Variable Data Printing

10 Tips for a Higher R.O.I Using VDP for B2B Marketing

125162794 250x170 10 Tips for a Higher R.O.I Using VDP for B2B MarketingCreative Variable Data Printing Services

If you are looking to increase response rates and cut costs, we have some creative ideas in which you can use Variable Data Printing. Before saying something like, “We already use data printing services”, ask yourself a few questions – How well is it working for you? Are you receiving great response rates, and are you getting an enormous return on your investment? If not, then you might be missing out on something.

Getting your message across and creating a lasting impression is important. Including an element of creativity, trust, and interest in your company is vital in order to make a connection through direct marketing in variable data printing.

Using Variable Data Printing in 10 Better Ways for a Greater R.O.I.
  1. Variety – Use different content, not just different words.
  2. Emotion – Find out everything about a prospect or client. Appeal to the emotions most important to the prospect or client. Make sure that your brand triggers an emotional response.
  3. Personalize – Make sure that you include their name, company name (when b2b marketing), address, and anything else that might be relevant to your message.
  4. Build an Alliance - Let your prospect know that your company wants to be MORE than just a place to make a purchase. Many companies are looking for good partners, they are trying to make connections for networking, and are focused on power building strategies.
  5. Graphics and Color – Use pictures that are true to your brand. You will be remembered as a company who understands delivering the total package. Every company must show themselves as worthy to be remembered, and relevant graphics can help.
  6. Check Your Content - It’s so easy to push a potential client away by glorifying our own company. Make your content easy to read. Ask the reader questions, and appeal to emotion. Focus on your reader.
  7. Usefulness – What does your reader need? When does he need it? If you show that you have paid attention to his needs in the correspondence that you send, he’d be very intrigued, but he might also be inclined to put more trust in you than before. Trust is a great marketing technique.
  8. Detail - Make the recipient feel as if he was your only customer. You can send out bulk mail and tailor-make each individual piece by using specific details. Research specific information about current and potential clients, and surprise them by including it in your direct marketing techniques.
  9. Focus on Brand - Every customer/company has different personality features.These features make up their specific brand. It goes much deeper than color, design, and logo. Research the motto, mission statement, and vision statement. Tailor your content to these specific variables.
  10. Experiment – Experimentation is vital for direct marketing. Keep trying until you find the right technique. Using different color schemes and designs may help reach different people who you never expected to reach. Just because you accidentally appeal to a market that is outside of your target range, doesn’t mean you can’t continue to do so.  This strategy may lead to a whole new market segment.
Practice Makes Excellence

Practice shouldn’t ‘make perfect’, it should create excellence. If marketing techniques were ‘perfect’, then we’d never learn how to be creative. Don’t aim for perfection, aim for excellence. Expand your mind beyond what others are doing, and surpass them. You will get it just right, and then realize that it needs to be changed once again. This is part of our fast paced society and there’s no avoiding it.

 

VDP, Changing the Design of Direct Marketing

153002732 250x250 VDP, Changing the Design of Direct MarketingThe evolution of variable data printing (VDP) has significantly changed the landscape for the designers of direct marketing pieces. No longer are they forced to craft pieces that will appeal to a broad range of potential clients and hope for the best. Instead, they can utilize data captured from emails, web pages, surveys, phone calls and in-person interviews to create individualized direct marketing pieces to more accurately target the needs of their clients.

The Market – At its core, variable data printing is still a direct marketing strategy. As such, it relies on having data on your clients and prospects. This data can be self-generated by your company or purchased from third-party vendors. Lists are available in a range of options and can be tailored to your exact needs. In short, VDP combined with the right data is an excellent marketing option for clients as diverse as charitable organizations and casinos to insurance agencies and college alumni departments.

Individualized Pieces – The secret to a variable data printed piece is in how the information and artwork is integrated. While the name and address are from one database, the customers stated preferences are also utilized so that the right copy and artwork is also included. This process allows the designer to incorporate pre-written copy and preselected pictures about the best choices of product for a customer.

For instance,  a casino might know that certain customers preferred “FREE Dinner” while others wanted their hotel room comped. With non-VDP, the designer is constrained into sending the same piece to both customers with an offer for a meal and/or a room. With VDP, the designer can send two or more meal offers to one customer and room offers to the other – complete with appropriate photos.

