Targeting B-to-B Behavior
Behavioral Insider: Behaviorally based targeting has gotten far more traction with consumer marketers than in the B-to-B space. As a mid-market B-to-B specialist, how do you account for that?
Craig Stouffer: The business to business space has some very unique challenges, the most obvious and challenging one being the differential in volume between it and business to consumer. For example at a B-to-C site you may see tens of thousands of visitors and the amount of related transactional data you're looking at is far richer and thicker.
At a B-to-B site by comparison a typical visitor may look at a few pages, download a white paper and perhaps sign up for a webinar. So in terms of sheer variety and scope there aren't as many touch points. Another difference is cultural. B-to-B marketers, quite unlike their B-to-C brethren, have not been exposed to targeting. So there's an educational cycle even to get them to think in terms of enhanced targeting.
BI: How does segmentation work in a B-to-B context?
Stouffer: The fact that user bases are far smaller makes it far less feasible to achieve the kinds of granular segmentation B-to-C marketers are used to. Over 50% of our clients, for example, have a total of ten thousand or less customer names in their database, so there's far less to slice and dice, at least at first glance. Most B-to-B marketers begin and end with very static segmentation categories like titles and geography.
BI: So how are you working to move B-to-B targeting in a more dynamic direction?
Stouffer: What we target are clients needing more than just generic emails. The first step in this process is to track email response patterns such as opens and clicks on links which is one B-to-B marketers are just moving into. But moving beyond this a further step is integrating email response to Google Analytics data, which captures things like number of visits to a website, pages viewed, and amount of time spent on specific areas of the site. This opens up other opportunities such as sending follow-up emails to people who didn't respond to particular campaigns but whose behavior indicates strong likelihood of interest. Or, conversely, more detailed tracking enables a marketer to resend a recent email campaign, say a targeted offer you sent on July 15, only to customers who've signed up since that date.
BI: What other types of data can be leveraged?
Stouffer: All of this behavioral data can be tied to the customer relationship data generated by sign-up forms. We've developed a flexible contact database which allows customers to as many new customized fields as needed for each list. A simple example would be type of hardware or operating system a particular company uses. Finally particular behaviors can be tied to particular offers. For example every time a customer downloads a particular white paper, say on "virtual storage" it will automatically trigger a specific new offer.
BI: How do you see a recessionary environment impacting the way B-to-B marketers target?
Stouffer: In a down economy we are seeing a shift away from lower targeted "lead prospecting" whether in the form of bulk mail or display advertising and towards channels extracting higher value from existing customers. Looking ahead over the next 6-12 months, our goals are to keep pushing the education curve among mid-market B-to-B clients about the fact that targeting email drives increased value.
Beyond that I'd say the key frontier is more closely integrating behavioral email targeting and search engine optimization (SEO) to provide greater efficiencies down the conversion funnel. This is a particularly vexing issue for B-to-B search marketers because B-to-B search CPCs are expensive. There are many keywords that cost $2 to $! 5 or more. To justify ROI on that investment you need to leverage new ways of pushing up conversion rates which is what can happen when website behavior and search are tied more closely together and both are used to enhance email targeting.