Category Archives: B2B Rainmaker

The power of getting to the point

The B2B Rainmaker blog once again emphasises that a good slide-based sales presentation should be over and done with in ten slides, and no more. This fits in with Guy Kawasaki’s classic 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint which I’ve referred to before. But as 10 slides to a better sales presentation says, “If you need more than 10 slides to convey your value and benefits, something is wrong. Limit yourself to 10 slides and challenge yourself to get to the main points faster. You don¬ít have the luxury of time with a prospect – you need to lock their interest early.”

Actually, the ten suggested headings for the slides might work well in any sales piece, from a letter to a brochure. Now there’s a thought.

Who are your press releases written for?

B2B Rainmaker covers a subject I’ve been banging on about for years in Why most press releases suck and are a waste of time. As an industrial trade magazine editor for nearly 15 years, I probably read (or at least glanced at) anything from 50,000 to 100,000 press releases, and as editor of Engineeringtalk from 2000 to 2007, I either edited or supervised the publishing of another 50,000. I think it’s safe to say I’ve seen just about everything.

And it’s true: most press releases are rubbish, including those from professional PR agencies, who just produce what the customer wants. Business-to-business press releases usually try to conform to what the company thinks a press release should look like (which is far too pompous), and fatally try to communicate their message simultaneously to both a lay audience and to technical specialists.

Back in the eighties and early nineties, trade magazines were well-staffed editorially, and could do a good job for their readers. In my first job, as assistant editor on Whats new in Processing, I might have responsibility for just half a dozen pages a month, which might mean having to research, select and edit just three or four “product news items” a day. I could actually take the time to re-write them from “press release speak” into something process engineers (our readers) found interesting, concentrating on benefits rather than features, of course. Because we had so much time to work on them, it wasn’t so important that a press release would have been so alien to readers if it had ever been seen in public as originally written. However, the few which were written with readers/customers in mind would certainly get favourable treatment from editorial departments!

By the start of this decade, trade magazines had slashed their editorial staff to the extent that many magazines were just thrown together, and press releases would be published almost as written. In addition, web-based publications (pioneered by the likes of Engineeringtalk) just published press releases “straight to the reader” with very little editing. So it became crucial that press releases were written directly for the reader. And were they? Were they heck. Go and have a look at a typical website which syndicates press releases and see how many actually read like interesting articles to potential customers, focusing on benefits and assuming a high degree of technical knowledge. But prospects represent the majority of the people who’ll be reading them, and they’re the most important readers too. Who are your press releases written for?

Deliver first, ask questions later?

White Papers are great. Because they were taken up most enthusiastically in the nineties by IT companies whose mission seemed to be to make even the simplest concepts bafflingly complex, many people (including me) were put off them almost forever. However, the concept has been reclaimed now by people with something to sell, and I believe they should be a part of the marketing armoury of every business.

Essentially, a white paper is a good explanatory document aimed at helping readers make decisions. If you want to establish yourself as an authority in a subject (and who doesn’t?), then a white paper is a great way to go. It’s a tremendous hook to pick up new potential prospects, especially now that the web has made distribution essentially a free process.

If your target is to use a white paper to fish for new prospects, the decision you have to make is whether to try to get their details in exchange for the white paper, or to disseminate the white paper as widely and freely as possible, and then try to get their details once they’ve read it. We launched Business Marketing Online with our own white paper at the start of the summer (How to slash your marketing expenditure …while increasing your incoming sales leads), and over 400 marketing managers requested it. Many of them went on to become subscibers to our Insider Programme.

We decided to ask for details first, but the other approach is discussed in 3 calls to action you must have at end of your lead generation white paper on the B2B Rainmaker blog. It’s difficult to truly A/B test these two approaches, but if you have white papers which ought to attract similar levels of response, you may be able to try out both and get a rough comparison of response.

Why should anyone care?

Here’s a good post. It’s something all magazine editors would agree with, and (if you could get them to put their finger on it) customers probably would too. In your marketing communication, have you included a reason why the recipient should care? In The most common mistake I find in customer communications on the B2B Rainmaker blog, the whole problem is summarised in a couple of paragraphs. “Your features and functionality aren’t benefits”, it says, “they’re merely proof a benefit can exist”.