By Contributing Editor Dianna Huff
On the surface, B-to-B marketing in the United Kingdom is really no different from marketing in the United States. Brits and Americans speak the same language, use the Internet in huge numbers to find products and are constantly contending with postal rate increases.
So, marketing to businesses in the UK should be a breeze, right? Although the experts interviewed for this report all say US and UK businesses use similar marketing strategies, Stateside marketers should note that B-to-B marketing in the UK has its share of differences.
“The UK market will make your life miserable if approached in the wrong way,” says Vic Godding, Chairman of the DMA UK’s B-to-B committee and Managing Director of Developing Data Ltd.Quick Stats: Population, Business and the Internet
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. A major player in international politics, the UK is part of the G7 group of countries, along with Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
According to the BBC, the UK had the fifth largest economy in the world and the second largest in Europe in 2005 with a Gross Domestic Product of nearly $2.23 trillion (US). With a population of 60.2 million people, Britain is the third largest country in the European Union.
Although part of the EU, Britain did not change its currency to the Euro -- opting to remain with the pound.
Like the US, the UK has seen a decline in manufacturing and has become a service-based economy -- with ecommerce growing in significance. The country’s main exports are manufactured goods, chemicals and foodstuffs.
According to National Statistics, 50.4% of UK businesses are companies and public corporations, 30.1% are sole proprietors and 17.6% are partnerships. Government and nonprofits make up 2% of the business landscape.
Although a relatively small country in size (England is slightly smaller in area than the state of Oregon), the UK is the fifth largest in terms of online populations, with more than 29.8 million people online, or 63% of the population, according to NOP World figures.
Broadband access is quite popular across the UK: National Statistics estimates that 69% of the households with Internet access had a broadband connection between January and April 2006. Broadband is highest in London (78%) and lowest in Northern Ireland (56%).
As for mobile, e-Consultancy reported that an estimated 61.1 million mobile subscriptions were active in the UK in March 2005. A 2004 Vodafone UK survey found:
* More than 80% of business professionals are equipped for mobile working.
* 42% use mobile data technologies, such as Wi-Fi, mobile data cards and BlackBerry devices.Top 3 Challenges Marketing to UK Companies
Online adspending surpasses all other media, but B-to-B has been slow to take advantage of new technologies. Also, privacy regulations can make it harder to reach individuals who are used to deciding which marketing messages they want to receive.
Challenge #1. Internet not being used to its full potential (yet)
Of the 29.8 million people online, 10 million access the Internet while at work (BMRB, Q2 2006). A March 2005 Association of Online Publishers (AOP) survey found that 82% of UK B-to-B decision makers use the Internet as an integral part of their workday, with more than 45% spending up to five hours a day online for work purposes.
AOP survey respondents said they used the Internet “every time” or “sometimes” for the following activities:
- Keep up to date with news in their sector: 44% / 31%
- Technical reference source: 33% / 38%
- Review/analyze competitor activity: 25% / 36%
- Research and inform business decisions: 22% / 41%
- Review products and suppliers: 22% / 40%
- Research and inform purchasing decisions: 19% / 36%
- Conduct market analysis: 19% / 27%
- Generate sales leads: 17% / 21%
- Look for a new job: 14% / 17%
- Recruit new staff: 11% / 19%
Recent findings from the Internet Advertising Bureau, in partnership with Pricewaterhouse Coopers and the World Advertising Research Centre, found that the Internet is the fastest-growing advertising medium in the UK, commanding a market share of 10.5% for January to June 2006, up from 7.3% for the same period in 2005.
“The UK is leading the world in the amount of money spent online versus other media -- with over a billion pounds spent on online advertising during the first six months of 2006,” says Guy Phillipson, CEO of the IAB UK. “B-to-B, however, has been late to the party.”
According to IAB research conducted with BtoB Magazine in 2005, B-to-B marketers have yet to fully embrace Internet advertising formats -- with only 39% using pay-per-click and 29% using online classifieds. Since B-to-B hasn’t picked up yet, marketers have an opportunity to make their mark while there’s less clutter. That will change this year as companies wake up to the Internet’s true potential.
While B-to-B marketers understand that the Internet can help them grow their businesses, many have had trouble integrating traditional and digital channels. Web sites, for example, have had the same configuration for years. “They’re not SEO friendly, they’re boring, and they present the typical ‘brochureware’ type of information,” Phillipson says.
Mike Grehan, CEO and Founder of Searchvisible Ltd., and author of the book, ‘Search Engine Marketing: The Essential Best Practice Guide,’ agrees with that assessment.
“The other problem,” he adds, “is that while the UK is very sophisticated when it comes to search, most businesspeople still don’t understand the value of analytics. You could put data in front of a CEO, and he’d have no clue what he was looking at -- which is why UK B-to-B sites have been slow on the search and technology uptake as compared to the US.”