Increased Response – As you can imagine, this type of marketing better targets potential customers and produces a superior response rate. The most basic use of the process returns double the response rate while more sophisticated campaigns can yield a response 15-20 times greater than a static direct marketing campaign.

Lowered Costs – The vast majority of work in a variable data printing campaign is in the development of the text, graphics and images so that they align with the available data. In addition, the collection of data can be time consuming. However, once this effort has been made, a VDP campaign can be customized to fit any budget.

The campaign can affordably be run over and over again to a select group of clients or to new pools of prospects as they are generated. In addition, VDP allows a marketer to experiment on a small test group before committing resources to a larger campaign. Lastly, you can even build in “fail safes” to exclude customers who have never responded to a certain number of offers.

Customized Follow-Up Campaigns – Similarly, as more data is captured on responsive clients, further enhancements to the campaign can be made. More info can be sent on selected products or the piece can be modified to address what stage of the “buy-cycle” the customer is in.

The Bottom Line – As you can see, variable data printing can have a huge effect on the direct marketing campaign of a forward looking marketer. The technology is available and your company most likely already has all the data it needs. Now, you just need to a take that leap of faith and combine the two.

 

Complex Variable Data Printing Made Easy

165493131 250x166 Complex Variable Data Printing Made EasyThe evolution of digital printing has transformed the world of direct marketing. No longer must the same static messages be sent to every customer on your mailing list. Instead, the use of customer information databases and variable data printing (VDP) allows a business to completely tailor the content of their mailing to each individual customer.

Complex variable data printing may sound difficult to implement, but with the right partner and the requisite data, it can produce an effective and profitable direct mail campaign that delivers superior response rates.

The Process

The VDP process starts with information. In fact, customer information is the real key to creating highly personal messages and delivering significantly higher results than traditional direct mail campaigns. With the use of multiple databases, a VDP campaign allows a company to combine the name, address and particulars of a customer with an ad specifically targeted to their needs and interests. The result is an ad that provokes a far higher response rate than traditional non-variable marketing pieces.

The Content

In addition to using the actual name of the recipient, VDP should also reference their geographic area, the past purchases, their buying behavior, personal interests and other specific traits.  The key is to collect a lot of information on your customers or prospects and use that information to create a personal experience for the recipient.  In this particular application, content is certainly king as it can grab the attention of the recipient and ultimately lead them to respond.

The Images

While words are the ultimate closer in a marketing piece, images are the attention grabber. Imagine that at a basic level a car dealer can send pictures of sports cars to the 18-25 demographic and sedans to the 40-50 crowd, but let’s add another layer of insight.  The car dealer sends a piece that is designed around the age, past purchase history, family status (whether children are present in the household), and income.  So now instead of just sports cars vs. sedans, we can target the right level of sedan and even offer a loan package based on general credit information.  This differentiation can mean the difference between a direct mail piece being read or being discarded – in other words, the difference between success and failure.

The Follow Up

One of the more powerful benefits of VDP is that it can be constantly updated and customized to every potential client. Each time you send a mailing and get a response, the database is updated. In other words, you are constantly qualifying the desires and needs of your clients. With enough perseverance, you will build a true image of your client and be better positioned to convert them into a paying customer.

The Bottom Line

Variable data printing is a 21st century technology that no successful business can afford to be without. Utilizing the combined power of databases and the technological advances of digital printing allows companies to select, target and market to an incredible variety of customers on a very personal level.

Don’t be left behind when contemplating your next direct marketing campaign. Whether your business targets range from banking, insurance or casinos to non-profits and educational institutions, variable data printing can provide a very focused solution that generates excellent response rates, superior conversion and a whole new set of potential clients.

 

Revealing Facts Behind Catalog Shoppers

AA047752 250x254 Revealing Facts Behind Catalog ShoppersCatalogs have survived the ages by changing along side the needs of consumers. Today 20,000 catalogs mail annually, but you might be surprised to learn who reads them, buys from them, tosses them or references them on their trip to the retail store or bedroom to get online and make the long awaited purchase.

