How to Build a B2B Contact List for ABM: Part 1 – Getting Started

How to Build a B2B Contact List for ABM: Part 1 – Getting StartedSuccessful ABM programs consistently engage the right contacts in the right accounts. That’s why every ABM strategy always starts out with a targeted account and B2B contact list. But an organization’s key decision makers can sometimes be very hard to identify and profile, even more so if you want this process to scale.

We’re putting together this blog series to help you out with ABM list building. In upcoming posts, we’ll take a detailed look at several proven strategies for creating ABM-focused contact lists that contain the right stakeholders and the right information about them.

To kick things off, our first topic will focus on the essential things you need to have in place to ensure a productive and successful contact list building program. Use this post as a checklist of sorts on the prerequisites of account selection and profiling.

Chief Marketer outlines three key ingredients to help ensure you choose the right accounts and pave the way for accurate contact profiling:

 

Define your ideal customer profile (ICP) and target personas

An ideal customer profile (ICP) describes the companies that you really want to sell to. It lays down the specific characteristics and attributes that represent your best customers (companies that will benefit the most from your product or service). ICPs often include the following types of company information:

  • Industry
  • Business size
  • Annual revenue
  • Location
  • Technology in use
  • Target customer

A target persona (or buyer persona) pulls together the common characteristics of a specific buyer role (end-user, economic buyer, technical buyer, champion, etc.). Each target stakeholder is associated with at least one buyer persona. Buyer personas often outline:

  • Job title
  • Pain points
  • Goals
  • Content preferences
  • Demographics
  • Preferred channels

 

Size up your market

The total addressable market (TAM) is the total number of potential accounts that meet your ICP. In short, it’s the total size of the market you can potentially sell to. Your TAM helps you determine if your market has sufficient amount of opportunities to meet your sales goals.

Another crucial number to know before account selection is your market coverage. Market coverage tells you how many potential accounts in your TAM are already your customers.

Getting the difference between your TAM and market coverage will give you an estimate of the opportunities still available in your target market.

 

Use the “3 C’s” to craft a data management plan

According to Chief Marketer, ABM targeting requires a marketing database that meets the 3 C’s of data quality: complete, current, and consistent.

 

Complete

Remember the attributes in your ICP and buyer personas? Each attribute will refer to a specific field in your target account and B2B contact list.

This is why no record in either list should contain missing values for any of those fields. Otherwise, your ABM targeting capabilities won’t be very effective.

 

Current

ABM data also needs to be regularly updated. As Forbes points out, B2B data decays really fast: each year, 18% of contact info changes and up to 60% of employees switch jobs.

Without continuous data maintenance, you won’t be able to reach the right people in your target accounts.

 

Consistent

ABM data comes from different sources, and it’s also used by different endpoints. Your website, landing pages, marketing campaigns, data vendor, etc. all contribute to the pool of data resources your ABM program relies on.

This opens up the possibility of inconsistent and incompatible data flowing through your ABM pipeline. In fact, as much as 41% of marketers say that inconsistent data across different technologies is their biggest barrier to maximizing ROI.

Conclusion:  Now, you’re all set to build your target account and B2B contact list for ABM. Next up, our topic will be building a B2B contact list for ABM using the data you already have, which most likely lives in your CRM.

4 Tips to Write Cold Emails that Get Responses and Conversions

4 Tips to Write Cold Emails that Get Responses and Conversions

Cold emails are a crucial part of the modern B2B marketing toolkit. No other channel compares with the level of targeting and scalability that this channel provides. That’s why it’s important for us to learn how to create and send cold emails that get responses and get the job done.

One of the biggest mistaken beliefs in B2B marketing is that cold emails are the same as spam emails. Some marketers wrongly think that emailing people out of the blue isn’t a good way to get a response or start a relationship.

But the main purpose of an effective cold email is to build relationships with people who can potentially benefit from what you’re offering. It’s the misuse of emails exclusively as a selling tool that turns it into junk mail.

