Managing multiple products in your direct marketing campaign

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Given the choice, would you rather sell a product or your company's total solutions? Like most b-to-b marketers, James Mallory regularly faces this question. As director of marketing of e2b software in Chardon, Ohio, Mallory is tasked with selling all the company's accounting software. Its products are aimed squarely at the midmarket—not “the big boys” like Cisco Systems, but not small businesses that are happy with QuickBooks either. Recent direct marketing campaigns have yielded mixed results. “We did a campaign that was a shotgun approach in a defined geographical area,” Mallory said. “It wasn't tightly messaged, and it didn't do very well.” The company's next campaign was very tightly focused on business verticals, and it performed “much better.” When deciding whether or not to market e2b software's extensive product line or its expertise in accounting solutions, the company takes a whatever-works approach. Sometimes Mallory focuses on specific products; sometimes, he focuses on providing solutions to specific industries. This kind of flexibility is important, said Dawn Westerberg, president of b-to-b industry consultant Dawn Westerberg Consulting, because it allows marketers to find the right balance between two critical elements. “Part of the problem with enterprise marketers is fighting the urge to cast the net wide,” she said. “The degree to which you can limit your target audience can increase your 'mindshare.' I tell my clients not only to narrowly target their market but also to look at their products and services to see which are the most profitable.” In Mallory's case, this means focusing on e2b software's Anytime Collect software package. This product, which helps companies with invoicing and collections, is the company's flagship, one he calls the “strategic product.” “I'd say to focus on strategic products,” he said: “Focus on what you do best.” This is true even for companies that sell large product lines meant to be complementary, Westerberg said. Although it seems logical to sell on the strength of your company's entire product ecosystem, she said this can be overwhelming to prospective customers. “Even if your products are built to work together and be integrated, I think it still makes sense to take a targeted approach,” she said. “If [your tactics are] too broad, you're giving your target too much to think about. But if you can break it up into phases, it's a lot easier to get decision-makers to look at it.” This is partly because it's much harder to sell a prospect than an existing customer. So once you bring someone into your company's fold with a highly targeted, product-specific campaign, you can concentrate on the upsell. Mallory agreed, but added there's still plenty of room for surprises. “We always follow up direct campaigns with a phone call or letter,” he said. “For one recent campaign, we followed up with a letter that focused on one product. But we also included a flier on the back of the letter that showed everything we did. The extra cost was just the price of ink, so we figured we had nothing to lose. We actually had some hits on the backside from people who weren't ready to buy software, but needed something else.”
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