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Executive Roundtable Podcast Series
Web advertising and marketing trends in the accounting and finance channel.
Catch the new podcast:
Produced in Association with Doubleclick and Bay Street Group Research
To listen to the podcast click on one of links below.
B2B marketing experts deconstruct the purchase decision cycle for accounting and finance professionals. They share experiences for using the Web to maximize brand awareness, brand validation, “further learning,” consultative selling, lead generation and shortening the sales cycle. They also drill intro campaign measurement tools that go far beyond simply counting clicks and other shortcut “McMetrics™.”
Click here if you’d like to get a FREE transcript of this AICPA podcast.
|Moderator, Hank Berkowitz |
AICPA Dir. Online Publishing & Business Development
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|Rick Bruner |
Research Director, Doubleclick
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| ||Tom Greve |
National Advertising Sales Director, AICPA
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| ||Sukanya Mitra |
Managing Editor, AICPA Insider™ e-Newsletter Group
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President, Bay Street Research Group, LLC
I’m not sure when spreadsheets became a must-have tool for publishers, advertisers and their agencies, but it’s getting tougher each day to separate the media people from the bean counters and number crunchers. A byproduct of the Web’s legitimacy as a mainstream medium is that everyone from the CFO, to the marketing director, to the account executive to the media buyer is getting involved in the marketing process and they’re demanding “metrics” 24/7. That’s great for Excel lovers. No so great for the rest of us.
Phillips Business Publications recently surveyed 300 B-to-B marketers to find out how well they thought they were doing. Turns out half (49%) gave their online marketing efforts a grade of C or lower. Imagine what their prospects think? And may I ask what you’re all measuring so intently? That online advertising works?
Based on the conversations I’ve had with our clients and agencies this year, it seems those who are most anxious to get their weekly (sometimes daily) click tracking reports from us are the ones least likely to answer my basic question: “So what do you guys do with all this data?” Usually an awkward pause ensues or a mumbled comment about a boss needing the data ASAP for a budget meeting that afternoon.
Sometimes I ask: “Now that you have all the clicks, opens, impressions and pass-alongs from your campaign with us” can you tell me what kind of conversion rates you’re getting from our readers on the back end?” Another awkward pause follows.
I’m not that smart. But I’m smart enough to know where to find the smart people and this is some of what they’ve shared with me. If you’re trying to develop a campaign that’s really going to “break through” to business professionals, then you might want to read on.
“It’s great that everything is so measurable on the Web. Unfortunately we get bogged down in metrics and that tends to stilt innovation,” noted Steve Weitzman, CEO of CMP Media at the Business Marketing Association’s monthly breakfast roundtable earlier this month in New York City. CMP is a leading producer of magazines, Web sites and events for tech folks.
“In the zeal to get our value proposition and ROI across, have we forgotten how to tell a good story?” asked fellow BMA panelist, Deirdre Bigley, IBM’s Vice President of Advertising and Digital Media. “If you’re not engaging the prospect, they’re going to skip over you. You have to produce interesting and compelling content and do so, on a regular cadence.”
I’m still looking for a utility in Excel that enables you to do that.
“Marketers have so many more ways to reach their audience, it’s not the same as before,” said Bob Felsenthal, Publisher of Media Business Magazine, who moderated the BMA roundtable. Felsenthal pointed out that online advertising has been growing at 27 percent a year — five times faster than the overall business advertising economy — and now accounts for eight percent of the $24 billion spent annually by B-to-B marketers. A half decade ago Web advertising accounted for about one percent of the total. In the mean time, print media, the largest component of B-to-B’s $9.2 billion spending total, has been essentially flat (0.1% growth in 2006).
“Online is clearly the ‘at-work’ medium,” said Geoff Ramsey, CEO, of research firm eMarketer, who was also a panelist at the February BMA breakfast. “Most business people are online daily, and two-thirds of them are online at least two-and-a-half hours per day. No other medium comes close to this kind of ‘mind share’. Online weaves across the whole purchase cycle, especially the pre-purchase information gathering phase.”
