More online options and access to your database, that's what
What do b-to-b marketers want from b-to-b media companies? And are publishers delivering it?
Those are questions that b-to-b media executives should be asking themselves all the time. But they have more urgency in this era of transformation and tumbling revenue.
The short answer to the first question: Marketers want more than ever before from trade publishers, and they want to pay less and less for it. “It's a tumble-down effect,” said Caroline Riby, media director at Roberts Communications. “We're all asked to do more for less.”
The short answer to the second question: Yes, b-to-b media companies are, at the very least, on the path to delivering what marketers want. “I give them a B in general, because they are responding” said Reed Phillips, managing partner of media investment bank DeSilva & Phillips. “I'm seeing a lot of effort on the part of b-to-b publishers to be more adaptable and flexible.”
Witness the proliferation of webcasts, white paper repositories, digital trade shows and other online innovations designed to generate leads. The problem is that marketers, what with spending on their own Web sites and search marketing, have a smaller percentage in their budgets for trade media than before.
Marketers and their media buyers appear to agree on at least one thing they want from trade publishers.
“We're looking for more accountability,” said Vickie Szombathy, VP-media director at Spark Communications.
“One thing they really want is accountability,” said Kevin Arsham, partner-communications planning director at Mediacom.
“I think overall what marketers really want is the best return on investment,” said Beth Ann Kilberg-Walsh, manager of marketing communications at Xerox Corp.
There's a trend there. Note also that the accountability and return on investment that marketers seek usually doesn't involve print. “Stop selling us print ad pages,” said Michael Cerilli, director of marketing communications and brand strategy for Navistar Truck Group, who is not alone in asking for more “innovation” from b-to-b media companies.
Ted Kohnen, VP-interactive at Stein Rogan+Partners, said, “Where I think [trade publishers] are lacking is in innovation. I want to see more virtual trade shows.”
Media buyers and marketers want their innovation served up on a digital platter. In addition to virtual trade shows, they want more webcasts and other online lead generation tools—plus forays into social media such as IDG's Amplify. When b-to-b marketers, especially in the current economic environment, discuss a desire for accountability or innovation, they are really talking about generating more leads, especially quality leads that result in sales.
Quality leads are in this year, which marks the first time since Outsell's marketing and advertising studies started in 2006 that marketers rated “depth of the qualification profiles received for each lead” as more important than “maximize volume of leads at all stages of qualification.”
Tom Kemp, CEO of Northstar Travel Media, characterized the current situation this way: “Marketers these days focus much more on the tactical than the strategic. What they want are immediate, actionable results. People are trying to save their companies and save their jobs. They want to sell products now—not next quarter, not next year.”
The emphasis on online tactics isn't likely to change much when the economy improves. “I don't think that there's going to be a huge return, necessarily, back into print advertising,” Kemp said.
The move to online marketing is not simply about that medium being cheaper than print. B-to-b marketers like that digital offers the prospect of interactivity and engagement with potential customers. “We need to learn how to better engage with the audience that trade publishers have, and we want [publishers] to help us talk to the audience to get them interested in what we have to offer,” Riby said.
Marketers want engagement, because engaged prospects give their names and contact information—either to the marketer or to the media company. “[A media company] can't look at themselves as just an online content company or a combination of online and print,” said Mike Paradiso, global media director at CA. “They really have to look at themselves as database companies that provide insight around their audiences.”
“The database is king,” Xerox's Kilberg-Walsh said.
Media companies can deploy their databases in different ways. Tech media companies such as IDG, TechTarget, United Business Media and Ziff Davis Enterprise have sophisticated databases that analyze a prospect's online behavior—such as which white papers they download or which videos they view—to establish the intent to buy in a particular product category.
“These companies are able to tell you that five people from JPMorgan Chase have downloaded your [white paper] in the last three to six months,” Paradiso said, adding, “Publishers really have to embrace [their database] and understand that they own this wealth of data about who their buyers are and how they buy.”
B-to-b media companies can use this understanding of their audience in many ways, such as in creating a marketing services group to help advertisers communicate with and sell to their prospects. “Marketers are spending on their own Web sites and elsewhere, and media companies have to take advantage of this,” said Chuck Richard, VP-senior analyst at Outsell. “Thomas Publishing [which builds e-commerce Web sites for industrial marketers] has been a key example there.”
And if there's any doubt about the value of audience databases, note that there are companies other than b-to-b marketers trying to unlock their money-making potential. Consider the example of Bizo Inc., a b-to-b ad network company.
With Bizo's technology, a b-to-b media company is no longer limited to selling access to its audience when its members are on its own Web sites. The technology enables it to follow a member of its database around the Internet and serve an ad to that person—no matter where he or she is on the Web. The media company that originally identified that prospect shares in the ad revenue.
It's another way to generate revenue from access to the audience database, the thing that marketers really want. M