Database marketing: The missing B2B primer

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on April 24, 2014

Database marketing: The missing B2B primer

A good marketing database is key to any business that sells B2B (business to business), and one of the first things that any new company should do is start building and using such a database, according to John Paterson, CEO for Really Simple Systems.

Ideally, your database would contain every single person for whom your product or service would be appropriate. If your target market is Finance Directors of FT250 companies, then this is perfectly possible, they will be exactly 250 of them! Similarly, there are about 4,000 headmasters of secondary schools so it should be possible to have most of them in a database.

If your marketplace is every sales manager, sales director, business owner, marketing manager & director, CEO and Managing Director in the English speaking world, as ours is, you'll never be able to find them all so you build as big as database as possible.

Once you have a decent number of people in the database you can start communicating your message to them, with a view to initially creating brand awareness, and then generating prospects for your sales team.

Building the Database As well as populating your database with people who might purchase from you, you'll want to add press contacts, bloggers, analysts and other opinion formers. There are lots of ways to capture contact information:

  • Existing Contacts You can load your and your colleagues' business contacts from personal address books, and maybe personal contacts as well if your product would be suitable for them. Plus all your customers, old and current, from your accounting system.  
  • Business Cards Many people hoard away every business card they are given. Go through all your drawers and make a pile. You can get business card readers to automate data capture if you have a lot, otherwise pass them to the intern.  
  • Web Site Once you have a web site you'll want to capture visitors' details, so offer them something that they are prepared to give their email address for: a white paper, a newsletter, a free trial, a general enquiry form. If you can tie the web site up to your marketing database, all the better.  
  • Research If you have a defined customer segment, such as the finance directors of FTSE500 companies or headmasters of secondary schools as mentioned above, you can build a list off the web using search tools such as Google and LinkedIn.  
  • List Purchase At the risk of being controversial, we wouldn't recommend buying mailing lists, especially if you intend to use them for emailing campaigns. The quality can be terrible and if you email them you'll be flagged as a spammer almost instantly which will affect not only your brand reputation but your ability to email genuine prospects. But if you must buy a list, clean it in house first over the telephone and then use it only for telesales and direct mail.

Communicating from the Database Once you have your marketing database, you can start to send messages to the people on it. Email is cheapest, then Direct Mail, then Telemarketing. What works for you will depend on the cost of your programmes, the conversion rate and your contract value. A cost per lead of £150 is great if you convert 25% of your leads and your average contact value is £10,000 but not if your contact value is £500! The following are some of the most effective techniques:

  • Email When it comes to getting your message regularly to people who have opted-in, nothing beats good old email. Sending an email is virtually free, you can send different emails to different groups of people if you have segmented your database, or even different ones to each person if you use advanced emailing software. You must keep your database up-to-date and take off bounced emails and unsubscribes else you'll get flagged as a spammer and all your emails will be bounced or end up in spam folders.  
  • Direct Mail Sending a letter will cost you between £1 and £10 depending on size, weight and content, although if you send thousands through a specialist mailing house the price can come down. Very much the same considerations apply to creating a good mailshot as to a good email campaign when it comes to headlines, content and call to action. Like many marketing activities, don't expect one mailshot to pay its way, you'll need a campaign covering many months.  
  • Telemarketing A telesales call will cost between £5 and £50, depending upon the hourly rate of the telemarketer and how many calls they have to make before having the conversation with the suspect. Many companies have found that direct mail followed up by a telemarketer works for them. You should aim to communicate with the people on your database at least quarterly, and every month if you can. Communicating more frequently than once a month using email runs the risk of people unsubscribing through overkill.  
  • Segmenting the Database As you get more sophisticated and your database grows, you'll want to segment the database so you can send different messages to different people.

Customers, Prospects & Suspects You'll certainly want to split out existing customers from the prospects and suspects, and maybe suspects from prospects. By "prospects" I mean somebody that a sales person is actively engaged with, whereas a "suspect" is just a name on the mailing list, somebody that we suspect should be interested but we haven't had any interaction with.

Then you might want to send communications more frequently to people that have recently expressed an interest in your offering, using a drip marketing campaign.

What database system to use? Depending upon what you want to do, and how sophisticated you want to be, you can hold your database in many different products.

The simplest way is to use a spreadsheet, with columns for first name, last name, email, address, source etc. If you are familiar with mail merging, you can then use the spreadsheet to drive the production of letters and emails.

A little more sophisticated would be a Contact Manager such as Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird. You can usually add custom fields for segmentation, and use the notes to record any interactions you have with the person.

If you are technically minded you could use a database manager such as Microsoft Access, LibreOffice Base or MySQL.

If the only thing that you are going to do with the contacts is send them emails, then a simple email marketing system like MailChimp or dotMailer works well.

If you want to combine your marketing processes with your sales process then an integrated CRM product that can handle both, including email marketing, would be the most sophisticated solution.

Like virtually all marketing activities, building a marketing database takes time, and you shouldn't expect a huge pile of sales leads from the first communication that you send out. But over the years, as your database grows and people become familiar with your brand and products, it will generate a steady supply of leads.

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