When it comes to achieving a high return-on-investment (ROI) from email campaigns, it’s often a lot more challenging for business-to-business (B2B) versus business-to-consumer (B2C). Why? For B2B, the lists are generally smaller and their products and/or services typically are not sold directly online. Instead, B2B is more about getting referrals and bringing prospects down the “sales funnel.” In this article, we focus on four ways you can use email to help drive B2B referrals.
The Nature of a B2B Sale
Unlike many B2C sales, B2B sales typically involve a more complex process that ultimately requires interaction with a sales representative. Taking from days to months to close, the process can be divided into the following three phases:
- Lead generation
- Working the sale
- Closing the sale
It’s within the first two phases that email can play an especially important role – greatly enhancing lead generation and helping you effectively work the sale.
Support Your B2B Sales Process with Email
It’s not unusual for B2B companies to have hundreds or even thousands of contacts, including prospects, previous customers, and influencers (lawyers, accountants, etc.). Using this list of contacts as a base, you can easily create a powerful referral program and get a big bang for your investment dollar.
To achieve success, creating a B2B email list has to become part of the fabric of your company. From sales and customer service to finance and marketing, every interaction your employees have with prospects and customers is an opportunity to request their permission to add them to your email list. You’ll find this list will become a very valuable asset in generating leads.
Using Email Newsletters to Help Generate Leads
An email newsletter is one of the best ways to build your list and help generate leads by:
- Building awareness of your company’s area of expertise. Provide valuable content and advice in your newsletters to keep you top-of-mind when prospects are in need of your company’s products or services.
- Establishing credibility through the use of case studies and customer success stories. At FulcrumTech, for example, we recently helped a client increase sales volume by over 30% within a year as a result of additional lead generation and the warming of prospects through the sales process.
- Increasing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your Web site. When you write an article for your newsletter, post it on your Web site. By improving your site’s SEO and building Web traffic, you can generate more leads. (Of course your Web site needs to be properly designed to support the lead capture process.)
- Creating “leave-behinds” for sales calls. Reprint and share newsletter articles that demonstrate your expertise. This helps to build credibility and relevance for your company throughout your prospecting efforts.
- Generating referrals. Ask recipients to forward your newsletter to their contacts. If they value your content, they will.
Consistency and professionalism in the production of your email newsletter is key. For example, it must go out regularly – typically at least monthly. In addition, there are many “tricks of the trade” in getting newsletters opened and read. (The FulcrumTech team specializes in the many mechanisms involved in optimizing newsletters, so we’re here to help when you’re ready.)
Working the Sale
You’ll find it’s in this part of the process – working the sale – that email has the biggest positive impact. Whether sales representatives are contacting prospects via phone or in person, there’s a limit to the number of daily contacts they can make. Optimally, your representatives are focusing on the prospects that are most interested in your company’s services or products. That’s where email comes in. The following are four ways email has helped drive referrals for B2B clients of FulcrumTech:
- White Papers. When used correctly, white papers can be a powerful e-marketing tool. Offered at the point of lead capture on your Web site, they can serve as an incentive for sign up. Plus, be sure your system tracks their download, as it will indicate a prospect is interested and some one your sales representatives may want to call.
- Email Newsletters. Just like in your lead generation efforts, an email newsletter can be an important mechanism for bringing prospects down the sales funnel. For example, FulcrumTech recently got a new client who, after receiving our email newsletter for over a year, realized they needed to take their interactive marketing to the next level. They called us first.
Let your newsletters do the selling by:
- Gently reminding prospects of your products and services.
- Introducing new products and services.
- Highlighting the successful results you generate for other clients.
- Surveys. By periodically surveying your email list – such as asking a couple of questions relating to one of your recent newsletter articles – you’ll build up more information about your prospects. In addition to helping you provide more relevant communications, survey data can prove to be invaluable in your sales efforts.
- Trigger Emails. Email systems can be configured to determine what information to send to prospects, as well as when it should be sent. In effect, you can set up a campaign that runs automatically, based on the business rules you establish. When prospects click on a certain link in your newsletter, for example, you can automatically send them additional information on the topic in a couple of days. If you know they’re interested, sending them more information on the same topic would be relevant.
With the system FulcrumTech uses for our clients, email can be sent based on the following criteria and more:
- Opened a certain email
- Clicked on a certain link
- Completed a survey
- Joined a mailing list
- Updated their profile
- When an attribute in their record becomes a certain value
- Visited a certain Web page after receiving an email
Mining Your Prospect Record
Once you begin using some of these email-marketing techniques, you’ll start accumulating the data you need to enrich your prospect records with information that indicates how “warm” or interested prospects are. Then, you can create an internal threshold to determine when the time is right to follow-up with individual prospects. And most of the work in getting to that threshold will be done by your email. As a result, you will find dramatic improvements in the efficiency of your prospecting efforts, while keeping your sales team focused on prospects with the greatest chance of converting.