BMA to expand membership to include product, sales execs

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The Business Marketing Association, which held its annual conference last week in Chicago, plans to expand its membership into all areas of marketing and offer new resources to marketers in an effort to help pull the industry out of its current slump.

The BMA, whose membership comprises mainly marketing communications and advertising professionals at b-to-b companies, wants to make a push into more product-driven and sales-oriented areas, said Rip Ripley, the group’s new chairman and COO of marketing communications agency BSM&R Inc.

"The BMA has been focused largely on marketing communications, and we need to broaden that to all marketers—including product development and brand management," Ripley said during an interview with BtoB. "If it touches sales, communications, new products or branding, we want to have those people involved in our organization."

To attract these types of members, the BMA will strengthen relationships with other marketing organizations, such as the National Association of Product Development Managers, the Association of National Advertisers and the American Marketing Association, Ripley said.

Adding educational resources

The BMA also plans to add more educational resources, including additional online information and new programs with content aimed at product development and other "pure marketing" functions.

During his opening speech at the BMA show, Ripley said marketers hold the keys to growth, profitability and customer relationships.

"After trying to cost-justify our way to prosperity, we find ourselves back at the beginning—looking for real, sustainable growth," Ripley said. "To have real, sustainable growth, you have to develop products that meet needs in the marketplace. That is what marketing people do."

The show, titled "Business Marketing with Passion," attracted about 150 BMA members, who discussed strategies to revive the industry.

Marketers lead evolution

Keynote speaker Maureen McGuire, VP-worldwide marketing management and integrated marketing communications at IBM Corp., said, "Marketers have the ability to truly lead the evolution of our enterprises and industries."

However, she said, pointing to the transformation that is now going on in businesses as a result of technology and market forces, "Business evolution is a very difficult thing to do. It requires a tremendous amount of passion, collaboration, hard work and decisiveness."

The BMA show included several new programs designed to meet the changing needs of marketers, many of whom are struggling with layoffs and budget cuts.

"Marketing is something that is inevitably discarded when things are tough," said Rick Kean, executive director of the BMA. "A lot of people are down in the dumps."

To help marketers explore new job opportunities, the BMA conference offered a special half-day program focused on recruiting. A panel of executive recruiters provided a workshop on how to prepare for the next job.

BMA show attendee Susan Harrison, exec VP at ad agency Davis Harrison Dion, Chicago, said the discussions about ROI were the most useful. "Accountability is so important in everything we do," Harrison said. "The key thing is, you have to link solid numbers to business objectives."

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