Leverage 2020 Trends With Direct Mail Push

For direct marketers hesitating over direct mail campaign investments, 2020 is the year to strike while the iron is hot—with a good economy, high response rates and flat costs. That’s especially true because the 2021 road may be a bit bumpier.

Economy, Response and Costs Give 2020 Mail Green Signals

The U.S. consumer is confident, the economy is projected to continue growing in 2020, and mailing cost inflation is minimal. Per the December 2019 Federal Open Market Committee, U.S. GDP growth is forecast to average 2%, lower than 2019’s 2.2% but far from recession. Meanwhile, consumer buying power should remain strong with an average unemployment rate of 3.5% in 2020 and a core inflation rate (stripping out volatile fuel and food prices) projected to average just 1.9% in 2020, while the Federal Reserve’s eased interest rates continue to buoy growth. So it’s no surprise that consumers are entering 2020 with positive outlooks: The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment for the U.S. was 99.3 for December of 2019, the highest reading since May of last year. And direct mail offers unique advantages for reaching those consumers, starting with high response rates. The last ANA/DMA data pegged average direct mail response at historic highs of 4.9% for prospect lists and 9% for house lists, way ahead of the 1% response rates of e-mail, social media and paid search. Meanwhile, low projected increases in key costs are clearing the way for ROI on mail investment as well.  For example, 2020 coated paper prices are projected to be held down by reduced demand, caused by a continued growth of electronic media use by advertising and publication printing, coupled with oversupply from new production capacity, especially in Asia. A strong U.S. dollar adds to downward price pressure. Meanwhile, postal rates for marketing mail in 2020 are expected to remain close to the average as enhanced carrier route letters go up less than average, with five-digit automation letter rates, entered at the SCF, projected to increase by 2.2%, and the high-density walk sequence carrier route letter rate, entered at the SCF, increasing only 1.1%.

After 2020, Mail Faces Rougher Economic Seas

Those who fail to take advantage of 2020’s positive direct-mail climate may soon regret the missed opportunity if costs rise and the aging economic growth cycle slips into recession. Potential postal rate increases are an especially dark cloud. In December, the Postal Rate Commission (PRC) proposed new rules for USPS rate-making that, if implemented for all classes of mail would increase rates by a massive 30%-50% over the following five years. Mailers and their organizations will want to join The Nonprofit Alliance and the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers in fighting such huge increases. At the same time, the economy, even if it stays out of recession, is projected to slow. The Federal Open Market Committee forecasts U.S. GDP growth to slow to 1.9% in 2021 and 1.8% in 2022, as a side effect of trade-war drags. Meanwhile, new data security and privacy legislation could pose significant challenges for data-driven marketing.

Data-Driven Efforts Face Privacy Legislation Challenges

The shift to more targeted, personalized and timely direct-mail campaigns is one reason that direct mail continues to turn in high responses at acceptable ROI. But using digital print technology, coupled with audience selection and segmentation, to personalize and target every component of a mail piece relies on data, and privacy laws are coming in to regulate the previously wide-open data market. Of course, there is the GDPR (EU General Data Protection Regulation), but most marketers are going to be more affected by new U.S. state and federal privacy law pushes. For example, California’s CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) went into effect January 1 of this year. It applies to for-profit businesses operating in California and collecting personal data if they have annual gross revenues over $25 million; annually buy, receive, sell, or share personal information of over 50,000 California consumers, households, or devices; and derive at least 50% of annual revenue from selling California consumers’ personal information. The regulation offers consumers the right to access information (including categories of data collected, shared or sold; categories of sources from which this personal information was collected, with whom it was shared, and to whom it was sold; specific pieces of personal information collected; and why the personal information was collected). Consumers also gain a right to deletion (the ability to request that a company delete personal information collected) and a right to opt out (the ability to direct a company to not sell personal information to third parties). Now The Nonprofit Alliance is alerting mailers that new data privacy and financial disclosure bills are in the offing. California, for one, isn’t done legislating in this area, and other states (such as Virginia) are following in California’s footsteps. Plus, the Senate is continuing an effort to draft a bipartisan national privacy statute led by the “Gang of Six”—Republicans Roger Wicker (MS), John Thune (SD), and Jerry Moran (KS); and Democrats Maria Cantwell (WA), Richard Blumenthal (CT), and Brian Schatz (HI)—and most Republican Senators appear to support legislation which would preempt state privacy statutes with a uniform national standard. For marketers, the hope must be that a national “rules of the road” for data privacy will be less onerous than a patchwork of state laws.

