The last quarter of the year is a busy one for many businesses. Not only do the retail and hospitality sectors ramp up their efforts ahead of the holidays, but software and technology businesses are also looking to finish the year strongly. Sales teams around the world are working frantically to close deals ahead of the start of a new year. The past two years have been particularly tough for businesses, but with the looming threat of Covid-19 and lockdowns hopefully behind them, they are looking for a strong finish, propelling themselves into 2022 in a good position.
With so many pressures already on the sales team, it is important to have a strong marketing strategy in place to support them.
Here are four ways how marketing can help you achieve your annual sales goals:
Identify the Quick Wins
Marketing or demand generation functions can help in generating new leads and supporting the sales team, however with quarter 4 being so pivotal for businesses, sales efforts are focussed on closing the deals already in the pipeline and new lead generation and prospecting can take a back seat.
Although in this last quarter of the year, it’s less likely that a new, bluebird deal will emerge and close. We therefore recommend looking for quick-win opportunities that could be triggered by the calendar year-end pressure. Putting our software, B2B marketing, thinking hat on, we’re talking about product end of life service and support or thinking of special discounts that you can offer on products.
Replicate Successful Demand Generation Campaigns
Another option is to replicate past successes. In order to achieve your sales goals, it’s vital to analyse where your past successes came from. That is why it’s important to use the data and experience you already have to its maximum value. You can pull a massive amount of analytics from nearly all your marketing channels and your CRM system. Marketing teams can help put together campaigns, based upon this data, which will give them insights into which sector to target, with what message and through which marketing channel.
This data can help paint a picture of what worked and what didn’t, allowing you to dig into what engaged your audience and what they ignored. This data will be vital for planning content to use throughout this quarter. By analysing pieces of content, which format it was sent in and what elements made it click with your audience will help you make your campaign click with your target market.
If your customers have the budget or regulatory pressures to meet in the calendar year, try timing your campaigns with it to gain some quick wins. What does a sales team love more than a prospect that is under pressure to buy!
If You Want Success, Emulate It
Don’t be shy in following the path of a successful competitor campaign. For example, we have been working on a campaign around supply chain automation for a UiPath partner. This campaign has generated 10 qualified sales opportunities within a month of running. If you can service the supply chain market why not try a similar campaign with your offering.
If your competition is particularly successful in a campaign, can you identify what made that campaign successful and replicate it with your own unique offering? Where it is not recommended to just copy what they have done, you can isolate elements of their work for your own plans and leverage a market trend.
Set and Know Your End Goal, What do You Want Your Jan 1 2022 to Look Like
Your marketing and demand generation efforts now, will not only give this calendar year a final push but will also create a pipeline for 2022. Hence, when formulating your strategy for the last push of 2021, it can be helpful to think about how your objectives will set you up beyond December 31st. Look ahead now to the 3rd of January, when most of us will be returning to work, how do you want your pipeline to look? What kind of leads do you want to be chasing? What are the sales goals you would like to achieve? Picturing this now will help you streamline your aims for the coming few months and help you achieve this.
Set Your Marketing Calendar
The coming few months can get filled up very quickly. In between national holidays, the run-up to Christmas and family commitments, it can leave little room in your potential lead’s diaries. It is therefore important to plan your campaigns out in advance. Be mindful of what your potential customers might be up to at that time and target them when they are more likely to engage. Try to catch them earlier within the days and weeks before they get too bogged down with their own work. If you are unsure of when is best to target your leads, try a few different times, from early in the day to just after lunch or the last few working hours, you may be surprised what time works best for you.
If you have the time, it might also be worthwhile attending a few in-person or online events. Especially now that face to face or hybrid events are back! October and November, in the business world, see a surge of events and racing for business awards. While don’t recommend splurging on PR and events, evaluating and being present at events where you have an opportunity to meet your customers should never be ignored. Just make sure you are double jabbed before you say yes to attend!
