A light at the end of the measurement tunnel

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At last month’s "B-to-B Marketing Day 2003: Where Do We Go From Here?" conference in New York, panelists and presenters alike kept returning to two fundamental issues: how to measure the effectiveness of marketing programs and how to take these results to management.

"It’s hard to deal with the ROI need because of the long purchasing cycle [for many b-to-b products and services], especially when companies are looking for short-term return," said Michael Scherb, director-corporate branding & advertising at PSEG Services Corp.

Scherb was one of about 200 marketing, agency, publishing and sales attendees at the day-long event, which was sponsored by American Business Media, the Business Marketing Association, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers, the American Advertising Federation, Audit Bureau of Circulations, BPA International and BtoB.

One of the day’s best presentations came from Rex Briggs, a principal at Marketing Evolution, El Dorado Hills, Calif. An acknowledged expert on marketing measurement, Briggs’ mantra is: "Test, Learn, Evolve." He began his presentation by quoting the Dakota Indians, whose tribal wisdom holds that "when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount." But businesses often don’t heed this advice. Instead, Briggs said, they find extra funding for dead horse training, hire a dead horse consultant or say, "this is the way we’ve always ridden this horse."

How do you know if you’re on a dead horse? Kick it to see if it moves. In other words, measurement is essential.

Happily for marketers, there is an array of tools to choose from for measuring online and offline efforts. In this issue, two Page 1 stories explore different parts of the measurement puzzle. Contributor Jeff Schwartz’s story on analytic software gives a good overview of these powerful tools, which collect data from different sources and offer them to marketers via increasingly user-friendly Web-based dashboards. And Senior Reporter Sean Callahan looks at a new crop of services offered by publishers on their Internet portals to give advertisers real-time intelligence on the behavior of Web visitors and the impact of advertising.

In other measurement news, Senior Reporter Carol Krol provides a first glimpse at the Direct Marketing Association’s sweeping study—due to be released next month—benchmarking direct marketing response rates among more than two dozen vertical industries (Page 13).

Of course, powerful analytic tools and benchmarks are only part of the equation. This issue of BtoB also celebrates the human element with our annual Who’s Who list of the top 100 people in b-to-b. The Who’s Who Special Report, which features profiles of one person from each of 10 categories, begins on Page 18.

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