer mailing to promote any product or service related to babies, then it has to have been cleaned against the Baby Mailing Preference Service (BMPS) file before use. The BMPS file gives bereaved parents the option to have baby/infant related mailings suppressed for 12 months.
  • Whilst we are discussing timings, you should also respond promptly to a request from a customer to access their details. Under data protection legislation, all information held has to be provided within a maximum of 40 days from being asked in writing. If it is appropriate, you can charge a maximum fee of £10 to provide data, but many organisations waive the fee as part of their commitment to customer service.
If you’re registered under the Data Protection Act (and if you hold any personal data, you should be), then making sure your data is accurate is actually a legal obligation, as well as an ethical commitment to best practice in direct marketing. Keeping your data up to date makes good business sense as well - an accurate mailing list helps your direct marketing become more cost effective, avoids waste and saves money.

If you need any help putting your cycle together or screening data against the MPS, TPS, CTPS, FPS or BMPS, just call the Easycheck team at Selectabase on 01304 382211 for advice and low cost screening options.

If an organisation holds Personal Data, it should register as a Data Controller. The definition of Personal Data includes information held electronically or in a traditional paper based filing system. Examples include: • Information which can identify a living individual – a list of orders placed by your customers, which does not include any identifying personal information, wouldn’t be personal data.

• Names are only personal data when they are held with other information which can identify a specific individual, such as such as an address or a telephone number.

• Information about an individual, even if doesn’t include their name, can still be Personal Data if you also hold other information which could be used to identify them such as a description, salary, age, or address.

• Personal information is Personal Data when it can be used to relate to, or is obviously about a specific individual, such as a medical history or itemised telephone bills.

• Information about an event or transaction which concentrates on an individual is Personal Data - for example the minutes of a tribunal hearing.

What tricks are used by professional copywriters to create direct mail letters that really sell?

Hook Your Reader

The first line of letter is vital. Your opening gambit should be short and precise, with a time limit to create urgency with the reader. Good headings should be short and clear, and go easy on alliteration and superlatives.

Paint a Picture

Having hooked your reader with the headline work hard on the first paragraph, as this is where you will engage your reader and make him want to read more. Use the first paragraph to paint a picture of what you can offer or what problem you can solve in the readers mind - as the old saying goes, people “buy the sizzle not the steak”. Don’t make it too long, short and punchy is better.

Time to Tease

Now we have hooked the reader and engaged him we need to tease him a little in the next paragraph. Write something that’s going to make the reader want to visit your shop, give you a call for a chat, or come to your website, by implying some other benefits that may be on offer – but only if they take the action you want them to.

Bullet the Key Points

At this point bullet points are good to use to reiterate the points you have made and allow the casual skim reader to pick up the points you want. Some readers may just scan the letter anyway, and pick up on the visual cues the bullet points provide, so make sure the bullets include really valid key points, and not fluff.

Add a Call to Action

OK, we have hooked and engaged the reader and reiterated the relevant points, we are now ready to summarise and provide a 'call to action'. A call to action tells the reader clearly what you want them to do or how to make a purchase. Surprisingly often this key step is overlooked.

Don't Forget To P.S.

Now you need to sign off and include a P.S in your mailing letter. The P.S. is the second most read part of the direct mail letter after the heading, so it’s where you want to hammer home your message. Adding a P.S. Allows you to summarise the key points you want to make, although bear in mind that if the letter is a very formal approach it is not always appropriate.

Flower the Text

Now the main letter is finished, you can also indulge in a little decoration of the text, just to give the eye some ‘flowers’ in the text to help keep the readers attention. For example – break up text with hyphens. You can also use; semi colons and colons to create a dramatic pause just before a key point. And add just the occasional keyword in bold, underline or italic – but use sparingly.

New start ups can present a valuable market for suppliers of an extremely wide range of goods and services. There are a number of significant reasons why you should target start up businesses...

Start ups have a wide range of needs

When a new business starts up it usually needs to source practically everything from scratch. Their needs are wide ranging including recruitment, financial advice, office furniture, IT, marketing and printing. Often their initial purchases in these areas are likely to be far greater than mature businesses.

Start ups are a growing market, even in a recession

New business start up rates seem impervious to economic woes and even go up in troubled times, and so start ups represent one of the few growing sectors of the economy.

Start ups are ready to buy now

New businesses are in a position to make buying decisions far faster, because they need to get trading as quickly possible. This can make your sales effort far easier, making your sales more profitable.

Start ups can help you increase market share

Getting your products or services sold into businesses when they first start up can really help you steal a march on your competitors. In fact if you act quickly you can become supplier to a new business before your competitors even know they exist.

Start ups make loyal long term customers

New business owners often need a little extra help, guidance and advice from their suppliers. If you can provide this support alongside your products or services, you’ll build potential long term customers for your business who are far less likely to defect to your competitors.

In summary, if your company is looking to source new customers – as most businesses always are – then you should make sure that you include targeting new business start ups from your local area, region or industry vertical as part of your sales and marketing strategy. Find out more about targeting start ups with Startupsplus.

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