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NetMarketing panelists: Listening is key to success in tough market

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Boston—Panelists at BtoB’s NetMarketing breakfast Thursday stressed the importance of listening to existing and prospective customers in tough times.

“Listening is the new marketing,” said Chris Brogan, social media strategist and blogger for Chrisbrogan.com. “The Web looks at silence in a different way. So you have to have two-way communication embedded in all of your platforms now.”

Brogan outlined the rise of a more humanistic approach to business interaction. He said that being helpful to customers across different platforms results in effective marketing and improved customer satisfaction.

Simply having a helpful community isn’t a total solution, though, Brogan said. “Building a community around a dumb product just won’t work,” he said.

Lynne Esparo, director of marketing at Nuance Communications, a manufacturer of interactive voice recognition solutions, said social media isn’t the only approach to establishing two-way communications with customers and that having the right media at the right time is a fundamental step early on in the sales process. “What it boils down to is that our customers want to have a better customer experience with us”, she said.

Nuance has used direct mail and webcasts to drive traffic to its Web site in order to better understand what prospective customers want. It has learned, Esparo said, that while a prospect’s interest may be high, tolerance for excessive information may be low. She noted that Nuance uses publications and other traditional media as a way to offer information to customers through unobtrusive means.

“I’m an advocate of engaging a customer slowly and, as we build trust, I’m going to give you more content,” she said.

Her team mailed prospective customers a children’s book and a content-rich sales package, and allowed them to choose the information most interesting to them, resulting in double-digit response rates.

Robert DeRobertis, marketing director-GP DSP Division of Analog Devices, said that using communities and social media as customer influencers early in the sales process can provide measurable results. He cited a banner ad campaign launched on several online channels that offered prospective customers a “test drive,” as opposed to the “learn more” option more commonly used. The test drive showed prospects how Analog Devices aided another company successfully. The multichannel online approach produced a 12% rise in traffic over a six-month period, compared with the year-earlier period, once Analog Devices shifted the effort from print to completely online, DeRobertis said.

Robert DeRobertis, marketing director for the GP DSP Division of Analog Devices, said that allowing customers a “test drive” option produced measurable results once he took the program from print to completely online. The test drive helped show prospects how Analog Devices aided another company successfully.

“You have to define an integrated program that would increase the test drive and ultimately revenue,” he said.

Sara Poulton, VP-marketing at DigitalGlobe, an earth imaging and information company, focused on providing scalability for channel programs to address the challenge of marketing complex products and systems. Co-branding and building a simplified community to deliver a very direct message allowed the company to run a campaign on a worldwide level, she said.

“That happened because we made the choice to use marketing as a resource for outreach,” she said.

Poulton added that DigitalGlobe still used seminars, road shows, networking and promotional activities to market its products.

—Daniel McCarthy

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