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Archive for January, 2017

Back to Basics in B2B Marketing

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The advice of most business coaches is to test and measuring (approximately) ten different marketing channels, whilst others recommend sticking with just the best two or three initiatives which work best.

I am always looking for new initiatives to trial for Responsiva, and in doing so measure the results rigorously. Different businesses and approaches to market will inevitably yield different results, but hopefully in sharing Responsiva’s marketing experiences you might give feedback on your own strategies and suggest any new ideas. I really welcome them.

The initiatives listed below are just those targeting new customers. Customer management, reactivation, referrals, rewards etc would open up a whole new article.

 

Social Media: The Free Stuff

The four big names are well recognized; Linked-in, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Each offers a different approach to market and all four should be explored. Put things into perspective though: to manage them effectively, in my opinion, an investment of a minimum ten minutes of your time is required daily. Do the math and that equates to a solid week’s work per year. Or a whole month’s work if you do all four. Whilst corporates can invest in teams of employees to manage their social media, the small or micro business cannot. So getting the balance right with time invested in social media is key. After dabbling in all four, I narrowed Responsiva down to just two: Linked-in and Twitter. Ten minutes per day on each keeps the accounts growing, and both have yielded (some, but not many) enquiries. Neither are the most effective route to market, but there is no cost other than small investment of time.

I am planning the creation of a few promotional videos as well this year. Not yet convinced of their value, but they can be spread across all social media channels.

 

Company Website

Many micro businesses avoid building a website. They can be costly to set up and maintain, but remain an essential source of information for prospects to be pointed at in order to feed into the enquiry process. A high budget is not essential these days, so at the very least a holding page with some basic facts is better than none. A website is essential; it says what you do.

 

Content Articles

These are also free in terms of cost, but require the investment of time; a commodity in short supply for the single-person business such as Responsiva. Nobody can write about a company better than the business owner, so this process absorbs another thirty minutes or so each week. Business services need exposure, making written content invaluable. The most rewarding aspect is that a weekly article can be uploaded to the website and all social media platforms, so everything is connected to the aforementioned free channels and feeds into them well.

 

Online Advertising / Pay-per-click

Responsiva used to invest heavily in Google & Bing pay-per-click advertising. But by 2010 the cost per click had increased (and the rate of enquiries decreased) to the point where these once-lucrative campaigns were costing more than their return. Whilst I wouldn’t rule out trying these marketing channels again in 2017, it would be with some degree of trepidation and tight budgetary caution. Test & measure precautions prevail.

Alternative historic advertising channels have included online directories. And here is an amusing story which I really want to share. Responsiva used to advertise with several online directories until 2012, at which point it was considered to be a waste of money. One directory called me to ask for a renewal and explained that if I searched google for a specific search term then I would see their advert in first place. Indeed it was. So I asked what would happen to that advert if I cancelled my subscription, to which they replied the placing would be lost. “Does that mean the one in 2nd place will then become 1st, the 3rd place go to 2nd etc?” They agreed. In second place at that time was my own website, so I explained that by cancelling said subscription my own website would be promoted. They didn’t take it particularly well.

Social media (pay per click) advertising with the big four is always worth exploring. I ran a campaign throughout January 2017 with Linked-in pay-per-click. 100 clicks later and zero enquiries from this channel. Perhaps my message was wrong, or the website not engaging enough. But I did test thirty different advertising messages, and the website hasn’t changed since yielding multiple enquiries from other channels. So I got to thinking that this wasn’t a great route to market, and canned the campaign just before month-end. Trying out Twitter advertising next.

 

Search Engine Optimization

Wasn’t this the in-thing of the Naughties? Six historic SEO contractors have been tested. Three were good; one of them was fantastic. Two others delivered virtually nothing and the sixth I never heard from again after paying for a service. I feel some empathy for the genuine players in the SEO sector; Google can punish them heavily with an overnight update that trashes the keyword rankings they have fought so hard to deliver for you.

