Measurable results, direct tactics key, survey finds

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The economic downturn has forced b-to-b marketers to focus on ROI, lead generation and direct marketing, according to an exclusive, just-completed survey by BtoB and Patrick Marketing Group.

Respondents were asked to rate the importance, on a scale from one to 10, of seven goals usually associated with marketing. The clear winner was “generating leads,” at 8.6 ( Figure 1 (pdf)). This finding confirms a trend noted in earlier Patrick Marketing surveys.

Second in importance was the hunt for a cost-effective set of techniques to launch new products (7.5). Interestingly, despite excitement over technology solutions during the past few years, customer relationship management was ranked as the least important marketing goal, at 5.0. This may indicate that the well-documented failures of CRM installations have taught marketers not to rest all their hopes on this technological silver bullet.

The survey found that the top budget priority, in terms of increased funding, was direct marketing ( Figure 2 (pdf)). Internet spending was ranked second, followed by public relations. The category showing the largest decrease in spending was TV advertising.

But companies are bolstering their investments in direct, one-on-one and database-driven marketing, the survey indicated. As Figure 2 shows, more than four times as many respondents said they are increasing their spending in this arena, compared with those who are cutting back.

Measuring ROI

The impact of database-driven marketing techniques such as direct mail, telemarketing and Net marketing are easier to measure than broad-based activities such as advertising and PR. Even so, the pressure to fine-tune these direct approaches has ratcheted up, undoubtedly in response to budgetary pressures.

As Figure 3 ( Figure 3 (pdf)) indicates, the b-to-b world is clearly focused on measuring the return on its marketing investments and is re-investing only in those techniques that drive sales.

Asked to rate ROI in seven different categories—print, Internet, TV, radio, direct marketing, public relations and events—respondents overwhelmingly picked direct marketing (62%) as “vital.” The Internet ranked second, at just over 40%, followed by print at 36% and events at 35%.

Underscoring the economic pressures they are under, nearly a quarter of the survey’s marketers said the top challenge facing their companies was the “poor economy” ( Figure 4 (pdf)). However, “customer relationships” came in second (17%), perhaps indicating that despite frustration with CRM technology, marketers continue to yearn for solutions in this category.

Not surprisingly, marketers overwhelmingly said “lower budgets/ poor economy” was the biggest industry trend affecting marketing strategies ( Figure 5 (pdf)). Ranking second highest was Internet marketing, suggesting that the Internet continues to be both a promising and frustrating tool for b-to-b marketers.

Figures 6 ( Figure 6 (pdf)) and 7 ( Figure 7 (pdf)) indicate the most popular tools for generating sales leads and branding, respectively.

On a scale of one to 10, b-to-b marketers said direct marketing and the Internet were the top methods for generating leads. Public relations and print scored nearly the same at the top of the branding chart.

Trade shows and other events also scored high. Events appear to be regaining strength; they had lost favor after the September 11 attacks and the effects of the troubled economy. Seminars, particularly those that provide valuable business content, are still seen as valid tools for the dissemination of b-to-b messages.

The survey, designed to track current trends in b-to-b marketing, was e-mailed in December to nearly 30,000 marketers, using a portion of BtoB’s subscriber list and addresses maintained by Calabasas, Calif.-based Patrick Marketing. More than 400 marketers, representing a broad range of industries, responded.

The largest numbers of respondents were in the following categories: retail (29%), high technology (22%), manufacturing (not including high-tech) (14%) and wholesale/distribution (14%).

Ellis Booker is editor of BtoB. Craig Shields is a partner at Patrick Marketing Group, Calabasas, Calif.

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