BtoB

BtoB? BtoC? How about EtoE?

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As anyone who works in marketing knows, our rapidly changing world affects practically every aspect of what we do to create value for buyers and sellers, a trend we can fully expect to see continue and intensify in 2008.

For those who are “marketing directly” that’s great news, and 2008 should be a very good year. Here’s why:

Not long ago, direct marketing was a narrowly defined specialty, based on mail and telephone response channels but far overshadowed by one-way mass marketing. As communications converged with computing and the Internet arrived, direct marketing quickly evolved into much, much more.

Now the lines that once separated direct marketing from the rest of advertising and sales are disappearing. In 2008, the relevance achievable by marketing directly will continue to increase the effectiveness of multichannel direct marketing strategies.

We’ve already reached our tipping point, in the sense that 2007 was the first year that more than half of all advertising expenditures went into campaigns driven by direct marketing channels. In 2008, we expect to see sales generated by direct marketing continue to accelerate—significantly faster than general sales—paced by ongoing adoption of e-mail and other Internet-based marketing channels.

Another trend that will continue to prevail in 2008 will be the expectations of consumers that marketers take full responsibility for all interactions. These demands include not only being protected from fraud but also from invasion of privacy, theft of identity and concerns about environmental impacts.

A third note as I look out over the coming year is that marketing directly will continue to deliver superior results for those with the savvy and multichannel strategies to engage with people one by one. Sales driven by direct marketing offers now make up 10.2% of the total U.S. gross domestic product, as more and more marketers discover they really are direct marketers.

Just as the lines between direct and mass marketing are fading, so too are the traditional distinctions that separated the broadest of marketing categories—b-to-b and b-to-c. In both consumer and business markets, the most dramatic increases in sales growth over the last five years have been in e-marketing channels, when the Internet eclipsed traditional telephone marketing as the second most powerful b-to-b channel.

For many people, the lines between their personal and business lives have largely disappeared. In both, they are well-equipped with more and more communications technology and services that not only give them control over how they consume media but also give them the ability to create media content to share with others.

So the marketing dialogue that once flowed between two businesses now needs to incorporate all the channels and media that people want to choose as consumers, breaking down silos if necessary to do so. You might call this “business-to-everywhere” marketing, but even that won’t be sufficient to keep up with a rapidly changing world.

The rise of online social networking is quickly changing the world further for marketers. In addition to the power that results from having many different alternatives for gathering information, forming opinions and making buying decisions, people are turning the tables in the conversation and beginning to talk to one another, consumer-to-consumer (c-to-c).

What’s more, consumers are talking back to business. We’re quickly approaching a world where the ultimate marketing channel is becoming “everyone-to-everyone else” or “e-to-e” posing a whole new set of challenges for marketers.

In 2008, as marketers continue to explore the advantages of relevance, responsibility and results embodied in marketing directly, they will improve one-to-one connections with people by tailoring the channel, the content and the timing of each and every individual engagement. That will help to position them well for a future of “e-to-e” marketing.

John A. Greco Jr. is president-CEO of the Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org).

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