All these potential challenges ahead are making 2020 look like a good year to profit from direct mail and targeted lists! For more inspiring direct mail statistics, see this compilation from mail automation provider Inkit.

 

Prep for 2020 Marketing With Clean, Personalized, Predictive Data

As 2019 closes, AccuList’s data services clients have a year’s worth of multichannel customer, campaign and sales information to analyze and inform 2020 plans. So what are the big trends that the data pros foresee will deliver maximum ROI?

Data Hygiene Issues Remain a Priority

Clean, up-to-date, quality data is still the basis for good marketing analyses and campaign planning. A November Business2Community post by marketer Dan Moyle helpfully summarized the key data cleansing tasks that businesses need to undertake to hit the ground running in 2020. After all, it’s estimated that 20% of the average contact database is dirty, so this is not a trivial effort. Increasing marketing efficiency, response and customer loyalty, requires removing data errors and inconsistencies. Start by monitoring data for issues such as duplicates, missing information or bad records to figure out how and where they are occurring. Then standardize processes at each entry point. Next validate the accuracy of data across the database by investing in data tools or expert data services, and commit to regular cleansing and maintenance of data quality. Identify and scrub duplicates. Once the data has been standardized, validated and de-duped, improve its analytic value by using third-party data appending sources (to flesh out demographics, psychographics, firm-ographics, purchase history, etc.) for a more complete customer picture. Establish a feedback process to spot and update, or purge, incorrect information, such as invalid e-mail addresses identified by a campaign. And communicate standards and processes to the whole team so that they understand the value of clean data in segmentation targeting, lead response, customer service and more.

Using Data for an Agile, Personalized, Customer-Centric Edge

Data trends figured prominently in the 2019 Martech Conference and a recent article from martech firm Lineate highlights a few keynotes, such as the role of data in personalization. When a 2019 RedPoint Global survey of U.S. and Canadian consumers finds that 63% expect personalization as a standard of service and want to be individually recognized in special offers, personalized marketing is clearly a competitive essential. Expect to see use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) increase in 2020 as personalization tools. Machine learning is when a computer is able to find patterns within large amounts of data in order to improve or optimize for a specific task. For example, for more personalized offers and messaging in acquisition, this means using ML to recognize if people from certain areas are more likely to respond to a specific offer or which past high-response special offers may resonate in future . Personalization is also key to the customer-centric experience proven to drive long-term retention and brand loyalty–as opposed to getting the same message again and again. When personalization is combined with elimination of data silos and creation of a single customer view across channels, marketing becomes especially powerful. Indeed, integrated database development and the elimination of data silos are also key to the growing “agile marketing” trend. Agile marketing breaks down team silos (which assumes breaking down data silos) in favor of teams focusing on high-value projects collectively. According to a 2018 survey by Kapost, 37% of businesses have already adopted agile marketing, and another 50% said they haven’t yet become agile but expect to be soon.  

Taking Data Insights From Retroactive to Predictive

Looking ahead to 2020, marketers should also consider adding predictive modeling to their toolkit if they haven’t already done so. Why? A study by ClickZ and analytics platform provider Keen found that 58% of marketers using predictive modeling experienced a 10%-25% ROI lift, while another 19% saw more than a 50% uplift. While retroactive campaign data can be very useful for reporting and results analysis, it’s not always as good for informing future multichannel directions, for optimizing media investments, or for quick execution and performance assessment. In fact, nearly 80% of Keen/ClickZ survey respondents felt they’d missed opportunities because of slow or inaccurate decision-making using non-predictive data reporting. For example, standard data analysis often fails to span all channels (e.g., online video vs. store-level programming) and mistakenly gives most credit to last-click channels such as search or transactional activities. In contrast, the Keen/ClickZ survey found marketers using predictive modeling boosted results in multiple areas, including a better understanding of the target audience (71%), optimizing of touchpoints on the customer journey (53%), and improving creative performance (44%). Predictive modeling also can help businesses synthesize large volumes of data, a key concern for many; in fact, 38% indicated their current measurement solutions do not support the scale of their data.

