In-person events score big

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To find out how much of b-to-b companies' marketing budgets might shift toward online media in the coming years—and where those dollars will likely come from—American Business Media commissioned Forrester Consulting to survey b-to-b marketers on their current and projected use of various media. Fielded in July and August, the study garnered 867 responses from a variety of industries.

Along with providing solid data on how online marketing will grow in the b-to-b space, the study, "The B2B Digital Marketing Shift," also quantified the importance of in-person events within the b-to-b marketing mix.

Jim Nail, principal analyst at Forrester Research, observed that "the core tools in b-to-b marketing are still extremely strong. The first things are the good-old standbys of b-to-b marketing—in-person events like trade shows, as well as public relations and advertising in the industry-specific magazines."

In the area of brand building, b-to-b marketers gave the highest marks of all to in-person events.

When asked to rate a list of a dozen marketing tactics according to their effectiveness in building brand image, 60.9% of the respondents gave in-person events a rating of 5 or 6 on a scale where 6 was defined as very effective and 1 was very ineffective. The second most effective tactic, public relations, came in almost 10 percentage points behind, with 51.7% of the respondents giving it a score of 5 or 6. Industry-specific or trade magazines ranked third, with 50.2% scoring them a 5 or 6.

B-to-b marketers were asked to rate the same 12 marketing vehicles according to their effectiveness in lead generation. Once again, in-person events topped the list, by an even higher margin.

While 62.6% of respondents gave in-person events high scores (5 or 6) in effectiveness for lead generation, only 47.4% gave similarly high marks to industry-specific or trade magazines, which ranked second, and just 45.4% rated the third-place tactic, public relations, as highly.

The respondents also revealed how their marketing spending was allocated among various media. On average, marketing communications garnered the largest share, with 16%, but in-person events, with 15% of the spending pie, was close behind—earning the same share of the budget as television and radio combined.

To identify where shifts in marketing tactics might occur over the next three years, Forrester asked respondents which vehicles they are currently using and how they expect to be using those same vehicles in 2008.

Use of in-person events currently ranks as the most popular trade marketing tactic among respondents, with 60.2% of the group saying they used it at some point during 2004 and/or 2005. In second place, direct mail marketing was used by 56.2% during the same period. This was followed by a cluster of tactics: online marketing was used by 48.7%, newspapers by 46.9%, custom publications by 45.8% and industry-specific or trade magazines by 45.4%.

Looking ahead to 2008, "in-person events are right at the top there," Nail said, with a slight increase in usage predicted, from today's 60.2% to a projected 60.8%. Online marketing is projected to gain almost 5 percentage points and move up to be the second most popular tactic, with 54.6% of the marketers expecting to use it.

Online's gain may come partly from direct mail's loss, as the latter slumps from 56.2% to 48.7% usage by 2008. Industry-specific or trade magazines, meanwhile, will become more popular, with 48.3% of b-to-b marketers expecting to use them, up 2.9 percentage points. 

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