Does “generational marketing” really matter in the B-to-B world?

For marketers working in certain industries, an interesting question is to what degree generational “dynamics” enter into the B-to-B buying decision-making process.

Traditionally, B-to-B market segmentation has been done along the lines of the size of the target company, its industry, where the company’s headquarters and offices are located, plus the job function or title of the most important audience targets within these other selection criteria.

By contrast, something like generational segmenting was deemed a far less significant factor in the B-to-B world.

But according to marketing and copywriting guru Bob Bly, things have changed with the growing importance of the millennial generation in B-to-B companies.

These are the people working in industrial/commercial enterprises who were born between 1980 and 2000, which places them roughly between the ages of 20 and 40 right now.

There are a lot of them. In fact, Google reports that there are more millennial-generation B-to-B buyers than any other single age group; they make up more than 45% of the overall employee base at these companies.

Even more significantly, one third of millennials working inside B-to-B firms represent the sole decision-makers for their company’s B-to-B purchases, while nearly three-fourths are involved in purchase decision-making or influencing to some degree.

But even with these shifts in employee makeup, is it really true that millennials in the B-to-B world go about evaluating and purchasing goods and services all that differently from their older counterparts?

Well, consider these common characteristics of millennials which set them apart:

  • Millennials consider relationships to be more important than the organization itself.
  • Millennials want to have a say in how work gets done.
  • Millennials value open, authentic and real-time information.

This last point in particular goes a long way towards explaining the rise in content marketing and why those types of promotional initiatives are often more effective than traditional advertising.

On the other hand … don’t let millennials’ stated preferences for text messaging over e-mail communications lead you down the wrong path. E-mail marketing continues to deliver one of the highest ROIs of any MarComm tactic – and it’s often the highest by a long stretch.

Underscoring this point, last year the Data & Marketing Association [aka Direct Marketing Association] published the results of a comparative analysis showing that e-mail marketing ROI outstripped social media and search engine marketing (SEM) ROI by a factor of 4-to-1.

So … it’s smart to be continually cognizant of changing trends and preferences. But never forget the famous French saying: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

What are the latest trends in the popularity of different marketing communications channel tactics?

The DMA’s 2015 Response Rate Report provides answers.

marketing channelsPeriodically, the Direct Marketing Association conducts field research to take the pulse of marketers and the various channels they’re employing to support their marketing campaigns.

In the DMA’s most recent survey, conducted online this past December and January, marketers were asked which one of seven channels they utilize in their campaigns.  The seven choices listed were the following:

  • Direct mail marketing
  • E-mail marketing
  • Mobile marketing
  • Online display advertising
  • Paid search advertising
  • Social media advertising
  • Telemarketing

The results of the survey show that e-mail marketing remains King of the Hill when it comes to its popularity as a MarComm channel, with more than four in five marketers including the tactic as part of their promotional campaigns:

  • E-mail: ~82% use as a medium in promotional campaigns
  • Direct mail: ~50% use
  • Social media advertising:  ~34% use
  • Paid search: ~30% use
  • Online display advertising:  ~29% use
  • Telemarketing: ~17% use
  • Mobile marketing: ~10% use

Clearly, the research findings show that marketers are using multiple channels in their campaigns:  Two-thirds of the survey respondents use more than one channel, and around 45% of them reported that they’re using three or more channels in their promotional campaigns.

Social media advertising is a new entrant on the list in the DMA research.  It wasn’t even included in the DMA’s 2012 survey, yet today appears to be an important part of the channel mix.

On the other hand, mobile marketing remains a channel that isn’t being utilized by very many marketers — at least not yet.  In a similar survey conducted by the DMA in 2012, its adoption rate was similar to what the 2015 survey has found.

The graph below compares 2015 and 2012 survey results.  Aside from the lack of movement with mobile marketing, another interesting trend is the significant decline in the utilization of direct mail marketing.  Back in 2012, it rivaled e-mail marketing in popularity.  Today, only half of the marketers surveyed continue to use it as a marketing channel.

And a third big trend is the utter collapse of telemarketing as a popular MarComm channel — likely happening under the twin weight of high costs and massive phone message filtering.

DMA chart

In terms of future anticipated usage, the DMA research found that marketers are, in fact, warming to mobile marketing.  It and social media advertising are the two channels that have the best prospects for new adoption, based on the future intentions reported by these respondents.

The 2015 DMA report is available for purchase here.

What’s the very latest on e-mail open rates?

Here’s an interesting factoid to consider: there were an average of 247 billion e-mail messages deployed each day during 2009.

With the plethora of commercial e-mail communications – accompanied by groaning inboxes and all – it’s only natural to wonder if what’s happening to the ones you send correlates to the experience of others.

The Direct Marketing Association helps answer that question with the results of a survey it just completed. The DMA’s 2010 Response Rate Trend Report, conducted with ~475 respondents in March and April, is the group’s seventh annual survey. It found that average open rate for e-mails sent to a company’s “house” e-mail database list is just under 20%, while the clickthrough rate from the e-mail to a web landing page is ~6.5%.

And the average “conversion” rate – taking whatever additional action is desired – is ~1.7%.

[Those figures are for “home-grown” e-mail databases. The percentages would be lower when working with outside/purchased lists.]

How does e-mail performance compare to response rates encountered in direct mail marketing pieces? The DMA research studied that, too. These days, direct mail response rates are running about 3.5% for house lists … but less than half of that (~1.4%) for outside prospect lists.

