DMA's Marketer of the Year on b-to-b direct

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The Direct Marketing Association's Business-to-Business Council last month honored Bruce Dahlgren, VP-general manager, North America, of Lexmark International's printing solutions and services division, as its 2005 B-to-B Marketer of the Year. The award was presented during the DMA's Direct Marketing to Business Conference in Orlando, Fla.

Dahlgren spoke with BtoB about industry trends and challenges.

BtoB: What are the trends you see in b-to-b direct marketing in the next six to 12 months?

Bruce Dahlgren: We're going to see the challenges we faced the last couple of years continue to intensify: the stress and pressure on growth. Companies tighten budgets, and marketing organizations are often first to be cut. Going forward, the trend of continuing to use budgets toward demand-creation will continue. I'm biased to programs that pick out a segment, pick out a group of customers from that and focus there. The demands to show return on investment are as intense as ever. The demands on budgets will [also] continue. The third demand will be for marketing departments to find new avenues for revenue growth and that will be very challenging.

BtoB: Are there existing legislative threats to the b-to-b direct marketer's ability to carry out marketing campaigns?

Dahlgren: There are probably more threats on the consumer side. But on the business side, we are so conservative with the way we use those avenues [such as e-mail or telemarketing] that we really only use them as a follow-up item rather than a first introduction to Lexmark. [In addition], we send out campaigns targeted to an individual within the enterprise. They're very specific messages we're looking to convey, work flow challenges within a specific vertical.

BtoB: What is the most powerful tool in the marketer's toolkit of marketing tactics?

Dahlgren: The best tool I have is a marketing organization with a seat at the table. Marketing in itself can be a strategic advantage for me. If you drill deeper into that, there is a common methodology I use as a general manager that allows sales and marketing to work together. Once we put together the common methodology, we can attribute the marketing to each stage. It's a go-to-market process. It's also common measurements, objectives, incentives-and all of these things drive our products. Now, sales thinks, "Marketing is really doing something to help me," and the marketing department says, "Wow, the sales team is using my tools, and it's useful to them." Marketing is built into the fiber of everything we do.

BtoB: What is being used and what is on the horizon in terms of effective technology for b-to-b direct marketers to improve business?

Dahlgren: I haven't found that some new software or new technology is going to dramatically change the behavior. There have been improvements in SFA [sales force automation] and CRM [customer relationship management] software. But you have to change the behavior of your marketing and sales organizations first. First, you transform, then you automate. You can't change behavior with software. We've taken huge leaps with our SFA and CRM software within the last 12 months, and it now supports and facilitates the right behaviors that we'd already put in place. We started out with homegrown applications to support getting information: the sales force doing forecasts and marketing tracking certain behaviors. Now, we have a fully integrated SFA and CRM system. Marketing people and the sales force can communicate back and forth. Solving problems takes real leadership and change management, and then automation becomes a wonderful facilitator.

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