If there is one expert missing from the article (“Dealing with the downturn,” Feb. 11, page 1) it is the customer. We have interviewed tens of thousands of them around the world during and since the last downturn in 2001, and there are two facts that dominate the ways they react to sales and marketing in a recession.
* Content becomes increasingly important to them. The smarter route is to change the type and context of an investment from ads to sponsored content or PR.
* Customers invariably use the same vehicles for brands and awareness building as they do for lead generation. Yet nobody [in the article] talked about the ability to compress to choices that can do both.
As recently described by Rebekah Tsadik in your publication (“Social networks starting to click,” Jan. 14, p. 1), social networks are most definitely “starting to click”—at least with b-to-b technology marketers. A recent benchmarks study by IDC's CMO Advisory Practice [reveals that] as investment in online and interactive marketing increases in the next six to 12 months, nearly half of technology companies are planning new initiatives in internal and external blogs, followed by RSS and social networks/communities. However, many technology marketers are off to some false starts in this area.
Based on the results of a study of the online and interactive marketing area and related processes of the tech industry's leading marketers, I'd like to share the following insights for marketing executives:
* Consolidate online and interactive marketing efforts from a process, infrastructure and governance perspective, yet continue collaborating with business units and the field (e.g., integrated marketing councils).
* Incorporate online and interactive marketing efforts as part of broader awareness-building and demand-generation strategies, but think “engagement” and longer-term relationship building—not just generating a lead.
* Don't hesitate to experiment; build it into your plan. Changes are happening fast in the digital marketplace, and those companies that are able to quickly identify and harness the benefits of the best technologies and applications will be first to achieve competitive differentiation. After all, shouldn't technology companies be first to demonstrate thought leadership in this space?
* Marketing must partner and collaborate with IT, something that marketing hasn't historically been good at.
* Don't abandon your more traditional marketing knowledge and experience. Just as in the real world, you can build it online, but that doesn't mean that they'll come.
As described in your article, expanding the use of social networking as a stand-alone initiative will certainly pose significant measurement challenges. However, coupling this initiative with a more comprehensive marketing strategy will enable a company to better engage with its customers and prospects, thereby leading to greater impact of marketing's investment.
Director, CMO Advisory Practice