Reality check at BMA meeting

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About 200 b-to-b marketers and agency executives got a reality check at the Business Marketing Association International Conference in Broomfield, Colo., last month.

"Reality television has nothing on us," said Rip Ripley, outgoing BMA international chairman and chief operating officer of BSM&R, Denver, at the opening of the conference, the theme of which was "Reality marketing."

"If you are sitting here today, you have already conquered your fear factors, been a survivor and probably heard these infamous words—’You’re fired’—at least once," Ripley said.

All joking aside, marketers and agency executives shared survival strategies for dealing with marketing issues from developing brand positioning to generating ROI.

In a keynote address, Kevin Clancy, CEO of Copernicus Marketing Consultancy and author of "Counterintuitive Marketing," offered marketers strategies for building brands and growing profitability.

"B-to-b marketers are targeting the wrong group—heavy buyers," Clancy said. Instead, they should identify targets that are forecast to be the most profitable based on an ROI analysis.

Clancy also advised marketers to avoid rushing into new campaigns. He said a solid marketing strategy should take at least six months to develop and at least another six months to a year to implement.

Other strategies Clancy suggested included positioning a brand based on solving buyer problems rather than on what they say they want; creating "marketing experiences" for customers and prospects, such as events; building a marketing model that analyzes relationships between marketing inputs and outputs; and hiring "obsessive-compulsive" types to implement the marketing strategy.

Ralph Oliva, executive director of the Institute for the Study of Business Markets (ISBM) and professor of marketing at the Smeal College of Business Administration at Pennsylvania State University, discussed a shift in priorities for b-to-b marketers over the last five years.

A continuing ISBM study of b-to-b marketing trends found that in 1999, marketers’ No. 1 challenge was identified as "mastering/managing the new tools of e-business." In the next phase of the study, conducted in 2001, the No. 1 challenge had shifted to using "marketing as an investment/ROI."

The latest phase of the study, conducted in the fourth quarter of 2003, found that b-to-b marketers’ top challenge is "achieving profitable growth," Oliva said.

"The emphasis during the downturn was on cutting costs," he said. "Now, more and more, companies are focusing on the top line."

Strategies for growth

Oliva also offered marketers strategies to achieve growth, including better organizing and promoting the marketing function; doing a better job with segmentation, targeting and positioning; refining the marketing budget process and metrics; building higher-value solutions; and better managing changing channel relationships.

Also at the conference, marketers offered case studies of successful marketing campaigns.

Ed Buckley, VP-brand management and customer communications at United Parcel Service of America, delivered an in-depth presentation of UPS’ brand repositioning campaign, which began in 2002. "Brand is a really important, strategic asset," Buckley said. "We don’t make a decision to change our identity lightly."

UPS’ new brand, which incorporates a new logo, tagline ("What can Brown do for you?"), advertising and corporate identity, received the full support of its senior management, and was based on in-depth research of its target audience that identified UPS’ core attributes of integrity and operational excellence, Buckley said.

Show attendee Tracy DeRose, assistant director of marketing services at Fiserv, which provides technology to financial services companies, said the show provided useful information she will be able to use in her own marketing projects back home in Brookfield, Wis.

"The UPS case was a fantastic validation of the complexity associated with a rebranding campaign," DeRose said. Fiserv is in the midst of rolling out its own rebranding campaign.

DeRose agreed with Clancy’s advice about not rushing into marketing campaigns. "The concern with rushing into an initiative quickly is that it is more often motivated by a short-sighted business objective than by a long-term vision," she said.

Ripley issued a challenge to agencies based on Clancy’s advice.

"We cannot rush marketing projects," Ripley said. "We cannot let any of our clients get away with that any longer. We have to go back to our clients and tell them we cannot rush marketing."

Also at the show, the BMA awarded Jack Bergen, senior VP-corporate affairs and marketing at Siemens Corp., its annual William A. Marsteller Marketing Leadership Award, and BtoB presented the G.D. Crain Jr. Award to Marc Green, marketing communications manager at National Starch & Chemical Co.

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