Plenty of holiday cheer this year

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Two features in this, our last issue of the year, are worthy of special attention. The first is our exclusive, annual "Marketing Priorities and Plans" survey (page 28). The survey, compiling the online responses of 569 marketing executives during the last two weeks of November, shows an uptick in marketing budgets next year. Some 62.7% of our respondents said they planned to increase their marketing budgets in 2007, compared with 60.7% in our survey of 2006 plans.Just as significant, of those saying they plan an increase, the largest group, nearly one-third (31.6%), plans to increase their budgets 20% or more. Offline marketing will see healthy gains, with 50.2% saying they plan to increase direct marketing and 44.1% saying they plan to boost spending on events.

Not surprising, online expenditures will continue to increase. This year, 75.6% of those surveyed said they plan increases next year; in last year's survey, the figure was 72%.

Research firm eMarketer recently raised its U.S. Internet ad spending forecast for this year to $16.40 billion, up 30.8% over last year. U.S. marketers are expected to devote 5.8% of their total media budgets to Internet advertising this year and, by 2008, will increase this share to 8.1%, eMarketer predicted.

While Web site development will take the lion's share of online spending next year (31.7%), a new and growing segment that includes blogs and RSS will take up nearly 5% of online marketing spending, according to our survey.

Blogs were the poster child (some would say, problem child) for online marketers this year. Social media and user-generated content is a vast topic with profound implications for where and how marketers reach their target audiences, as well as how they design and measure their campaigns. Web 2.0 applications, and how marketers use them, will remain a hot subject and an editorial interest of BtoB in 2007.

Along with Web 2.0, measurement is one of our picks for the "Top 10 trends for 2007" (page 1). As Senior Reporter Kate Maddox writes, "As marketers use new interactive technologies, such as online video and social networking, they will need more sophisticated ways to measure user engagement with the experience." (As always, we welcome your stories, experiences and questions on this and other topics. Drop me an e-mail.)

As business marketers grapple with new and old tactics, and quantify the impact of their efforts, the relevance of marketing grows.

At the American Marketing Association's inaugural mPlanet conference in Orlando, Fla., a few weeks ago, I listened to a great deal of discussion about the role of marketing. One definitely got the sense that the smartest companies are rushing to elevate the role of their marketing groups, while better integrating them with other corporate functions such as product development and sales. The rationale? In an increasingly global, commoditized economy, marketing can?in fact must?be used to differentiate products and services and drive business.

On behalf of the BtoB staff, we wish you a happy holiday season. Here's to a healthy and prosperous 2007!

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