Online media to benefit from boost in marketing budgets

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B-to-b marketing budgets appear to be in good shape this year, with more than half of marketers expecting the purse strings to loosen up. While interactive tactics will gain from that increase and see the most growth, traditional media will still command the bulk of the budget.

Those are the conclusions reached in Forrester Research's "B2B Marketers' 2008 Budget Trends" report. The research company, in partnership with MarketingProfs, surveyed 369 b-to-b marketing professionals online in September and October. It released its report last month.

Fifty-three percent of marketers surveyed anticipate increasing their overall marketing budget this year, and, of those, the average increase in spending expected is 28%.

Six percent of marketers expect to decrease their budget, and the remaining 41% expect the budget to remain the same.

Traditional media will still get the largest share of marketing spending this year. Among the top-ranking categories, trade shows will garner 13% of the budget, followed by e-mail (9%); print, public relations and direct mail (8% each); search, executive seminars/events and inside sales/telemarketing (7% each); and sponsorships (5%).

Report author Laura Ramos, a VP at Forrester, said one reason that traditional media are getting the bulk of the budget, despite the growth and proven effectiveness of online tactics, is that budgets are planned and committed to so far in advance that that slows faster evolution.

"B-to-b marketers face longer time horizons that make the transition [to online tactics] harder," she said. "One example is trade shows. "They make commitments a year out with a trade show, and you can't switch the marketing budget around quickly when you have those kinds of lead times."

Ramos said marketers are slowly getting smarter about using traditional tactics. "They say things like, `We are still going to trade shows, but we're not going to as many,' or `We won't have as big a booth' or `We'll try some sort of sponsorship rather than a booth,' " she said.

In print ads, marketers are going to need to use more landing page and microsite URLs to track responses, Ramos said. In many cases, marketers still fail to link these efforts directly to their Web site or other online channels, she said.

"It is b-to-b catching up to the fact that if they are going to spend more on online media and they still use the traditional media, how do they integrate the two to deliver a bigger bang for the buck in terms of ROI," Ramos said.

Although the survey found more marketers used e-mail, search and webinars in 2007, b-to-b has a long way to go in terms of the transformation to digital media. Blogs, online video, podcasts and other emerging media were used by only about a third of survey participants.

To accelerate the shift to digital media, Ramos said, b-to-b marketers need to make sure three tactics—search, Web sites and e-mail marketing programs—are unified.

"This trio of tactics provides the foundation from which to experiment with emerging Web 2.0 tactics while keeping the sales pipeline full and critics of further marketing investment at bay," Ramos wrote in the report.

She said marketers also need to overcome stumbling blocks in deploying programs such as online video, rich media and podcasting.

"There's still a perception that it's expensive and difficult to do online video, or create rich interactive applications that demonstrate your product and tell your story," Ramos said. "Rich media is well suited for b-to-b because of the high-consideration product sales and the long sales cycle. It is a medium that is interactive, that is visual and auditory, and more engaging to the visitor and [which] may tap into their emotions and their motivations better than other media."

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