Perhaps the main issue with SEO is that you feel like the donkey with a carrot two feet in front of your nose. Who is to say what your competitors are investing in this activity? As a general rule the big guns win top slots by paying more. But what has been won exactly? It can take a heavy investment to gain a first placing in Google, and the finances only self-justify if the return is in balance. From personal experiences, there have been some good SEO campaigns which yielded fairly well, and were delivered by genuine professional effort. So I will dabble in this channel from time to time, but recommend a “proceed with caution” approach and always check references of SEO providers before embarking on a new supplier in this field.

 

Trade Press (Magazine Advertising)

Every industry has its trade press magazines. Perhaps a thing of the past in paper form, but they still exist online. In the days of employment, I used to read the likes of Precision Marketing & Marketing Week religiously, and even The Grocer was a very popular industry-related publication. Data Strategy came on the scene a little later and that was a well-refined magazine which I genuinely looked forward to reading. So I tried some advertising in two of these but the responses (and sales from those responses) did not marry up well with the investment.

Corporates can afford to advertise under the guise of ‘brand awareness’, but micro companies cannot; they need a return on investment. So it is unlikely I would ever consider trade press advertising again. Partly because I take the view that a high percentage of the readers of these magazines are suppliers (sellers) into such trades, rather than the traders themselves (buyers).

 

Networking Events / Business Breakfasts

I tried many of these when first starting out; some are more formally structured than others. My personal preference is towards the less-well structured, enabling you time to meet people. Whilst the early mornings lead to giving up on this concept for a few years, I re-visited them at the start of 2017 and was pleasantly surprised, so am now committed to attending one event per month. It’s enough.

 

Data Driven Marketing – Postal Mailings

I started Responsiva in 2003 with some door-drop letters in local business parks, offering data services. This didn’t work: no responses. So I then sourced a database of 500 targeted business prospects and wrote a mail-merged letter to them. Five responses came back. One was a time waster, four wanted a quotation, one converted to sale.

500 postal letters flowed from my home every week thereafter. The numbers were religiously accurate: (+/- 1) five responses each time. Four or five quotes and one new customer.

Nowadays I do none of this manual printing & packing, and pay no silly prices for stamps either. Batches of 5,000 – 8,000 letters are printed at a time, using the services of a mailing house and earning the postage discounts available from this larger volume.

Results remain good; 5,000 letters will get 40 – 60 responses and win 8 – 10 new customers.

The message needs to be clear: Say what you do, keep it to one page, drop the cheese and end with a simple call to action: a no-obligation freebie. The freebie is a simple concept; it’s simply to enable a live demonstration of service with no invoice being raised. A win/win.

For Responsiva, postal mailings started as the primary route to market and remain key today. Perhaps that’s due to knowledge of getting the right data to market to.

 

Data Driven Marketing – Email Marketing

Cold b2b email marketing has not been as successful. Unless you have previously touched a prospect from alternative channels, do they really want to receive a cold email from you? This frustrates me a little; marketing to cold business emails is perfectly legitimate (though many email platforms don’t permit it), but I take their point. The truth is that it’s a very lazy way to operate, cutting corners to hit a prospect. At least a postal letter shows you care enough (chose them specifically) to invest in the stamp. Marketing data with email addresses can be useful; such as forming the postal letter text to include “I will be emailing you on <date> to <email address> to provide you with more information”. At least then your company has introduced itself more professionally and had its first touch. I haven’t emailed cold for many years now; all prospects have had at least one touch first.

 

Data Driven Marketing – Telemarketing

Finally, telemarketing. This is the biggest mixed bag of the lot. Being labour intensive it requires a premium investment, but who should make those calls: a sole trader telemarketer, a larger company, or employ your own in-house cold caller (even just on a part-time basis)? There are merits and pitfalls with each option, and I have experienced good and bad campaign results with all three. Either way this route to market does need to be tried and tested.

