Direct Marketing Strategy and Tactics in B2B Marketing

How to Ensure Your Marketing Data is Fit For Purpose

dataIt’s staggering how much data is collected by marketers in both consumer and business environments. But what’s even more surprising is the way in which that data is managed, or as is often the case, mismanaged. With data driven marketing as prevalent as it is today, it’s vital any marketing data collected is treated as an asset and not an afterthought.

A well managed customer database will ensure your marketing campaigns achieve the highest possible return on investment. It always surprises me how often we are asked to run an email or telemarketing campaign, only to be delivered a set of data in an Excel spreadsheet full of erroneous data records and questionable opt-ins.

What steps can you take to ensure your data is of the quality you need? Here are some handy tips for ensuring your marketing data is fit for purpose:

1. Create a Data Policy

This sounds like a fairly basic step, but simply setting up some ground rules for your business to follow on data capture will help. Include a standardised set of mandatory data fields for each record, along with a standard format, such as always separating first name and last name, or inputting the correct format for a post code. Make sure everyone understands the importance of recording permissions for each record.

Create a central database in which all customer records are kept. Creating a single version of the truth for every contact will help you to manage the relationship with your data and effectively segment for each marketing campaign.

2. Manage Permissions (Carefully)

Data protection is not a nice to have, it’s essential. You must manage carefully the data you hold on each contact and the permissions you have to use that data. Make sure you are compliant with the Data Protection Act and check your data against the relevant preference services for each market in which you operate – for example in the UK check the Telephone Preference Service for both consumer and business numbers.

3. Cleanse & Enhance

All marketing data has a limited lifespan. People change roles, change companies, move house and of course even pass away. Make sure your data is regularly cleansed and enhanced to ensure you aren’t wasting valuable budget and resources contacting gone-aways, or damaging your brand by marketing to the deceased. A data bureau will be able to help with both cleansing or enhancing your data to fill in any gaps, or you could employ a telemarketing agency too.

4. Share Securely

It seems to be a fairly regular occurrence that a government official, or a bank employee, leaves a laptop in the back of a taxi and with it gives away a raft of customer data. Make sure when you share data outside of your organisation, with suppliers or partners for example, you observe some best practices. No more emailing Excel files, or sharing data on USB sticks – keep it all encrypted, or use a secure online solution to manage the process of sharing data.

5. Segment your Contacts

If you want to optimise your marketing data, you need to be able to effectively segment it. In days gone by it has been enough to segment based on demographic, but you can now be much more specific and create ever more targeted segments and campaigns. Digital communications make this process much more cost effective too, whereas segmenting too tightly with a print campaign can have a dramatic impact on costs. Think about identifying your most valuable customers and treating these as a separate segment. However you plan on segmenting your database, you clearly need to be collecting the right data in the first instance.

There you have it. Five tips for effectively managing your marketing data and delivering ROI from your data driven campaigns. Please be sure to share any advice or best practices you observe in the comments below.

How to Improve Your Response Rates

I’ve organised a fair few email and telemarketing campaigns recently and one thing that has stood out as having a huge impact on response rates is the importance of properly segmented contact data.

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10 Step Direct Marketing Campaign

Stamped lettersI’ve been working on a direct marketing project for a client recently and though I might share with you the 10 core steps we took during this campaign.

As a quick introduction, the client was a professional services firm wanting to reach out to a business audience to generate leads / appointments for a referral building campaign.

Well, here goes.

The Planning Phase

1. Setting our objectives before we started helped us to shape the strategy and tactics behind the campaign. We decided what we wanted to achieve and what success would look like which included:

  • to increase awareness of the referral programme within target audience
  • to generate X appointments with key decision makers
  • to sign-up X new partners to the programme


2. The next step was to define our target audiences. As the campaign was fairly specific, we identified our target by geography, company type, company size and key decision maker.  These criteria enabled us to establish their potential value of the target audience and any specific needs and requirements, essential for us in the next step – defining the media selection.

3. When defining the campaign, we had in mind a direct mail piece as being the core piece of communication. However after more careful thought about our target market, we quickly updated not only the type of direct mailer (content, format and messaging) but also the need to support the mailing with a telemarketing piece. This step was therefore about refining the format of the campaign media.

4. Once we had defined the objectives, target audience, the media selection, we moved on to timing. When would be a good time to send the mailer and when would be good to follow-up with the telemarketing.

After careful consideration, we opted to ensure the mailer or telephone calls were not received on a Monday or a Friday and all calls would not be made first thing in the morning, when our target audience is at it’s busiest. We also considered time of the year and decided to act before we hit August, the key holiday period.

Buying the Data

5. With all of the planning out of the way, it was time to acquire some data. I wanted to run a sample to test our creative and messaging before buying any data. This helped us to better refine our buying requirements, for example through clearly identifying who the core decision makers would be. As such we compiled a short data list through our own research, generating a 10% sample size.

6. Following this test we were in a good position to buy data that accurately reflected our target audience. For some guidance on buying data, I refer you to an excellent book called ‘The B2B Handbook, A Guide to achieving success in business-to-business direct marketing’.

Produced in association with the Direct Marketing Association and various professional consultancies, its guidelines include:

  • remember all charges when calculating a cost per thousand – watch out for those extra charges some data list providers add on top
  • check the recency of the data you are buying – did you know that some data lists decay at a rate of 40% each year. As such, check with the list provider how recent the data is and ensure you receive the most recent data – otherwise you may well be wasting your money
  • negotiate usage in advance – make sure if you plan on multiple contacts with your list that  you pay upfront as it can be costly if you want to buy re-use of the data – data is bought in single or multi use rates.