Commenting on the survey findings, Yuri Wurmser, the DMA’s research manager, said, “Traditional channels are holding their own in terms of response, but it is a multi-channel market out there where everyone is using a lot of different channels,”

Amen to that.

The DMA survey also found – not surprisingly – that while response rates for B-to-B campaigns tend to be higher than consumer campaigns, e-mail tactics are used less often for direct sales compared to postal mail. Which goes to show that despite their added costs and longer lead times, traditional direct mail marketing techniques still have a role to play in the marketing mix.

And what about telemarketing? The DMA survey reveals that outbound telemarketing to prospects provides the highest response rates — around 6% — but also the highest cost-per-lead at more than $300.

A full report is available for a fee from the DMA, and can be ordered here.

An Address: The Next Human Right?

The flag of the Universal Postal Union, the UN agency that coordinates postal policies for member nations.
The flag of the Universal Postal Union, the UN agency that coordinates postal policies for member nations.
Food, shelter, clothing. These are considered basic human rights. But what about a personal address? Is that a human right, too?

That’s the contention of Charles Prescott, a former Direct Marketing Association official who is in the midst of forming a new transnational organization to promote universal “addressability.”

“The consequences of existence, or lack thereof, of an address – especially in the developing world – are dire,” Prescott says. The new group he is organizing (the name isn’t finalized yet – the International Address Data Association is being considered) will promote the adoption of a Universal Postal Union resolution calling for all countries to adopt formal address systems, including change-of-address systems that are available at an affordable cost.

Prescott notes that the cost of change-of-address systems range widely at present, from just a few cents per name in the United States to as high as ~80 cents per name in The Netherlands. If costs are too great, businesses won’t bother using them.

In the U.S., highly addressable mail isn’t that big of an issue, although it’s probably true that a great many catalogues and other printed materials end up in landfills because they’re not addressed to the correct location and never find their way to their intended recipients.

But it’s a huge issue in the developing world. “Address coordinates which can be associated with an individual are extraordinarily important for fostering economic, social and political development,” Prescott emphasizes. But how does this play out in parts of the world where the address descriptions are vague … or non-existent?

I recall when I visited Mumbai, India in the late 1970s, I stayed in a dwelling known as Motiwala Mansion in the Mahim District of the city. Its address was simply “Opposite Shree Cinema.” I asked about the address of the movie house across the street and was told that it was “Opposite Motiwala Mansion.” How’s that for confusion in a city of millions if you don’t know where either one of these buildings is located?

Even more challenging are the slum districts that pepper the world, where addresses basically don’t exist. Today, with the explosion of mobile technology, cell phones reach into every nook and cranny of the world. In fact, cell phones are ubiquitous in the favelas, back alleys and other transient communities that have sprung up in and around every major third-world city. These phones can track the coordinates where someone is living, thereby tagging him or her with an “address” of sorts.

Sound far-fetched? It’s actually happening today, such as with one Brazilian department store chain that is extending store credit to people residing in these localities – once their physical location is known.

But Prescott contends that mobile phone coordinates represent only a partial solution – one that doesn’t allow for the delivery of physical mail. It also doesn’t solve other barriers existing in some countries that have a direct bearing on the economic opportunities for poorer people. One example: the need to show a birth certificate to register children in school … hobbled by the inability to obtain that birth certificate without having a formal address.

Obviously, any new push for a universal “address” initiative faces challenges. As illustrated by the Mumbai example above, addresses will need to be developed using systematic logic that is consistently applied from community to community inside a country. That’s a lot easier said than done.

But as an evangelist for providing every person on the planet an address as a basic human right, Prescott is clearly serious in his endeavor. The advisory board he’s formed includes key thought leaders from business organizations, academia and government in the United States and Europe. This initiative bears watching.

Interesting ROI Trends in Direct Marketing

What’s happening in the world of direct marketing these days, and where is the best ROI to be found?

Certainly, a lot of inboxes are positively groaning under the sheer quantity of e-mail volume, and many people have responded by beefing up their spam filtering. But the most recent economic impact study conducted by research firm Global Insight for the Direct Marketing Association reports that commercial e-mail marketing delivers the best bang for the promotional buck – more than $43 for every dollar spent on it.

By comparison, ROI from Google AdWords and other paid search advertising activities generates about $22 for every dollar spent.

According to the analysis, postal direct mail initiatives deliver lower returns on investment — with catalogs returning just a little over $7 per dollar spent and other forms of postal direct mail around $15.

Depite its stellar ROI numbers, it is true that e-mail marketing is actually showing a slight drop in ROI. And that is forecast to continue to decline in the upcoming years, at least partially because of the reasons noted above. Even so, e-mail is forecast to deliver an ROI of ~$38 for every dollar invested in 2013.

Of course, it’s important to recognize that search marketing is where much of the heavy action is these days. Internet search drives ~$244 billion in sales as compared against a related cost of ~$11 billion.

Commercial e-mail? It drives just ~$26 billion in sales … although the cost to drive those sales is a relative pittance at ~$600 million.

And over on the postal side of the ledger, no one should be surprised to learn that direct mail expenditures, while still large at ~$44 billion, are down ~16% in just the past year alone.

[But you can look on the bright side: Your promo piece is going to be noticed a lot easier among the smaller stack of daily snail mail that’s being delivered!]