Keep it simple, cut the cheese and don’t lay a silly trail of golden breadcrumbs which attempts to force prospects into saying “yes” to. It’s quite basic for Responsiva: would you like to test some free samples? Prospects will give a direct answer to a direct question.

 

The key to all marketing is test & measure, so I am delighted to have tried out so many channels and met so many suppliers along the way. The overwhelming majority want to deliver a great service with positive ROI. Back to the first paragraph of this article; it would be better to stick with just the best two or three initiatives which work best, whilst dabbling in other marketing channels periodically.

 

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Business Consultancies Can Conquer Market Saturation

Is market saturation a factual term, or just one of those spruced-up theoretical concepts which only happens to ‘other’ industry sectors? As I work with UK business data, one of the most enjoyable aspects is that everything is provable.

Market saturation is definitely a factual term. The mobile phone sector at the turn of the new Millennium being a good example.

 

Business Consultancies

Today there are 10,000 business consultancy practices UK-wide. This sector has grown in volume massively since the turn of the Millennium. Operating within the b2b sector to help guide, coach and support other businesses to grow in profit. This service typically involves reviewing the company’s full operation from sales & marketing, IT systems, team infrastructure & motivation, operational processes & efficiencies, financial management, reporting & measurement, wasted expenditure and any aspect where additional revenue can be earned or savings can be made.

But who are their target market of these 10,000 consultancies? This is the question.

Does a sole trader really need all these services, and could they afford them? Do the high street branches of national chains have the autonomy to enlist such services? And is it a service investment which the public or charity sectors would be able to justify?

The numbers are factual; the UK hosts 500,000 viable business prospects for these 10,000 business consultancies. The figure increases (possibly trebles) if micro businesses could be considered, and halves if a threshold of around 8+ employees is implemented.

This means that (if prospects were shared out equally) each business consultancy has a prospect pool of just 50 prospects.

 

Market Saturation

Most viable companies (and by most, I mean well in excess of 90%) will have been called many times over, offering an appointment with one of numerous business consultants.

Let me elaborate on the term ‘many times’ by doing the math: say 10,000 consultancies each make 1,000 outbound telemarketing calls per month with a view to setting an appointment. That would be 12,000 calls per year per business consultancy. Times this by the 10,000 consultancies and that means 120 million calls per year. To 500,000 prospects, that would make 240 calls per year per business prospect.

i.e., each prospect would receive a marketing call each and every day.

Whilst these numbers can be argued (and not every consultancy makes telemarketing calls as a part of their marketing strategy) I am aware that some consultancies make five or ten times this volume of calls per month. So however these numbers are translated, it is factual to say that almost every viable commercial prospect has been contacted a staggering number of times.

 

Branding & Bread Crumbs

There are times when branding is counter-productive. Receiving five marketing calls per week is one thing, but what if you received those calls from the same company? Some would regard this as brand awareness, but from my experience would suggest it more akin to brand damage.

Much of the UK population has shifted loyalty from branded goods over recent years, now regarding for example the cut price supermarkets as a better value alternative. Whereas other brands (such as Virgin) have focused their well-received brand image on customer value.

With branding comes uniformity, alignment and consistency. Wherever you are in the World you would expect a Big Mac to be consistent; in contents, taste, service and (allowing for regional fluctuations) price. With business consultancies the service is to some degree personal. Trust in the individual providing the consultancy service is key, and that is not measured so much in terms of brand value as by the individual’s personal attributes.

Yet many business consultants market themselves with exactly the same message. Perhaps the most unsavory of these messages is what can only be described as the trail of golden breadcrumbs, leading to an enforced “yes”. For example:

Would you like to earn £1million per year in profit?” <yes>

“So you would like your business to win more customers and run more efficiently?” <yes>

“Would you like to spend less time working in your business?” <yes>

 “My consultancy can help you deliver all this. Would you like to meet?” <pause for answer>

Business owners and company directors (by their very nature) are intelligent people who can see through these leading questions, and such an approach might even lead to offence.

