While careful targeting has always been integral to b-to-b marketing, advertisers are becoming increasingly sophisticated about the methods they use to identify and market to key decision-makers and influencers.
In some cases, marketers are expanding their ad campaigns to C-level executives in an effort to bring their messages to those with ultimate spending authority. In other cases, they are digging deeper into the data collected about their target audience, learning everything possible about the profiles and behaviors of users to reach them with the most relevant, compelling advertising.
Some companies are going even further, analyzing not just user behavior but organizational behavior surrounding purchases and the chain of command.
"The decision-making process [for b-to-b products] is very dynamic and happens on multiple layers," said Tim Wild, VP-director of brand planning at Brokaw, a Cleveland-based ad agency. "Our clients are trying really hard to identify whoâs making that decision and looking at the dynamic more carefully."
Brokaw is the agency of record for Parker Hannifin Corp., a Cleveland-based manufacturer of motion and control systems used in engineering. In July, Parker Hannifin launched its first corporate TV campaign, targeting C-level executives as well as engineers.
The campaign, called "Anything Possible," shows engineers finding inspiration for technical innovations from random events, including changing a babyâs diaper and eating sushi with chopsticks.
To develop the campaign, Brokaw conducted in-depth research among an audience of engineers and technical specifiers, probing their mindset, how they view themselves, the media they consume and the decision-making process at their organizations.
The challenge for Parker Hannifin was building brand awareness among the various audiences that are involved in the complex process of decision-making regarding its products, said Lorrie Paul Crum, VP-corporate communications for the manufacturer.
"Large companies that are trying to rationalize their supplier base have begun to centralize procurement departments to be involved in specifications for the products," Crum said.
So, in addition to targeting engineers, Parker Hannifin also needed to target business decision-makers and influencers. To do this, it decided to create compelling advertising that would show what it does in a humorous, insightful way.
The advertising is running on TV shows such as The Learning Channelâs "Junkyard Wars" and History Channelâs "Modern Marvels," targeting the engineer audience, and on business programs such as CNBCâs "Squawk Box" and "Business Center," targeting executives.
Another b-to-b advertiser that has expanded its audience to include senior business executives is SAS Institute, which last month launched a print and online campaign aimed at CEOs. (See story, page 3.) Previous SAS ads targeted technology end users.
One ad agency that has focused on understanding the mindset of senior business executives is Doremus, a b-to-b agency that is part of Omnicom Group. Doremus conducts periodic research into the behavior and media consumption patterns of C-level executives, which it uses to develop targeted advertising for its clients.
"The conventional wisdom is that all senior executives are the same, and itâs not true," said Doremus CEO Carl Anderson.
Doremus has developed an index it calls DQ, for Doremus Quotient, which analyzes the "passions" of senior business executives, such as how they spend their time outside of work and how they consume media. The DQ is then linked to segmentation research to create six psychographic groups of executives. Doremus overlays the segmentation onto its database of 60,000 names at more than 9,500 companies with more than $200 million in annual sales.
Next, the psychographic "buckets" are integrated with the target database, which informs the media buy.
For example, Doremusâ client Ace Group of Cos., a financial services provider, changed its media plan to include the Discovery Channel, A&E, Bravo and other cable networks after using the DQ method and discovering more about the media consumption patterns of its target audience. Previously, it had advertised primarily on CNBC and CNN.
Other marketers are finding new ways to mine their own data to better segment and target decision-makers and influencers.
Software company Oracle Corp. has developed a sophisticated model that profiles not only its individual customers and prospects, but also entire organizations and their decision-making process.
"The traditional lead management model is based on managing data for an individual at the customer or prospect site," said Todd Forsythe, VP-global marketing at Oracle. "If you look at the buying process in database technology, it is very complex and involves many individuals. [Therefore,] we have aggregated the data to an organizational view of the customer."
Oracle mines its database to analyze activity by business decision-makers and influencers that can lead to a transaction. This includes actions such as searching online for information, downloading white papers and requesting company information.
"An organizational model is more predictive than looking at individual behavior," Forsythe said.
As a result of its research, Oracle has shifted its approach for marketing campaigns. In its latest campaign, which launched in the first quarter of this year, ads show how Oracle helps executives in different job roles throughout a company.
In the past, Oracle had primarily targeted marketing executives. But the latest campaign, developed by Grey Direct, carries the tagline "Manage by Fact" and is aimed at executives in IT, sales and marketing and at the C-level suite.