Cold emails should be relevant, personalized, and value-driven. That’s the key to generating responses and conversions from this channel. Here are four ways to make this happen:

 

Avoid the spam folder at all costs

To get a response or conversion, your cold email needs to make it into the inbox first. This is easier said than done, as over 20% of commercial emails fail to reach the inbox, 6% end up in the spam folder, and 14% get blocked altogether.

To help ensure your cold emails arrive in your recipients’ inbox:

 

Learn a little subject line magic

After your cold emails reach the inbox, the next important thing it needs to accomplish is to get noticed. With an average of 121 new email messages hitting their inbox every day, office workers have a lot on their plate when it comes to emails.

A catchy subject line is sometimes all that separates success and failure in cold email campaigns. Although there’s no hard-and-fast rule for coming up with great subject lines, here are a few things to consider:

  • Including the recipient’s name in the subject line boosts opens by 22%.
  • A/B testing your subject line tactics can increase open rates by almost 50%.
  • Around 35% of recipients open emails based solely on the subject line.
  • While the subject line length doesn’t really affect opens, it does impact replies (shorter subject lines fetch higher reply rates).

 

Craft your email for skimming, not reading

So a recipient opens your cold email. Now what? Once you grab your target recipient’s attention, it’s now up to your email content and design to make the contact stick around.

One key thing to remember here is that people don’t read emails. They simply skim through. In fact, 81% of people only skim the content they read digitally. Your email’s content and design should be crafted based on this behavior.

  • Keep your copy between 50 to 125 words
  • Break blocks of text into smaller paragraphs
  • Use headings, bullets, and lists
  • Make your CTAs stand out
  • Adopt a mobile-first email design mindset

 

Pay close attention to how you close your email

Your email closing line is just as important as your subject line. The closing line often serves as the clincher that convinces the recipient to take action.

Your cold email’s click-through, reply, and response rates depend to a huge degree on your closing line. Here’s how you should tweak your closing and why:

  • Use the recipient’s first name again in the closing line (mentioning the recipient’s name more than once in an email generates above-average reply rates)
  • Close with a single, clear action (emails with only one CTA get almost 4 times more clicks)
  • Thank your recipients (closing with a thank-you results in up to 65% higher reply rates)

Conclusion:  There’s no secret formula for creating cold emails that get responses and conversions. But you can vastly improve how cold emails perform by sticking to a few proven best practices.

How to Scrub an Email List in Excel and Keep It Sparkling Clean

How to Scrub an Email List in Excel and Keep It Sparkling CleanWe’re now well into spring. It’s time to get some cleaning done. When it comes to scrubbing lists, we marketers have a huge menu of tools to choose from. But nothing beats good old Excel when doing quick list cleaning tasks. In this post, we’ll learn how to scrub an email list in Excel.

Even with powerful CRM platforms and heavy-duty list management tools, it’s still hard to imagine life without Excel. Excel acts as a scratchpad of sorts for scrubbing email list. It’s the perfect tool to do some initial processing of raw data, as well as for further polishing list entries.

To help us truly leverage the power of Excel, let’s learn four handy Excel tricks for cleaning lists. Under each approach, we’ll take a look at a step-by-step guide to implement a given technique into your email list cleaning process. With that said, let’s dive right in!

 

Delete duplicate contacts

Duplicate email list records weigh down campaign performance. They lead to additional costs and lost productivity. That’s why duplicate records need to be removed.

There are two ways to handle duplicate records in Excel. First is to highlight them, and second is to remove them altogether.

To highlight duplicate records:

  1. Under the Home tab, go to Conditional Formatting
  2. Choose Highlight Cells Rules, then click Duplicate Values
  3. In the Duplicate Values dialog box, indicate the formatting you want and then hit OK

To remove duplicate values:

  1. Select the data range
  2. Go to the Data tab and then click Remove Duplicates
  3. In the Remove Duplicates dialog, choose the columns that contain duplicates (make sure to properly indicate whether your data has headers or not)

 

Remove extra spaces

Things like leading and trailing spaces, as well as added spaces in between characters, can wreak havoc on your campaign. It can lead to poor targeting and personalization (since these tactics often rely on exact matching). Extra spaces also cause validation issues that, in turn, produce bottlenecks in your email automation tool.

