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B2BWorks exec: Relevancy key in '03

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(Sixth in a series of Executive Outlooks)

In December, Karen Breen Vogel was promoted to exec VP-strategy and client solutions at B2BWorks, to lead the company's digital relationship marketing services.

B2BWorks, which was launched in 1999 as a pure b-to-b online ad network, has gradually been adding client services such as strategic consulting, e-mail marketing, newsletters and customer relationship management services to keep up with clients' demand for relationship-based marketing.

Breen Vogel, who was market segment executive for the telecom and media sectors of IBM Corp. before joining B2BWorks in 2000, says segmentation and relevancy are two of the key strategies for b-to-b marketers in 2003.

BtoB: What challenges do your advertising clients face in 2003?

Breen Vogel: The first one we see is that there has been a certain amount of enlightenment that has occurred over the past few years about how to use the Internet to go to market. It will be very important in 2003 to take that enlightenment and move it down into the organization so budgets, skill sets and capabilities match that level of new thought. It's about people change and skill change.

That's an internal challenge. An external challenge is the continuation of what appears to be an economy that has not totally recovered. We'll still be faced with very tight economics and budgets for people to act upon.

BtoB: What strategies should b-to-b marketers pursue to be successful?

Breen Vogel: The first is focusing on current customers and expanding market share with current customers. They can do this by gaining permission to communicate directly with customers, either through formal e-newsletters or informal e-mail messaging.

The second strategy is to focus on prospects in the pipeline and leverage work that has already been done. Companies need to improve their pipeline activity and the passing of leads between marketing personnel and sales personnel.

Another strategy is targeting messages with more relevancy. If people want to reach deeper into the market, they have to do deeper segmentation. When times get tough, it's important to be more relevant to the customer.

Finally, measurement has to get better.

BtoB: Improving measurement has been a marketing challenge for a long time. How does it need to get better?

Breen Vogel: Marketing is a science and an art. The tilt now is toward the science of marketing. Marketing people have to have the ability to manage data analysis, or make friends with people who have those skill sets.

When they take on a project, they need to declare upfront what they need to do, and match what they want to track back to whether they achieved those goals.

Measurement is not a click through. It is the detection of valuable business behaviors after the click through.

Marketers have to set up collection points that show where people are in the pipeline, such as opting in to receive additional information in the future, filling out an online lead form, asking for a local dealer or downloading a white paper.

--Interview conducted by Kate Maddox

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