After surviving one of the worst years in decades, b-to-b marketers are welcoming 2010 and hoping for improved business, efficiency and exciting uses of new technologies.
Despite the challenges of 2009, from slashed budgets to leaner work forces, marketers learned valuable lessons from marketing in a recession. Many said they will continue to make use of those tactics in what they hope will be a brighter year.
BtoB talked to marketers, agencies and industry experts to compile a list of the top 10 trends for this year.
If there is a catchphrase for marketers' and agencies' attitude about the business environment this year, it's “cautious optimism.”
According to a recent study from Google and OTX, 63% of b-to-b marketers expect a recovery to begin in the first half of the year (see story, page 3). However, that doesn't mean belts will be loosening up in the short term.
“We are being very cautious this year,” said John Seifert, chairman-CEO of Ogilvy & Mather North America, New York. “We were very tough on ourselves in terms of cost management in the last half of the year. We underestimated the severity of the recession and how long it would continue.”
Seifert added: “We have conservative budgets, and my impression is that clients will be very cautious and determined to beat their forecasts for Q1. Doing well in Q1will give them permission to spend in Q2.”
According to BtoB's “2010 Outlook: Marketing Priorities and Plans,” published in November, 39% of b-to-b marketers plan to increase their marketing budgets this year.
Positioning for a recovery
As they prepare for a recovery, marketers are examining their overall positioning and messaging in the marketplace and turning to their ad agency partners to help them communicate these to core audiences.
“Industries have been transformed over the past year, competitors have changed and some companies have been silent [with advertising],” said Carl Anderson, CEO of b-to-b agency Doremus, New York. “There is a real opportunity for those who have a story to tell to really think about branding and position themselves in a light that sets them way apart from their competitors.”
Doremus recently conducted a survey with the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College titled “Communications in Crisis.” Some of the key findings that came out of the survey were increased focus on value and values; emphasis on corporate responsibility; and shifting from the problem to the solution. Anderson said these will be some of the key themes that will play out in b-to-b communications this year.
Integration of social media
One of the biggest trends in 2009 was the explosion of social media as a marketing tool, as marketers took advantage of the low-cost content distribution model through YouTube videos, blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. This year, social media will become more integrated into traditional marketing platforms as well as throughout organizations, marketers predicted.
“2010 is the year social media leaves the marketing group,” said Paul Dunay, global managing director-services and social marketing at Avaya. “Social media has the capability of transforming other parts of the organization, from developing products, to doing survey research, to tweeting about billing issues.”
Dunay said social media also has the power to transform the role of the CMO, as executives with knowledge of social media can evangelize its benefits to the entire organization.
“If you have someone who really knows the social media landscape, they can galvanize the company around the customer. Social media is not just a marketing thing; it is a finance thing, a product thing, a customer-support thing,” he said. “Social media has the ability to integrate all of these functions and get them to work in a more fluid manner.”
Increased focus on accountability
While proving ROI on marketing performance is nothing new, the recession increased the emphasis on accountability and analytics, and this will continue even as a recovery gets under way.
“While this trend has been more emergent over the last five years, there has been more acceleration as a consequence of the increased capacity to do analytics and a less friendly economic environment,” said Rick Segal, CEO at b-to-b agency Gyro- HSR North America, Cincinnati. “It has obligated us all to pinch pennies all the more tightly and squeeze blood from a rock.”
From hiring analytics experts to installing software to measure and optimize campaigns, marketers and agencies will increase their investment in data analytics and measurement processes this year.
“More clients are demanding the math behind the creativity,” Seifert said. Ogilvy made a big investment in analytics last year, and Seifert said this will be an important focus for the agency this year.
Lower-cost content marketing
In working with tighter budgets, marketers have learned how to do more with less, particularly with the development and distribution of content for marketing, and this is a trend that will continue in 2010.
“All the cost models for marketing have changed in this recession, and I really think they won't go back to where they were,” said Mark Wilson, VP-corporate marketing at Sybase.
“As a result of a lot more focus on what things cost, as well as all of these new technologies around Web 2.0 and social media—they have all brought the cost models down in terms of how you go out and engage an audience as well as how you create content.”
