Economy forces marketers to refocus vertical strategies

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The economic downturn is causing marketers to streamline their vertical marketing strategies, focusing on those segments that are growing despite the recession and being more efficient in marketing to all vertical segments.

For some marketers, the economy has created new opportunities in vertical segments.

“The economy has made us focus on certain verticals more, such as health care, education and energy,” said Marie Hattar, VP-network systems and security marketing at Cisco Systems.

Some of those industries are the recipients of stimulus funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which is creating new marketing opportunities.

“At Cisco, we are not targeting any stimulus funds, but many of our customers are benefiting from having stimulus funds, so we are seeing a certain uptick in some segments,” Hattar said.

Energy is one segment that is growing, she said. “The stimulus funding has made it possible for a lot of utilities to fast-forward their smart-grid deployment. From Cisco’s perspective, we can offer solutions to address smart grids and provide communications networks for utilities’ infrastructure,” she said.

For example, in April Cisco partnered with the city of Miami, Florida Power & Light Co., General Electric Co. and Silver Springs Networks in an initiative called Energy Smart Miami, which will use $200 million in stimulus funds to build smart-grid technology in Miami.

To market to these vertical segments, Cisco is using sales enablement tools, industry events and very targeted print, such as an advertorial that will run in the July/August issues of Energy Central’s EnergyBiz and Intelligent Utilitymagazines.

“This is a new foray for us,” Hattar said. “A lot of our customers don’t necessarily think of Cisco for their core utility needs; they think of us for their core IT needs. We need to be where they are looking for solutions to their core business needs.”

Cisco is also focusing on solutions that will help provide efficiencies in health care and education, such as wireless networks and collaboration technologies.

Kathy Button Bell, CMO of manufacturing company Emerson, said the economy has impacted the company’s overall marketing strategy as well as its vertical marketing strategies.

“The economy puts demands on our overall corporate strategy in an environment that is tougher than usual,” she said. “We have to make up some of the shortfall where we can in our vertical segments.”

The result is “everything has to be tighter, tougher and more interesting,” Bell said. “It is so easy to bore people to death in the b-to-b space,” Bell said.

In April, Emerson rolled out a new corporate advertising campaign developed by DDB Chicago called “It’s Never Been Done Before,” an extension of its 7-year-old “Consider It Solved” effort.

The $10 million campaign includes TV, radio, print, online and outdoor, and is designed to show how Emerson is providing innovative solutions in heating, power and energy efficiency.

The campaign also includes vertical advertising for such Emerson businesses as liquefied natural gases, biofuels and wireless technologies for processing plants.

Emerson’s vertical effort uses print ads in trade magazines serving processing plants, oil and gas, and biofuel industries, as well as online ads, social media and events.

In November, for example, Emerson introduced a BioEnergy Summit series, which brings together academics, government officials and experts to help people understand the emerging biofuels business and determine how businesses can benefit from stimulus funds in this area.

Other marketers say the economy has forced them to be laser-focused when it comes
to defining and implementing their vertical marketing strategies.

“The economy helps to get people more focused and crystallized [both] on their messages and which groups they want to go after,” said Jeff Hayzlett, VP-CMO of Eastman Kodak Co. “We were already moving that way, but the economy helps us to get a little tighter and clearer.”

Kodak, a b-to-b and b-to-c marketer, is sharpening its focus on the printing industry, including commercial printers, packaging printers, transactional printers, publishers and enterprise customers.

Within those vertical segments, it is looking for growth opportunities. “Packaging is a high-growth area,” Hayzlett said, “so we have introduced new products and solutions to offer in that category.”

Last year, Kodak introduced the Flexcel NX digital packaging system, and earlier this month it unveiled additional packaging solutions at Print 09 Media Days in Chicago.

To market to these verticals, Kodak is using a mix of media, including print, events and online, particularly social media.

It has also made organizational changes to its vertical marketing team, elevating its segment marketing managers to global positions from local positions.

“Where we were focused on packaging in theU.S. and the Americas, we are now focused on packaging in China and Germany; and we have experts from this particular industry who are helping our salespeople to be clearer on the offerings we are making in those markets,” Hayzlett said.

Mike Hensley, exec VP-global client serviceat Gyro HSR, Cincinnati, agreed that the economy is having an impact on clients’ vertical marketing strategies.

“In many cases, our clients are forced to make choices and evaluate the marketing spend on verticals where they think they have the best ROI,” he said. “They are looking at verticals that seem to be doing better than others, such as health care and education, where the evidence would point to continued funding or funding that is growing at some level versus being reduced.”

Hensley said that in addition to targeting new verticals, clients are looking at upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

To effectively target these prospects, many clients are making use of CRM systems, such, and developing a more database driven approach to vertical marketing, he added.

“They are increasingly turning to a direct marketing approach to not only establish initial contact, but to track interactions with vertical targets over an extended period of time.” Gyro HSR is using more online efforts, particularly webinars and other thought leadership programs, tied to microsites to reach vertical targets for its b-to-b clients.

For client First Data Corp., which sells payment processing and transaction services to financial institutions, the agency recently launched a vertical campaign aimed at community banks.

“The campaign was driven by the economy, and was aimed at providing opportunities for community banks to establish relationships with local merchants,” Hensley said.

The thought leadership campaign used print advertising, webinars and white papers to establish First Data’s leadership on issues important to community banks.

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