Challenge #2. Stricter privacy regulations
The UK is an opt-in market, meaning consumers have the ability to control how companies contact them by placing their names on “do not mail,” “do not call” and “do not email” lists. The UK’s Data Protection Act gives consumers the right to know what information is being held about them and provides a legal framework to ensure personal information is handled properly.
These regulations, however, aren’t set in stone for B-to-B. Instead, B-to-B direct marketing regulations are based on “best practices,” says the DMA UK’s Godding. “We have a DM Code of Practice to which members must adhere. Using a B-to-B opt-in list -- that is, where the respondent has indicated he wants to receive solicitations -- is a best practice, not a requirement. Of course, that can always change.”
When marketing to UK businesses, US marketers should note that opt-in lists don’t automatically guarantee that the people on the list have indeed opted in. For example, if you collected names from a directory of companies or purchased a list from a trade organization, you must still ask recipients if they want to be mailed to at your earliest opportunity. Ditto for email and telemarketing efforts.
US marketers are encouraged to contact the DMA UK directly for current information regarding privacy regulations and best practices (see hotlink below).
Challenge #3. Lists can be difficult to find
“One of the biggest challenges for us,” says Drue Townsend, Senior VP of Marketing for FASTSIGNS, a US-based company with franchises in England and Wales, “is getting information on people in order to do direct marketing. The policies are very rigid, as compared to the States, and you don’t have as many mass media options.”
To obtain B-to-B mailing lists, marketers can contact the DMA for their B-to-B list or UK trade associations. Godding also recommends getting lists from companies such as D&B and Experian.
Another option: renting a list from Companies House -- a government-run registration service for all legal and legitimate companies. Note: This information does not usually include contact information of executives, directors or managers. You will have to conduct a telemarketing campaign to complete your database.Status of Email, Search Marketing and White Paper Syndication
-> B-to-B email marketing:
Although UK businesses lag when it comes to the Internet, B-to-B marketers like email, with 83% of IAB survey respondents using email largely for product promotion (54%) and company newsletters (49%).
Almost half of the respondents (47%) use email for customer acquisition. Other uses include industry newsletters (21.3%) and after sales care (41.9%).
-> Search marketing:
The IAB released the following numbers in its Adspend Study for the first half of 2006:
- Display advertising accounted for 23.5% of online advertising
- Paid search maintained its position as the largest single format with a 57.9% share of the market
- Classifieds accounted for 17.7% of the online spend
Although numbers were not broken out between B-to-B and B-to-C, this indicates a robust environment. In fact, Internet advertising was the only media to gain market share for 2006 -- with press, TV, radio and direct mail all posting declines.
The British have also flocked to social media formats with blogging, podcasts, in-game advertising, ipTV and social networking all gaining in popularity.
“Google’s position in the UK market is dominated by the search engine, with www.google.co.uk being the #1 ranked Web site in the UK based on share of UK Internet visits,” Heather Hopkins, Director of Research for Hitwise UK, wrote in her blog recently.
However, she pointed out that Yahoo! has made strong gains. Although Google “powered 78% of the UK Internet searches in the four weeks to Oct, 21, 2006, up 9% on the year, Yahoo! took the #2 rank based on share of executed UK searches with 7.7% of the search market” -- with Yahoo’s share rising 4% in the past six months.
The top 10 online properties for the UK, according to comScore figures released in October 2006:
o Microsoft sites
o Google sites
o Yahoo! sites
o BBC sites
o Amazon sites
o Time Warner Network
o Ask Network
o Fox Interactive Media
o Wikipedia sites
-> UK white paper syndication:
White paper syndication is quickly gaining traction in the UK, as evidenced by KnowledgeStorm partnering with VNU to launch KnowledgeStorm Europe in July 2006.
Developing a white paper for the UK market is similar to what you would do for the US (for the complete lowdown, see the hotlink below for our two-part Special Report: How to Syndicate Your White Paper Successfully) -- with one exception: content should be written for the UK market.
“Users take content much more seriously when it’s UK-based,” says Marc Prette, Managing Director for KnowledgeStorm UK. “Interviews with our user base indicate they want localized offers and content based on UK companies.”
Because the UK site is still very new, Prette couldn’t provide extensive data. However, he did release the top 10 search terms for the UK:
o Budgeting, Financial Planning and Analysis
o Business Intelligence Solutions
o Enterprise Financial Management Solutions
o Business Process Management (BPM)
o Business Planning
o Testing and Analysis
o Network Security
o Enterprise Systems Management
o Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
o Enterprise Performance Management/Balanced ScorecardFive UK-Specific Marketing Tips
-> Tip #1: Don’t simply recycle your US campaign
Ellen Evans, Marketing Director for US-based Jefferson Wells, advises marketers to get input from local agencies regarding marketing collateral.
“In our US ads we use pictures of actual employees,” she says. “When we opened our office in the UK, we figured we could use photographs of US employees in these ads because no one would know the difference.”