 

Promotional Products Market Faces New Challenges

Many of AccuList’s promotional products marketing clients have been able to ride corporate buyers’ profits to an average 1.3% annual growth rate in the last five years through 2019, reaching $17 billion in U.S. revenues this year, per IBISWorld market research. But a number of challenges, requiring innovative solutions, lie ahead.

Tariffs, Amazon, Economy May Challenge Growth

Continuation of the tariffs imposed in the U.S.-China trade war are likely to have a direct impact on the promotional products market, where the vast majority of products come from China, creating rising product prices and uncertainty, even though most suppliers and distributors have continued to post sales gains this year. One of the options that some companies are already taking is a shift to sourcing from countries outside of China, such as Vietnam, per the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI). Meanwhile, the promotional products market is facing competitive challenges from the entry of big online competitors such as behemoth Amazon. Market execs have told ASI that they believe the entry of the e-commerce power threatens to potentially cut out suppliers and distributors by positioning itself as the lowest-cost provider from a product and freight perspective. Their worries include Amazon opting to partner with only select suppliers and distributors; selling direct through its platform; and/or using its search presence for rankings that create winners and losers, and force up advertising expenses for all. Web-based distributors and large online stores are on the front lines, but all promo products firms fear competing with the e-commerce giant’s buyer expectations and immediate delivery and return services. Finally, the potential of an economic slowdown or even recession has some nervous, too. To prep for that possibility, promo product pros say they are putting more stress on prospecting and networking, distributor-supplier partnering to reduce costs, and lower-ticket items with good repeat business.

E-commerce and Technology Will Be Key Drivers

ASI recently interviewed 10 leading suppliers and distributors in the promotional products market for their visions on handling such challenges over the next 5-10 years. The good news is that all foresaw continued growth, albeit with increasing consolidation and online dominance. For example, Mark Simon, president/CEO of distributor HALO Branded Solutions, forecast: “Technology will drive every aspect of the industry in the next 10 years. Buyers will require more robust and more diverse methods to select and purchase products, and follow their orders throughout the order life cycle… Our industry must keep pace with the enhanced buying experience other channels are providing to stay relevant.” E-commerce will be the standard, benefiting big players but leaving room for niche firms as Mark Freed, President/CEO of distributor Genumark, predicts: “I see continuous growth from the large online players that provide a fast, painless, accessible solution for clients looking for simple, inexpensive drop-shipping. I also see continuous growth and consolidation for multifaceted large distributors providing a suite of features that meet a variety of complex requirements for sophisticated clients, which could be related to logistics and fulfillment, quality and compliance, off-the-charts creativity and relentless customer service. There will still be a place for smaller, boutique-size distributors, but they better have a niche like specialized knowledge of the client’s industry or unbelievably innovative ideas.”

Bigger Roles for Data Analytics, Personalized Service, and Creative Marketing

Meanwhile, in the expanded digital environment, data management will loom large; Sharon Eyal, CEO/owner of supplier ETS Express, asserts that “in the next five years, a reliance on data will be more important than ever… We look at how many orders we have in production, which materials are being used, which items are being ordered, which types of decoration, etc. and then we expand and contract in departments as needed.” Up against Amazon, personalized customer experience will be key, too; Jana Schmidt, CEO of distributor Harland Clarke, stresses the “need to provide a personalized, frictionless experience to businesses as clients seek to promote their brands. There’s separation between having an e-commerce presence and truly building the online buying experience.” And creativity will count for even more; Debbie Abergel, chief strategic officer of Jack Nadel International, says, “There will also be a growth of creative promotional agencies – the rise and marriage of creativity and custom. Think about corporate clients that invest in giving their clients and employees a true brand product experience; not price-focused, but looking to build their brand name.” She cites the interest in reusable straws as an example. Read more predictions for the promotional products industry.