The BMA panel agreed that “sponsored content” is becoming increasingly important to B-to-B marketers and eMarketer research shows that e-mail, Webcasts, Web sites and search engines are now rated among the “most effective” marketing tools it tracks.
According to eMarketer, more than half (53%) of the business audience watches Webcasts versus 22 percent of the overall U.S. population. Among “at-work” viewers, 72 percent consider Webcasts “very convenient” and 44 percent say they find them effective. What’s more, 95 percent of business viewers view the archived version of Webcasts, rather than the live versions. Thanks to the Web, consumers are taking control of the content they want and consuming it on their own terms on their own time. They no longer accept having your message pushed at them.
Business marketing has always been about getting qualified buyers and sellers together. “Nothing’s changed about that, but the Internet has leveled the barriers to doing this better,” said CMP’s Weitzner. “The Web used to be part of the Experiment Budget. Now it’s part of the core marketing mix.”
Weitzner says the size of a company influences how likely they are to adopt new media advertising. CMP’s smaller advertisers have actually been more likely to cling to print advertising its larger ones. They don’t have the Experiment Budget. The larger guys have a better understanding of the ‘customer buy cycle'. They’re not just looking for quick leads. They’re looking for full and strategic integration of their media spend, Weitzner says.
The Internet has been great for separating the ‘tire kickers’ from truly interested prospects. It’s also made marketers more accountable and responsive to potential customers. “The Web’s great for qualified lead generation, but you better respond within 24 hours,” cautions Weitzner. “Otherwise, you have pissed off prospects on your Web site and probably telling public forums about your follow up performance.”
Borrowing From TV and Video
Deirdre Bigley said IBM is borrowing from television and magazine journalists to show the human side of IBM. “We’re like ‘brand journalists’ now and believe me, it’s not easy. We’re trying to take one good story about what IBM’s doing to help the world and move it across multiple platforms — video, TV, print, the Web and so forth.”
“We’re still in the early stages of online video,” said eMarketer’s Ramsey. “We’re still trying to figure out the business model, but storytelling by advertisers and agencies will be huge. Unlike television, [online video] is much more measurable. Much more accountable.”
For B-to-B marketers, the difference between the Web and other media is that on the Web, it’s not relaxation time, you’re still at work, said CMP’s Weitzner. “Marketers have to figure out how to be in context when they deliver their messages to busy people at work. The key is not just will they watch it? It’s how will they watch it?”
Branding on the Web
Is it possible for business marketers to accomplish brand building on the Web? Steve Rappaport, Knowledge Solution Director for the New York-based Advertising Research Foundation, thinks so. I caught up with Steve on the train to work last week and bent his ear for a few stops.
“I’m not sure that the distinction between brand advertising and lead generation/direct response remains as meaningful as it once was,” Steve said. “Online advertising’s interactivity and involvement is moving marketers to new models, such as Engagement, that blur the boundaries of these traditional functions. Because customers now have greater choice and control in dealing with marketing communications, savvy marketers recognize the need to make it worth their while by creating and delivering compelling brand experiences that inform, entertain and educate in ways that lead to purchase, retention and loyalty.”
Hmm. Any examples of this? “Sure. VISA USA’s Business Breakthrough program provides one example of this approach. In just three months it generated two million site visits by small business owners who sought to engage with the brand, not just for card services, but for business insight. That’s more than just branding or direct response.”
READER NOTE: Steve is one of the authors of “The Online Advertising Playbook,” published by John Wiley & Sons 2007. If you’re serious about taking your Web advertising results to the next level, you should get yourself a copy.
Now that’s smart.
The economy is chugging along. Interest rates and energy prices are holding steady. Unemployment is low. The stock market’s flying and corporate earnings are at their highest level in years. Aren’t these the ingredients for generous advertising and marketing budgets? Normally yes, but these aren’t normal times and we don’t have the Olympics or Elections in 2007 to give you media buyers an artificial boost.
“It’s crazy,” said Barbara, a West Coast independent sales rep last week. “I’ve never seen so much second-guessing, waiting-and-seeing and ‘analysis paralysis’. I wish somebody would just get off the dime and make a decision.”