However, Evans learned that nuances are extremely important. “Our agency told us our photos were a dead giveaway that we were an ‘American’ company.” The problem? British employees could tell, just by the cut of a lapel or the way a tie was knotted, that the folks pictured weren’t British.
And, the pictures were “too polished” for the UK market. Yes, even though in the US we consider ourselves less formal than European countries when it comes to dress, our ad images are highly professional and polished -- a nuance someone in the UK can spot immediately.
Evans and her team ended up having their UK employees come to a photo shoot dressed in work clothes. “We want to project that we’re a company other British companies will want to work with. Because we’re in the financial field, we have to be highly conscious of how people perceive us.”
FASTSIGNS’ Townsend backs up Evans’ experience. His company, which produces commercial signage, uses local street scenes on its UK Web site.
“Our cars are different and our cities are different,” she says. “You can’t have a picture of commercial signage with a US stop sign or vehicle in the background. That kind of stuff is noticed immediately.” (See images in creative samples below.)
Evans says you also need to be sensitive to how the UK perceives the US regarding specific issues. Jefferson Wells, for example, assists its clients with Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. In the UK, according to Evans, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act is viewed negatively. “We have to be careful that in our marketing materials our US attitude about Sarbox doesn’t come through quite so blatantly,” she said.
-> Tip #2: Anglicize your copy!
Yes, the British speak English, but they don’t speak American. Our experts advise that you work with a local agency to ensure that your copy is Anglicized for the UK market.
“In England, you don’t say, ‘Call me.’ You say, ‘Ring me,’ ” says Townsend. “Mail is delivered to a resident’s ‘letterbox.’ You don’t say, ‘Exhibit.’ You say, ‘Exhibition.’ ”
And, of course, you’ll want to ensure your copy has the correct British spellings -- both for traditional and online marketing, especially search and PPC.
Finally, use humor carefully. Better yet, leave humor to the locals. What we find funny here in the States may not go over with your UK counterparts.
-> Tip #3: Question and test “local” assumptions
When working with local agencies, Evans suggests learning how to sort through cultural fact and personal opinion. Case in point: she wanted to develop a prospect list for the London office and she called prospective companies to get prospects’ titles.
“I was told, ‘You can’t do that in the UK’ because security at the receptionist level was too great. No one would give out names or titles.”
Evans asked her London PR agency to do a test using 10 companies and the titles she wanted. Of the 10 companies, nine cooperated, giving her three titles per company. “The toughest part about global marketing is separating myth from fact. My advice is to test anything that doesn’t make sense.”
-> Tip #4. Understand how Royal Mail works
A state-owned entity, Royal Mail is a subsidiary of Post Office Ltd., which manages the operation of the UK’s post offices. Royal Mail is responsible for the collection and delivery of the country’s mail -- approximately 84 million pieces per day.
However, unlike the U.S. Postal Service, Royal Mail has competitors. In January 2006, other companies, such as UN Mail, received licenses to deliver mail. According to the BBC, England is the second European country, after Sweden, to open its postal monopoly.
Like the USPS, Royal Mail has its own set of rules and regulations. Marketers should note that Royal Mail uses a pricing scheme called Pricing in Proportion for mail weighing up to 1 kilogram. This means pricing is based on size and weight.
Another item to note: all postal mail must include a return address. This is because recipients may reject the mail by simply circling the return address and writing something to the effect of “No longer required.” Royal Mail will destroy your mail piece if it lacks a return address.
When developing your direct mail piece (or “mailshot”), our experts recommend using a local agency -- both because of language and format. The UK approach is similar to what you would use in the US, with notable differences:
- Businesspeople view self-mailers as “too commercial” but will readily respond to a letter mailed with a brochure, provided the letter is on good quality paper and the copy is well written.
- Don’t forget, the UK uses different paper sizes. The UK A4 size (210 mm by 297 mm, or 8.27” by 11.7”), for example, is the equivalent of our 8 1/2” by 11” paper size and is used for letters, magazines, forms and catalogs.
And, finally, the government has issued targets for the use of recycled materials in direct mail -- the government would like to see mailers using up to 55% recyclable materials by 2009.
Tip #5. Don’t be afraid to use new media to reach B-to-B
“Traditional B-to-B advertising here in the UK can be pretty staid,” Phillipson says. “But with online, you can try new things.” Vodafone, for example, ran a viral campaign about mobile office solutions. At the microsite, visitors could choose the type of desk they want to see destroyed. Using the mouse, you push a large red “destruct” button and the desk is then crushed. “It was really very funny and quite successful.” (See hot link to samples below.)Useful links related to this article:
Creative samples of UK B-to-B campaigns
Special Report: How to Syndicate Your White Paper Successfully
12 Steps, 8 Mistakes & Creative Samples -- Part I
Comprehensive Syndication Directory -- Part II
http://www.marketingsherpa.com/article.php?ident=29799Government, Research and Association sites
British Market Research Bureau:
Information Commissioners Office:
http://www.dma.org.uk/content/home.aspOther useful links