Here are some revealing stats and facts about catalogs that might spur a marketing campaign or catalog mailing for your business:

  • Women open up and look at a higher percentage of catalogs than men.
  • Men buy from catalogs more frequently than women (44% more than six times a year, compared with only 36% of female catalog shoppers).

SOURCE:Consumer Catalog Shopping Survey, Catalog Age

  • 20 billion catalogs are mailed annually
  • Catalogs mailings make up 10% of USPS volume
  • Percentage of sales for B2C averages 17% and 7% for B2B
  • Effect of the Internet has been positive as most catalogers have a substantial web presence and gather 20% to 50% of their orders from the Internet.
  • Baby boomers are vigorous catalog buyers, making up the largest demographic sector with 40,000 boomers buying regularly from catalogs.
  • However, more women than men shop catalogs during the holidays.
  • Catalogs are considered useful by 46% of those who receive them.
  • The most used and preferred method for purchases from a company whose catalog was received was to look at the catalog and then purchase through their website. This method is preferred twice as much as using the toll-free number.
  • If catalogs become too expensive to produce, more than 1 in 7 consumers would actually pay to receive catalogs.
  • On average consumers who receive catalogs spend $850 per year on catalog purchases.
  • Catalogs remain one of the four mediums that influence purchases most (see graph below).

SOURCE: American Catalog Mailers Association

 

catalogGraphic Baynote2013.jpeg Revealing Facts Behind Catalog Shoppers

Source: Baynote, Inc 2013

 

 

VDP Allows Bridal Service Companies and Brides to Get Personal

When Savvi Formalwear, a group of 35 independent formal wear retailers, wanted to connect with more soon-to-be brides, it chose the print and digital trifecta — direct mail, email and personalized landing pages.

All of Savvi Formalwear’s direct mail pieces were personalized using variable data printing (VDP), with coupons or incentives such as the two free airline tickets shown in the postcard in this post and a PURL that drives brides to a landing page with a store locator and Savvi Formalwear branding.

Savvi Formalwear is using the campaign to capture more of the $1 billion formal wear industry, that like other industries, has suffered because of the 2009-2011 recession.

wedding VDP Allows Bridal Service Companies and Brides to Get Personal

 

Not coincidentally the majority of Savvi Formalwear stores are located on the west coast where nearly 20% of the formal wear transactions occur. In these 35 stores, Savvi Formalwear is trying to lure as many of the two million brides that get married every year to their stores and services as possible.

SOURCE: IBIS World Report, Formal Wear and Costume Rental in the U.S., May 2012

 

pam VDP Allows Bridal Service Companies and Brides to Get Personal

 

Savvi Formalwear’s campaign, named SavviOne, included weekly mail drops across the U.S. and Canada to promote formal wear to couples planning their weddings. Using the power of personalization, Savvi Formalwear significantly increased the engagement and conversions in its multi-channel promotional campaign, according to Mark Morrow, president of Savvi Formalwear.

SOURCE: Case Studies, www.montagedigital.com

Bride Puts Money Toward Print Pieces Not Cake or Dress

While most brides can spend the majority of their wedding budget on elaborate centerpieces, cakes and designer dresses, bride Robin Nelson, who works in the printing industry, invested her wedding dollars in a cross-media wedding campaign.

Nelson used XMPie solutions to personalize each piece of her wedding communications from engagement announcements to her wedding invitations which included QR Codes®*

Nelson said the campaign enabled her to gather more information about each of her guests to organizing the wedding to taking advantage of technologies that count RSVPs and help brides budget for dinner, drinks, the rehearsal dinner and after-ceremony reception.

SOURCE: “Happily Ever After: A Cross-Media Wedding Campaign” by Robin Nelson, XMPie Blog, Oct. 12, 2011

invitations VDP Allows Bridal Service Companies and Brides to Get Personal

 

 

 

With the use of variable data printing, there was no confusion on head count at Nelson’s wedding. Nelson attributes this to her guests who updated their RURL (Response URL also called PURL for personalized URL) especially in regards to how many children who would be coming with them).

The information Nelson got from her guests through the landing page they responded to allowed her to stay within budget, update her guest list and create a seating chart.

Nelson also downloaded the XMPie Marketing Console iPhone app that allowed her to provide final head counts and meal preferences to her caterer and vendors through report on-the-fly report technology.

