BtoB

Some day-to-day odds and ends that help make up b-to-b life

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Sometimes, the wide-ranging subjects demand attention--and enough room to lay out their pluses and minuses. Other times, though, it's the details that deserve some comment, if not a lot of space. For example: Customer service can pay off in the most unusual ways. While most companies still haven't figured out how to maintain good customer relations when it comes to answering e-mails in a timely and helpful mannerâ€"â€"as the Yankee Group found out recently, according to a story in this issueâ€"â€"one Web master has turned his experience into a book. Bill McLain, Web master for Xerox Corp., has built a reputation for himself over the years by quickly answering any--and I do mean any--e-mail query the company received. We wrote about Mr. McLain back in April 1997, when he was known as "the Voice of the Web." Apparently, he saved those strange questions over the years, and compiled them in a new book, "Do Fish Drink Water?" The book, released in August, offers Mr. McLain's answers to the title question and many others, including the correct way to eat an Oreo cookieâ€"â€"there is noneâ€"â€"and how many licks it takes to reach the center of a Tootsie Popâ€"â€"142. If you factor in all the factoids Mr. McLain has gleaned while digging up his answers, you'll be happy to just reply to the company-related questions your customers ask. *** One company that deserves an editorial nod is VerticalNet, the advertising sponsor of the NetMarketing 200 special report, published in August. Now, normally, editors don't dwell much on advertisers, except for the few who call to pitch stories and believe that mentioning that they advertise will bring about swift action. (It usually does, but a curt dismissal and subsequent hangup is probably not what they had in mind.) In a particularly notable move, this advertiser called during the early stages of our NetMarketing 200 judging to ask that its Web site not be considered because it was sponsoring the section and saw possible inclusion--it was among the 1998 winners--as creating a perceived conflict. Recently I was discussing our NM 200 project with a group of editors, and one asked about possible conflicts when it came to judging advertiser sites. I explained how VerticalNet handled the situation, and the group agreed: It was a classy move. *** In his Instant E-Mail this month, Richard Kaye of Kaye & Co., Northbrook, Ill., referring to our list of the 50 Greatest B-to-B Ads of the past century, asks, "Why are we all so obsessed with 'best' lists?" He then points out that thousands of other unsung campaigns probably had greater impact than those on our list. That's true. But the reason we all are drawn to lists--including, it appears, Mr. Kaye, who took the time to look at our list--is that they give us a yardstick to measure our work by, a way to gauge what we do. And that's particularly important in business-to-business marketing, where most people would be hard-pressed to think of great ad efforts going back more than a few years. Unlike consumer work, b-to-b advertising tends not to get much time in the classroom. Sure, everyone is familiar with such modern-day efforts as "Intel inside" and even McGraw-Hill Cos.' "The man in the chair." But how many have even seen Rome Wire's "Out on the copper highways" or Budd Manufacturing Co.'s "When a Zephyr meets a blizzard"? By compiling a list that spans a century, we are giving people an opportunity to stop and take measure of just how great b-to-b has been--and can be. *** Speaking of pointing out good work, Business Marketing is looking for nominations for two different awards: our annual Sawyer Award, honoring the year's best business-to-business advertising, and Agency of the Year. For the Sawyer Award, named for Howard "Scotty" Sawyer, our original Copy Chasers captain, send a copy of your work from this year--print, television, Internet, whatever--along with a letter stating where it ran and the target audience. Nominations are due Oct. 15, and the winner will be announced in the December issue. For Agency of the Year, send a letter making your case along with creative done in 1999. Criteria include creative presentation, client and billings gains, percent of b-to-b billings, Web efforts and commitment to b-to-b marketing. We need your entries by Dec. 7, and we'll announce the winner early next year. Send entries for both to Martin Musker, Business Marketing, 740 N. Rush St., Chicago, IL 60611. Send comments and questions to Karen Egolf at kegolf@crain.com.
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