Ten years ago, when BtoB was brand-new, the “irrationally exuberant” Web boom of the 1990s was just coming to a crashing halt.
At that time, newspapers weren't assumed to be doomed yet; the primary methods for marketing your wares was still via TV and print advertising (and direct mail!), and getting good sales leads was still mainly a people business, not a technology function.
OK, so a lot has changed. Even after the IPO mania of the 1990s subsided, the technology kept advancing. Just as important, so did bandwidth into the home and office. Today, we face an entirely different marketing and media world.
There's no need to belabor this—everyone knows the story, and if you don't know the latest, you can read BtoB to keep up. The point is that if the last decade has been about anything, in terms of marketing, it's been about the overwhelming changes made possible by new online technologies.
For example, b-to-b marketers can now leverage advanced CRM systems and new kinds of content to make lead generation almost seamless from end to end. For the buyer, all it requires is doing the standard research that would be needed in any case, and that will feed into any number of companies' lead-gen engines. You will get a call from someone who knows exactly what you're looking for. For media publishers or ad agencies, this could be good or bad, but it's definitely good for marketers and sales managers.
Increasingly, as part of this shift, marketers are building their own “content” areas. This may be as basic as white papers and research or as advanced as industry news feeds or even general news. Essentially, these are companies that are building their own media-style websites.
There is no realm of b-to-b marketing that hasn't been transformed over the past decade by new digital technologies. In the old days (you know, 1999), there were few ways to be sure and target your specialized customer base. Today? There are specialized b-to-b ad networks that will find your target all over the Web, including consumer news sites and other, non-b-to-b Web destinations.
In fact, one of the interesting trends is seeing how all the new methods for tracking Web users, pinpointing even their location in the physical world, and the ability to merge online and offline databases are exerting a similar force over consumer marketing as well.
Yes, consumer marketers, once preoccupied with casting a wide net to catch any and all interested customers, are now finally able to fulfill the long-awaited promise of targeting precise sets of customers at just the right moment in their shopping/buying cycle. It's consumer marketing with a b-to-b mindset.
These are powerful technologies for marketers of all kinds, and they keep changing and advancing. It's almost impossible for marketers to keep up with it all on their own, which brings us back to this 10-year anniversary issue of BtoB itself.
The magazine you hold in your hands (or are reading on your computer screen) actually traces its lineage back almost 100 years, when it began as a booklet named Class.
Its purpose then, and through the 20th century—as it changed its name and focus from Class to Industrial Marketing to Business Marketing and finally to BtoB—was originally to keep b-to-b advertisers informed about the most effective ways to use trade advertising to help their sales teams, and later to use all of the growing toolkit of techniques available to the modern marketer.
Today, BtoB is a bigger digital business than it is print, offering readers and marketers a variety of ways to stay informed, get connected, do business, find partners and keep on top of the latest research.
It's a very different world than it was 10 years ago, and we don't expect things to slow down anytime soon. We can't promise how much longer we'll still be using paper and ink, but we do promise that the information will just keep getting more interesting.
David Klein is VP-publishing and editorial director of the Ad Age Group at Crain Communications Inc., and oversaw the launch of BtoB. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.