Boston—The Direct Marketing Association's annual conference and expo here included its first B-to-B Symposium, a multisession track devoted to b-to-b marketing tactics and customer buying challenges, sponsored by BtoB.
“People often say that b-to-b marketing is similar to consumer marketing and simply adapts b-to-c tactics to a business-selling model,” said Kirsten Bjork-Jones, director-global marketing communications at optics, imaging and photonics company Edmund Optics. “But it's radically different, in particular the buying process. This is a welcome addition to DMA.”
The new track kicked off Monday with a presentation by Brian Schmidt, director-Americas online sales at Google. He detailed the search giant's overhaul of its search algorithm centered on “the zero moment of truth,” and the necessity of marketers to blend that element into their programs.
“People are reacting to the marketing environment in very different ways than they used to,” Schmidt said. “Today, when someone sees an ad, direct mail or some other stimulus, they don't first perform an action, such as download a white paper or call, like a marketer would like them to do. Instead, they go online for basic research.”
It's that research component—whether with peers, family, reviews, endorsements or comments—that constitutes a new buying paradigm, he said.
“Yes, the marketing stimulus is critical, but Google is saying that when you look at the drivers of behavior, the "zero moment of truth,' or ZMOT, is equal to or outweighs other influencers of behavior,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt recommended that marketers put a staffer in charge of ZMOT, determine how buyers are researching their products and optimize for the process, such as having a mobile-optimized website or engaging in social media to rise to the top of search queries.
In a session today, “What Really Matters in B-to-B Marketing Today,” Russell Kern, president of Los Angeles-based agency the Kern Organization, presented findings from its “2011 Midyear Marketing Trends Study,” revealing that customer acquisition has become the top challenge for marketers.
“During the past few years following the recession, marketers have been tasked with retaining customers and increasing revenue from current customers without being handed a budget to acquire new customers, which was deemed "too expensive,' during times of extreme belt-tightening,” Kern said.
“This trend is an indication of a return to marketing normalcy,” he said.
Marketing automation's accelerated adoption was a surprising finding, Kern said, with 48% reporting that marketing automation is implemented by their agencies or directly by the organizations. But it's one that directly supports customer acquisition, he said.
“This can be hypothesized as a reaction to the need for accountable data analytics, which marketing automation facilitates,” he said.
The report was based on an online survey conducted in July, with 376 marketing executives responding.