The most effective way to remove extra spaces (without manually checking each cell) is to use Excel’s TRIM () function.

The TRIM function removes all extra spaces that lead or trail words as well as spaces in between characters (except for single spaces).

  1. Choose a blank cell where the trimmed text will be stored
  2. Enter =TRIM(reference_to_text) and hit enter
  3. Apply the function to other cells in need of trimming

 

Manage empty cells

Blank or empty cells can also negatively impact the accuracy and precision of your email campaigns. Having blank cells in your email list can result in unexpected sorting, filtering, and segmentation behaviors.

The correct way to deal with blank cells is to fill them with appropriate values (or highlight them accordingly). Here’s how to do this:

  1. Select the entire dataset by pressing CTRL+A
  2. Open the Go-to dialog box by pressing F5
  3. Click the button labeled ‘Special’
  4. Choose the ‘Blanks’ radio button and click OK
  5. Once all blank cells have been selected, enter the default value by typing it and then hitting CTRL + Enter

 

Ensure data consistency

Inconsistent formatting, improper capitalization, and haphazard abbreviation are all symptoms of poor data consistency. Here are some ways to make sure your email list contains uniform, standardized data:

  • Apply correct capitalization with Excel’s LOWER(), UPPER(), and PROPER() functions
  • Convert numbers written as text into proper numbers using the Multiply option in the Paste Special dialog box
  • Expand data into multiple cells using Excel’s Text to Columns feature
  • Clear formatting using Home > Clear > Clear Formats
  • Use Find and Replace to locate and fix errors

 

Conclusion:  These are just a few steps on how to scrub an email list in Excel. Now, it’s time to put them into action.

B2B Email Marketing Benchmarks 2019: What to Watch Out for in Q2

It’s finally the second quarter of the year. As you start implementing your email strategies for Q2, let’s take a look at the latest B2B email marketing benchmarks for 2019, so that you’ll have reliable numbers to measure relative to your campaigns’ performance.

We’ve reviewed top email marketing resources and compiled some of their most crucial findings. The results we’ve gathered cover three main email marketing areas:

  • Benchmarks by Industry
  • Benchmarks by Business Size
  • Benchmarks by Location

With that said, let’s dig into the email marketing benchmarks to keep track of for 2019.

 

Benchmarks by Industry

MailChimp’s latest industry-specific email marketing benchmarks show some notable results. There continues to be a huge degree of variability in email performance by industry. Still, some of the key results are as follows:

  • Across industries, average values are: 20.9% open rates, 2.5% CTRs, 0.44% hard bounce rates, 0.01% spam complaint rates, 0.26% opt-out rates.
  • Median values are: 20.64% open rates, 2.35% CTRs, 0.39% hard bounce rates.
  • Hobbies had the highest open rates at 27.35%, while Daily Deals/Coupons had the lowest open rates at 14.92%.
  • Hobbies also had the highest CTRs at 4.78%, while Restaurants had the lowest CTRs at 1.06%.

With numbers like these, it’s important for you to set email marketing benchmarks appropriate for your industry. This helps you make a valid, apples-to-apples comparison.

 

Benchmarks by Business Size

When broken down by business size, email marketing benchmarks also tell an interesting story. Data from MailChimp show that email performance tend to vary across different business sizes, suggesting key differences in strategies and campaigns.

  • Among small businesses, companies with at least 50 employees have the highest open rate at 22.1%, while businesses with 11 to 25 employees have the lowest open rates at 19.7%.
  • In terms of CTRs, businesses with 50+ employees also had the highest click-through rates at 2.66%, while companies with 11 to 25 employees again had the lowest CTRs at 2.25%.
  • Spam complaint rates were 0.01% for all sizes of business.

