Variety of tools helps reach, retain key prospects

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With budgets slashed in companies large and small, marketers need to determine the best way to reach customers and prospects. Ideally, this effort should be driven by two key questions: First, how can you be sure the people you're mailing to are viable prospects? And second, how can you increase the likelihood of response?

In their quest for answers, some b-to-b marketers are beginning to realize that targeting communications using consumer marketing practices can deliver significant benefits. Businesspeople are consumers, too, and often react well to b-to-c approaches that address their business concerns.

B-to-b marketers have fewer insights about business targets, so more upfront work is required to better understand them.

For example, geo-coding can add value by targeting specific messages to customers and prospects located near sales or service facilities. Titles, business organization memberships and patterns of engagement can also provide valuable intelligence about customers, prospects and their communications preferences.

Another effective targeted b-to-c marketing practice is personalization. Most basically, you'd never want to send “Dear Prospect” messages to people you already do business with. For existing customers, you should also understand, and possibly refer to, their prior activity.

Never use generic salutations, and always try to relate content to the specific concerns of the person you're addressing. For example, procurement people will respond to messages about cost savings and control. Marketing specialists will find response-rate improvement compelling.

To help with this approach, there are several targeting tools and approaches available:

Segmentation. Segmentation analytics break down populations into groups so you can select messages that resonate with each segment.

Location intelligence. Geo information systems (GIS) let you relate recipient data to geographic elements of the offer.

Differentiated messaging. A variable composition tool lets you customize communications templates to specific audiences.

Differentiated multichannel delivery. This targeted approach helps you effectively deploy the full array of communication channels, including SMS text messaging, blog links, podcasts, online networks and search, as well as traditional media.

Response evaluation. You must always monitor response and adjust communications accordingly at the individual and segment levels.

B-to-c marketers have demonstrated the power of the premium offering, but what's appropriate to a b-to-b audience? Thought leadership pieces, like white papers, can provide valuable information and build credibility. It's also very effective to offer research studies promising new insights into your prospects' key concerns.

Webinars can generate gold-plated leads, but it's important to target your invitations. You can get help by partnering with an industry organization or publication whose established scope automatically targets the audience you want and that already has an engaged audience.

Paradoxically, a smaller target can actually deliver a bigger audience. Consider, for example, a webinar on customer communications management. Sent to a broad array of business executives, 20 to 30 people typically might register. But if the theme is made even narrower, to something like “Managing health care benefits communications for health plan members,” and offered to a small list of benefits managers at large corporations and insurers, you may get more than 200 people to register.

Another best practice involves the segmented distribution of dimensional and nondimensional mailings. Separate your list into high-potential and low-potential prospects. Send the high potentials dimensional mailings via first-class mail or overnight expediter to help ensure deliverability.

Low-potential prospects could receive nondimensional mailings, such as postcards, or it might be prudent to send them nothing at all within certain phases of a campaign. For this group, assess your response rates, average cost of sale and lifetime customer value.

The response rate for targeted, segmented mailings can be significantly higher than for mailings where there is no targeting or segmentation. While campaigns in print mean using higher cost-per-image digital printing, targeting often means sending less content in total. That can mean a better recipient experience and lower net production and delivery costs.

Greg Van den Heuvel is president, global strategy, product management & strategic marketing, at Pitney Bowes Management Services ( He can be reached at [email protected]

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