Organizations Retain Strong Embrace of Recognition Products

AccuList’s recognition and incentive products marketing clients will be happy to know that the market is strong and stable, per the most recent data. A 2019 survey of employee recognition programs, conducted by rewards association WorldatWork and underwritten by Maritz Motivation, found the programs overwhelmingly common (87%) among organizations surveyed, typically companywide (88%), and almost all in place for more than five years. But there are details and shifts worth noting.

Increases in Both Company Commitment and Neglect

While most companies surveyed are seeing the same level of use for recognition and incentive products as last year, one in three are seeing an uptick. In fact, the study found growth at both ends of the corporate commitment spectrum, with an increase in deeply-embedded recognition programs (17% in 2019 compared to 10% in 2015) but also an increase in companies who say they have no employee recognition policy, strategy or philosophy (19% in 2019 compared to 12% in 2015). Survey respondents agreed that their programs are meeting goals for the most part (48%) or somewhat (31%), but there is room for improvement and change since only 18% said they are definitely meeting goals. Program administrators may come from the Human Resources (50%), Compensation (25%) and Benefits (8%) departments, but the key to growth is likely to be more senior executive support, increasing the 52% of senior executives who now support recognition programs as an investment. Indeed, companies without recognition programs cite cost and lack of leadership support as the main impediments.

Multiple Programs Dominate and Gift Cards Reign

The average organization uses eight separate recognition programs. The most typical programs reward length of service (72%) and above-and-beyond performance (62%). Programs to motivate specific behaviors or outputs such as customer service (34%), productivity (27%) and quality (27%) are lower on the list. Meanwhile, biometric/wellness programs are the ones that impact the highest proportion of the workforce today (40% of workers in the last 12 months), followed by personal events (33%) and company milestones (32%). What recognition and incentive products top the survey? Gift cards lead (62%), followed by cash (50%), clocks/watches (49%), plaques/trophies/certificates (47%), apparel/accessories (46%), jewelry (46%), sporting/recreational goods (44%), electronics (42%) and luggage/leather goods (41%). At the bottom are travel (24%), debit cards (20%) and concierge services (10%). It’s worth noting that 46% of organizations increase the valued amount of the recognition award in order to offset the tax impact (also known as grossing up the award).

ROI Is Underutilized Measure of Program Success

Popular goals of recognition programs include motivating high performance, creating/maintaining a positive work environment and increasing engagement, with 24% using recognition to support a culture of change. But the study found that organizations tend to measure the success of those programs and goals by employee satisfaction/engagement surveys (65%) or employee involvement (47% use number of nominations and 37% count employee usage or participation rates). There is a lot lower use of external performance data such as customer surveys (24%), employee turnover (23%), productivity (12%) or profit (12%). Unsurprisingly, recognition programs that could lead to higher, measurable ROI (error reduction, safety, waste minimization, etc.) remain relatively rare, and management recognition training is infrequent and rarely updated. However, about half of organizations surveyed do feature recognition programs in efforts to attract new employees!

For more details, see the complete WorldatWork “2019 Trends in Employee Recognition” report

The Right Business Model Helps Magazines Harness Industry Trends

AccuList’s business periodical clients will face challenges and opportunities in the fast-moving currents of publishing in 2020. The good news for printed magazines: Print is not only viable but thriving in many cases, with 64% of printing industry members telling Quocirca’s Global Print 2025 study that print will remain important well into 2025. At the same time, surveys show that digital subscriptions, advertising and content are increasingly necessary drivers of the bottom line.