As you can see, email marketing benchmarks differ from one business size to another. This is isn’t really all that surprising, since business size also influences which specific email tools and tactics to use.

 

Benchmarks by Location

A study from GetResponse shows how overall email performance vary from location to location. In particular, these numbers suggest that email marketers from various geographic regions adopt different email strategies with wide gaps in outcomes and results.

 

Continent Open Rate CTR Unsubscribe Spam Rate
Oceania 24.15% 14.53% 0.28% 0.01%
North America 19.49% 3.32% 0.19% 0.02%
Europe 26.91% 4.61% 0.27% 0.03%
Africa 18.69% 2.48% 0.16% 0.01%
Asia 20.95% 2.88% 0.13% 0.01%
South America 24.88% 3.50% 0.15% 0.02%

 

This table highlights the need to use email marketing benchmarks applicable to your specific campaign characteristics. That includes KPIs related to your location, since geographic area also plays a key role in which metrics to compare your performance against.

 

Conclusion:  As you carry out your campaigns for Q2, keep the above numbers in mind when choosing B2B email marketing benchmarks to gauge how your program is doing.

5 Best Practices for Measuring the ROI of your B2B Email Lists in 2019

5 Best Practices for Measuring the ROI of your B2B Email Lists in 2019We already went over four proven tips to help you accurately and reliably gauge the ROI of B2B email lists. Now, let’s revisit those crucial ideas and explore new ways for determining your list’s impact on overall marketing and sales results.

It’s typically hard to correctly determine the ROI of most targeted email lists since they’re mostly used for top-of-funnel activities. This means that, by the time a lead becomes a customer, the touch points associated with the contact list that contributed to the sale are often difficult to trace since they took place at earlier stages in the process.

To get around this, the following tips can help you reliably measure how much revenue your B2B email lists enabled your campaigns to generate:

 

1. Determine precisely where contacts come from

In order to accurately gauge ROI, you need to find out where every contact that becomes part of your list originated from. Did a lead come from organic sources? Which paid source did a particular database record pass through before entering your funnel?

For your B2B email list, this means having separate fields that report where and how you got the contact information.

 

2. Refine your sales funnel stages

There’s a surprising statistic from MarketingSherpa being thrown around that claims 68% of marketers haven’t yet identified their sales funnel. If you happen to be part of this group, you need to define and refine the stages in your sales funnel right now.

What are the steps a prospect goes through before being deemed sales-ready? What actions constitute a conversion in each of these steps?

 

3. Track and score leads throughout your funnel

Once you’ve established the precise steps that a prospect has to go through in order to turn into an opportunity, you now need to assign points that indicate how sales-qualified that particular lead is.

This is called lead scoring and is a crucial component of accurately measuring marketing ROI. Points are assigned based on the lead’s attributes (demographic and firmographic details) and their actions (interest and intent).

 

4. Match closed deals with past touch points

Now that you’ve got contact source information and lead scores recorded in your custom targeted database, it’s time to take a look at the data for deal closes. These closes should be tied back to the series of touch points that preceded the deal.

Marketingprofs says there are four categories of closes based on source and nurture history. It’s important that you identify the right classification for a particular deal, so that credit and attribution can be correctly given.

 

5. Apply a suitable attribution model

An attribution model is a set of rules that tell you how to distribute credit for results among the different channels and tactics in your sales process. Typically, attribution models are used to determine how much a given channel or tactic contributes to revenues.

There are different types of attribution models. You need to find the best one that fits your process and requirements. Bizible provides a helpful overview on various attribution models, which include:

  • Last touch: The touch point immediately before the sale gets 100% of the credit
  • First touch: The first touch in the sales cycle gets all the credit
  • Linear: Credit is evenly distributed among the channels/touch points
  • Time decay: Touch points closer to sale get bigger share of credit
  • U-shaped: First and final touch points get 40% each, while the rest get the remaining share

With these five best practices, you can now reliably and consistently measure the ROI of B2B email lists. The main idea is that your targeted database does contribute to the revenues your marketing and sales processes generate, provided that you’re using it correctly in your campaigns.

