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Marketers address challenges of engaging customers

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Chicago—Marketers who participated Thursday in a panel discussion on “Engaging Enterprise Buyers” reached the same general conclusion that many other panels have during the Business Marketing Association’s Engage conference: Customers, when they pay attention, are quite skeptical of marketing messages.

On a Wednesday panel, Charlene Lake, an AT&T marketing executive, said customers are increasingly intolerant of offerings that don’t meet their needs. “The tolerance level is lower. The patience is getting shorter and shorter,” she said.

During the “Engaging Enterprise Buyers” session, Michael Hubble, senior director-sales, marketing and communications practice at the Corporate Executive Board, offered some statistics to back up that notion. While 80% of marketers believe they deliver a superior customer experience, only 8% of customers agree, he said, citing a Bain & Co. study.

Julie Skidmore, marketing programs manager at Aon Corp., described how the insurance brokerage has harnessed the power of customers who do agree it offers a superior customer experience. Targeting satisfied customers, Aon has garnered video testimonials from Avis Rent a Car, Limited Brands and others that it has leveraged on the Web and via print advertising. Skidmore said one new customer influenced by the ads has essentially paid for the program.

Nick Bell, director of campaign marketing at Adobe, said his company is focusing its enterprise marketing on a targeted segment of 1,400 potential customers. It is using a combination of digital, events and print from International Data Group’s CXO Media to generate leads from this target group.

Prompted by an audience question, Bell addressed Apple Computer’s criticism of Adobe’s Flash software, which is not enabled on Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices. He said that after some discussion, Adobe quickly decided it had to address Steve Jobs’ attack on Flash, because it was “a thought leadership” issue.

Eventually Adobe ran a successful ad addressing the controversy. “We’ve never received that type of PR from a single ad like that,” he said.

BtoB Editor Ellis Booker moderated the “Engaging Enterprise Buyers” session.

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