Organise Your Downtime
As busy as this quarter can be, you can also be faced with a sudden drop off in late December and over the Christmas break. For marketers, however, this is a perfect opportunity to invest some time into looking after your data. You can clear out disinterested or dead leads, highlight particularly fruitful contacts and finalising plans for next year. The groundwork now will pay dividends in the new year as you are able to hit the ground running.
All of this planning can seem a little daunting at first, with many not knowing where to start or how to best optimise the assets available to them. That is why our last point for a successful last quarter is to ask for help.
Many businesses are now recognising the benefits of outsourcing marketing or demand generations and using a digital agency that is best aligned to their needs.
Predictable Marketing has a proven track record of securing quality leads for software and technology businesses. If you would like help strategizing a successful last marketing quarter and beyond, get in touch to find out more.
Marketing automation and personalisation are two of the biggest trends in business-to-business communication. At a glance, they might appear very similar, but the two approaches encompass completely different tactics and methods. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but which is right for you?
A sales team would argue that personalisation is the best approach. The process of personalising your campaigns can take many forms, but essential it encompasses any effort made to align your actions to an individual’s prospects, characteristics or needs. The idea being that in making your email personalised to the customer you are investing in and building a long-term relationship with them. With research suggesting it can be up to 25% more expensive to acquire a new customer, rather than retaining an existing one, it’s easy to see why it’s important to value and maintain long-term customer relationships.
Sales teams are always in favour of personalising an email because they generally only get one chance to be in front of a prospect. With this limitation, it is important their messaging appears personalised and relevant to the specific needs of that customer. It can also build recognition between the customer and your brand, making you stand out from the crowd. Personalisation does however have its drawbacks. It can be an expensive route, with the need to collect personalised data from all your potential customers and having a reactive team who can change materials quickly based on the customer’s needs. Within B2B marketing, businesses are very much aware of the technology available to allow mass-sent emails to look personalised, meaning your personalisation efforts might still be in vain.
Marketing automation encompasses a large range of marketing practises that can be executed and optimised with automation, these include data gathering, lead generating, email marketing, social media and more. Marketing teams are more in favour of an automated approach as it allows them to reach a vast number of people quickly and efficiently. As you know marketing is at times a numbers game, you’ll have to kiss 10 frogs before you find your prince and automation allows marketing teams to do this. Automation not only plays a key role in outbound marketing but can also be effectively used within an inbound lead generation strategy. For example, to personally reply to every enquiry you have may be fine if you get 10 enquiries in a month, but what happens when you’re getting 50 in a week? Automating your replies to inbound messaging will help you direct your customer enquiries and allow you to use your time more effectively.
So, automation or personalisation, which is the correct approach?
The answer is a mixture of both. The two approaches can be utilised in tandem with a number of intersections within a sales and marketing journey. If a sales team can segment their prospect data into small enough groups, matching up the pain points for each customer, then marketing is able to target these smaller groups with personalised messages.
Many of the services or platforms’ marketers use for automating content allow personalisation. There are however two important things that are critical when personalising content. The first of these is the data you use. If you want to address your recipients by their first names, then you need to have the correct first names in your database beforehand. Personalisation however goes beyond just the first names on an email, it can include the contents of an email or social media messages that change from user to user. That is why the second thing needed is meticulous planning and configuring of automated campaigns, ensuring the content differs from person to person.
A Psychological Based Analysis of Marketing Email Subject Lines
Since its inception in the early 1960s, email has gone on to radically transform our lives. As the technology has become more accessible, marketers have embraced the ability to directly communicate with their consumers, sending messages directly to the smartphone in their pockets. With this capacity, it’s easy to see why email marketing has become invaluable to businesses around the world.
Email marketing could be classified as any email a business sends to a current or potential customer in which they send advertising material, request business, or solicit sales and donations. More recent marketing strategies have sent communications with the aim of building brand awareness, trust or loyalty. Email marketing has become so popular with businesses for a number of reasons. It is much cheaper than sending traditional mail and can appear almost instantly in front of their consumer. There are also more opportunities to gather analytics from emails. Marketers can analyse who opened their emails, when they opened them, which links they did or didn’t click and use this information to optimize their future messaging. Partnered with an effective marketing and sales funnel, email has become a powerful tool for businesses.
