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The Personal Touch Approach to Sales and Marketing … Part 1
By Paul Dunham

Introduction

It defies belief until you discover powerful, proven techniques that will guide your business to incredible success.

I have spent the past 35 years working with companies of all sizes, from business start-ups to global corporations. Helping them increase sales by making their sales and marketing processes more effective. If you want to know about my experience in more detail, take a look at my ‘professional profile’

The Personal Touch
The phrase ‘Business-to-Business’ or ‘B2B’ gives something of a false impression. Yes – these businesses are selling their products or services to other businesses rather than to the general consumer.

But we must never overlook the fact that B2B buyers are not faceless corporations or brands but individual decision-makers with tastes and preferences.

Today’s buyers will inevitably compare the B2B marketing and service that they receive from their vendors with their own consumer experiences.

This fact has come under the spotlight in a number of industrial reports published over recent months.

Key Findings include:

  • Standards of personalisation in B2B communications, even at a basic level, are still not up to the mark. Fully 49% of companies believe that most firms in their sector do not pay enough attention to customer data and thus issue incorrectly addressed and/or miss-spelt documents.
  • 42% of companies believe that, in this multi-channel world, companies in their sector fail to recognise the customer across touch points. For example, a personalised mail shot is far more effective than a general solicitation.
  • On a positive note, 48% of companies declare that in the last two years companies in their sector have been improving their personalisation efforts.

As consumers we have grown accustomed to a far greater level of personalisation. Think of the host of e-commerce websites that allow us to style our own homepage, supermarket sites that remember past orders and recommend products, brochures showing our favoured new car in a specified colour and finish. Indeed, blogging tools and social networking sites mean that we’re no longer simply media recipients, we’re media creators, too. If we can set our own agendas, why should we tolerate those companies that get their own messaging hopelessly wrong?

B2B businesses are having to measure up to this expectation. Personalisation has moved well beyond correct spelling and addressing. And yet, unless customer data has been collected, updated and properly integrated into business processes, such one-to-one messaging is impossible. This has become a key issue, recent reports suggest that B2B data can decay at a rate as high as 40% per year.

At a time when every business is fighting for market share businesses cannot afford to neglect the issue. Those businesses continuing to address sales and marketing messages to generic departments or business roles rather than named individuals will quickly fall behind more focused customer-centric competitors.
Respondents were asked whether they felt their sector was exerting enough effort in personalising customer communications and whether new strategies were being implemented to manage the complex influx of information from the multi-channel environment.

Compromised customer communications
In contrast to the advances that have taken place in the consumer market, a disappointing 49% of companies believe that the majority of firms in their sector issue misaddressed, miss-spelt or otherwise inaccurate documents to their customers.

These are damning figures at a time when businesses are fighting to recover from the toughest economic climate in recent memory. 32% of respondents believe that this disregard for personalisation in communications to existing customers is partially due to over-emphasis on preparing their data for new prospects. They feel that their sector’s efforts are skewed towards customer acquisition rather than customer retention.

Although prospecting activity is vital to any business, it is critical to strike a balance with the effort put into nurturing existing customers. A recently published statistic suggests that just a 5% growth in current customer business can equate to as much as a 50% profit in bottom-line profits. Additionally, it is generally recognised that it costs 4-6 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Prospecting is essential – but not at the expense of the core customer base.

Channel inconsistency
At the same time, 42% of B2B companies believe that organisations in their sector generally do not manage to acknowledge the individual customer’s value and are unable to recognise customers at every touch point – whether web, mail, live, phone or email – and treat them with consistency.

Again, this figure is a cause for concern. Customers increasingly demand choice over how they communicate with businesses. Not providing this choice can be seen as limiting and inflexible. But equally, offering choice without the resource to cope with customer input from this variety of channels can quickly erode customer confidence in a brand.

There can be no excuse for such a lackadaisical approach. Software and hardware tools are available for businesses of every size to automate data collection and analysis and to apply knowledge gained on customers to future communications – whether digital or hard-copy. Visit www.pauldunhamstorming.com

Shaping up
On a positive note, in the last two years, 58% of B2B companies declare that they have been increasing their personalisation efforts in order to send tailored messages to existing and potential customers and get more in-line with the highly customised business to consumer experience.

Here is an acknowledgement that personalisation matters in the B2B arena and that generic send outs and hit-and hope messaging will leave businesses unable to compete with more audience-aware competitors.

Many B2B communications have an on going lifecycle, whereby historical transactions or communications are referenced with each new contact. Examples might include referencing previous equipment service call-outs with each new appointment or detailing how past transactions are building towards loyalty discounts. Accuracy here is essential, giving an impression of solid customer-care and personalised service. Mistakes lead to frustration and dissatisfaction.

The economy has sharpened strategies and businesses are looking to drive waste from their processes. One interesting related development is the growth of trans promo messaging amongst B2B businesses. This is the practice of adding marketing or promotional messages to transactional documents such as invoices or quotations. Trans promo effectively enables one communication to do two jobs – deliver the mandatory transactional message and also market to the customer. The technique is certainly eliminating marketing wastage, maximising the return on investment from mandatory communications. The fact that trans promo relies on intelligent use of data is also encouraging.

This article continues with part 2 “Time to get personal”

Added: 1st February 2012

Paul has over 30 years experience in the manufacturing industry. Combined with his knowledge of marketing practises he's an expert when it comes to marketing for manufacturers.

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