Publishers Invest More in Digital and Content Marketing

In fact, worldwide news publishers surveyed now say digital publishing subscriptions are their top revenue stream. Given mobile and social audience trends, publishers also say they are increasing efforts to recreate quick-loading content for any device and are using more digital content, including videos and podcasts, to drive audience development–and that includes distribution via social media networks. At the start of the year, a What’s New in Publishing post by magazine consultant Mary Hogarth suggested that the best way to navigate the challenges of digital expansion, content innovation and multi-channel audience-building is to develop a solid business model. Periodicals need a model that will  keep cash flow strong to fund reinvention, she notes, citing cash drivers such as subscription sales, pre-paid ads and advertising space series, timely payment systems and expenditure discipline. However, it’s even more important for a magazine model to focus on expanding revenue streams across print and digital channels. 

A Smart Business Model Will Expand Revenue Streams

Of course, these revenue growth efforts are where AccuList’s targeted lists and direct marketing services can be of greatest use in adding subscribers, advertisers, members or event attendees. Among Hogarth’s suggestions for boosting revenue streams:

  • Brand extensions, such as digital editions, sister publications, books, events, conferences, courses and festivals;
  • Advertising sales strategy innovations, for example selling online plus print advertising as one package;
  • Expanding sponsorships/promotions and services by facilitating strategic partnerships or third-party sponsorship of in-house events, plus selling design and content packaging services;
  • Increased copy sales via digital/print magazines on newsstands, subscription growth, in-house back issue sales, and direct sales to partners/advertisers if appropriate;
  • Memberships schemes that can help cash-flow and likely increase audience reach and reader loyalty;
  • Online content/paywalls, such as using a micro-payment system to sell additional content;
  • Product licensing, such as selling the rights to content to be re-purposed in an existing title, or licensing the brand in terms of merchandising.

See the complete article on magazine business models for more detail.

 

Industry, Marketing Trends Help Grow Printed Business Publications

New print publishing trends and innovative marketing options offer good news for AccuList’s many business periodical clients seeking to boost subscribers and advertising.

Printed Business Magazines Are Alive & Well in the Digital Age

The growth of digital readership has not doomed all printed periodicals to declining circulation and revenues, as some predicted. In fact, a recent What’s New in Publishing article cites multiple ways print magazines are adapting for growth. For example, publishers are focusing on niche audiences willing to pay more for a higher grade product and cutting down on frequency. Consider the Harvard Business Review: It grew its subscriber base 10% by reducing print frequency from 10 issues to 6 a year and using smart positioning, creative new digital benefits, and heavier investment in the quality of the six print issues to increase audience appeal. Printed information is also seen as more reliable by readers and advertisers, according to research, creating a “halo effect” for business publishers with a print edition. “The good news for printed business magazines is that their credibility has a halo effect on their websites, too, which gives them a competitive advantage over digital-only competitors. People may be buying fewer magazines, but they still associate them with quality and reliability,” explains the publishing industry’s Dead Tree Edition blog. Plus, despite fears that younger business readers were turning mainly to digital sources and social media for information, publishers can take advantage of continued print readership popularity. For example, the Association of Magazine Media’s “Magazine Media Factbook 2018-2019″ shows that, in the United States, “the top 25 print magazines reach more adults and teens than the top 25 prime time shows.”

Business Publishers Can Leverage New Marketing Trends

New print technologies and a revival of traditional marketing tools offer business periodicals options for boosting audience and advertiser appeal. A recent article from media agency Mediaspace Solutions cites some ideas that publishers can leverage. With the digital space crowded, noisy and less trusted by potential readers, direct mail campaigns have increased in effectiveness, the post notes. Plus, many publishers have returned to sending printed newsletters to subscribers. Print technologies (QR codes, augmented reality, etc.) are not only tools for better direct mail response but also a way to attract print advertisers by boosting print advertising effectiveness, the post points out. For example, augmented print uses an application that stacks digital content over a print ad so that when the print ad is scanned by a smartphone, a new digital ad springs to life. Personalization is a must in today’s marketing, and business publishers can combine list segmentation and targeting with variable data printing to personalize direct mail campaigns for audience building. Plus, subscriber list segmentation can be offered to print advertisers to help them craft more targeted messages. For more ideas, see the Mediaspace Solutions post.

