BMA forum: No shortage of challenges facing b-to-b marketers this year

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New York—A renewed emphasis on customer retention. A sharper focus on “micro-targeting.” More sophisticated use of online video. These were just some of the b-to-b marketing trends that were discussed Tuesday at the Business Marketing Association/New York City Marketing Outlook Forum.

The event tackled a wide variety of topics that are top of mind for marketing executives. With the economy slowing down, marketers in the months ahead can expect increasing scrutiny from top management of their media spending and ROI.

“We’re focusing on customer retention,” said Nicole O’Rourke, VP-advertising and brand management for Aetna. “We’re delighted to bring in new customers, and we also need to continue the conversation with people who are now driving our business.”

O’Rourke added that integrated marketing, which most marketers have embraced to varying degrees, “is a series of novellas with different chapters that appear in different media. The media engagement can become a series of encounters that build on one another.”

Jim Spanfeller, president-CEO of, talked about the concept of micro-targeting. “It’s mass targetability, which is not an oxymoron. It works,” he said. Spanfeller defined micro-targeting as reaching large segments of the market with a specific message.

John Osborn, president-CEO of ad agency BBDO, said one of the biggest challenges in the current climate is cultivating relationships due to the constant churn among chief marketing executives. “It’s hard to build relationships when clients are moving every 18 months to two years,” he said. “You need institutional knowledge of brands, which helps us guard ourselves against complacency.”

All of the panelists agreed that online video is getting to be a bigger component of both editorial content and advertising.

“Video is huge,” Osborn said. “The real challenge is how it becomes intertwined” with other types of marketing.

The panel discussion was moderated by Bob Felsenthal, publisher of BtoB.

—Matthew Schwartz

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