Wilson added: “That content could be a blog, or a video, or a tweet, or a newsletter, or a podcast or a webcast. All of the mechanisms to create and distribute that content have come down in a huge way. It will never go back in terms of how expensive it used to be.”
Sybase has made extensive use of blogs, online videos and social networks to push out content for marketing, and Wilson said it will continue to do so this year.
More virtual events
As the technology for producing virtual events improves, b-to-b marketers are embracing the platform as a way to connect with budget-constrained customers and prospects. While they may not replace physical events, the virtual counterparts are becoming more widely used to supplement face-to-face trade shows and conferences as well as provide ongoing content and follow-up opportunities.
“Virtual events have been a way for us to extend the reach of live events that we're having, so we have the efficiencies from making the content available to far more people, and for longer after the event,” said Susan Popper, senior VP-marketing communications at software company SAP. “It also has allowed buying groups from a single company to take advantage [of the event], whether they were at the conference or not.”
SAP introduced its first virtual event last year in conjunction with its Sapphire Online conference. The live event attracted 10,000 attendees, while another 8,000 participated virtually. This year, it plans to increase its production of virtual events.
Getting serious about mobile
Marketers have talked about using mobile marketing ever since the introduction of the cell phone, but it has been slow to take off.
But now, with improved technologies and products such as Google's Android-based phone and Apple's iPhone, b-to-b marketers are more open to going mobile.
“This is the year we get serious about mobile marketing from a b-to-b marketing perspective,” Dunay said. “The whole thing with social media is an excellent warm-up for what's happening in the mobile space. People are open to it, now more than ever, because of the abilities they have with smart phones.”
Dunay said Avaya is experimenting with mobile marketing, such as using it for sales meetings and live events. “You could give updates on what's live and send out updates about what's happening at a booth,” he said.
While digital marketing opens up new and exciting opportunities, marketers are still convinced that nothing can replace face-to-face communications.
One of the trends that is emerging this year is an emphasis on experiential marketing, which involves creating a live experience for customers and prospects that builds a brand and showcases products.
“You cannot beat the incendiary power of face-to-face contact,” Segal said. “We are seeing growth in clients' CX [customer experience] budgets. They are putting more resources into presentation environments, road shows and customer visitor centers.”
For example, GyroHSR recently developed a small-business solution center for Cincinnati Bell with support from Creative Realities, Fairfield, N.J.
Segal also pointed to a high-tech visitor center that client Motorola Inc. has at its Schaumburg, Ill., headquarters, although GyroHSR did not handle that project.
“Clients are understanding it is an experiential economy, and they are putting more investment into places and venues where they make their pitches,” he said.
Consulting services expand
As marketers and agencies look for new revenue models, many are launching consulting practices to offer strategic advice to clients.
Among the companies that developed new consulting businesses last year were American Express Co., Exhibit Surveys and IBM Corp.
In November, American Express announced the formation of American Express Business Insights, an analytics and consulting organization to serve business customers. The unit uses trend analysis to identify spending patterns among its 90 million card users around the world in order to advise clients on customized marketing strategies.
In December, event company Exhibit Surveys announced a new practice that offers research-based consulting services for corporate exhibitors and event marketers.
And in April, IBM Corp. announced the creation of IBM Business Analytics and Optimization Services, a consulting organization that uses the company's expertise in vertical markets, research and information management to help clients improve the speed and quality of business decisions.
Agencies are also beefing up their consulting services to offer clients strategic advice.
Online video explodes
Online video is already a tried-and-true tool for marketers, and its growth is projected to explode over the next several years. According to a report last month from eMarketer, spending on online video advertising will reach $5.2 billion by 2014, up from $1.0 billion last year.
This year, online video ad spending will total $1.4 billion, eMarketer predicted.
“Video ad spending growth will far outpace any other online format, running in the 34%-to-45% range from 2009 through 2014,” said David Hallerman, senior analyst at eMarketer and author of the report.
“These extremely high growth rates are the result of video ads moving from the sidelines to center stage, becoming the main form of brand advertising in the digital space.”
Marketers across the spectrum are using online videos, not only in online ads but on their own Web sites and across social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube. M