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Pick online projects carefully, say ‘BtoB’ NetMarketing Breakfast panelists

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New York—Marketers haven’t suspended their use of innovative online approaches because of the harsh economy and tight budgets, but they have become more selective about the projects they pursue, said speakers at BtoB’s NetMarketing Breakfast on Wednesday.

Greg Richards, director of global online strategy and user experience at direct mail company Pitney Bowes, said it was crucial to pick battles and use a quick, sound analysis against every marketing program these days. “A lot of marketers are throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks,” Richards said. “But we don’t need to throw more spaghetti; we need to throw better spaghetti.” For example, he said the company is trying to move away from projects that offer less than $50,000 in cost savings or revenue.

Richards described a new Pitney Bowes initiative aimed at answering customer queries about U.S. Postal Service rate changes on a Web site, rather than through costly call-center interactions. He also telegraphed the marketing plans for Pitney’s new, real-time, software as a service (SaaS) product, to be released this summer. While that product will be Web-based, the company will market it largely via its field sales force, he said.

Stefan Heeke, senior marketing manager and head of interactive marketing at Siemens Corp., described the multinational manufacturer’s focus on customer satisfaction and its finding that visitor time spent on the Web site might reflect poor navigation rather a positive “engagement” metric.

The economy itself was a focus of a recent initiative by human resources and risk-management consultancy Towers Perrin.

Last October, as the financial crisis unfolded rapidly and severely, the company launched a microsite devoted to the financial crisis, said panelist Melinda Snow Welsh, director of Internet marketing at Towers Perrin.

The site, which saw a big bump in visitors within weeks of launching—and was later copied by a competitor—was filled with webcasts, podcasts and white papers about the worsening economic scene, Welsh said. The new site was promoted on the Towers Perrin Web site, as well as through a Google AdWords paid search campaign.

Welsh, who plans to add a discussion forum featuring company experts to the site, counseled marketers not to be concerned about perfection immediately but rather to respond rapidly to quickly shifting conditions. “Let things evolve a little, but quickly,” she said.

—Ellis Booker and Christopher Hosford

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