So while some brides like the visual trimmings (cakes, bridesmaid’s gifts, etc.), savvy brides are tapping into VDP and digital technology to make their wedding planning less stressful and more personalized to all involved.

*QR Codes are a registered trademark of Denso Wave.

 

6 Tips to Make Sure Your Variable Marketing Project Doesn’t Crash and Burn

148132648 250x166 6 Tips to Make Sure Your Variable Marketing Project Doesn’t Crash and BurnIf your business wasn’t part of the early adopters of variable data printing, this blog post is for you. This piece will keep you far from the technical grenades that can burn you if you don’t prepare your database or file correctly for hand off to your variable partner for execution.

Data First, Creative Second

Start with the data, which seems counter intuitive to agency people and small businesses. According to Kristen Miller, of Mail Print’s Client Implementation Team, successful VDP projects begin with data and then move into the creative process.

Ideally you’ll start with an accurate customer or prospect database/mail list. Ideally the dataset has more than name and address, like age, income, presence of children in the home, purchase history, or frequency of purchases.  Next you can decide what you want to communicate and pick which data fields you’re going to drop into your communication to personalize the marketing piece.

Dear {Name}, We hope this note finds you well.  Since you recently bought {Gift #1}, we thought you would be interested in {Gift #2}.

Prospecting vs. Retaining

Often times mailing lists purchased from list providers can be a great solution when you are prospecting for new clients beyond wanting to personalize a piece simply with someone’s first name. If your marketing strategy is to get St. Louis based, women, 40 years old and older, with household incomes of at least $100,000 to come to a plastic surgery seminar, purchasing a list may make sense.

If you are a plastic surgeon who wants to get existing patients to consider a second procedure or new aesthetic service, using your customer data makes sense. Choose your segment and write your marketing copy and select your graphics to truly speak to that particular group of people.

Maximize the Power of Variable

It can be very profitable to build a marketing piece that uses different images, colors, and messages to match the targeted segment.  The true value of variable data printing comes in being able to tailor a piece to engage a particular segment of your target audience.  Simply playing the “name game” is somewhat passé.  Your goal is to create a highly relevant mail piece so the prospect can envision using your product or service in a particular way.

Beware of Capital Letter Land Mines

If you had a single person input your CRM data, you are probably in good shape consistency wise. However, if multiple people in multiple states have added to the database, you may be plagued with names that should be spelled DeAnna, but may appear as Deanna (first letter capped only) or DEANNA, which often happens off purchased mailing lists.

Fixes for Common Field Land Mines

Miller says she sees several other common “field” related problems with the two dozen large variable projects she produces for clients each month. “Some clients will want to address the prospect by the first name, but their data field is set up as a full name field. There is no clean way to segment out Mr. Glenn Smith vs. Glenn Smith versus F. Glenn Smith.”

Rosanne Kirn, who works on Miller’s team, says another common problem occurs with the company field name. If a data entry person has put Sudsy Soap LLC in the company name but the client wants the marketing piece to mail to Sudsy Soap, you have an immediate problem.

The solution is to build an extra field and name it “Pretty Company Name” or “Variable Company Name” and key in the name of the company without all the window dressing of LLC, Inc, etc.

Don’t Send Unneeded Fields in Your File

Variable data projects can quickly come to a screeching halt if too much data is sent – enough to crash a system.

Miller and Kirn once dealt with more than one million data records from a local retailer. This isn’t a huge number of records until you multiply that by the number of fields, (over 1,000 in this case) attached to that record. Then things can get ugly quick.

Miller recommends reviewing your file and only sending the data fields that are needed to produce the marketing piece. This will keep the tab delimited, .CSV, or .TXT file size manageable and prevent unnecessary delays in your project.

Is Your Business Card Making the Right Impression?

Card on Fire for Blog 250x187 Is Your Business Card Making the Right Impression?

If you haven’t read Sabine Lenz’s Printing Impression guest post, “These Business Cards Are Crap,” read it now because she’s created quite a stir. Lenz is the founder of PaperSpecs.com and doesn’t mince words about the cheap, flimsy stock, off center cards she collects every time she networks.

