Interactive agencies are putting more emphasis on analytics, strategic services and social media as their b-to-b marketing clients look to improve ROI on their marketing investments and reach target audiences more effectively.
According to BtoB's “2011 Outlook: Marketing Priorities and Plans,” 78% of b-to-b marketers plan to increase spending on online marketing this year. The study was based on an online survey of 426 b-to-b marketers, conducted in December.
The top areas of online spending this year will be website development (cited by 70% of respondents), email marketing (68%) and social media (62%), according to the survey.
“Our perspective is everything is digital,” said Adam Kleinberg, CEO of Traction, an online agency based in San Francisco. “We are looking at everything in terms of the entire interaction between a brand and a customer. It's not b-to-b; it's b-to-p [business-to-people].”
To help its b-to-b clients build their brands and improve engagement with customers, Traction developed unique applications using social media and user-generated content. For client Intuit Inc., it created a mobile app, called Board of Advisors, that allows small and midsize businesses to tap into social networks for answers to business problems from their peers and industry experts. For Adobe Systems, it developed a Facebook application, called Flex Spotlight, that showcases applications being created by software developers around the world using Adobe's Flex development platform.
Thad Kahlow, CEO of Business-Online, an interactive agency based in San Diego, said providing analytics is key to helping clients achieve success in the down economy.
“Most marketers are really tasked with two things: C-level executives want marketers to get closer to the customer and they want better customer intelligence, and marketers are being forced to do more with less,” Kahlow said.
Last year, BusinessOnline created an analytics practice called Customer Intelligence. It based the unit on a predictive analytics model that measures the digital behavior of potential clients to predict who will buy, what they will buy, when they will buy and how much they will buy up to six months in advance. BusinessOnline has used this model with clients such as Cisco Systems to forecast the buying behavior of prospects (see Success Story, this page).
“Marketers are being asked to deliver measurable performance, and the only way to do that well is through customer intelligence,” Kahlow said. “Marketers have to be more intimate with the customer, understand how integration will work and deliver performance.”
Full-service agencies are also expanding their interactive capabilities to handle the exploding demand for social media, online video, analytics and strategic consulting.
“We cannot hire enough folks in the whole social media/social influence area,” said John Seifert, chairman-CEO of Ogilvy & Mather North America, New York.
“This is an expanding practice of skills and tools born out of the PR business and now driving into every discipline, from advertising to direct marketing to retail marketing. It has now become a very pervasive set of skills and tools for driving business.”
Seifert said the agency has expanded its analytics and strategic services. “We have a very robust analytics group, with over 100 top analytics people in North America,” he said. “We also have a strategic services group that works horizontally across all core disciplines, including advertising, direct marketing, CRM, PR, sales promotions, retail and healthcare.”
Ogilvy has used this integrated approach to develop campaigns for such clients as IBM Corp., SAP and United Parcel Service of America.
For UPS, Ogilvy created a rebranding campaign, called “We Love Logistics,” to reposition the company from a shipping provider to a global company that uses technology and services to help its clients.
Agencies are also incorporating more mobile into their online campaigns, including the use of quick response (QR) codes that can be scanned into smartphones.
Stein Rogan+Partners, New York, created an integrated campaign for client PR Newswire to position the company as a service delivering information across an array of platforms, from mobile devices to computers. The campaign, “Engage Opportunity Everywhere,” debuted at the Public Relations Society of America conference in October and included email, social media and mobile marketing.
As part of the campaign, Stein Rogan embedded QR codes throughout content at the conference, such as in programs, in email, on hotel room keys and in keynote session presentations. Attendees who scanned the most QR codes using their smartphones won prizes.
Stein said the agency has changed its approach to marketing to focus on the intersection of paid media, owned media and earned media.
To address these changing content needs, Stein Rogan created a new agency structure in which a VP-integrated marketing leads a team of search specialists, social media experts, paid media planners and buyers, and content creators.
“The old agency structure would be to have a media department with various specialties,” Stein said. “We no longer have someone who leads the media practice; we changed it to be about this intersection of paid, owned and earned media.”