Software giant CA Technologies still runs print ads in trade publications, but that line item is a slowly shrinking element of its marketing budget. Like most b-to-b marketers, CA is looking for much more from b-to-b media companies these days.
Here's how CA recently worked with technology media company TechTarget: CA planned to host a targeted custom event and wanted to attract 15 to 20 potential customers. It didn't want just any prospects, though. It wanted them to be far along in the buying cycle.
“We wanted to get in front of the right buyers at the right time in the right way,” said Michael Paradiso, VP-area field marketing-East at CA.
Together with TechTarget, CA identified prospects who had read a relevant white paper or watched a specific webcast. “We were able to market to those people with a little bit more of a targeted message [about the event],” Paradiso said. “In my mind, as a marketer, it's worth the time and the effort to be a little more accurate on who you're going after.”
Late last month, TechTarget introduced its Activity Intelligence platform, which is designed to help serve even more relevant content and marketing messages to users based on their online behavior. “It's like when Amazon or Netflix makes a suggestion based on what you've already done,” said Greg Strakosch, TechTarget CEO. “We're basically doing the same thing.”
This new platform and CA's program with TechTarget illustrate what marketers want these days from their b-to-b media partners. They want customized programs, and they demand one-on-one, specialized attention from media companies. At the same time, marketers such as Paradiso want the program itself to be targeted—to be as close as possible to having a one-on-one conversation with a customer or prospect.
Rick Segal is worldwide president and chief practice officer of global marketing agency GyroHSR. In his conversations with C-level executives at b-to-b companies, he's finding dissatisfaction with traditional marketing methods that are no longer “moving the needle” like they once did, he said.
“I can tell you that the common theme that is emerging among all of them is "bring me something I'm not doing, bring me something unconventional,' ” Segal said.
“It's gone way beyond the monthly ad,” said Tom Gaudreau, VP-marketing at PureSafety, a health and safety software company. With Penton Media's EHS Today, PureSafety developed a customized marketing program that includes sponsorship of the America's Safest Companies awards program and a Future Leaders scholarship initiative begun this year that will award $5,000 to a student studying work force safety and health. “Thought leadership is a big piece for us,” Gaudreau said.
Thought leadership was also a critical component of a new marketing campaign from Quintiles, a bio and pharmaceutical research company. “They wanted to be seen not just as a vendor who could conduct trials but a strategic partner who brings new insight,” said Allison Womack, managing director at Doremus, New York, Quintiles' agency.
Working with Doremus, Quintiles recently introduced a campaign with the tagline “The new health.” To emphasize the thought leadership aspect of the effort, Quintiles approached Scientific American about producing a special issue focused on the idea of “the new health.”
Scientific American agreed on the condition that it would have complete editorial control over the special issue. There would be no advertorial, and Quintiles would be mentioned as the sponsor only in a cover note explaining the issue.
In September, Quintiles mailed what ultimately became a 120-page special issue of Scientific American to 150,000 bioscience and pharmaceutical executives around the world. “We focused on Europe, Japan and the United States,” Womack said.
Quintiles used its own database to reach the executives, but many b-to-b marketers are asking to mine the audience databases of media companies in hopes of precisely targeting buyers currently in the market.
“They want leads,” Rich Reiff, CEO of Advantage Business Media, which publishes Drug Discovery & Development, said of b-to-b marketers. “What goes around comes around. You remember the bingo card? That's what this business was all about, and that's where this business is going.”
Reiff said lead generation has grown more sophisticated and has moved online for the most part. Much of Advantage's business is moving there as well, and Reiff said he expects the company's revenue to be equally split between print and digital next year.
John Whelan, exec VP of Summit Business Media, which publishes National Underwriter Property/Casualty, said, “There's a lot more demand for custom solutions driven by data, preferably proprietary data.”
Whelan is finding that marketers now have much more in-depth questions about Summit's audience. “They're looking to us for answers about our audience as much as [for] vehicles to reach them with a marketing message,” he said.
EE Times Group is finding the same demand among the marketers it serves. The United Business Media unit last month debuted EE Intelligence, an online research panel of EE Times readers that electronics manufacturers can survey.
“The invitation-only community of professional engineers will share views and opinions on products, trends, services and suppliers to the electronics marketplace,” according to EE Times.
B-to-b media has always been about bringing buyers and sellers together, and the EE Times Group continues that tradition by using the Internet to expand the ways the two groups interact. Many marketers continue to see trade media as essential to their vertical industries.
“The trades are not going away,” said Tom Nightingale, VP-communications and CMO at trucking and logistics company Con-way. “They're a necessary and vital part of our symbiotic business community. They need us, and we need them.”
Nonetheless, Con-way cut spending in trade publications in 2009 and the first part of this year, Nightingale said. The transportation and logistics sector was hit particularly hard last year, with ad pages plunging 62% from 2008, according to figures from American Business Media's Business Information Network.
But Con-way is spending again. Among other things, it's sponsoring online videos on Keller Publishing's SupplyChainBrain.com and Agile Business Media's DCVelocity.com.
While Con-way spends on the Internet with trade publishers, many other companies have used the Web, their creativity and search engine marketing to make an end run around trade media publishers and take their marketing messages straight to prospects. For example, Approva, which markets financial compliance and audit software, struck viral video gold with its “I Love a Good Audit” campaign, which included a song wishing the Sarbanes-Oxley Act a happy birthday.
In September, Approva launched a follow-up campaign called “Control Freak” that promotes the company as offering more than audit software and highlights its financial-controls software using the same humorous tone.
The new campaign includes white papers, an e-book, online videos and other Web content. Like many b-to-b marketers, Approva is essentially acting as a rival to publishers, attempting to create content interesting and relevant enough to attract the target audience.
But Approva isn't doing it all by itself. It is making limited investments in trade media to promote its own content. Mike Evans, Approva's VP-marketing, said he has spent money with Haymarket Media's Compliance Week and Penton Media's Business Finance to send e-mail blasts and run online advertising.
Some b-to-b media companies, such as IDG, have built new businesses around social media. The company's Strategic Marketing Services group offers a service in which it responds to online chatter about a marketer's brand in real time. IDG also developed the IDG TechNetwork, which provides marketers with an ad network of influential tech bloggers. NetShelter, which received $15 million in funding in September, has built a similar business.
Forbes, along with its online companion, Forbes.com, is creating community and looking to profit from it directly. Through its AdVoice program, the brand is offering marketers the opportunity to blog on the Forbes.com site—for a price. Kevin Gentzel, Forbes' chief revenue officer, said marketers are increasingly becoming content creators and that AdVoice is an acknowledgment of that fact.
“We can either run from that or embrace it and run to it,” he said.
Some observers say devices such as the iPad and iPhone represent new opportunities for b-to-b media companies to provide marketers with what they want: a direct, one-on-one conversation with a prospect.
GyroHSR's Segal sees the mobility of work and communications having an outsized impact on b-to-b marketing, but it remains an elusive opportunity.
“The idea of being at work is no longer a place; it's a state of mind,” Segal said. “The business decision-maker is, I hate to say it, a cyborg of sorts. This decision-maker has more computing power (with his BlackBerry or iPhone) on his body than was on the lunar landing module.”
Segal said Bizo, a business-oriented ad network with the capability to track businesspeople as they travel around the Web and serve them business ads, is a step in the right direction.
“We want to get the message right to their body,” Segal said. “In the past you wanted to get the message to a company, then to a job title, then to a desk, then to a desktop [computer]. Now it's can I get it right to where it's attached to you?”