One of the more obvious tools at a marketer's disposal is modern technology--everything from direct e-mail software to state-of-the-art personalization engines for the company's Web site.
These and other technological marvels get plenty of attention in BtoB, as they should. In this issue, for instance, you'll find a Special Report on the value of customer relationship management (CRM), as well as a news story on BlueStreak, a vendor with a way of profiling a company's use of a Web site without relying on cookies downloaded to an individual employee's browser. (The theory here: In a b-to-b setting, individual users change job functions and interests, so the important profiling data ought to reflect the aggregate behavior of the business buyer's company.)
Nevertheless, it's gratifying to see business marketers recognize that people--people with skills, connections and, yes, celebrity--can be powerful assets, too.
Consider our Page 1 story on the flood of former politicians joining the boards of b-to-b Internet companies. Did you know that former Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole is on the board of VetExchange.com, a site aimed at veterinarians and the pharmaceutical companies? Reporter Philip B. Clark documents the trend and lets the dot-coms explain why they are so eager to pay these Beltway insiders in cash and options. You be the judge if these marketers are voting with their checkbooks on the right candidates.
Or consider the topic of our NetMarketing section in this issue, which examines how marketers are using online communities to enhance their Web sites. Communities, it goes without saying, may be supported by technologies, but they are not born from technology. In fact, anyone who has tried setting up a Web community site will tell you they do not grow organically, as one might expect, but require a good deal of care and feeding to succeed. People need people; in the case of community sites, people need people to drive the community forward.
Finally, on the topic of people and community, consider our Page 2 story on the Internet World trade show, which held its summer event in Chicago the week of July 10. Penton Media acquired Mecklermedia's publishing and trade show franchise in November 1998. Once the only game in town, Internet World has lost some of its luster since its salad days in the mid 1990s. (In the interest of full disclosure, I need to say that I was an editor for Mecklermedia's print publication, Web Week, during those heady days when every new Net company was fabulous and every dot-com shareholder was happy.)
Internet World's competition has come from innumerable Internet specialty shows and, more broadly, the Net-ification of every trade event. Last week's show was held in the relatively cramped confines of Chicago's downtown Hyatt Regency.
In general, competition from diverse sources is a marker of a maturing industry--and the time when marketing takes on a greater role.