To achieve any success with Email Marketing, you first need to persuade the reader to open the email. The main deciding factor in a reader’s choice, to open or delete, will be the subject line.
At present, there has been little scientific research into what triggers a person into opening and reading an email. A recent study however used natural language processing, text analysis and computational linguistics to identify what these triggers were. The research analysed the email subject lines from a psychological point of view and determined what effect it would have on a person reading it and what decisions they would make to open that email or neglect it. The objective of the research was to develop methods that could quantify the psychological effects induced by an email subject line; and correlated this with the action performed by the email receiver.
To conduct the study the researchers used sentiment analysis and data mining on three large data sets from Enron Email, Spamdex Digital Spam Archive and Google Open Adwords. The study concluded that for a subject line to be successful it would need to follow a series of rules. These rules stated there were a series of elements that would contribute to the success or failure of an email.
One of the key factors was determined to be the emotion conveyed within the subject line. Unsurprisingly it was found that a subject line with a positive emotion word received more opens, while a negative emotion word received fewer opens. The study also looked at blending emotions within the subject line. It found that a mixture of joy, surprise, anticipation and trust could create an increase in opens, were as a blend of sad, fearful or angry emotions would result in fewer opens. Perhaps surprisingly it was found that blending negative emotions with surprise or anticipation could generate an increase in responses/replies to the original email.
Another factor found to contributed to the success of an email subject line was the use of polarity. The use of positive polarities such as “is” or “have:” were found to have a much better open rather when compared with negative polarities like “is not” or “have not”
There are many opinions on the length and theme of phrasing to use in a subject line. This piece of research found that if a subject line is more subjective or personal to a reader it is more likely to hold their attention for longer. Including the name of your business, organisation or brand were also found to include open rates. Interestingly the research also found that starting an email with an adjective such as “many” “few” or “fast” would limit the number of clicks an email received.
In terms of length, the study found that if the subject line had less than three phrases It would not generate a high level of clicks. The study also looked at some of the terms and related words that would affect the success of an email. It found that those containing business-related terms performed better than those that included terms relating to entertainment or travelling.
Sometimes however the terms used for the same subject could achieve very different results. If we look at the term “Shopping” then including words like “% off” “sale” or including prices and discounts would result in a higher open rate. In contrast terms like “free” or “coupon” were found to limit the open rate. Looking at business terms, words like “turnover” or “millions” would have a much better impact on readers than words like “webinar”, “seminar” or “conference. ”
Words & Characters
When looking into the number of words a subject line should use the study concluded that a subject line with between 7 and 8 words would get the most opens. Luckily for times when it’s not possible to have that many, the study also found that using more than 4 words would also draw a favourable number of clicks. It also found that the use of longer words, capitalising the first letter and separating the subject line with pipes (*-*-*-) would also generate a higher number of clicks.
The study also drilled down into the number of characters to use within an email subject line. It found that having more than 80 characters was favourable. In comparison using between 50 to 80 characters would generate less click and using less than 15 would generate even fewer.
From the research, we can see that there are many factors to consider when crafting your email subject line. It is important to remember it’s not possible to follow each finding that this study concluded would bring a higher rate of clicks. For example, it would be difficult to construct a subject line of 80 characters and 7 words! Their findings however can serve as a guideline for marketers when next selecting what to put in that all-important subject heading.
Generating demand for B2B businesses in the summer months
As the summer sun shines down on us and a rediscovered sense of freedom prevails, we have been asked by our customers – “what form of marketing is going to be effective this summer as everyone tries to make the best of the sunshine and fulfilling their pent-up craving for a holiday?” Should our demand generation activities go on holiday as well?
Based on 15 years of experience running successful B2B demand generation programs for B2B technology and software businesses, here are few suggestions on how sales and marketing teams can build their pipeline and generate demand during these summer months.