So is it any great surprise that I have come into contact with many business consultants over recent years who have invested thousands of pounds in their telemarketing campaigns, and yielded absolutely nothing by way of return? As some would say … keep doing the same thing and you will keep getting the same result.

 

Conquering Your Marketing

There remains a positively vibrant and viable marketplace for business consultants today. But the route to market, marketing message and even the target market could benefit from some changes if future growth is to be achieved.

Marketing has four principles; what to say, how to say it, who to say it to and when to say it.

The “what to say?” element is simple; a direct, honest approach should outperform the trail of golden breadcrumbs. People buy from people, so be true to yourself. The marketing message needs to reflect who you are, rather than the words of someone else. The breadcrumb approach may have once worked well, but times change and business owners are wise to it.

How to say it?” is really more about the marketing channel; is telemarketing right for your business, or should you try other routes to market? If the message remains the same, other marketing channels should yield the same result. There is a place for telemarketing, providing the message changes. Such as the removal of guided “yes” responses.

The “who to say it to?” needs to diversify also. Why keep hammering away at the same saturated market? And here is where I have two ideas of new markets; as a combined pool, there are 1.5 million new prospects available. Not completely untouched, but certainly this prospect pool is far from saturated by comparison. So I would welcome further discussion on this with any interested business consultancy.

As for the “when?”, if the service is needed then the timing is now.

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Customer Satisfaction Survey (2010 – 2016)

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Download the two page pdf document to see the results of Responsiva’s Customer Satisfaction Survey from 2010 – 2016

 

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The UK Business Data Universe (The Facts)

The UK’s business data universe comprises approximately three million records which may be segmented for direct marketing purposes.

Some high-level facts about this business universe follow;

 

Employee Counts

All records are regularly telephone verified and updated with their current employee count.

Perhaps of most significant note is that some 75% of the business data file has up to five employees, rendering just 25% of companies having more than 5 staff.

 

Multiple Sites

70% of business data records are known to trade from a single site.

This means that the remaining 30% operate as branches, multiple sites or national chains.

 

Premise Types

Where a company’s premise type is known;

  • 31% operate from an OFFICE premise
  • 7.5% operate from a FACTORY or WAREHOUSE premise
  • 15.5% trade from HOME
  • 31% trade from a RETAIL premise
  • 5.5% operate from a MEDICAL or EDUCATION premise

 

Contact Names & Details

Almost 90% of business data records contain a senior contact name, which may be segmented by job titles and functions. About 70% of these are business owner or director level names, with the remainder being managerial.

Telephone numbers (checked against the most recent Corporate Telephone Preference Service) are available with some 56% of business data.

And email addresses can be appended to just 7.5% of the business data universe. 15% of those email addresses are generic (“info@” etc).

 

Industry Classifications / Sectors

80% of the UK universe has an industry classification.  Business data may be selected by inclusion or exclusion of specific sectors.

But it should be noted that whilst these classifications can advise “what a business does / sells“, ir does NOT advise “how they do it”. For example, these classifications do not advise what accountancy software a company uses, or whether there is an in-house call centre.

 

Geography

All records contain a full UK postcode, and this is always the best method of selecting business data from a territorial perspective. By way of example, Bromley (postcode area “BR”) is regarded by the council as having the county status of a Greater London Borough. However, by the Royal Mail / PAF (Postal Address File) the county is defined as Kent. Where business data is concerned, the Royal Mail is king; because direct marketing postal letters need to be delivered!

 

There are many ways to accurately pinpoint the right prospect database for your direct marketing. The most important element is to speak with an industry expert who understands the highlights and limitations of the business data universe. The skill sets behind Responsiva are now entering their twenty-eighth year in the direct marketing industry. So get in touch if you have any questions.

Tel: 0800 118 5000

Email: info@responsiva.biz

 

 

 

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