With the endless fragmentation of media channels and long selling cycles typical in b-to-b, marketers are as challenged as ever to find and keep customers. One strategy that continues to gain steam is integrated, consistent messaging to customers across channels over a set period of time.
Despite the volume of discussion devoted to integration in the media world, so-called integrated marketing is for many marketers still in the concept stage. Still, an estimated 25% to 35% of marketers have figured out how to integrate their direct mail activities with media including print, e-mail and the Web, according to the Direct Marketing Association.
B-to-b list companies, operating at the nexus of integrated marketing, have responded to the demands of channel-savvy marketers not only by expanding their list capabilities but tying them together for their clients.
"The biggest challenge in the list industry is the typical marketer's question of how and where to spend their dollars," said Glenn Freedman, CEO of L.I.S.T. Inc., which manages 40 million b-to-b names.
Marketers not only want integrated postal, e-mail and phone lists for rental but often request additional services from list companies, such as e-mail appending, customized data-bases and even online media services, so they can fulfill several needs with one vendor.
"There are a million components to what we do," said Stevan Roberts, CEO of Edith Roman Associates, a list company and unit of infoUSA. "The poor client is overworked and faced with increasing demands to come up with better results for less money. What they are not getting is a cohesive marketing strategy that empowers them with all the relevant offerings in our business."
Roberts said that being owned by infoUSA gives Edith Roman access to all the databases and data enhancement tools offered by the parent company and its subsidiaries. "We've tied everything together to help our brokers offer clients the full complement of services available," he said. "That's where I see the market going."
E-mail and online services
List companies have been devoting much of their product development efforts to e-mail marketing and online marketing. "Most b-to-b marketers feel if they're going to do business online, the best thing to do is grow their customer e-mail list," said Ed Bocknik, exec VP-e-commerce services at Direct Media, which manages 75 million b-to-b names.
Eric Snider, exec VP of SkillPath, a national seminar marketer, said he relies on Direct Media, his list manager, to keep on top of the latest marketing methods. "We look for Direct Media to bring us any new things happening out there," Snider said. "We look for them to be our eyes and ears, especially online."
Skillpath uses catalogs, brochures, e-mail newsletters and search marketing in an integrated fashion to promote its nationwide seminars.
"It's a cycle," Snider said, noting that seminar catalogs are sent out quarterly. "Then every month you'll get a brochure, and the e-mail newsletters are monthly. Plus we send e-mail ad specials on a certain subject."
Snider builds a private prospecting database in-house from about 400 different b-to-b lists to feed the marketing cycle.
Direct Media has launched a proprietary e-mail append database in which e-mail addresses are added to customers' postal files when there is an exact match. The database comprises names contributed by merchandisers, data compilers and publishing companies.
L.I.S.T. offers an online product that contains 15 million postal records and telemarketing records of subscribers derived from 250 b-to-b and technology publications.
Checking out the competition
Another list manager, ALC, created a tracking analysis of commercial e-mail in order to gauge trends in that space, including frequency of messaging, level of personalization and the kind of promotions a company is running. That information is summarized in a monthly report to clients.
"This lets them see what's going on, what competitors are doing, internalize it and make decisions based on what they're seeing," said Dana Nolan, senior broker at ALC. The company is tracking only consumer-based e-mail, but Nolan said it would like to expand the program to include b-to-b.
Direct Media is also developing new online products, including a co-registration program.
"We're in the midst of developing it," Bocknik said. "When you enter information [on an online registration form on a site], as you hit the submit button, you are served a series of ads from other marketers," he said. Another idea being developed is an online product akin to "card decks," the old-fashioned direct mail packs of multiple b-to-b postcard ads wrapped in cellophane. The purpose is to drive traffic to b-to-b sites.
List company DM2-DecisionMaker, a unit of Reed Business Information, recently announced the launch of Data Enhancement, a service for direct marketers that want to enhance their data with in-depth demographic information provided by DM2 through its b-to-b database. The database includes 13.5 million postal and 2.3 million e-mail addresses of business professionals.
L.I.S.T.'s Freedman said postal and telemarketing still have their place, but he sees a shift where companies are rethinking the allocation of their marketing dollars. Not surprisingly, those budgets are "trending towards Google AdWords and various online venues," he said.
Some list managers have stepped in to take advantage of that shift.
DM2 now offers clients the ability to buy advertising inventory on the Web. "We offer them a list that helps them do direct and e-mail marketing, but we can also offer banners and skyscrapers," said Steve Rourke, general manager of DM2.
"Everyone can offer a list, so how do we differentiate ourselves to our customers?" Rourke asked. "We help them go along the sales cycle to get from a promotion to a lead to someone who buys. If we're just providing the list, we'll be commoditized."