Time To Collect Data
Data collected by the most used B2B marketing platform, LinkedIn, suggests that social engagement and interaction increases over the summer as people find more time to engage with interesting content. The keyword being “interesting content”. While your prospects will habitually scroll their phones, even on break, they probably won’t read a 20-page whitepaper. So here’s the first tip – make your content marketing interesting and lighter to read. It’s time to invest in multimedia assets – videos, gif’s, infographics, quizzes and puzzles. Gamification of content is a great way to engage your prospects while they are basking in the sun.
Pick Your Moment
Timing and relevance are key – sending out a webinar invite on a Friday evening before a long weekend is a bad idea. Whereas sending an email on the Tuesday following a bank holiday with a subject line – “Wish You Were Still on Holiday” or “How to get 2 Hours of Your Day Back to Enjoy The Sun” will get you a higher open rate and better responses.
We’ve found that many companies use the traditionally quiet summer holiday period to plan projects and scope solutions. Engaging customers at this stage of the sales lifecycle gives you a better chance to work together later. Create and share content that helps people in their research such as savings calculators, build your own business case templates, case studies and use cases. Making the effort to provide relevant content now, can work in your favour when the prospect reaches a decision point.
Make use of the less hectic schedule
If you have run outbound calling campaigns you will know from experience that you can get more appointments in the summer months and kick start conversations. This could vary for different industry sectors, however, we have seen that summer months are ideal to start conversations with clients. This is an ideal time to get involved and approach key personnel with new products and services. People are still evaluating solutions and building a qualified pipeline will ensure your sales team have a great pool of leads to close in the autumn.
Leverage the power of data
Your marketing campaigns are only as effective as your database. Use this time to build your marketing lists and expand your subscriber database. Spend time with your sales team to segment the database into personas so you can personalise the messages that you send to various segments of data. Personalisation can deliver 5x-8x the ROI but 85% of marketers surveyed say their audience segments are too broad.
Monitor response data to campaigns closely and refocus and tweak campaigns to suit target audience needs. Focus on sectors or personas where you are getting better engagement.
If you target industries that shut down in the summer such as the education sector, mark them in your exclusion lists so they don’t affect your engagement rates are part of a larger dataset.
Put your B2B demand generation on autopilot
Last but not the least, don’t forget to take a break yourself and while you do that, demand generation doesn’t need to stop. Making use of marketing automation platforms such as HubSpot makes it easier to put your marketing programs on auto-pilot while you are away. Just a word of caution automation requires planning to ensure you get the right message to the right person at the right time. Whether you are running Google ads, LinkedIn ads or email campaigns, HubSpot or similar marketing automation tools, ensure your database is clean and clearly segmented and marketing workflows defined based on your prospect behaviour.
Predictable Marketing manages global demand generation campaigns for software and technology firms and we are busiest in the summer months and the latter half of the year. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss your summer strategy for demand generation and other marketing activities.
Within business, there is always a contrast between the way sales and marketing interact with potential customers. Marketing prefers to nurture new customers, where sales are eager to close a deal and move on to the next consumer. In recent times however, we have seen that a hard-selling tactic is no longer effective as our buying habits have evolved. We no longer like being followed by a salesperson (instore or virtually) and like to research and make our own decisions. This makes lead generation and conversion different from what it used to be, with a wealth of competitors and knowledge on the market, consumers have more choice than ever whilst businesses must work twice as hard to be seen and to transform potential leads into paying customers.
There will then inevitably be a difference in opinion as to how salespeople and marketing people would want to treat incoming leads.
What is a Lead?
Contrary to what some might think a lead, cannot be considered the first stage of inbound marketing. Lead generation falls within the second stage of inbound marketing. Once you have attracted an audience for your product you can now work on converting them into a lead for the sales team.