This article was originally posted in September 2017 and has been updated to reflect developments in the topic.

B2B Email List Deliverability: Authentication Best Practices

If you’re seeing low or declining deliverability rates for your B2B email list, chances are your sender reputation isn’t exactly up to snuff. There’s a ton of factors that ISPs check when determining sender reputation, and one important aspect is the sender’s email authentication setup.

This needs to be a critical area of focus in your email deliverability best practices. That’s what we’ll talk about in this updated blog post.

Email authentication helps ISPs prevent forged emails from reaching their users’ accounts. In other words, it’s a way to prove that an email you sent really comes from you (not some sender pretending to be you). From this, it’s easy to see why your email deliverability best practices should also include sender authentication.

 

How Email Authentication Works

Email authentication allows ISPs to properly identify the authenticity of emails their users receive. When a receiving server gets an incoming mail, it verifies whether the message really did come from the sender. To do this, it checks for specific pieces of information in your email and DNS records.

According to SparkPost, the email authentication process varies from approach to approach but typically consists of the following steps:

  1. A business or organization that sends emails establishes a set of authentication policies.
  2. The email sender configures its mail servers to publish and implement these policies.
  3. The receiving server authenticates an incoming email by referring to the sender’s policies.
  4. The receiving server accepts, flags, or blocks the incoming email based on the results of step 3.

In the next section, we’ll go into steps 1 and 2 in greater detail, plus outline the specific ways to set up email authentication.

 

How to Set Up Email Authentication

We’ve seen that email authentication affects sender reputation which, in turn, impacts B2B email list deliverability. To set up authentication for your email marketing program, follow these quick steps:

 

Step 1: Use SPF and DKIM authentication

Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) are authentication protocols stored in the sender’s DNS records. These contain the “pieces of information” we briefly mentioned earlier that ISPs use to check an email’s authenticity.

Simply put, SPF and DKIM prevent the bad guys from impersonating you as the sender. The details can get a little hairy, but the important thing to keep in mind is that without SPF and DKIM, there’s no way for ISPs to be sure it’s really you who’s sending the email.

 

Step 2: Record all your sending IPs

The sending IP address is the numeric label that uniquely identifies every sending source you use. It serves as the passageway through which emails are sent to your recipients. You need to let ISPs know all the sending IP you use (including those of your email service provider).

This is achieved through what’s called a reverse DNS record. Reverse DNS records do the opposite of what normal DNS records do; they return the name associated with a given IP address. Without a valid reverse DNS record, many ISPs will block your emails.

 

Step 3: Put it all together

Reverse DNS records, SPF, and DKIM are the three basic DNS entries to help ISPs authenticate your emails. Once you’ve already set all of these up, here’s how to put them into action:

  • Create your authentication record on SPF and DKIM, then publish them
  • Configure your mail server to sign outgoing mail with DKIM
  • Test your DKIM, SPF, and reverse DNS records

 

Step 4: Use a genuine, personal From name

The final step doesn’t involve anything fancy, but is arguably the most important one. Make sure that your emails’ From line contains an authentic name of a person. Avoid departmental or role-based addresses like marketing@xxyzcompany.com. You want to build a personal relationship, so it pays to start connecting on a personal level.

 

Conclusion

Now start building your sender reputation with these email deliverability best practices in mind. The main takeaway is that being authentic doesn’t end with email verification protocols. It’s all about building a long-term relationship with the people in your B2B email list.

This blog article was originally posted in 2018 and has been updated to reflect recent developments in the subject area.

[2019 Update] Top B2B Demand and Lead Generation Tactics

Top B2B Demand and Lead GenerationLast year, Demand Gen Report (DGR) polled marketing executives in the US and found some interesting trends behind the B2B demand generation tactics they used. This year, DGR released their 2019 edition of the survey, and uncovered even more interesting developments in B2B demand and lead generation strategies.