Make Clean Data a Top Priority for Effective B2B Marketing

As business-to-business marketers craft their fiscal 2020 budgets, it’s important that complex issues such as analytics, automation or AI do not distract from a core investment for achieving ROI: clean data. Certainly, AccuList stresses to all its list hygiene and management clients, whether for house lists or rental prospecting lists, the importance of data quality for targeting and response, and a recent blog post by b2b data management firm Synthio confirms the basic steps for data hygiene.

Start With a Clear Data Plan

When 94% of B2B companies suspect inaccuracy in their databases, any marketers who do not prioritize data hygiene have their heads in the marketing sands.  That starts with a data plan. A good data plan will decide on the data-quality key performance indicators (KPIs) needed to achieve business goals. The plan will survey existing contact and account data and determine how to measure health in terms of data accuracy and completeness and how to maintain data hygiene tracking on an ongoing basis. It will look to see if there are important parameters for KPI success that the existing data does not address.

Standardize, Validate and De-Dupe Contact Data

What are the basics of data health and hygiene? Before cleaning data even begins, marketers need to check that important contact data at the point of entry or download is standardized. This will make it easier to catch errors and duplicates and to merge data from multiple sources. There should be a standard operating procedure (SOP) that defines fields, formats, and entry or upload processes to ensure that only quality, standardized data is used. The next step is to validate the accuracy of the data. Although a manual process might work for a small database, and there are tools and imported lists for cleaning data, advanced data hygiene is probably best handled by experts like AccuList, which can match contact addresses against USPS verification standards and change of address databases as well as update e-mail address changes. With standardized, validated information, data sets can be seamlessly merged and purged of duplicates. Why worry about duplicates? Duplicate records hobble CRM efforts, waste dollars in marketing campaigns, undermine the Single Customer View essential for targeting and response tracking, damage customer relations and brand reputation, and result in inaccurate reporting that can mislead marketing strategy.

Append Missing Data Parameters

Most b2b house databases have data for each record, such as contact first and last name, e-mail, company name and business address. But complete data for all records may be spotty, and some desired data may be missing altogether, such as title, phone number, company annual revenue, tech stack, purchase history, etc. Wouldn’t it be great for targeting and response to fill in the blanks? Data appending can enhance a house file with hundreds of variables from outside lists, including business “firm-ographics” on revenue, industry, employee numbers, etc.; opt-in e-mail, and telephone numbers. Self-reported LinkedIn data is another source that can be used. For more detailed data cleaning tips, see Synthio’s full article.

Social Media Isn’t Just for B2C; the Right Tactics Build B2B Leads

Some business-to-business marketers shrug off social media as a consumer branding and sales channel, sticking to company page branding and PR announcements on social platforms. They are missing a lead source, argues Tessa Berg, vice president of B2B agency Tenlo, in a recent MarketingProfs post. She urges B2B promoters to consider the many ways they can use social platforms to generate leads, and AccuList certainly supports these tactics via its own LInkedIn and Facebook/Instagram marketing programs.

Where to Go on Social Media? Where the Customers Are!

In deciding investment in social outreach to snag leads, start by profiling your target customers and where they gather on social platforms. Here’s a hint: 80% of B2B leads come from LinkedIn, compared with 13% from Twitter. That doesn’t mean B2B marketers should exclusively use LinkedIn. For example, Twitter allows for more direct interaction with prospects. And with the proven effectiveness of video marketing, why not leverage platforms like YouTube and Instagram to stimulate interest via product or branding videos?

Supplement Organic Reach With Paid Ads

Social platforms want to monetize their audiences so the reach of organic social activity has been increasingly subordinated to paid advertising. At the same time, many social platforms have improved targeting options for paid advertising. So it makes sense to pair organic actions with highly targeted paid social ads. Social tracking data will uncover important insights into which content and messaging on which social channels generate the best engagement and site traffic. Clear calls-to-action driving to owned content (website or landing page) will help capture leads better than a generic “Contact Us.” Offers of engaging content, say a video on product installation or an infographic addressing a key issue such as sustainability, also help gather lead contact data, Berg adds. Don’t get stuck in a rut with success, however; Berg prompts marketers to vary the types of ads and the content of ads deployed to avoid losing audience interest over time in the fast-moving social world.