It is also important to note the difference between a sales qualified lead and a marketing qualified lead, as both will have different needs and expectations. A sales qualified lead is a customer who has already expressed a firm desire to purchase your product, they will need little or no further encouragement before making their buying decision. A marketing qualified lead, however, is a customer who although engaged by your marketing efforts, is not yet ready to move to a paying customer. They must therefore be nurtured by marketing and sales with the purpose of moving them to become a paying customer.
Qualifying The Lead & Lead Scoring.
Before you go to the effort of moving a customer through a marketing and sales funnel, it is important to qualify if the interest is valid. Are they interested in your product, are they a competitor or potentially just spam? There are several questions you can ask your lead to qualify their interest. You can reach out to customers directly, to qualify their interest and support the prospects research with some more information or content from your marketing, e.g. a case study. If you are struggling to know where to start with the questions, you can start by asking;
- What were they looking for when they found your company?
- Why were they researching this?
- Is this a part of an active project?
- What is the company’s budget?
- Why the need for your product arose?
- Who makes the buying decisions within the company?
- What their expectation are for a buying and implementation timeframe?
Once you have more data on the lead you can give them a corresponding score to denote how hot this lead is. Scoring the lead like this will allow your sales teams to use their time more effectively, focusing on the leads that are likely to generate sales.
Don’t Make The Lead Wait
Leads, once qualified, need to be nurtured straight away. The level of interest from your potential customer is dropping with every minute you wait to respond, and they may already be looking at competing products. It is therefore important for a sales team to have an internal routine for handling incoming leads, with the aim of getting positive responses within 24 hours of receiving a lead.
Direct leads into a mailbox can be missed, forgotten, or not attended to due to the demands on a sales team’s time. Many businesses are seeing the benefits of leading customers to a department-wide email address that can be monitored by the whole team, or by investing in an automated calendar booking system. Having an effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system such as HubSpot, which ties both sales and marketing activities, becomes critical for logging interactions with customers to ensure your whole team are all aware of where they are on their sale’s journey.
Many of the leads picked up through marketing will not yet be ready to take the leap to be a customer. They will need more information on your product and how it solves the issues they are facing or how it opens up an opportunity for them. One of the best ways to convey this information is through webinars. Webinars are a low-cost way to showcase your product and its key features in front of your target audience. You also guarantee your audience is engaged by the fact they had to register and log in to attend. You can also measure engagement throughout the webinar to see if any factors such as ease of entry, the topic, or length of the webinar can be refined for next time.
There are many other marketing materials you can use to inform customers. Whitepapers, blogs, instructional videos and Q&A questions all work well to fill in the gaps potential customers might have about your product. Often the information will not just be for the lead, but others within the company they need to convince to make a buying decision.
Offer an Incentive
Offering an incentive is a great way to secure the “yes” that converts a lead into a customer. It can be telling if you are failing to grow leads that your product or offering might not be tempting enough. Offers can remain flexible and can be changed to suit the customers need, in fact, the more tailored and exclusive an offer feels the more desirable it becomes to a customer. If you do not have the flexibility to create an offer, free trials of your product also work to effectively entice a customer. By trying your product they get to see it effectively solving the problem they faced and will be completed to purchase when faced with the prospect of losing it.
At the end of the sales journey, your customer will reach their decision. They will either buy from you or not. It is important for a sales team to not be scared to ask for a sale. It might seem strange to say but many sales teams will not just simply ask their leads if they are ready to buy. Your leads became leads because they are interested in your product and what it offers. If you are not prepared to ask for the sale your competitors will.
There are many tricks and techniques sales teams might employ when closing a sale, but many of these techniques could now seem outdated, especially nowadays with the rise in inbound sales. If you have effectively engaged with your customer to discover their needs and successfully communicated how your product can affordably satisfy their needs, then there should be no barrier to closing the sale.
Asking for a sale will also stop you from wasting time with cold leads. Setting a time limit on communications is a terrific way to apply soft pressure to a potential customer and allows you to help your sales and marketing funnels up to date with engaged customers and not wasting time or effort chasing a dead lead.