While it was clear in 2018 that marketing’s role became increasingly important in the sales process with management placing more trust on marketers and with the continued rise of account-based marketing (ABM), this wasn’t readily reflected in the budget priorities of B2B organizations last year.

For 2019, however, B2B companies are now starting to allocate a bigger slice of the pie to demand/lead generation initiatives and ABM efforts. Nearly 75% of respondents say their demand/lead generation budgets will grow this year, with 46% reporting at least a 20% increase.

Let’s review some of the key findings from both the 2018 and 2019 editions of the Demand Generation Benchmark Survey Report.

Emails remain the number-one channel for engaging top-of-funnel leads, as well as converting mid- to bottom-of-funnel prospects. The survey also reveals that marketers now increasingly rely on “cross-channel” strategies in order to meet “more aggressive” revenue goals.

Around 70% of B2B marketers say their demand generation budget will grow in 2018. That’s in response to higher sales growth projections for this year, as B2B companies target at least a 30% increase in revenues. As a result:

  • 28% of respondents report their organizations set revenue-based quotas for marketers (compared to 23% in 2017)
  • 30% of respondents say pipeline influence is the main metric to gauge marketers’ performance (up from 27% in 2017)
  • 73% of respondents rank lead quality as the number-one demand generation goal

With marketing increasingly being tied to revenues and in the face of ever-changing buyer behavior, marketers continue to refine their B2B demand generation tactics. Here’s what the Demand Gen Report study finds:

 

Top B2B Demand Generation Tactics

Findings from the Demand Gen Report study indicate that different tactics work best at different stages of the sales cycle. Around 68% of the polled marketers rank in-person events as the most effective tactic for generating qualified top-of-funnel leads, followed by webinars at 61%. Here’s what the complete rankings look like:

  1. Live Events (68%)
  2. Webinars (61%)
  3. Lead Nurturing (57%)
  4. Whitepapers (50%)
  5. Case Studies (50%)
  6. Videos (37%)

For the top-performing demand generation tactics at later stages in the funnel, case studies outrank other strategies as follows:

  1. Case Studies (73%)
  2. Lead Nurturing (63%)
  3. Live Events (55%)
  4. Webinars (54%)
  5. Whitepapers (47%)
  6. Videos (38%)

 

Top B2B Demand Generation Channels

Close to 3 out of 5 B2B marketers rank Emails as the most effective channel when it comes to driving awareness and interest in the early stages of the sales process. The complete rankings are as follows:

  1. Emails (59%)
  2. Search (56%)
  3. Website (51%)
  4. Social Media (44%)
  5. Online Ads (27%)
  6. Retargeting (19%)
  7. Content Syndication (17%)
  8. Telemarketing (14%)
  9. Direct Mail (7%)
  10. Predictive Analytics (2%)

Here’s how these channels perform when it comes to converting leads later on in the sales funnel:

  1. Email (81%)
  2. Website (50%)
  3. Telemarketing (45%)
  4. Retargeting (27%)
  5. Direct Mail (20%)
  6. Search (18%)
  7. Social Media (17%)
  8. Content Syndication (11%)
  9. Predictive Analytics (11%)
  10. Online Ads (6%)

 

Cross-Channel Strategies

Among the key takeaways from the Demand Gen Report survey is that marketers shift their preferences for different B2B demand generation tactics and channels at different points in the sales cycle. Search ranks highly (2nd) during the early funnel stages, but diminishes in importance later on. The same can be said of telemarketing, which the survey shows as a better channel for converting opportunities than as a tool for engaging fresh leads.

This indicates that B2B marketers understand when and how to use these different channels. Oftentimes, this involves combining these tools into a single, coherent strategy where each channel complements the others.

At ContactDB, for example, we use a multi-channel approach when doing demand generation campaigns for our customers. We leverage the scale and reach of email marketing to enhance live phone conversations with the target hand-raisers and use social media to reinforce these touch points.

It’s clear that B2B demand generation tactics are evolving, and it’s time for marketers to adapt.