10 who put the power into b-to-b marketing

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The very nature of their work makes it difficult to pick the best business-to-business marketers, since a lot of what these marketers do isn't obvious. Of course, that's the essence of b-to-b marketing: effectively reaching and persuading a highly select target audience.

While some marketers are now working on corporate image campaigns, much of the work done in b-to-b isn't detectable on the normal radar screen; even if the masses see a print ad or TV spot, they'll often overlook those products and images not aimed at them. (It's like buying a certain car and then suddenly seeing that same car everywhere. Until you're aware of something, you don't see it.)

This year's Power 10 -- our pick of 10 of the year's most powerful business-to-business marketers -- have a special knack for making their companies seen. Some of the best b-to-b marketing efforts are more obvious than others. The high-tech arena, for example, hasn't been exactly shy lately about making its goods and services known. But we looked for more than the obvious. The marketers on our list are people who have influence, ingenuity and the spending power to make sure audiences sit up and take notice.

In each case, our Power 10 marketers are taking risks and pushing for stakes worth far more than a simple product line effort.

For example:

  • Nick Earle of Hewlett-Packard's Enterprise Computing Services Organization plans to make H-P almost synonymous with the Internet at a time when the company really means printers to many in the b-to-b arena. To most, it might seem an almost insurmountable task, but not to Mr. Earle -- or his bosses. Mr. Earle proved his mettle with an aggressive push against Compaq Computers last year that resulted in a cease-and-desist order. Now he's been given $150 million, or five times his 1998 marcom budget, to push H-P's new e-services effort.

  • John Slitz joined Novell in 1997, the same year it sold off its Word Perfect software and posted a $78.3 million loss. Since then, Mr. Slitz has focused Novell's efforts on its core business, networking, and on regaining the credibility it lost when it wandered away from that main path. A product is easy to market; a reputation is not. But already Novell is seeing financial gains, proof that Mr. Slitz's efforts are paying off.

  • Keith Ferrazzi is intent on pushing a whole new reputation for his company, Deloitte Consulting. Last year, Mr. Ferrazzi launched Deloitte's first major ad campaign, a $15 million effort themed "Them Vs. Us," positioning the company as an aggressive contender in its field.

  • Bob Verdugo of Merial Ltd. is focusing on pushing a product, but in a way new to his industry, and at the same time maintaining his company's position in that industry. Mr. Verdugo is borrowing heavily from the consumer side to sell his company's cattle medicine to ranchers. He's pushing premium with purchase, a tactic long used by the country's perfumiers, but he's using it to combat parasites instead.

    These are just four examples of the kinds of work it takes to be a force in b-to-b today. Rounding out our Power 10 list: Jeffrey Brooks of Nortel Networks, David Goudge of Boise Cascade Office Products, Abby Kohnstamm of IBM Corp., Jim Lesinski of Volvo Trucks North America, Joseph Pyne of United Parcel Service and Andrew Salzman of Compaq Computer Corp.

    In each of their fields, our Power 10 marketers are pushing their companies aggressively. What it gets down to, of course, is that these marketers are all approaching their various marketing problems with their own individual perspectives. They're going after their objectives, from branding to image to selling, and taking the necessary steps and risks that will put their companies on top, and that's just for starters.

    What makes these marketers among the best in business-to-business is their ability to achieve their goals through innovation, gut instinct, persistence and just making things work. A prime example of this is Mr. Pyne of UPS. He doesn't just demonstrate these abilities in the company's marketing efforts; he's been using them throughout his career, since 30 years ago when he started with UPS -- on the loading docks.

    Of all of them, however, Mr. Goudge of Boise Cascade may have made the biggest mark, earning recognition for his company that most marketers, whether b-to-b or consumer, can only dream of. Before he launched his latest effort, unaided brand recognition was so low, Boise Cascade wasn't even included in bidding for a multimillion-dollar contract. So Mr. Goudge ran some ads. The result? The ads were so unusual, Jay Leno pointed one of them out on "The Tonight Show."

    Send comments and questions to Karen Egolf at [email protected].

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