‚ÄúThe challenge we have as marketers is how to provide information through a form people can access easily and venues [in which] audiences can interact with a live person or subject expert at the right time,‚ÄĚ said Matt Preschern, VP-small and medium business and ecosystem communications at IBM Corp.
Joining Preschern on stage were Bruce Bergwall, senior director, business development at Global Spec; Steve Ennen, VP-digital marketing at American Business Media; Ben Hanna, VP-marketing at Business.com; Carol Kurimsky, VP-marketing at Ingram Micro; and Trisha Syed, VP-audience development at TechTarget. The session was moderated by BtoB Senior Reporter Kate Maddox.
‚ÄúPeople also want people to be there,‚ÄĚ said Hanna of Business.com, a business-to-business search engine, directory and pay-per-click advertising network. These customers want everything online and ‚Äúsomeone on the phone,‚ÄĚ he said, adding that Business.com has invested in both sides.
But given the rapid explosion of new messaging channels, particularly Web 2.0 platforms that allow customer interaction and collaboration, marketers have to resist the impulse to deploy technology without thinking through how they relate to business goals and objectives.
‚ÄúDon‚Äôt just do it because it‚Äôs cool,‚ÄĚ Kurimsky said. She revealed she recently took down a blog project at Ingram Micro in order to figure out its goals. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs what we‚Äôre doing with all the tools,‚ÄĚ she said, adding that this discipline was the biggest challenge for the company‚Äôs junior staff.
Global Spec, a vertical search site for engineers, spent 18 months on the relaunch of CR4, a discussion area for the engineering, scientific and technical community. ‚ÄúWe have 70,000 registered users currently, which is three times what we had before,‚ÄĚ Bergwall said.
The panel agreed that relevancy was a top requirement of "Give Me" customers. For example, TechTarget‚Äôs Syed said pop-up ads had not been banished from the IT media company‚Äôs online site. Provided the pop-ups are contextually driven, ‚Äúthey seem complementary [to other site content] and consequently have high click-through and conversion rates,‚ÄĚ she said.
There was consensus among panelists that marketers need to have a deep understanding of their user communities. Among the tacticst they recommended for developing that expertise: surveys, behavioral analytics and advisory councils.
Asked about what might be coming the next three years, a number of panelists focused on social media.
‚ÄúThe ability to work in that sort of environment will be critical for companies,‚ÄĚ Bergwall said.
But equally important may be helping customers and prospect navigate and rank the glut of information available to them.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre all pushing content into the marketplace,‚ÄĚ said Hanna, adding, ‚ÄúThere aren‚Äôt five or 50 bloggers I can learn from, but maybe 500.‚ÄĚ