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Looking out for the next big themes

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What will be the major marketing themes in 2005? More pointedly, will marketers be ready for them? The following are items that will be top of mind, influential and challenging this year. It goes without saying that BtoB will pursue these stories in print, online and at our events around the country.

Marketing ROI. Pervasive demands for accountability have made measuring (and communicating) marketing's impact a top priority for chief marketing officers. With their jobs on the line, CMOs will redouble their emphasis this year on two things: systems that monitor marketing ROI and programs that contribute to bottom-line results.

Mergers and acquisitions. The tracking data suggest there will be an historic number of M&A deals this year. Is your organization prepared? Do you have the capacity to integrate the marketing organizations-not to mention the external and internal messaging-of another company?

Staffing. As business conditions improve, many companies will begin restaffing their eviscerated marketing organizations. The challenge will be hiring talent appropriate for the target universe of customers and prospects, which also may have changed substantially in the past few years.

Research. How does a buyer in your marketplace gather information and make purchasing decisions? Understanding the role of Internet search engines is just the tip of this iceberg. This year's marketing champions will be distinguished by the granularity of their customer research, combined with their ability to capitalize on these insights (read "segmentation"). Expect much more attention on best practices in life cycle management, mapping out where prospects or customers are in the decision cycle and targeting messages to them, both pre- and post-purchase.

Online. While less than its 30.7% growth in 2004, online advertising will still increase 21.1% this year, to more than $11.5 billion, according to eMarketer. Some 68% of respondents to BtoB's 2005 Marketing Priorities and Plans Survey said they would increase spending online this year. Regarding online, there will be two somewhat antagonistic themes. On the one hand, companies will try to maximize the impact of this channel, both as an e-commerce and branding platform. On the other hand, they will try to better coordinate online and offline marketing initiatives, which are often handled by different internal groups and agencies.

Search. Communicating with prospects at the front end of their research is why paid keyword search engine marketing exploded in popularity, becoming a $5.4 billion industry in 2004 and on track to hit $8 billion this year. But as we report in this issue's NetMarketing section, 2005 could be the year search marketers start shifting more of their attention to so-called organic search, whereby their sites are designed to be discovered, and favorably ranked, by general-purpose and niche search engines alike.

Publishing. As advertisers move their budgets away from print advertising, publishers are scrambling to solidify their value proposition and business models, including products that are less reliant on advertiser support. Nevertheless, publishers are bringing forth innovative products-particularly involving narrowcasting content to audiences about whom they have collected increasing amounts of demographic data-that will give marketers powerful information and advertising venues.

New markets. Continuing a trend, there will be an emphasis on expanding into new markets, specifically the small and midsize business market domestically and the Asia/Pacific region overseas. China alone, with its 9% GDP growth, is seen by many U.S. marketers as an immense opportunity that must be investigated immediately.

Ellis Booker is editor of BtoB and BtoB's Media Business and can be reached at ebooker@crain.com

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