Answer Questions and Leverage Presentations to Make Connections

One of the easiest, most effective ways to create relationships with prospective customers is to address the questions they pose on relevant platforms such as LinkedIn, Quora, and Reddit, Berg notes. Empower social and technical teams to answer in a timely and effective way to position your company as an expert and build audience connection. As a bonus, you will likely boost SEO and keyword rankings at the same time. Also, most B2B organizations already create presentations on industry trends, product updates, and case studies, and this content is prime for boosting engagement, social sharing and viral reach, especially on platforms that are dedicated to presentations, such as LinkedIn SlideShare.

Make Social Engagement a Team Effort

Get company team members involved in a social strategy, urges Berg. After all, people work with people, and a display of your company’s talent and team culture can validate a partnering or purchase decision. Define a theme, outline appropriate content, explain the dos and don’ts of hashtags, make sure to run messaging by legal advisors, and then start with a test of “safe” content, adjusting policies if necessary, she advises. See https://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2019/41608/seven-ways-b2bs-can-use-social-media-to-boost-conversion-rates-and-generate-leads?adref=nlt080619

Research Shows ABM, AI, Analytics Drive B2B Marketing Success

A new report based on business-to-business marketing data from Salesforce Research, Forrester Research and the Information Technology Services Marketing Association shows how technically sophisticated top-performing B2B marketers have become in order to woo today’s demanding clients. “B2B marketers are increasingly using a mix of account-based marketing (ABM), artificial intelligence (AI), and analytics to connect the right customers with the right content at the right moments,” concludes B2B Marketing Trends: Insights From the Frontline released in June. To enlighten our B2B clients, AccuList can pass along a few key findings.

Unified Data Vital to Personalization Demand

Today’s business buyers demand personalization: 69% of business buyers expect companies to anticipate their needs, and 60% of business buyers are comfortable with companies applying relevant personal information in exchange for personalized engagement. B2B marketers are not quite up to speed yet, however, with only 46% of B2B marketers reporting a completely unified view from customer data sources. This is true even though most marketers agree that personalization improves brand building (92%) and customer advocacy (80%). The high-performing marketers have invested in customer data and are reaping the rewards, with 66% of high-performing teams saying they are satisfied with their ability to use data to create relevant, personalized experiences. In contrast, the under-performers are way behind, with only 7% satisfied with their use of data.

High-Performing Marketing Teams Use ABM

Account-based marketing (ABM) programs are collaborative efforts between marketing and sales teams, designed to focus attention on high-value customer accounts. High-performing B2B marketing teams are much more likely to collaborate effectively with sales teams on ABM programs (54%) compared with under-performing marketing teams (34%), according to the report. Because of the value of ABM programs, one-third of B2B marketers are currently planning to build them into their existing marketing automation platforms. Among B2B marketers using ABM, the ABM programs now account for more than a quarter of their total marketing budgets. Why? Nearly half of ABM users say the programs deliver higher ROI than comparable marketing methods: 77% of ABM users are achieving 10% or greater ROI, and 45% of ABM users are seeing at least double ROI compared to other marketing methods. ABM ROI is not a slam-dunk however; the top four challenges reported include getting data and reports to track results, personalizing marketing to key account contacts, getting adequate budget to support programs and resources, and developing customizable, scalable campaign assets. To further leverage ABM, many marketers have added, or plan to add, technology platforms such as website personalization to serve relevant content, predictive analytics to select accounts, and business intelligence or ABM data aggregators to measure results by account, etc. Also gaining in popularity is use of chatbots or conversational interfaces, while traditional efforts such as personalized, dimensional direct mail integrated into digital marketing continues to bolster ABM, too.

