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Who is adapting faster to the digital world: B-to-b media companies or b-to-b marketers?

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While b-to-b media companies are scrambling to invest in more online initiatives, Forrester Research released a report in April that chided many b-to-b marketers for not taking enough advantage of digital opportunities. Could it be that b-to-b media companies are further along in adapting to the digital future than marketers are? Forrester surveyed 317 marketers online in January for its report, “B2B Marketers' 2009 Budget Trends: Dollars Shift to Digital Tactics as the Recession Provokes Deep Cuts.” It found that marketers' overall budgets were decreasing an average of 23% this year. The report noted that “digital spending creeps ahead but fails to shake up the status quo. ... Traditional tactics still command the lion's share of B2B budgets.” For the typical b-to-b marketer surveyed, the category with the largest share of the marketing budget (20%) was trade shows. Rounding out the top five were: direct mail (15%), TV (14%), inside sales (13%) and print (13%). No digital tactic appeared until No. 6, the “company Web site,” which garnered an average 11% of the budget. The next-largest-share digital tactic, at No. 9 with 9%, was search marketing. On the other hand, most b-to-b marketers surveyed acknowledged they are spending more on digital marketing tactics. Fifty-two percent said they planned to increase spending this year on their company Web sites. Another 49% said they would spend more on search marketing. Marketers also said they'd increase spending on video/podcasts (46%), webinars (46%) and e-mail (42%). “Those who fail to embrace digital marketing face certain extinction by 2010 as new social buying habits and readily available online information shift purchase power from corporations to communities,” wrote Laura Ramos, chief author of the report. Media buyers don't seem so apocalyptic and say, in general, that b-to-b media companies have moved quickly to accommodate the digital needs of marketers. Mike Paradiso, global media director for CA, said the ability of many b-to-b tech publishers to provide targeted databases is a plus. “I think for the most part, technology publishers and content producers have done a good job of meeting the needs of marketers,” he said. Caroline Riby, VP-media director at Roberts Communications, said budget cuts have forced b-to-b marketers to look to less expensive online opportunities this year. “We're focusing more on the Internet,” she said. “We're doing a lot more from an educational point of view to help the audience learn more about the industry and to be a brand leader in the business. So we do a lot of webinars.” Ted Kohnen, VP-interactive marketing at Stein Rogan+Partners, said he's advising advertising clients to try rich media online advertising and to explore integrated lead-generation programs, such as webinars and white paper syndication. “I'm a big fan of the trade media,” he said. Kohnen was especially impressed with a virtual trade show a client did with TechTarget. “We signed up for a package with 400 guaranteed leads,” he said. “At the end of the day, we had 720, which was very good.” Prescott Shibles, CEO of Vital Media, a digital media consulting firm, cited TechTarget and Fierce Markets as two leading b-to-b media companies, particularly regarding lead scoring and lead nurturing, two areas most b-to-b media companies have moved into cautiously—if at all. “I think that's really important,” Shibles said. “They have to get into lead cultivation and lead scoring, really showing the full value of what they have.” — S.C.
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