Tuesday, May 16, 2006

B2B Meets Online Marketing

Below is an article that eMarketer recent ran about its CEO speak at Europe Direct. This is packed full of great information. Geoff, much like those of us at Arketi, is encouraging B2B marketers to think outside the traditional marketing box for ideas… Experimenting with new media and using “consumer” tactics to generate leads, acquire and retain customers, and build brand value is a smart move that savvy B2B marketing professionals are all over.

Have a read...

Geoff Ramsey, eMarketer CEO, will be a keynote speaker at the Europe Direct 2006 conference in Barcelona on Thursday. He will address senior marketers from a wide variety of technology companies, most of whom sell primarily to other businesses.

Companies that sell products and services to other businesses are learning that the Internet offers up an abundance of opportunities for lead generation, customer acquisition, branding and, of course, customer retention. Many of the online strategies and principals being used in the consumer world can be applied, with adjustments, to the business space. Many firms looking to market themselves to other companies via the Web are now experimenting with search, blogs, podcasting, Webinars, social networks, behavioral targeting and video applications.

BtoB Magazine and Forrester recently conducted a global study among both consumer and B2B marketers and found that 72% plan to increase their online spending in 2006. Similarly, The Economist Intelligent Unit recently found that 88% of companies worldwide plan to raise their online ad spending over the next two years, with 10% of them planning to invest 30% or more of their budgets online.

Looking strictly at the B2B sector, American Business Media (ABM) and Forrester found that 49% of B2B firms used online advertising in 2005, and what's more, they shifted just under one quarter of their ad dollars to digital media. The same trend is being seen in the leading markets in Europe. According to the IAB UK, about 40% of UK B2B marketers are using the Internet, and 63% plan to increase their spending online this year, with one-third aiming for increases of up to 20%.

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Marketing tactics that US B2B marketers consider to be effective in generating qualified leads (2005)

62.6% In-person events
47.4% Industry-specific/trade magazines
45.5% Public relations
42.1% Online marketing
42.0% Direct mail
41.3% Custom publications
36.3% TV
35.3% Printed newsletters
34.6% General business magazines
33.3% Newspapers
31.7% Printed directories
30.7% Radio

Research by Forrester commissioned by American Business Media (ABM)
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Online Ambitions

No matter what study or survey you look at in the US, Europe or elsewhere, B2B firms consistently report that their number one goal for marketing is to generate leads. Also high on their list, though second to leads, are branding goals.

The Web can deliver on both objectives. In the aforementioned ABM/Forrester study, while 63% of b-to-b marketers rated in-person events as either "effective" or "very effective" in terms of generating qualified leads, a respectable 42% said the same for online marketing, just even with direct mail and ahead of business magazines, newspapers and printed directories.
On the branding side, Forrester reports that 40% of b-to-b marketers consider online marketing to be very or extremely effective for building a brand image.

Best Practice

Search
Looking at the specific tactics used online, in the US 85% of business executives use search engines, according to Gartner Group. A similar penetration rate of 86%, encompassing all Internet users, was found in the European Union by researcher Synovate.

Being high up in the search listings is therefore important for businesses looking to generate leads but it also brings branding benefits: an iProspect survey reported that 36% of searchers assume top listings, whether on paid or natural results, represent "top brands."

Most importantly, for business marketers, is the cost, in terms of lost opportunity, of not paying attention to search. If you build a world-class Web site designed to communicate effectively about your product or service as well as drive leads to the sales team, you will be throwing away business opportunities if you are invisible on the search engines. Prospective buyers will simply click on links from your competitors.

Furthermore, if you're doing paid search, don't just buy your brand name or product phrase; think creatively about the kinds of phrases prospects are likely to type into the search engine box if they're not already familiar with your company. For people using search, there is a heavy emphasis on the use of generic search terms up until the last search session. Consequently, given that b-to-b products and services typically entail a long sales cycle, marketers would do well to buy up lots of broader category terms.

Web Site
Turning to corporate Web sites, there is a reason that marketing executives in three separate surveys cited their own Web sites as the number one online marketing tactic earmarked for spending increases this year: they are the source of a lot of business, directly or indirectly.

The Direct Marketing Association found recently that 38% of US retailers believe their Web sites produce the best return on investment (ROI), ahead of any other online marketing tactic, including e-mail at 33%. However, this statistic came from consumer retailers, and many business-oriented Web sites have a long way to go to catch up to where sophisticated consumer sites are today. Consumer sites like Amazon, BestBuy.com and others are well ahead of their B2B counterparts when it comes to:

  • Leveraging Web site analytics to improve the experience and drive business goals
  • Tying Web site analytics to e-mail, search and other lead generating activities
  • Investing in high-end interactive technologies like collaborative filtering (eg Amazon's "customers who bought this book also purchased these…")
  • Using advanced site features such as Zoom, 360-degree views, color displays, product demonstrations and other tools that can replicate the in-person, "live" experience.

Video
Perhaps the biggest missed opportunity for business sites, though, is video -- including video ad units, video content and video demonstrations. On the consumer side, while only 44% of households in America will have broadband connections by the end of this year, about 98% of businesses in America are already connecting through a high-speed line. Why is it, then, that we can see endless examples of consumer packaged goods marketers like Procter & Gamble, Kraft and Unilever developing engaging video campaigns online but precious few b-to-b marketers have made the leap to video? In neither case are the products actually sold online. Clearly, there is some catching up to do.

In his presentation on Thursday, Geoff will also cover hot areas like Webinars, blogs, podcasting and word-of-mouth, all of which represent ripe opportunities for B2B marketers willing to invest a little money, risk and, most importantly, creativity. If you happen to be in Barcelona, drop by and hear all about them at Europe Direct 2006.

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