For more ideas, I strongly recommend buying the book – ‘The B2B Handbook, A Guide to achieving success in business-to-business direct marketing’.

Of course there are plenty of options for acquiring data, from in-house (i.e. your own data), to custom research (as we conducted for the test) to list brokers and data owners. Each offers it’s own advantages and disadvantages, which you ought to consider carefully before proceeding.

Executing the Campaign

7. The test campaign enabled us to identify the core messages that worked well with the mailer and the telemarketing campaign. We know as we asked for feedback from our sample as to why they did or didn’t respond. We then applied these lessons directly to the main campaign, refining our direct mail piece to a personalised letter with clear product examples. Again, for some guidance on how to structure the content of your creative, I would refer you to ‘The B2B Handbook, A Guide to achieving success in business-to-business direct marketing’.

8. We decided to fulfil the mailer and telemarketing in-house in order to save on the costs. The mailer was personalised and each one signed in ink by a company director to add the additional touch. The telemarketing was handled by the marketing department to ensure the follow-up was appropriately managed and sales scripts followed (although with callers able to be flexible as required). There are of course plenty of high quality agencies that can fulfil on both of these counts.

9. Along with running the campaign, we planned the resources required to enable effective follow-up. This included providing resources online for target decision makers to acquire additional information, training incoming call staff on how to deal with enquiries, setting up the database to be properly updated and more. This alignment ensured we were able to manage responses to the mailer and telemarketing.

The Aftermath

10. The final step of the campaign was to analyse how well we had performed. We of course looked at the response we had generated, but also what the cost per acquisition was. This is useful for comparing the campaign to other marketing tactics.

We also looked for patterns in the response rates, considering what company sizes responded better, which decision makers carried the most weight, whether any of the geographies we targeted offered a better success rate. All of which will be helpful for our next campaign. Overall it was a very successful campaign and even where we didn’t receive a positive result we learned a few lessons for next time around.

Now I know this isn’t a perfect example of a direct marketing campaign, but for small companies, it might give you a few ideas and some structure to work with. As ever I’d be delighted to hear from anyone who would like to tell our readers about a recent direct marketing campaign – successful or not.

How to Improve your Email Marketing Response Rates!

It’s amazing how many companies there are providing marketing advice to SMBs – like us for instance. Many of them publish free articles and post newsletters that can be of incredible value, or sometimes a huge waste of time. I know because I read them all trying to find great material for my readers.

This one’s very useful. It’s all about improving the response rates from your email campaigns. Let’s face it, just sending out emails to your customers, clients, prospects and anyone whose address you have, doesn’t always provide the greatest return. The main problem is the sheer volume of email we receive. Apparently “Recent statistics show that over 50% of the tens of billions of e-mails sent daily are spam”. It’s no wonder our messages are not received.

So what can you do to improve your email marketing?

Well, for a start, read the article on It lists 8 top tips for you to think about (see below) and you can read the article by clicking here.

  1. Get permission
  2. Focus on your Subject Line
  3. Front-load your message
  4. Pay attention to the spam triggers
  5. Tighten up the body of your message
  6. What’s on the screen?
  7. Select appropriate font colours
  8. List Maintenance – Keep your lists up-to-date

For me, you should also consider that:

  • keeping it simple will create a bigger impact – too many “special offers” or options will reduce your conversion rates.
  • providing two versions, plain text and html, will hit a wider audience.
  • making sure any links to your website are correct will reduce instant deletions.

And finally. ADD VALUE! If you provide something of use in your emails, people are much more likely to read what you’ve got to say. They will also be more receptive to your promotional material.

Good luck!

Direct Marketing – When to Communicate?

In advising a client about telemarketing recently, I was asked the question “when should we call our prospects to get the best response?”.

A very good question and unfortunately not one that I had a solid answer for. So I hit the books and put some study in to find out if there are any facts or recent studies completed that I could base our decisions on, but I couldn’t find anything. Stuck for info I approached the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s librarians to find out if they had access to any data I could use. The answer was an apologetic no, even the CIM is stuck for this kind of knowledge.

But I can’t believe there haven’t been any studies on this, especially with telemarketing being such an established and profitable business. So, if you know anything on this subject, please share it here. For small businesses this would be invaluable in helping them to get the most from their budgets.

However, some good news on email marketing. Rosalind Gardner’s Net Profits Today blog has a post about the best day to send marketing messages via email. She concludes that it’s different depending on whether you are b2b or b2c. For b2b the preferred day for receiving email is Monday and for b2c it’s a Thursday. However for b2c, Saturday and Sunday are also both very good days.

In terms of response, email marketers have been achieving between 32-38% open rates and 4-5% click rates for both b2b and b2c. I.e. for every 100 emails sent, around 35 people will actually open the email and 4-5 will click on a link to visit your website. How many of those convert to sales is dependent on your product and site design.

APR 2010 UPDATE since writing this back in 2006 I have been working a great deal in email marketing and these stats look incredible and possiby unrealistic. Open rates tend to be more like around 10% and click throughs 1% – at least in b2b email marketing. Perhaps this is a reflection on how heavily companies are now moving to email marketing and the impact this is having on open rates.

In terms of telemarketing, we decided to test various times of the day to evaluate when our targets were most responsive. Based on the test, we would evaluate the overall likely success of the campaign, as well as the most successful time of day.