The "Lead Genie" -- A B2B Newsletter -- Recipe For Local Sales Traction & "Emerging Opportunity Insurance"

Who is about to initiate a buying process? 

This is the question that vexes sales reps everywhere.

Knowing the definitive answer to this question would be like having a genie in a magic lamp, that on command would deliver hot leads.

However, in the absence of the lead genie, there are ways of skewing decision processes in your favour.

Here's one idea for tipping the odds your way that you may have overlooked:  a traditional B2B newsletter, actually printed, as opposed to delivered only electronically.

Newsletters used to be an affordable staple of business-to-business communication.  But they have been partially eclipsed by the ease of deploying web-based content.

What is unique about a B2B newsletter that can contribute to your sales success?  Here is your recipe for the why's and how's of a B2B newsletter.

First, why bother?  What are the most important sales benefits of a good B2B newsletter to the right audience

If you physically mail your newsletter, it will be delivered right to your prospect's desk.  And because you are a "trusted advisor", it is then highly likely that the newsletter will be read.  The "phsyicality" of a newsletter can be an enjoyable break from the insubstantiality of all web-based content.  And that distinction can translate into reading time.  For this and other reasons listed below, a B2B newsletter can be expected to have a very percentage of delivered "reads", enabling the following sales benefits:

  1. Emerging Opportunity Insurance -- A B2B newsletter helps ensure that no customer or prospect starts an acquisition process without bringing you in!  (It is always extremely disappointing to be late to a sales process -- which will happen inevitably with 2nd and 3rd tier accounts, if you don't have "emerging opportunity insurance"!)
  2. Acquisition Acceleration -- A B2B newsletter can accelerate a percentage of customers who having been following trends in the trade press, but who are only triggered to action by the appearance of local comment in your newsletter.
  3. A Sales Rep Kickstart -- A B2B newsletter enhances the opportunities for dialogue between prospects and reps.  And reps love having more opportunities to explore with prospects!

What is the right audience?  The key to selecting a B2B newsletter audience is targeting.  After all a newsletter is a form of "intimate direct marketing", not advertising.  The affordability of newsletters is derived in part from the fact that the vehicle is not mass market.  Here are the main newsletter target market segments:

  1. Installed Based (in support of cross-sell and up-sell).
  2. Known Prospects (i.e. the roster of rep-captured hot prospects that need care and feeding).

How are B2B newsletter results achieved?  What are the most important characteristics of a good B2B newsletter?  The irresistable B2B newsletter is:

  1. Local (and this can imply "local" in technology space as well as geographic space).
  2. Personal (i.e. including profiles of people you might meet through the year).
  3. Short
  4. Action-Oriented (this is a sales tool, not a marketing program).
  5. Jam-Packed (lots of little items which means there's always a benefit for individual readers).

What are the other attributes of a great B2B newsletter?  It is:

  1. Inexpensive (can be produced quickly by local staff).
  2. Good-looking (which is achievable based on a good design format).
  3. Measurable (you can track the responses in your local area).
  4. Frequent (at very least once a quarter).
  5. Physical (as mentioned above, "physicality" is a refreshing and tactile break from "more web", although the same newsletter can also be delivered virtually by email or via weblink).
  6. Quirky (i.e. the opposite of "stuffy", and maybe even fun).
  7. List-driven (like all direct marketing, the list makes all the difference -- and remember, this is your proprietary list, of your customers and prospects!

What are the most important benefits of a B2B newsletter for your audience?  Customers and prospects like B2B newsletters because as a communications vehicle the newsletter plugs very directly into on-going decision processes.  This list of benefits also becomes your top-level guide to content development.

  1. Local Connection (Who are the players in my space?  What are they saying?)
  2. Local Leadership (What are the local trends that I need to be aware of in terms of maintaining my position on an adoption curve?)
  3. Local Information (What are the local events I need to be aware of?)