A tech company marketing director agreed: “Everyone’s behind the eight-ball right now, and they don’t know which way to go. So everything’s pretty much stuck in neutral.”
QUESTION: How’s your 2007 budget process going? Take our FREE confidential survey and see how you stack up to your peers.
“I may sound like an old-timer, but it wasn’t that long ago when we were sweating it out if we didn’t have everyone locked up by October,” said Jonathan, a Northeast-based sales and marketing consultant. “Now it’s every three months and very short term.”
The hottest media sector — the Internet — is poised for another year of double-digit spending growth (see Online Surge Continues Despite Tepid Overall Advertising Forecast in today’s issue). Media analysts expect about $20 billion to be spent on Internet advertising in 2007, about 20 percent higher than was spent in 2006. More remarkable is the fact that this growth comes at a time when overall U.S. advertising spending is expected to grow by just two to three percent this year.
Granted, the Web accounts for just six to eight percent of the total U.S. advertising pie, noted Doubleclick Research Director, Rick Bruner, during a recent AICPA podcast on B2B advertising and marketing trends. But it’s causing enough disruption in the media landscape to have thousands of marketing executives second-guessing their media plans for this year.
What we’ve learned
What we do know is that the Web, including our Insider™ e-newsletters, is very helpful when it comes to influencing prospects during the “further learn” phase of their purchase decision cycles. If your products or services have long sales cycles, then you know the further learn phase is critical for converting a lead from a tire-kicking “suspect” into a qualified prospect.
So what’s the delay? A lot of inertia is caused by the dizzying array of choices B2B marketers must evaluate. It used to be print for branding, mailing lists for direct response and events for product demos and networking. Maybe a little PR thrown in.
Now it’s integrated media platforms in which the Web must be melded with print, events and PR. Even within the Web bucket itself, one has to explore the options for banners, search, e-mail, lead generation, podcasts, blogs, RSS, viral and social networking thrown in. Each vehicle has merits that can’t be ignored, but there’s no magic silver bullet. And you can’t get away with one–size-fits-all creative. That’s hard enough. And now you’re being asked to tailor your creative to fit different stages of the purchase decision cycle.
And then there’s the pressure for immediate and measurable results as CFOs are involving themselves in the marketing process like never before.
Great! New media is highly measurable. Rats! New media is highly measurable. The Web’s a lot easier to measure than traditional media, but it can foster a sense of ‘analysis paralysis’ since it produces so much data…and much of that data isn’t all that helpful unless you’re diligent about matching your purchase conversions to all your online and offline marketing campaigns. Counting clicks is just the tip of the iceberg.
We addressed this click-counting obsession at an AICPA podcast a few weeks ago and several panelists agreed that superficial McMetrics such as clicks are long on statistics and short on actionable intelligence. Remember when Web sites used to brag about their number of “hits”?
Doubleclick, Leveraged Logic, AICPA Custom Media Solutions and other market researchers have studies showing that more than half of those who take action as a result of being exposed to a banner ad, tend to do so without actually clicking on the banner ad. Next month we’ll look deeper into this “view through” phenomenon.
“I think clicks are the metric that’s simplest to understand, and therefore most marketers have fixated on that metric first, where it’s not always the best measure, certainly of things like brand effectiveness,” noted Doubleclick’s Rick Bruner.
The Web has changed everything and it’s changed nothing
As marketing and strategy consultant, Rick Telberg, noted during our podcast, marketing is still about the essentials. It’s still about the right product at the right price point with the right promotion at the right time.
“What the Web has done is broken down the buying process into a stepped process and added another step, a very useful step for buyers. The Web is now the place where people go to validate a brand; to see it, once they hear about it, and learn about it for the first time and then return to it and do comparative shopping.”
Prospects may or may not ultimately buy from the Web, but they will do most of their learning at the earliest stages on the Web, and this is something that smart marketers are learning how to leverage.
So, let’s get 2007 started already. You’ve invested your dollars wisely. Test everything. Make frequent adjustments and keep experimenting till you get it right. Your AICPA account executive is always ready to help.
I’d love to continue ranting, but I’m already late. The Procrastinators Club is having its annual Halloween Ball tonight.