Online marketers stress need to remain customer-focused

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Chicago—As the Internet continues to grow as a marketing medium, marketers must not lose sight of the all-important customer, panelists said Tuesday at BtoB's Netmarketing Breakfast here.

Alan Brown, exec VP at Nuveen Investments, said that amid all the bells and whistles of new online technologies, it is often easy to forget about customer requirements. "Understanding [customers’] wants and needs, so that we can anticipate them, is key," he said. "At the end of the day, we're marketing to people."

Brown added that marketers should use technology not just to cut costs but also to create value for the customer.

All the panelists agreed that companies should have an all-inclusive customer-centric Web strategy.

Emily Lewington, marketing manager at Savo Group, said the first step in creating such a strategy is to define your audience. She said the chief way to determine what works best in online marketing is to test. "Don't be afraid to try different things," she said. "The worst thing that can happen is you now know what you did wrong so you don't do it the next time."

Lance Schneider, e-business manager at Budnick Converting's, said online tools are good for long-term lead prospect management. He described how too many general leads became problematic for when there was no information available to either qualify or follow up on them.

By growing's in-house e-mail list and revamping Web content and "hot buttons," Budnick now knows who its customers are and what they want.

"As marketers, we want to drive people to our Web site, and the best way to do that is with content," Schneider said. He also emphasized the importance of using analytics and tracking in marketing strategies.

Dale F. Reeves, director-global e-business at JohnsonDiversey Inc., agreed that custom tailoring online messages to customers is important. Natural search optimization was not something that JohnsonDiversey focused on a few years ago, but now, Reeves said, the company knows that search engine placement can lead to more customers and more visibility.

"Understanding industry terminology inside the business is one thing, but how customers refer [to your products] could be completely different," he said, noting that customers still use the term “floor wax” rather than the industry’s term, “floor finish.”

"We wanted to have the right message for the right audience," Reeves said. "And now we have the tools in place to do that."

—Tequia Burt

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