She rightfully asks where is the quality, the beauty and the usability of cards that are UV coated on both sides, so she can’t jot notes after meeting someone. Perhaps because it’s her business to sell paper, she says she’d like to see the use of extra thick paper stock, foil stamping, unusually-sized designs, and cards with an additional fold – perhaps that touts in 10-words what the company does best.

 

Digital Haze or Just Plain Lazy?

Has social media made us go soft by not having a nice card to present our best foot forward? Are we overly considered about our Linked In page and choosing the right Facebook cover photo?

I have certainly left meetings too many times to count where professionals didn’t have cards at all – a cardinal sin just five years ago. Sure we can bump our smart phones together and share contact info or email VCards, but the tactile experience of receiving a card, looking at the name, making a visual connection between your mind, the giver’s company and the person himself is lost. We learn and remember through touch and spending a moment experiencing the interaction.

 

Bad Business Cards

So let’s not overlook the business card interaction.  This is your chance to dazzle them or bore them to death.  For example, take a look at the six cards I quickly pulled off my desk. The three on the left side underscore Lenz’s crap rant.

There is too much information on the first card. It’s not a brochure, it’s a business card. The second “bad” card has unreadable mice type on it – stick to 8 picas or large not under 6, please. The third “bad” business card is lackluster. My guess is it was designed by the doctors and not by a professional graphic designer.

 

Good Business Cards

Now take a look at the cards on the right, which show great thought, design, a QR Code®, unusual sizing, thick paper stock, color washes on the back with no UV coating so you can write notes and an overall look and feel, so you leave with an impression about the business and the individual.  These three good business cards even show off some creativity with their titles:  Director of Awesomeness, ROI Generator, and Creator.

So put it on your calendar to review your business card this month. Does it need a re-design? Do you need to add your Facebook page, Twitter handle, a QR Code or blog address?  Don’t be caught in a digital haze by ignoring what could be your best ally – your finely dressed business card.

QR Code is a registered trademark of Denso Wave.

Variable Data Campaign Speaks Direct to Soy Bean Farmers

Mailbox, mail, data, inform, personalizeWith today’s technology, marketers don’t just get to personalize their message; they can personally tailor those messages. The technology is so slick, according to Dave Ward author of Variable Dating Integration – Taking You Wherever You Want to Go, your targeted messages don’t look like highly targeted messages, but like magic.

This magic worked well for PRO Seeds who turned an average farm journal into a marketing vehicle that spoke directly to their farm prospects – literally. Imagine that you run a 1,000-acre soybean operation in Canada. You come in after a hard day of chores, sit back in your recliner, put your feet up and start thumbing through your favorite agricultural magazine.

When you flip to page 12, something jumps right out and grabs your attention. There’s a postcard that is die-cut to look like a bag of soybean seeds – and it has your name on it. You can’t resist peeling the card off the page and finding on the back of the card three soybean seed varieties that are best suited specifically for your farming operation. (If you aren’t a farmer you may not realize that seed selection is specifically tailored to location, climate and soil.  All seeds are not created equal.)

You’re stunned. How could they know which seed varieties would work specifically for you; especially when you raise crops in five different heat zones? Behold the power of Variable Data Printing (VDP) or Variable Data Integration.

This is a true marketing campaign that worked wonderfully for PRO Seeds, who faced fierce competition for acres in Ontario where they only had 4% market share in 2011.

The campaign was a hit with farmers who loved the tailored messages specific to their farm, focus and heat zone. PRO Seeds experienced a lift in sales in regions where they had little penetration prior to this effort.

 

Ready to Harvest Your Clients Using VDP?

The challenge experienced by many marketers who want to execute a highly personalized campaign is the access to and quality of their database. Before executing a VDP campaign such as the one PRO Seeds conducted, you will need the following:

  • You must have the right data in the right fields.
  • Data must be properly and consistently formatted.
  • Data must be accurate.
  • Data must be useable in all of the required contexts.

Take the time to analyze your data to ensure the acceptability and accuracy of all substitutions. Don’t let bad data waterlog your campaign.

Variable Data Printing is a powerful tool that allows us to do some remarkable things, and the PRO Seeds card is really only one example of what can be done to tailor powerful messages for your customers.