Please note that "local" need not be local in "geographic space".  Local can also be nearby in "vertical market space" (i.e. a vertical market newsletter) or in "horizontal market space" etc.

Finally, how much does a B2B newsletter cost?  You would expect a newsletter to be "affordable", but what is affordable?  If you follow a strict process you will achieve affordability:

  1. Project Management (Maybe just 1/2 day FTE per issue).
  2. Writing, Pictures (With contributed material by multiple reps and managers, negligible).
  3. Formatting, Editing, Vetting (Another 1/2 day FTE per issue).
  4. List Prep (Negligible with proper list discipline).
  5. Physical Production & Delivery (Only signficant cost, at possible $ 3 per delivered newsletter).
  6. Virtual Production & Delivery (Negligible).

The overall cost of delivering your newsletter -- once your process and format are in place -- is quite low.  A typical rep might maintain from 30 to 100 newsletter contacts, which implies approximately $ 300 per rep per issue -- certainly very affordable for any sales team!  And especially given the potential benefits, likely putting a B2B newsletter into the "must have" category!

That's the recipe for a B2B newsletter.  Let's look briefly at the larger context of how a B2B newsletter sells and how it fits into an overall kit of sales tools.

Beyond The Recipe -- The Role Of The B2B Newsletter

So why is a B2B newsletter a sales issue?  Aren't prospects inundated with too much web, too many trade magazines, too many conferences, too many PDFs and too many analyst reports?  These message vehicles are all good things, but the answer is probably "yes", prospects are inundated.  But notice that none of these communications channels are really tied directly to sales results or are in support of individual sales reps!

What about marketing campaigns, including webinars, email campaigns, even traditional direct mail or inside sales campaigns?  Again these are all good, and these communications vehicles are in fact typically tied to sales results with direct benefits for individual reps.

Nevertheless, the B2B newsletter still has a role "in between" the hype of marketing information and the pressure of a sales campaignAnd that "middle role" is of the local "trusted advisor" which places the prospect in a local community of technology users.   The B2B newsletter may in fact enhance the credibility of the sales organization because the community vehicle provides an authoritative voice beyond that of one or two reps. 

Individual technology users are constantly scanning the horizon for good ideas, and they are constantly testing their ideas with their peers.  Decisions to purchase new technology are often made in community clusters with decision leaders showing the way.

The B2B newsletter is an acknowledgement of the power of local communities.  And it is a way of ensuring that the local sales team is seen as participating in and contributing to that local community.  This is why it is important that sales newsletters be offered regularly, and not infrequently. 

B2B newsletters are sales tools that support local sales momentum.  They are a great way of both helping focus the sales team on disciplined local messaging and maintaining a dialogue with local prospects.  Prospects often appreciate receiving local attention that is not only about selling.  At the same time, the B2B newsletter is definitely action oriented.  For sales people and prospects alike it is likely to become a must-have quick read.

Attached please find an example of an Oracle B2B newsletter, in this case produced by your host as a sales tool for the Oracle Ohio Valley sales team.   It is nice to report that multiple responses from prospects were received, and in several instances we had prospects who initiated sales dialogues based on suggestions in the newsletter.  In fact, your host's best known deal, featured elsewhere on Stand-Up Sales, was first of all a sales lead generated by a newsletter! (Helena Chemical).

Back to our original question at the beginning of this item: how do we know who is about to initiate a buying process?  One helpful answer is that such beginnings are often made in the context of local communities.  And in any given sales territory, new acquisition interests will emerge which are not captured by reps -- especially in non-strategic accounts.  The B2B newsletter is one way of ensuring that you hear about those new interests first -- before the competition.  Supporting local dialogue and emerging decision processes, through an inexpensive newsletter, can be an excellent sales tactic

Does that mean a B2B newsletter is a lead genie?  You'll never know until you rub the lamp.

Click the link below to see an example B2B newsletter:

Ohio_Valley_Application_Server_Newsletter_September_2005_V_1.1_TDO.pdf224.65 KB