One-to-one marketing: Making the conversation vital

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Many b-to-b direct marketers are charged with deploying effective demand-generation tactics, to target the right individuals with relevant marketing offers that initiate or, in some cases, reinforce interest in their products and services.

But marketing teams, increasingly entrusted with keeping customers informed via regular corporate communications, often are hamstrung by ineffective technologies and processes.

Today, as marketers reach the top of the cross-channel maturity curve, they must transition into the next phase of customer engagement: conversational marketing.

But who initiates the conversation? Marketing platforms have traditionally focused on servicing and automating direct communications via outbound channels such as direct mail, email, mobile messaging and outbound telemarketing. However, for the most part they have not turned their attention to circumstances where it is the prospect who makes contact with the brand on inbound channels, such as a website, a point of sale or a call center.

The broad availability of online sources of information, including corporate websites and social communities, means that it is now prospects who initiate contact with organizations.

Consider inbound call center inquiries, which are critical to most b-to-b businesses. First-time inquiries must be captured, and later inbound interactions represent many opportunities to gain intelligence on prospects, and present them with tailored offers that progress them down your marketing pipeline.

Conversational marketing is about building and sustaining one-to-one personalized lifetime dialogues across all marketing channels to drive revenue and marketing effectiveness. It means unifying inbound and outbound communication strategies by tracking and managing all marketing activity data, to generate targeted messaging and making the most relevant offers based on customer behavior and established preferences.

For b-to-b marketers, conversational marketing technology must support the ability to augment one-to-one marketing capabilities with real-time marketing offers across outbound and inbound channels.

This means bringing together offers—such as white papers, event invitations, case studies, video testimonials and on-demand Web seminars—in a central catalog. For example, a recommendation engine can be called by outbound programs to insert one or more personalized offers into an outbound message, such as a regularly scheduled newsletter.

With a complete offer catalog in place, marketers can ensure outbound communications are optimized to progress every recipient down the marketing pipeline.

All offers might be qualified with easy-to-define eligibility rules, such as, “This white paper is eligible for any C-level decision-maker in whose organization a lead is currently identified for solution alpha.” Another example might be, “This case study is eligible for any director of engineering in whose organization a lead is currently identified for solution beta.”

The bottom line is this: Bringing inbound inquiries into the marketing mix translates into incremental opportunities to create demand or progress leads. Empowered by conversational marketing technology, b-to-b marketers now have the tools and the confidence they need to fuse inbound and outbound channels, increase effectiveness and agility, and build sustainable one-to-one, personalized lifetime dialogues.

Kristin Hambelton is VP-marketing at Neolane Inc. ( She can be reached at

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