Growing Use of AI by B2B Marketers

Some 69% of business buyers expect personalized “Amazon-like” customer experiences today, per the recent B2B report. As a result, AI usage among B2B marketers grew 23% in 2018, with the majority of these marketers using AI within marketing platforms to optimize mid-cycle engagement. B2B marketers are using AI to facilitate online experiences with offline customer data, to drive next best offers in real time, to improve customer segmentation, to create dynamic websites and landing pages, and to personalize overall customer journeys, as well as a number of other goals. B2B marketers are also beginning to use AI technology beyond their marketing automation platforms; for example, almost half of B2B marketers use connected devices, and one-third added voice-activated personal assistants (such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa) in 2018. Register to download the free “B2B Marketing Trends: Insights From the Frontline” for more data on other B2B marketing trends.

Corporate Gift Marketers, Buyers Ready for Year-End Holiday Push

Corporate holiday gift-giving lies ahead, and AccuLIst’s clients offering food and wine gifts and promotional products designed to clinch customer loyalty are gearing up for a key business-to-business marketing season. So what are major factors affecting corporate gift-giving in 2019?

Meeting and Exceeding Expectations

Corporate gift buyers and gift marketers will want to keep in mind some of the essential factors that affect gift satisfaction, as cited in a recent The Balance Small Business blog. To generate the desired client response, corporate gift givers should keep in mind 1) organizational policies, which may limit the dollar value of gifts or even prohibit gifts; 2) the personal preferences and needs of the recipient (note that today’s customer expectations of personalization apply); 3) any cultural/local differences (for example, a white-wrapped gift may not be well-received in Asia where white is the color of death); 4) the perceived quality of the gift and its packaging (although gift value should be proportional to client value so that a $200-a-year client doesn’t get a $300 gift); 5) today’s preference for a personal touch, such as a handwritten note or in-person delivery; and 6) IRS deductions (business gifts in the U.S. are tax deductible up to $25 per person for the tax year, although rules differ by business structure). What type of gift will meet most businesses’ requirements? The American Express Semi-Annual Small Business Monitor survey found that today’s top corporate gifts include cards or calendars (49%); gift certificates for retail or restaurants (26%); company-branded items (23%); a fruit/food basket (18%); a charity donation (18%); flowers/plants (10%); and wine/liquor (10%).

Value and Personalization Score with Clients

For more ideas, check out a 2019 Hubspot article listing more than 20 gifts rated as likely to keep clients thinking positively about a company throughout the year. Most fell within the general categories noted above, but here are the more specific descriptions for added inspiration: a terrarium or succulent garden; professional notebooks; coffee or tea blend packages; calendars; a coffee table book; a toiletry bag for travel; a gourmet food basket; a portable phone charger; a K-Cup coffee sampler; a Kindle e-reader; a custom-quality water bottle; online classes; a BarkBox gift for a pet owner; a charity donation; a beer brewing kit; quality clothing with a subtle logo; a restaurant gift card; a bakery delivery; a cook’s basket; a catered lunch; custom balls and tees for the golfer; and headphones. Note that six gifts involve a food and/or beverage basket. In choosing that basket, gift buyers may want to consider the 2019 ratings just out from Top Ten Reviews.

Top-Rated Gift Baskets for 2019

AccuList’s client Wine Country Gift Baskets once again ranked high with Top Ten Reviews for 2019. The reviewers tested baskets from the top 11 gift basket companies for taste, presentation, pricing/value, payment and delivery, customer support, number of basket types and special options (such as Kosher). Harry & David’s Founders’ Favorite Gift Box was rated “best overall,” while Wine Country Gift Baskets’ Gourmet Choice Gift Basket received “best value” for the amount and selection of foods for the price. For foodies, igourmet.com’s California Classic Gift Box was rated as “best for food connoisseurs.” To really personalize to individual tastes, the Design It Yourself company lived up to its name and was ranked as the “most personalized” option, while Gourmet Gift Baskets impressed among alcohol-themed hampers. Read more details on all gift basket ratings.