In our 24 years of experience, Mail Print has found that VDP projects, should have the following elements:

  • The client or business must be open minded to delve deep into looking at all possible ways to pull the data available or gather the data needed to truly customize the marketing piece to address the customer or prospect on a knowledgeable, and in some cases an almost intimate, basis.
  • The client or business must want to innovate and lead with technology and be prepared for the work and rewards to ensure a successful campaign.
  • The client, agency or business must grasp the full scope – and magic – of what can be done with variable data.  Some campaigns we’ve executed include:
    • making covers of publications specific to each person or market segment;
    • making the tables, graphs, and figures in an insurance explanation brochure specific to that employee based on age, marital status, and worker class;
    • making a plastic surgery image brochure speak directly to the prospect who called in asking about a facelift, not lipo suction.

Like so many other endeavors, the success of any VDP project is as much in the details of the execution as it is in the creativity that inspired it.

SOURCE:  May 2012, Direct Marketing Magazine of Canada

 

Key Direct Marketing Trends for Nonprofits Revealed

Marketing, Trends, Data, variable, Ethan Boldt, Chief Content Officer of Direct Marketing IQ, the research division of publisher Target Marketing, surveyed and shared the results of direct marketing trends for nonprofits in 2011 with glimmers of trends in 2012. In case you missed his direct marketing trend video post, here is what Boldt shared.

  • Personalization, including Variable Data Printing (VDP) has grown by 6% in all sectors.
  • Freemiums slipped by 14% because of rising postage costs. In 2011 labels were the No. 1 freemiums; stickers were the No. 2 freemium and notepads were the No. 3 freemium.
  • Premiums shifted ranks with the tote bag no longer being the No. 1 giveaway by nonprofits. Now books are No. 1; totes No. 2; and DVDs are No. 3.

Variable Data and Other Nonprofit Marketing Trends in 2012

According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), social media and mobile giving continue to influence campaigns. The AFP shared these additional 2012 fundraising trends for marketers to build the most effective campaigns on and offline.

  • Online and new media channels continue to expand. Online fundraising is up 40% in 2012.
  • Peer-to-peer engagement is vital. Nonprofits should tap into their most vocal supporters who are most likely to influence the giving of their sphere, associations and friends.
  • Donor fatigue is building. Tailored communications directed right at a donor is imperative as information overload builds in the land of social media.
  • Integrated marketing will rise to new heights. Strategic communications harnessing the power of multi-channel marketing is the fuel that makes future fundraising campaigns take flight.
  • Personalization is a must. As Boldt noted, one size fits all approaches are so 80s. Personalized newsletters, direct mail that taps digital printing and emails show supporters you know them.  By showing that you know their preferences in giving and you are able to better ensure your message won’t be deleted or thrown in the trash. See a great personalized nonprofit solicitation below where one fraternity uses the alumni’s name twice as well as pulls in photos that include the alumni.

Personalization, nonprofit, variable data, vdp, donations, fundraising, donor receipts

  • Quality data should take front and center of any nonprofit campaign. He who gathers, scrubs, segments and keeps his data current, meets the fundraising mission fastest, according to Karen Zapp of Pkscribe.com – a nonprofit copywriter. This includes targeting groups on social media, using social analytics, and executing micro campaigns

Want more insights? Click here to read how Mail Print helped one nonprofit clients achieve outstanding ROI for their fundraising campaigns.

 

A few more points from Boldt

An analysis of 40 months of data, from January 2009 through October 2011, demonstrates the growth of personalization/VDP in the direct marketing and mailing process*:

  • In 2009, 28% of direct mail pieces were personalized.
  • In 2010, the number of personalized mail pieces increased to 34% — a 21% increase from the prior year.
  • In 2011, seven of the 10 months recorded saw even higher VDP usage – another 21% increase from the prior year and a 46% jump from the 2009 levels.

*Source: Target Marketing, Nuts & Bolts – Trends: 2011 Direct Mail Trend of the Year: VDP, March 2012.

 

Keep Your Marketing Strategy Alive as B2B is Proclaimed Dead

B2B, Business to Business, Business to Consumer, B2C, business, marketingWhen marketing icon Rick Segal argued B2B marketing is “dead” in his speech at a B2B conference in Berlin over a year ago, those in the industry were stunned. How could the president of the global marketing firm gyro make this statement? After all, his entire business of the past 30 years has been founded on business-to-business (B2B) marketing, a concept he’s helped cultivate since 1981.

