BMA conference showcases innovation

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Marketers from leading b-to-b companies pulled the covers off their marketing strategies and shared in-depth information about campaigns and case studies at the Business Marketing Association's annual conference in San Jose, Calif., last month.

The conference, titled "Return to Innovation," attracted about 150 senior marketing and communications professionals, who discussed strategies for advertising, branding, measuring and communicating with business customers.

"First and foremost is the need to have a closer and better understanding of the customer," said John Favalo, partner of Eric Mower & Associates Group B2B and new chairman of BMA.

"We must build stronger connectivity, stronger dialoguing and tighter integration of marketing, messaging and selling in this new reality."

James Richardson, senior VP-commercial business at Cisco Systems and winner of this year's William A. Marsteller Marketing Leadership Award from BMA, kicked off the conference with a detailed look at how Cisco developed a marketing strategy to increase share in the small and midsize business (SMB) market.

"Like many technology pro-viders, Cisco is creating products specifically for these smaller customers and aiming our marketing efforts at them and, in turn, we are seeing our revenue from this segment grow significantly," Richardson said.

Cisco defines the SMB market as companies with fewer than 250 employees. It is putting $2 billion into research and development for the SMB market, and 40% of its marketing budget is spent on reaching this segment, Richardson said.

Behavior segments

As part of its go-to-market strategy in the SMB market, Cisco segmented its customers into tiers based on buying behaviors.

It found that it was most effective selling to tier 1 and tier 2 customers-those that view the network as core to their business. While tier 1 and tier 2 companies make up only about 30% of companies in the SMB space, their IT investments make up roughly 75% of total network spending in the SMB market, Richardson said. Tier 3 and tier 4 companies make up about 70% of the SMB market but are more reluctant to make long-term technology investments, he added.

Based on this audience profiling, Cisco developed marketing strategies and solutions to reach each of these market segments. For example, in November it rolled out Linksys One, a hosted communications service for small businesses, offering telephone service, data networking, applications, video and the Internet through one high-speed connection from service provider partners.

Also, Cisco created a marketing strategy, termed a "smart business roadmap," that connects customer business challenges and objectives with a long-term, customized technology strategies. As part of its overall marketing strategy, Cisco also created an integrated marketing program called You Inc. that included online, outdoor and print.

The program featured a relaunched SMB section of Cisco's Web site, which drives prospects to Cisco partners and includes a local partner guide. Since the relaunch, traffic has increased by 50% and traffic to the partner locator has tripled.

Siemens One's approach

In another presentation, Christi Pedra, VP-chief operating officer at Siemens One, discussed how her organization has created a customer-focused approach that helps drive sales across the company.

Siemens One was created four years ago as an internal sales and marketing organization that works across all Siemens operating companies to identify customer opportunities in key markets and help drive sales.

The organization was spearheaded by Klaus Kleinfeld, president-CEO of Siemens AG, who at the time was president-CEO of Siemens Corp. in the U.S.

"He realized we needed to develop comprehensive solutions, customized for industries. It is a very different way of looking at our businesses and being customer-focused," Pedra said. "It's all about cross-selling and getting customers to buy more across the Siemens portfolio."

That portfolio includes products in automation and control, information and communications, lighting, medical, power and transportation.

Siemens One has about 30 employees that form teams for individual projects based on customer opportunities and large-scale projects.

"Very early on, we had to start thinking about how to create messages our customers could understand when every operating company had its own marketing materials," Pedra said.

Siemens One has helped streamline marketing materials, consolidating brochures and Web sites to provide integrated messages that are easier for customers to understand based on solutions for their industries.

It has also helped develop a marketing program that directs dollars based on where customers are in the sales cycle. "In the early years [2002 and 2003], most marketing dollars were put into brand awareness," Pedra said.

"We started thinking about having a different approach in the marketing mix and doing more with sponsorships."

In 2006, a little over half of Siemens' marketing budget in the U.S. will be spent on advertising, while the rest will be spent on sponsorships and events such as a NASCAR sponsorships, college sports sponsorships and a partnership with Disney Epcot Center.

Another important function of Siemens One is to help build and manage C-level executive relationships with customers.

"We make sure our executives understand who they might meet, what they should say, what they should not say and if there are any customer relationship issues," Pedra said.

MSN cites new tech

Joanne Bradford, VP-chief media revenue officer at MSN, talked about how advertisers are using new technologies in innovative ways to reach a changing business audience.

"The world is changing very, very quickly," Bradford said. "At Microsoft, we believe your professional life and personal life are colliding at a very, very fast pace.The line has completely blurred between who you are at work and who you are at home."

Bradford discussed how marketers can use new technologies including online video, instant messaging, blogs and "gadgets" to reach business customers in personal, relevant ways.

A gadget is a customizable mini-application that allows individuals and businesses to use the Web to customize and collect such information as news feeds, movie times, and flight and restaurant information.

Gadgets will be available in the Windows Vista operating system, which will ship later this year to businesses and early in 2007 to consumers. They are also available on Windows Live and Office Live, two new products to help individuals and businesses manage online information, now in beta. M

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