B-to-B Insights: Unorthodox But Effective
Sometimes an odd suggestion can really turn a company around. Here are three nontraditional recommendations that have significantly improved sales for B-to-B direct marketers:
1. Act like it's a B-to-C company. Successful salespeople know that treating customers like friends is a key to developing accounts. You may laugh when your paper salesman acts like you're his best buddy, but the reason he does is because it works. Help your customers feel better about themselves, and they'll feel better about you.
B-to-B catalogers don't seem to get this. They treat their customers as if they're businesses. You can't take your zero to 12-month buyer file out to lunch, but you can treat the names on it like they're people. Here are a few ways how:
- Gifts: Offering a premium that your customers can use is a great way to make them feel smart. Whether you're offering a tote bag or car trunk caddy, everybody loves a free gift.
- Discounts: Most B-to-B companies offer discounts based on volume. I'm surprised how few of these same companies remind their customers about the deals they're getting. The attitude is that you've already told customers about their discounts, why tell them again? Instead you should be reminding your customers every chance you get.
- Consult, don't just sell: Even if you like gelatin, you definitely don't want to be around when it's being made. Factories that produce gelatin are very hard to keep clean, especially their conveyer belts. A direct marketer of industrial cleaning equipment was brought into a gelatin plant to sell cleaning equipment for the conveyor belt problem. It turned out that the retailer's solution for the problem didn't include the equipment it sold. However, it solved the factory's gelatin problem and got more business from the company anyway. The B-to-B company acted as consultants rather than just salesmen and ended up with a more loyal customer in the process.
2. Improve your site penetration. Site penetration refers to the number of catalogs that you mail into a single location of a company. Improve your site penetration and you'll improve sales. Here's why: Your company is already in this customer's business operations system. If your client has a vetting process that includes multiple bids, you've already cleared that hurdle. Second, if the company is buying from you, it means that you're already set up within its purchasing/accounting system. You're now a hassle-free vendor to work with for other buyers within that company.
A columnist for Retail Online Integration, George founded HAGUEdirect, a marketing agency. Previously he was a member of the Shawnee Mission, Kan.-based consulting and creative agency J. Schmid & Assoc. He has more than 10 years of experience in circulation, advertising, consulting and financial strategy in the catalog/retail industry. George's expertise includes circulation strategy, mailing execution, response analysis and financial planning. Before joining J. Schmid, George worked as catalog marketing director at Dynamic Resource Group, where he was responsible for marketing and merchandising for the Annie's Attic Needlecraft catalog, the Clotilde Sewing Notions catalog, the House of White Birches Quilter's catalog and three book clubs. George also worked on corporate acquisitions.