But if B2B is dead, does this mean businesses will no longer do transactions with each other?

“It’s not that salespeople or sales support have become irrelevant, it’s that so many of the messages they are carrying to the marketplace are humanly irrelevant,” Segal says. “The myth that has been busted is that business decision making is entirely rational. It’s not. It’s exceedingly emotional, and as living, breathing human beings have been empowered with computing and telecommunications technology on their persons, their emotional needs matter more than ever.”

The view of B2B being based on logic and selling to a faceless company is dead; instead, B2B is shifting to be more about selling products to the people in a company, seeing the company as not one uniform entity, but as a being comprised of individuals with individual needs and emotions. Segal’s approach emphasizes tapping into the human need, igniting emotions in the business decision makers, to create effective marketing.

B2B Revived with a B2C Approach

B2C (business-to-consumer) has always focused on the human relevance aspect of marketing, especially understanding testimonial selling, to keep up with a fast-paced market and keep consumers engaged. The B2B world also is moving with network velocity, and to keep its professional consumers engaged, it needs to integrate B2C concepts.

Billy Mitchell, president and senior creative director for B2B marketing agency MLT Creative, believes B2B marketers can gain a lot by utilizing B2C marketing tools, including design standards, production values, storytelling techniques, creativity, and smart examples of social media marketing. So should B2B marketers transform into B2C marketers? Mitchell says no: “I don’t think a company should do that. In fact, they should embrace an enthusiasm and passion for B2B marketing. B2B can be just as creative and engaging as B2C.”

A recent example of engaging B2B with B2C flair was General Electric’s 2012 Super Bowl Ad.  GE boasts, “We make the power that makes the beer.” The commercial speaks to both consumers (the beer lovers) and businesses (the beer brewers), as both benefit from GE’s services. By saying we’re all in this together, GE shows the human relevance to their business.

“B2B marketers can certainly learn from and be inspired by B2C, but they must deeply understand B2B,” Mitchell says. “If you don’t enjoy meeting with your inside and field sales teams, understanding your customers’ businesses and your customers’ customers, etc., you may not belong in B2B marketing.”

B2B + B2C = H2H

The key element in both B2B and B2C marketing is connecting and building relationships with both current and prospective customers. Again, it comes down to selling to a person with a unique face rather than just a company name.

At many social media conferences, Mitchells says the current word is that it’s not about B2B or B2C, it’s about H2H, human-to-human.

“It seems that world-class marketers everywhere have awakened to the fact that, today, we are communicating with living, breathing human beings with aspirations, spirits and emotions,” Segal, president of gyro, says. “We’ve always known that business-to-business, at the end of the day, was person-to-person.”

This is where marketing tools such as direct mail, email, and variable data printing come into play, personalizing messages that will speak on a professional level but include the needs of the individual business buyer. Or perhaps creating pURLs or QR codes designed specifically for the B2B customers, using elements of the ones created for B2C audience but with different elements, which customize the interaction to be specifically B2B.

Or tell a story, like GE’s commercial, showing how our company helps your company helps the customer. By showing how each business positively affects the other, how each contributes to a bigger picture to help the consumer, the focus is on the human aspect, not just making a sale. Combine both B2B and B2C perspectives in your social media content, and your marketing will be more effective.

Segal agrees, “…what the world’s savviest marketers seem to have appreciated quickly is that personalization was the last best practice. No longer is it enough to understand the requirements of a person in a job title to be successful in influencing him to make a purchase consideration. No longer is it enough for an advertising planner to get into the head of a business decision-maker. With the amplified voices and the new organizational empowerment of these humans at work, successful marketers must get into their hearts.”

B2B Reborn

Whether or not you agree B2B is dead, it’s critical to note that the industry and its consumers are changing – and so are their needs.

“Change brings unexpected opportunities. With so many tools now available from B2B marketers, I can’t imagine why any business wouldn’t always be looking for opportunities to improve their marketing,” advises Mitchell. B2B marketers must adapt a “never quit learning, always be testing” mindset to keep up with an industry that never sleeps.